Historical society shares Stories of the Stones

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comOctober 23, 2013 

  • Want to go?

    • What: Yorkville Historical Society’s Stories of the Stones cemetery tour
    • When: 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.
    • Where: Rose Hill Cemetery, 229 E Liberty St., York.
    • Admission: $5 adults; children, teachers and students in first to 12th grade are free.
    • Details: Visit www.yorkvillehs.com

— Mary Ann Dale Dennis was born in York County, but married her husband John in Nova Scotia. That is one of the mysteries surrounding those who rest at York’s historic Rose Hill Cemetery.

Karen Fritz, who will portray Mary Ann Dennis in Saturday’s Stories of the Stones historic cemetery tour, wonders “why two York County citizens would have traveled all that way to be married.”

Fritz and other members of the Yorkville Historical Society will share the stories and mysteries of those buried in the cemetery Saturday, as costumed interpreters lead groups from stone to stone.

Ken Spaulding, co-chairman of the tour, said the society chose to research and tell the stories of 10 of those buried in the cemetery. The tour aims to educate people about the community’s past, he said.

Fritz said John Dennis Sr., who died in 1850, when he was 91, is the only Revolutionary War soldier buried in the cemetery. An infant, possibly a grandchild or other relative of the couple, is buried nearby.

Mary Medlin, another member, will portray an angel at the gravestone of Sarah Thompson Melton, the mother of nine children, who died in 1853.

Spaulding said the society chose to highlight Melton’s burial site because of the elaborate carvings of an angel and a flowing inscription on the stone.

The inscription says in part: “Oh, there will dawn at last a day, a sun that never sets shall rise, night will no longer veil his ceaseless ray.”

“This is one of the most beautiful monuments at Rose Hill,” Spaulding said. “It’s a lot more detailed than most of them, when you think that this is 1850.”

John Eakin, another member of the society, will portray a Confederate soldier answering questions to a young boy about why Union soldiers are buried in the cemetery.

Although many Confederate soldiers are buried at Rose Hill, Spaulding said, only eight stones mark the graves of Union soldiers, and they are in a separate area.

The tour also will honor Medlin’s parents, Fred Jackson Jr. and Helen Jenkins Jackson, who died in 2009 and 2008, respectively, by telling the stories of their lives.

“Mary’s parents were involved in the historical society for 30 years,” Spaulding said. “They were involved in everything that was York. It’s our way of thanking Fred and Helen for their years of devoted service.”

Spaulding said this will mark the society’s fifth Stories of the Stones cemetery tour, which began in 2003 and is offered every other year. He said the tour isn’t offered every year because of the time it takes to conduct the necessary research and present the tour.

Spaulding, who is running the event with Jan Ramsey and Grace Ebersold Ulbright, said he brought the idea for the tour to York from his home in Madison, Ohio, where a group was doing it.

The cemetery tour will begin with a 15-minute dedication by York Mayor Eddie Lee of the brick and iron fence at the front of the cemetery. The society had the fence built earlier this year as a beautification project.

Guides will then lead groups of about 10 people to each grave site as re-enactors tell the stories. “Ghost” carts are available to ride for those who need assistance.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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