By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor
MOUNT VERNON - History came alive during the"Walk among the Tombstones" at Mound View Cemetery Sunday afternon. Event Coordinator Susan Kahrl said they had the biggest crowd ever for the event which is held every other year as a way for visitors to learn about who is buried in the beautifully maintained 41 acre city-owned cemetery.
Sunday's walking tour focused on actors portraying and telling the stories of prominent persons buried in the cemetery who played roles in early Mount Vernon and World War I. Among those featured on the tour were R.C. Kirk, James Williams, Daniel Norton, Sarah Murphy Banning, Anthony Banning, Elizabeth Hogg Curtis, Charles Campbell, and Dan Curtis Stone.
Kirk, portrayed by Walt Lewis, lived from 1821-1898. Kirk was a member of the Ohio State Senate, served as Lieutenant Governor, was an abolitionist and a strong advocate for racial justice. At one time Kirk owned the home that is now Dowds-Snyder Funeral Home on Newark Road.
Williams was a former slave who joined the Union forces at Vicksburg. He made his way to Mount Vernon and became a prominent barber in the community. In his later years he worked for R.C. Kirk in whose residence he died in 1888. He is buried in Potters Field at the cemetery.
Kenyon College was located in Gambier thanks, in part, to Mount Vernon's Daniel S. Norton (1786-1859). Norton, portrayed by Jeff Gottke, was a passionate patriot from Connecticut. His family moved west. He attended Transylvania College in Kentucky where he became a friend of Henry Clay, U.S. Senator and Congressman. Norton became a successful businessman in sugar and shipbuilding. He convinced Philander Chase to build Kenyon on the hill which is now Gambier. Chase and Norton are featured in the mural painted inside the Gambier Post office.
Sarah Murphy Banning, 1766-1844, was portrayed by Karen Smith. She was the daughter of pioneer William Murphy, one of the first settlers at Fort Redstone, Pennsylvania. She grew up in the atmosphere of the American Revolution on the western frontier. She married James Mansfield "Anthony" Banning in 1791 and they traveled to Knox county in 1812 with their eight children. Her life work was raising her children to the be honest and hard workers.
The Bannings were a prominent family and Anthony Banning (1768-1844), married Sarah, and after they moved to Mount Vernon built a giant mill on the Kokosing. Their farm encompassed much of western Mount Vernon. Rev. Banning was a Methodist minister and served as associate judge of Knox County from 1827-1834. He was a faithful minister and the builder of Banning Chapel.
Curtis, portrayed by Cate Blair Wilhelm, was born in England in 1803. Her family came to the frontier of Pennsylvania after The Revolution. The Hogg family founded what is thought to be the first bank west of the Alleghenies. She married Henry Curtis in 1823 with a signed premarital contract which gave her total control over her own money. Some of the Curtis family members married Nortons, Kirks and Coopers. Curtis died in 1878. Her family donated a stained glass window to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in her memory.
Cate Blair Wilhelm as Elizabeth Hogg Curtis at "A Walk Among the tombstones" at Mound View Cemetery Sunday - KP Photo
Stone was the first of 31 Knox County men who died in the Great War. Portrayed by Steve Kelley, Stone was orignally buried in Europe before his remains were returned to Knox County. The American Legion was formed in 1919 and the local chapter, No. 136 is named for Dan C. Stone.
Dr. John Fowler, portrayed his grandfather Charles Campbell, who was drafted into the Army in April 1917. Campbell, 1888-1969, excelled in sports at Otterbein College. He served in the 32nd division of American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Campbell talked about the use of mustard gas during the war and how gas masks had to be used to protect soldiers' eyes and skin in the event of an attack.
Dr. John Fowler portraying his grandfather, Charles Campbell, a World War I soldier - KP Photo
The tour concluded with a stop at the cemetery's old chapel which is being renovated by the Knox County Landmarks Foundation. The chapel was originally built in 1887 by O. W. Hubbell. It has a holding vault in the rear of the building which was used to store caskets when immediate burial had to be delayed.
Sponsors for the cemetery tour included Black Cat Creative, Daughters of the American Revolution, Knox County Democratic Women, Knox County Landmarks Foundation, KnoxPages.com, Main Street Mount Vernon, MTVarts, Printing Arts Press, Psi Iota Xi, Town & Country Garden Club, and WAM Group of the Knox County Fair Board