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Telling their stories

Annual Oakland Cemetery Walk provides glimpse of past lives

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
With a nice parasol to help keep her cool, Ruth Bennett portrays Cornelia Bagg, 1821-1896, during the 14th annual Oakland Cemetery Walk. Bagg’s husband designed the cemetery but is, ironically, buried at sea. Proceeds from the event are used for the preservation of the cemetery.

The untimely demise of Margaret A. Thompson Rush is the reason there are lights on so many street corners in Fort Dodge.

Just what happened to her will be explained during the upcoming 19th annual Oakland Cemetery Walk. The yearly fundraiser features actors portraying people who are buried in the histoic cemetery on North 15th Street.

“We try to tell some history about our forefathers and how they contributed to the beginning and history of Fort Dodge and the surrounding areas,” said Rick Carle, an organizer of the event.

This year’s event will tell the stories of some of the unusual events that caused a few of the cemetery’s occupants to end up there.

Despite the event’s name, no one will have to walk through the cemetery to hear those stories. People will just have to sit in an air-conditioned auditorium to watch and listen as the actors and actresses tell their stories.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Jeff Bluml, at left, portraying C. Frederick Becker, pretends to reenact a family tale about a pebble in his nose as Lori Cassady, portraying Wilhelmina Becker, is rather a bit taken aback during the 14th annual Oakland Cemetery Walk. Frederick Becker was the founder of Becker Florists, which is still open in Fort Dodge. Wilhelmina was a long- time manager of the business. Bluml even spoke in a German accent during his portrayal of Becker.

The Oakland Cemetery Walk will begin at 2 p.m. June 12 in the BioScience and Health Scienes Building at Iowa Central Community College. Admission is $7.

The lives and especially, the deaths of these former Fort Dodge residents will be explored:

• Angus B. McBane, portrayed by Tim Morris. His death caused his daughter’s death.

• Margaret A. Thompson Rush portrayed by Stephanie Coble-Day. He death is the reason there are lights on Fort Dodge street corners.

• George A. Rogers portrayed by Sean O’Connor. He was murdered in New York City.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
John Bonner, of Vincent, tells visitors to the 14th annual Oakland Cemetery Walk about his character, Dr. Stephen Olney, 1821-1891, a Civil War surgeon and the first doctor in Fort Dodge. Bonner made the wood medical chest on the table and has stocked it with look-alike medication from the era and one or two fun vials with Eye of Newt and Spider Legs.

• Julia Flower Sherman portrayed by Ruth Bennett. She drowned in the Boone River along with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

• Louis W. Neudeck portrayed by Randy Hoover. He was struck by lightning.

• Mary Ann Prusia portrayed by Teresa Naughton. She died mysteriously after feeding her youngest child.

• Alexander McLean portrayed by Garrett Savery. His job as a painter caused his death.

• Dr. Adelaide Ainsworth portrayed by Alexandria Morris. She died after working during a typhoid epidemic in Waterloo.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Framed by their marker, Jeff Jasper, left, portraying John D. Strow, 1831-1907, and Randy Hoover, portraying James R. Strow, 1823-1889, tell visitors to the 14th annual Oakland Cemetery Walk about how they practiced law in New York City then moved to Fort Dodge in the mid 1800s.

All proceeds from the event will go toward preservation and care of the cemetery.

The Oakland Cemetery Walk was started 20 years ago by Jerry and Marva Rowe, of Fort Dodge.The Rowes were historians who documented more than 7,000 burials in the cemetery.


About Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery was laid out in 1859, about six years after Fort Dodge became a city.Landscape architect Egbert Bagg was paid $250 to survey and map out the site.

The cemetery consists of 40 acres on the west side of 15th Street, north of Soldier Creek.

A monument to unknown Union soldiers of the Civil War is near the highest point of the cemetery.

Among those buried in the cemetery are William Williams, the founder of Fort Dodge; U.S. Sen. Jonathan Dolliver; William S. Kenyon, a U.S. senator and federal judge; actress Lily Damatia; and Gov. Cyrus Carpenter.


Stroll through the cemetery

While no one will be walking

through Oakland Cemetery during

the actual Cemetery Walk, there will be a chance to see the site.

On June 10 guided tours will be

offered beginning at 7 p.m

To take a tour, park at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1436 21st Ave. N.,

and take a bus to the cemetery.

Free will donations will be accepted.


If you go

What: 19th annual Oakland Cemetery Walk • When: 2 p.m. June 12

Where: BioScience and Health Sciences Building, Iowa Central Community College

Admission: $7

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