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Who Knew Sharing Cemetery History Could Be So Much Fun?!

October 25, 2017

Written by Dirk Siedlecki, President of Friends of Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery

MTP 2015 CastWhat started out in 2006, as an idea for a onetime event to raise some much-needed funds for restoration work in our cemetery, turned into a very popular annual event. After my wife Mary and I attended a similar program in Grants Pass, Oregon in 2004, we thought it would be a fun and interesting project to take on to benefit Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery. We discussed the concept with members of our Cemetery Committee who all seemed very interested and excited with the idea. So in October 2006, Meet the Pioneers, guided Living History Walking Tours was launched and has been playing to sell-out audiences since.

Emma & David BW 01We have Players in period dress or costumes who are at  grave-side and portray the Spirits of the dearly departed and share their life stories with the audience. In addition to personal stories we also cover the important topics and happenings of the day, mid-late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Such as the small pox epidemic that struck Jacksonville in 1868, or the last hanging in Jacksonville in 1886.  This year we covered the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, and its impact on Southern Oregon along with ten other stories. Each year we offer new stories and tend to “kick-it-up-a-notch” by adding props, Narratives and this year’s Vignettes.

This program Steve & Mary Ann BW 02has not only provided us with ongoing funding for cemetery restoration and preservation projects, but equally important it has introduced the cemetery and its value to  the community. These Living History Tours, along with our History Saturday in the Cemetery and Tuesday Evening Cemetery Strolls, have greatly increased the number of visitors and supporters of Jacksonville’s Cemetery.

Meet the Pioneers attracts approximately 700 visitors during its two-day run and helps the community merchants during a time of the year where visitor numbers are usually down. The continued success of  Meet the Pioneers has inspired the local Chamber to promote other fall activities in Jacksonville such as Haunted Trolley Tours and Historic Jacksonville Inc. to offer Haunted Walking Tours, all to the benefit of the community and its residents.

Don’t forget! It’s Historic Cemeteries month and there are bound to be historic cemeteries near year having events this weekend, such as the ones listed below:

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