Lee history department presents 12th annual walking tour of Fort Hill Cemetery

Lee history department presents 12th annual walking tour of Fort Hill Cemetery

The history department is hosting its 12th annual walking tour of Fort Hill Cemetery, depicting many historical Cleveland figures.

Courtesy of Taylor Baker, Staff Photographer

Senior history majors enrolled in the fall capstone class are annually tasked with putting together a historical and educational walking tour of Fort Hill Cemetery.

Humanities Department Chair Randy Wood, a lead organizer of the tour, explained how the event comes together.

“We choose 10 or 12 people that are buried in the cemetery. Several of them are of historic importance in Cleveland. Some are just ordinary folks,” Wood said. “The capstone students do research on their biographies. They find out who these people were, and they write a biographical sketch. We have reenactors dress up in historic costume and play the role of that person.”

The tour itself consists of a guide leading groups from grave to grave and stopping at each of the 10 selected for this year to watch a scene or monologue about the person buried there. The scene actors consist of Lee students, one Lee professor, and other volunteers in historically accurate costumes.

Assistant Professor of History Andrew Bledsoe is the only faculty member acting as a character in the tour. He said the tour will represent people from that time period, from all walks of life.

“Almost all of the people we are portraying have a connection to the first World War,” Bledsoe said. “They were either soldiers during that period or were simply alive then. Both can tell us about life during the early part of the 1920s.”

In addition to a variety of military personnel, Wood mentioned that the tour would cover F.J. Lee, the namesake and second president of Lee, along with Nena Howard, an African-American educator, and Rev. Dr. T.E. Stevens, a medical doctor and one of the first elected African-American politicians in the Cleveland area.

Senior history major Kelsie Derrick said all of the research for this event was conducted through the Bradley County Historical Library. There, Derrick and her classmates looked at books of military history, copies of newspapers from the early 1900s, autobiographies, online sources like Ancestry.com and other historical sources and archives.

Based on this research, Derrick and her classmates wrote each of the historical biographical sketches that will be performed during the tour.

Wood said an event such as this brings history to life, teaching Cleveland natives about important elements of the city’s past in an engaging way.

“[Living history is] taking history out of the libraries and archives and presenting it to the public in a creative way,” Wood said. “This will help people learn some of the history of Cleveland and see the significance of studying the past.”

The tours will be held at Fort Hill Cemetery on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. and will last about an hour. The final tour will leave around 6 p.m. Admission is two dollars for students and five dollars for non-students.

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