Published September 10, 2008 11:42 pm -
History comes (back) to life with ‘Tales from the Crypt’
By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Oklahoma’s first governor, Charles Haskell, is here. So are educator/Congresswoman Alice Robertson and a slew of Muskogee merchants, lawmen and more notorious types.
“A great deal of Muskogee history lies here,” Three Rivers Museum Director Sue Tolbert said as she walked the gently winding roads in Greenhill Cemetery. “You can’t walk far before you see a prominent name.”
People can view these prominent names, and “meet” some of the people behind them, Saturday when Three Rivers Museum hosts a walking tour of Greenhill Cemetery. The walking tour features a hike through the cemetery, located on York Street, just north of North Street with Muskogee High School drama students re-enacting such Muskogee luminaries as Haskell and Robertson.
Some of the graves are deceptively simple.
Haskell’s family plot is marked with an obelisk that was built several years after the former governor’s death, Tolbert said. Similarly, Robertson had a simple grave marker, though a six-foot-tall granite marker was erected in the 1990s.
“We have a couple of Confederate generals, including one who served with Stand Waite,” Tolbert said.
One person not featured on Saturday’s tour is Pete Bonicelli, who rests in an above ground crypt beside Greenhill’s York Street entrance.
“He was an Italian immigrant who had several grocery stores that were in town,” Tolbert said. “I can say that because I live in his house, which was built in the early 1920s.”
The tour will feature not only famous figures from Muskogee’s history, but also an explanation of gravestone iconography and different types of graves, Tolbert said. She pointed to a grave that is built like a tree stump and said people buried under such stones were usually members of the organization Woodmen of the World.
Tolbert said Greenhill has uncertain origins.
“1898 is when the city designated it as a cemetery, but there were burials here before then,” she said.
The original Greenhill Cemetery was located at what is now Sixth Street and Martin Luther King Street, but was moved in the early 1900s when the city encroached on the property, Tolbert said.
“When they moved the graves from the old cemetery, most are way back in the back,” she said. “You can see really old graves with modern ones.”
If you go
WHAT: Tales from the Crypt, walking tour of Greenhill Cemetery.
WHEN: Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Three Rivers Museum, 220 Elgin St., Trolley goes to Greenhill Cemetery for walking tour.
COST: $3 per person, which includes admission to museum.
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