Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Iowa
Thursday, September 16, 2010
by Kristin Buehner

Cemetery History Walk Scheduled

Amanda Ragan, portraying Mary Emsley, rehearses for the Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery History Walk
Photograph by Jeff Heinz, Globe Gazette

MASON CITY - Ghostly encounters with eight of Mason City's forebears are in store at the city's first-ever Cemetery History Walk, Saturday, Sept. 18, at Elmwood-St. Joseph Municipal Cemetery, 1224 S. Washington Ave. Tours begin from 1 to 3 p.m. The last tour will end at approximately 4:30 p.m., Cemetery Manager Randy Opheim said.

Tours will begin every 12 minutes. Visitors will be transported around the cemetery by bus. Local residents will serve as tour guides.

"The cemetery has many of the city founders within the grounds," Opheim said. "We feel it's important to have the citizens aware of the treasure that the cemetery is for the city. The History Walk is one way to bring people in so they can learn about the cemetery as well as the history of the city."

Costumed actors will share highlights of the lives of these former city residents at their grave sites.

"These were people just like us," said Julie Oehlert, actor who portrays Ella Cliggitt, who was instrumental in beautifying Elmwood Cemetery when it was moved to its current location in 1867. She moved to Mason City with her family from New York when she was 16, Oehlert said.

Actress Nancy Barnes portrayed her great grandfather, Corey Currie. He moved to Mason City in 1892 and started a small hardware store, now known as Currie Manufacturing. The business now employs hundreds of people. She says all the people portrayed on the tours made a difference in the community.

Anna Fewins, 17, portrays Margaret McMillin Shipley, the first white child born in Cerro Gordo County. Her father, John McMillin, was the first white settler in Mason City.

"I'm really excited because I really love history," said Fewins. Her study of Margaret Shipley helped to understand the customs of the mid-1880s and the roles of women, Fewins said. It also filled her with respect.

"They (McMillins) were the first white family out in the wilderness surrounded by Indians," she said. "That's amazing."

Amanda Ragan portrays Mary Emsley Adams, a suffragette who started Mason City's City Bank, later City National Bank, with her first husband Thomas Emsley. When he died, in 1887, she became bank president. Emsley, who came to Mason City in 1864, died at the age of 92.

"These people weren't really well- known," said Ragan, of the Mason Cityans depicted in the History Walk. "It is really just a fun experience to have people realize who were the people that brought this city forward."

Proceeds from the History Walk will be used for historical preservation projects within the cemetery.

Rain date is Sunday, Sept. 19.

Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at the event or in advance at Mason City's Hy-Vee stores, the cemetery office and City Hall.

~ ~ ~ ~

The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Iowa
September 29, 2012
by John Skipper

Past comes to life in cemetery walk

Dr. Channing E. Dakin, portrayed by his grandson Tom Dankin, tells the crowd about his time as a doctor in Mason City from 1902 to 1944 on Saturday at the Elmwood-St. Joseph Minicipal Cemetery History Walk.

MASON CITY — Mason City’s past and present had a splendid rendezvous Saturday in Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery’s third annual Cemetery Walk.

More than 150 visitors took the walk in the afternoon, which was a journey into Mason City’s past.

Guests were led from one grave site to another where those who occupied the graves reappeared to tell their stories.

Dolly Story Bushnell (left), portrayed by Pat Schultz, and Sophia Story, portrayed by Cheryl Blakely, tell the crowd about Mason City's first hospital Saturday.

There were the Story Sisters, Dolly Story Bushnell and Sophia Story who founded the first hospital in Mason City.

Dolly, played by Pat Schultz, had some fun with the crowd, asking if anyone needed medical attention.

“Any palpitations? Anyone pregnant? They seem like a healthy bunch,” she said.

Dolly died in 1956 - so she was anxious to get caught up on what was happening.

“Are the theaters still downtown?” she asked. She frowned when she was told no — but perked up again when she learned Central Park was still there.

Dolly and Sophia, played by Cheryl Blakely, talked about the early days of doctoring in Mason City as they stood behind their family gravestone.

Dolly Story Bushnell, portrayed by Pat Schultz, tells the crowd about Mason City's first hospital Saturday.

Dr. Channing E. Dakin was a prominent doctor from 1901 to 1944 and he was brought to life Saturday by his grandson, Tom Dakin.

Placing his hat and his medical bag on a large boulder inscribed with the Dakin family name, Dr. Dakin talked about having an office on the fifth floor of the Brick & Tile Building next to a dentist who didn’t medicate his patients before he pulled their teeth.

Dakin said he often wore his suit while at work, rather than a white jacket, because he frequently made house calls.

“They don’t do that now, I understand,” he said.

The house calls were made first in horse and buggy and later by automobile.

He said one of the biggest medical challenges for him and other doctors was the onset of polio. The first case in Mason City was reported in 1910, he said.

Others from Mason City’s past making appearances Saturday were Owen Denison, an officer of the Brick & Tile Co., played by Brian Bauer; May Hanford MacNider, philanthropist and mother of Gen. Hanford MacNider, portrayed by Cindy Dahl; and Martha Jane Parker, who taught the Ringling Brothers, portrayed by Gerry Schwarz.

Evening performances took on a more deadly tone. Performers were Yefto Radonich, a young immigrant murdered on Powder Street, portrayed by Nick Leaman; Cora Bell, suspected of running a house of ill repute, portrayed by Carolyn York; Sargent Hoyt, whose body was moved from one burial ground to another in Mason City, portrayed by Jeffrey Leaman; and Helen Berkley, a young murder victim; portrayed by Pat Frisby.

Cemetery Manager Randy Opheim was thrilled with the turnout and with the weather.

“God has blessed us,” he said.

~ ~ ~ ~

The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Iowa
September 28, 2013, by Laura Bird

History comes to life during
Mason City cemetery Walk

Michael Byrne portrays Rev. Carolan (1844-1917), a Catholic priest in the early years of Mason City during the History Walk at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery Saturday.

MASON CITY - Mason City's first Catholic priest, Rev. Carolan, may have died in 1917, but his story lived on during the Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery History Walk on Saturday.

"Jesus was about that age when he did some pretty important stuff," Carolan explained about being ordained at age 33.

Wearing a clergy robe and standing next to Carolan's grave, Michael Byrne portrayed St. Joseph's Catholic Church's first priest.

He explained different aspects about Carolan's life and history of the church, such as when he came to Mason City there were 26 Catholic families and when he died there were more than 300 families. He also spoke about building a school, only to have it burn down a few years later. St. Joe's eventually raised enough money to rebuild.

"It's just interesting," said Sharon Egbert, Mason City, who was attending the walk for the third year. "I like hearing the history of the people that have lived in Mason City. I didn't grow up in Iowa, so this is a good way to learn."

Kit Cameron portrays Josephine Maben (1850-1934) during the History Walk at Elmwood-St. Josephe Cemetery Saturday. Mabin was the only woman to have an office in the new 1902 couthouse. Mabin was the County Recorder.

The walk featured actors portraying other prominent Mason City citizens including John McMillin, the first settler in Mason City; Josephine Maben, former county recorder and only woman to have an office in the new 1902 courthouse; Matilda Russell, an early settler; Joseph Stork, a Clear Lake farmer and Mary Owen, who was the longest living Mason City resident at the time of her death in 1944.

Jerry O'Neill portrays Joseph Stork (1826-1917), a farmer who settled south of Clear Lake, during Saturday's History Walk at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery in Mason City. O'Neill is the great-great-grandson of Joseph Stork.

Stork was played by Jerry O'Neill, his great-great-grandson.

"It was a hard life; winters were fierce," he explained.

He also explained that Stork came to the Clear Lake area around 1867 after learning that 160 acres could be purchased for $5 per acre.

"Try doing that today," he said to the chuckles of audience members.

Stork died in 1917 at age 90. He had 16 children between his first and second wives, O'Neill said.

Natasha Orton portrays Mary Owen (1852-1944), daughter of A. C. Owen, the longest living resident of Mason City at the time of her death during the History Walk at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery Saturday.

The youngest character and actor was Mary Owen, played by Natasha Orton, an eighth-grader at John Adam's Middle School. She had never attended or acted in the History Walk before.

"It's fun because I get to learn about different things that happened in history through my script," Orton said.

She learned about the part through her father who heard about it at the Mason City Fire Department where he works.

"I decided it would be a lot of fun," said Orton, who also does Steben's Children's Theater.

John Henry portrays John McMillin (1824-1885) Saturday during the History Walk at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery in Mason City. McMillin was the first settler in Mason City and owned the first general store in town.

Sharon and Ken Campbell, Mason City, were impressed with the walk. Sharon said she was finally able to attend this year since she's now retired.

"I really like it," she said. "It's very interesting, and I'm learning a lot."

The History Walk is an annual fundraiser for the cemetery. It also included a chili supper and evening stroll featuring Mason City's more notorious citizens, such as murderers.

North Iowa Today
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
September 28, 2013

The afternoon History Walk will again feature prominent citizens from the past with interesting life stories. The portrayals will include:

  • Reverend Carolan, 1844-1917, Well known Catholic Priest in early years of Mason City
  • John McMillin, 1824-1885, First Settler in Mason City, owned the first general store
  • Mary Owen, 1852-1944, Daughter of A.C. Owen and longest living resident in 1944
  • Joseph Stork, 1826-1917, Farmer who settled north of Clear Lake in 1871
  • Matilda Russell, 1813-1890, Early settler, wife of John Russell, mother of 10 children
  • Josephine Maben, 1858-1935, County Recorder, only woman with office in 1902 Courthouse

    The Evening Stroll will portray people of early Mason City who have interesting life stories, but more fittingly told during a dark night in the Cemetery. While the historical aspects of the person’s lives will be told, the portrayals will be entertaining as well. Other spirits may be roaming around too. People being portrayed are:

  • Mrs. Ed Hughes, 1863-1898, Wife accused of murdering husband
  • Tim O’Brien, 1843-1893, Night train guard shot while making an arrest
  • Edwin Hansford, 1875-1907, Struck by lighting in his basement at age of 32
  • Mary Jenkinson, 1839-1903, Dunked in river by mob of women
  • Clara Wedge, 1864-1918, Mason City’s unsolved murder mystery of 1918

    Walking to and from the portrayal sites is required by all attendees. Each route is approximately 3/4 of a mile which is walked in sections of 200 to 900 feet in length. One uphill slope and some uneven ground are involved. Chairs at each portrayal site allow 10 minute rests between walks. People attending the Evening Stroll are encouraged to bring flashlights.

    This educational and entertaining family event is sponsored by the Bertha Stebens Charitable Foundation, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Good Shepherd Health Center, Hearing Associates, First Citizens National Bank, Kentucky Ridge Assisted Living, Mason City Ford-Lincoln, Major Erickson Funeral Home, Cornerstone Assisted Living, Fullerton Funeral Home, Floyd & Leonard Auto Electric, Cornish Family Chiropractic and the Cerro Gordo Co Assn of Independent Insurance Agents.

    Photographs courtesy of Globe Gazette
    Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011; updated November of 2013; updated March 2016



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