‘Spirits’ scheduled to make appearance

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published October 12, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

Drama students at Conway High School will portray people who are buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery during tours presented by the Faulkner County Historical Society on Oct. 22. Kelli King, from left, will portray 8-year-old Maud E. Ingram, who was the first person buried in the cemetery in 1881. Isabella Stanley will play Ruth O. Freeman Robbins, and Noah Smith will portray Luther Fred Gordy Sr. King and Smith are also writing the script for the upcoming presentation.

CONWAY — The spirit of Halloween is strong in Conway. Two organizations are sponsoring events that recall spirits of the past.

The Faulkner County Historical Society will sponsor Spirits of the Cadron from 6-9 p.m. Saturday at Cadron Settlement Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Oak Grove Cemetery Board of Directors will host Gone, But Not Forgotten tours from

3-5 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Oak Grove Cemetery; the historic section of the cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rain will cancel either event.

Ree Walker of Damascus, who is a member of the Faulkner County Historical Society, is coordinating the Spirits of the Cadron event.

Admission is $2 per person or $5 per carload.

Traveling by lantern into the past, visitors will hear ghost tales told by historic characters from Arkansas’ and Faulkner County’s past. Tavern wenches are scheduled to meet and greet visitors.

The haunted tours will begin and end at the Cadron Blockhouse, where refreshments will be served at the conclusion of each tour. Refreshments will include the Faulkner County Museum’s favorite spiced cider.

Walker said the historic characters will include the following:

• The fiery Judge McHenry, a hanging judge, will be portrayed by 3rd Division Circuit Court Judge Ed Clawson, who is a member of the Faulkner County Historical Society.

• A French fur trapper will be played by Monte Munyan of Greenbrier, who volunteers at the Faulkner County Museum.

• A Native American woman will be portrayed by Christy Crusott of Heber Springs, who is a local re-enactor.

Walker, who is also a local re-enactor, will portray the tavern proprietress at the Cadron blockhouse.

Walker said the purpose of Saturday’s event is “to not only educate the community on its history but have a little fun at a local historic site.”

Cadron Settlement Park is the second oldest Euro-American settlement site in the state. Its history includes French and Indian traders, the Trail of Tears and the Butterfield Overland Mail Route.

To reach Cadron Settlement Park, take U.S. 64 west of Conway, toward Menifee. Turn left onto Arkansas 319 at the sign for Cadron Settlement Park. Proceed to the end of the highway, and look for the pavilion on the right.

Betty Cohen, president of the Oak Grove Cemetery Board of Directors, said the organization has sponsored Gone, But Not Forgotten tours in the past, but the last presentation was in 2011.

“A.J. Spiridigliozzi and the drama students at Conway High School will be presenting short vignettes of several notables who are buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery,” Cohen said. “A.J. contacted the board in the spring of this year about his students doing

this. The board was very pleased that A.J. and his students were interested in doing this again, and we readily agreed to be part of this presentation. We feel this will be a very special way to draw attention to the Oak Grove Cemetery, its history and its place in the community.

“There are a number of notables buried in the cemetery, and this is a special chance to highlight their contributions to Conway and this area. Our hope is that a number of persons will turn out to hear about these people and to learn about their contributions to our life in Conway.”

Cohen said each tour will last approximately 45 minutes. The tours are free and open to the public.

Among the “notable” characters who will be portrayed are the following:

• Dr. George Douglass Dickerson, a local physician, was born Aug. 5, 1854, and died Jan. 23, 1914.

• Luther Frederick Gordy Sr., the first manager of Conway Corp., was born Dec. 3, 1878, and died Feb. 22, 1955.

• John William Firestone, a brick maker who made bricks for the old buildings at Hendrix College, was born Feb. 4, 1851, and died May 9, 1933.

• Maud E. Ingram, the 8-year-old daughter of William and Agnes Ingram, was born Dec. 18, 1872, and died July 11, 1881. Her grave is the oldest grave in the cemetery and has the quote “Gone, But Not Forgotten,” on the stone.

• Ruth O. Freeman Robbins, organizer of the Cooperative Canning Kitchen during the Depression of the 1930s, was born Nov. 26, 1881, and died May 23, 1965.

• Asa P. Robinson, considered the founding father of Conway, was born Oct. 10, 1822, and died Oct. 12, 1898.

• Marie Louise Robinson, the wife of Asa P. Robinson, was born about 1831 and died March 3, 1891.

• Charles Curtis Wright, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II who watched as members of his unit raised the American flag at Iwo Jima and earned a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained, was born Jan. 18, 1926, and died Oct. 11, 2016.

Spiridigliozzi said his drama students have researched the characters they will portray, and some of them have written their scripts.

“This is a great opportunity for our students,” he said. “They have created everything, … from costumes to the script. This has allowed them to learn about all aspects of the theater, plus it has allowed them to learn about the history of Conway and Faulkner County.”

The Oak Grove Cemetery is on Bruce Street in Conway near the old airport. As people drive into the cemetery, board members and volunteers will be on hand to direct them to parking and to the welcome desk, where the tours will begin. Guides, which will include both adult volunteers and high school drama students, will take groups on the tour.