Ashland Past Comes to Life with Walking with the Past

Donna England

The Ashland Beacon


   October is the month for zombies, witches, jack-o-lanterns, and haunted houses thrown up to scare the bejeezus out of people. But for the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center, it is a time to bring to life the ghosts of the past. And come alive they did this past weekend at Walking with the Past.

   Held every year at the Ashland Cemetery as a fundraising event, volunteers dress up in period costumes and bring to life many of the prominent people buried at the cemetery, dating back to 1829. From Civil War heroes and Pearl Harbor veterans to feminist activists and a disgruntled family feud involving moving a grave decades after death highlighted this year’s walking tour, giving a historical view of the area’s past.

   According to museum building and maintenance employee Robert Conrad who was assisting with logistics for shuttle rides to the cemetery, more than 500 students from area schools made the historic walk this year. “And I think they are expecting 100 more today,” Conrad said on Saturday.

   One such student was 7-year-old Ann Reed Stone, of Bellefonte, who had her yellow investigative journal in hand to take notes. “I am an investigator and I want to know more about history and who is in the cemetery,” she said with authority.

   Guiding the 3 p.m. tour on Saturday was Brigadier General George Gallup, aka Robert Montague. The general, who is buried at the cemetery, is known for his bravery as one of Kentucky’s 14 mounted regiment who marched with Sherman through the south to Atlanta. He was also good friends with President Garfield.

   Walkers were introduced to Kentucky’s first feminist, Mary Elliott Flannery, who fought for the vote for women and was not only Kentucky’s first female elected to the general assembly, but was the first to be elected in the entire southern states. She was instrumental in getting better roadways, education and health systems in the state, and was also a long-standing journalist.

   It is assuredly so, this writer thinks, Ms. Anne Reed Stone most likely took lots of notes about Flannery and will be inspired to continue in Flannery’s footsteps, possibly having her own by-line in the future or perhaps aspiring to even higher goal…. Shall we say President of the United States?

   But students weren’t the only ones whose interests were peaked. There were many adults as well who attended the annual journey into the past. Retired science teacher, Lillie Hall, of Ceredo-Kenova also came for the tour. “I love to see the old monuments and hear this history. I loved teaching science but there is just something about history,” she said. It was her first trip to the walk.

   With her was Della Lewis, of Proctorville, OH. This was not Lewis’ first time; she had come before several years back. “I come for the history. I accidentally discovered this tour years ago when I was driving around with my mother. She and I would take off and just explore to see what we would find. I really like the oddball stuff you hear about in history.”

   And oddball is what she found when visiting the grave of Dr. Samuel Fetter, who built the famous Mayo Mansion in downtown Ashland. But if you want to know the twist to the Fetter history, this writer is challenging you to do a little digging. One hint… it involves the moving of a grave decades after a death.

   Then there was Joe Spears, who had moved nearby the cemetery a few years back. “I am always walking through the cemetery and looking at all of the old markers and wondering about who that person was. I had heard about this tour, so I decided to take it this year. I like the history,” he said. Which seemed to be the common theme for most who take the tour.

   But there is one bit of history at the cemetery which Montague, aka Brigadier General Gallup believes is the most somber at the cemetery. It is the memorial stone of U.S. Navy Sailor George Sutton.

   Sutton was a young man from Russell who was on the USS Arizona when it went down during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was the first resident from Russell to die in World War II. Though there is a stone to commemorate his life, Sutton is among more than 1,000 sailors whose remains are entombed under water in the hull of the Arizona in the harbor.

   “I think it is the saddest story among all of the soldiers buried in the cemetery, “Montague said.

   It is history that connects to the past, the present and keeps up repeating the makes of the future. It is that connection that binds us together. Until next year…