By Eva Potter
Talk about coming back from the dead … a dedicated group of volunteers has organized the second annual Walking Tour of the Jefferson Street Cemetery on Saturday, July 26. It’s not your usual cemetery tour, because you’ll actually be able to meet some of its inhabitants in person.
The event features more actors and actresses this year, all of whom will be dressed in period clothing. Four of the 19 actors and actresses are actual descendants of the person they are portraying. There will also be strolling flutists for additional atmosphere.
Two tour times — 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. — will be offered. Tickets will be available for purchase the day of the tour at the Ellicottville Historical Museum on Washington Street (next to the post office). The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children.
According to four-year Preservation Committee member Gail Carucci, “Also, we are inviting everyone to join us at 5 p.m. for a joint service between St. John’s Episcopal Church and United Church of Ellicottville. St. John’s and the Presbyterian Church (later became the United Church) were the churches that many of our residents at Jefferson Street Cemetery attended.”
In addition to acting as project manager of the tour, Carucci said she will also act as a guide and will portray Nan Galloway.
Carucci said, “Nan Galloway and her very dear friend Eliza Shankland (who is being played by Dawn Westfall) were instrumental in getting the Jefferson Street Cemetery cleaned up in 1917.”
Leah Westfall, a member of the ECS Drama Club, will be portraying Mary Grierson, whose family emigrated here from Scotland. According to Westfall, a few of Grierson’s siblings were born in Scotland, but Mary was born in Cattaraugus County. She died and was buried in Ellicottville just before her sixteenth birthday. Westfall, who will be a junior next year, enjoys acting and has played minor roles in productions of “Damn Yankees,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “South Pacific.”
Carolyn Litchfield-Bauer, an English and special education teacher at ECS, said she chose to participate and portray Lucinda Litchfield, an ancestor, because her family history is very important to her.
“Lucinda is the easiest to portray, because we know the most about her through the writing of (her husband) Beals,” explained Litchfield-Bauer. “Beals is the brother of my great, great, great grandfather Levi. Beals, Levi, their other siblings and their parents moved to Ellicottville in 1830. Lucinda, Beals, and several of the other Litchfields (including Levi) practiced a religion called spiritualism where they believed they could communicate with the dead.”
Beals and adopted nephew John French were two of the founders of Lily Dale, N.Y., a community of spiritualists.
Litchfield-Bauer said she will be dressed in authentic period closing borrowed from a friend who is a Civil War reenactor.
Proceeds from the tour will go to the Jefferson Street Cemetery Fund and will be used to pay for the cemetery’s sign, the stone that will be engraved with the names of those that are buried there but have no headstone, and some beautification projects.
According to Carucci, “Since 2010, we have had the cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All but 35 headstones and monuments have been cleaned first by volunteers and then by Crandall’s Memorials of Olean. Crandall’s has also uprighted and repaired many of the headstones.”
An unveiling ceremony was held last November for the sign now in place listing the cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places.
Carucci encourages people to take the informative tour to learn about some of the people who were instrumental in building Ellicottville. You’ll even be rewarded with a memento to take home.
“The printed memento will be an old-fashioned newspaper similar to the old Ellicottville Post. The front page will have old ads from some of the old newspapers displayed. The inside will have short little bios of those actors/actresses and a little clip of who they will be portraying. The back page will include sponsors,” said Carucci.
For $25, businesses or individuals can have their name listed as a “Friend of Jefferson Street Cemetery.” These funds also will go to the Jefferson Street Cemetery Fund.
Last year’s event featured wagon rides to and from the cemetery, and organizers are still looking for someone to offer this service.
“(Project) volunteers are Mary Elizabeth Dunbar, Town Historian, Sue Parsons, Dawn Westfall, Tim and Judy Brown, Cathy Lacy, Ellen and Gary Frank, Ed and Shirley Rogers, Mary Fox, Pastor John Woodring, Father Mike Lonto, Collette Morris, Mary Scott,” said Carucci, “and I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten someone.”
The committee is still in need of more assistants to help with the event. If you are interested, please call Gail Carucci at (716) 307-5510 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.