Judy Brown Lee of Fort Smith with Lauren Boswell, who portrayed Anna Wallace, Lee’s sixth grade teacher at Sophia Meyer in 1952.
Perfect fall weather greeted visitors to Fairview Cemetery in Van Buren over the weekend for the eighth annual Tales of the Crypt.
Six students from Tom Wing’s historical interpretation program at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith portrayed historical figures buried at Fairview Cemetery, which was established in 1837 when John Drennen donated 10 acres to establish the cemetery.
The UAFS students researched the historical figures from Van Buren’s past and presented their interpretations at each individual’s grave in the cemetery during Saturday evening’s twilight version and Sunday afternoon.
Lauren Boswell, who portrayed Anna Wallace, 1909-89, educator and principal of King Elementary School in Van Buren, told of the effects World War II had on Crawford County and of the prisoner of war camps at Fort Chaffee.
“We would drive to Fort Smith to watch the prisoners of war work in the fields,” Bowell’s character revealed.
Wallace, who never married, taught at King School until 1975 when she retired, later opening a women’s Bible study at her home.
An animated Stephen Christian brought to life Sheriff Joseph Houck, 1829-84, sheriff of Crawford County and veteran of the Civil War, serving with the 22nd Arkansas Infantry, Company G.
Christian relived the battles of the Arkansas Militia, the military prison in Illinois and the many who died of disease, the cold and “what have you.”
After the Civil War, Houch returned to Van Buren where “things were not very good.” He was named town marshal and later elected sheriff by two votes. Houch was shot in the back of the head and killed Dec. 1, 1884, when he went to Chester to arrest a man.
Grace Devero enlightened the audience to the life of Pauline Sadler Faber, 1887-1971, school teacher in Van Buren.
“On my first trip to Van Buren I met Henry Faber who I married,” Devero said. “We had two daughters and had a wonderful life until the depression. Henry died of a stoke on April 5, 1933, and one of our daughters died of the measles. You have heard of the measles, haven’t you?”
Faber later taught second grade at Sophia Meyer Elementary School in Van Buren.
Jerry Wing played Judge Jonathan B. Ogden, 1812-89, who served multiple local and federal political positions, including two years as mayor of Van Buren.
Wing told the tale of Mormon missionary Parley Parker Pratt, who was accused of kidnapping his 12th wife’s children in Louisiana by his wife’s ex-husband Hector McLean. Ogden released Pratt from a local jail in the middle of the night. Pratt was then allegedly shot and stabbed by McLean.
“The war was a difficult time for me,” Wing said of his Ogden character. “The most trying time for me was a year after the war in 1866 when my wife died. Then our son died. Both are buried next to me.”
Dillon Wilbourn portrayed Dunham Scott, 1885-1941, World War I veteran and son of Phillip D. Scott and Fannie Dunham Scott.
“I was the great-great-grandson of John Drennen, the Sam Walton of his day,” Wilbourn said of Scott. “I had it made when I went to school in Pennsylvania before I went into the military during World War I.”
He served as a captain in the 347th Infantry in the 87th Division on the front lines in France. Wilbourn recalled his return to the United States after the war ended.
“They gave me a ticket to the Fort Smith National Cemetery,” he said. “I was alive but had a ticket to the cemetery.”
Felicia Wright brought to life Emilie Sargent Pernot, 1829-1904, wife of Dr. Henri Charles Pernot and descendant of Josiah Bartlett, signer of the Declaration of the Independence.
“Henri came to the United States from France in 1848,” Wright said of Pernot, “and we married in 1851, moving to Crawford County a year later. Starting a new life was hard until Henri established his well-known practice.”
During the Civil War, Pernot cared for soldiers on both sides at the Van Buren hospital, Wright said, and became involved in the arts and education in Van Buren.
Proceeds from Tales of the Crypt are used for preservation of historic monuments in the Fairview Cemetery, which has been used as a burial ground dating back to 1816. Some of the monuments are more than 160 years old.