22nd Annual Cemetery Walk Remembers Lives of Past Galenians

Local actors present living histories at Greenwood Cemetery, Grace Episcopal

Painter 406Every June, the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society remembers the lives and contributions of past Galenians with its annual Cemetery Walk. Local performers portray select individuals buried in Galena’s Greenwood Cemetery and recount their lives in front of live audiences. The 22nd Annual Cemetery Walk will be held at Greenwood Cemetery, in Galena, IL, on June 13 & 14, with tours starting every 20 minutes between the hours of 2:00 and 4:30 PM. A seated, indoor performance will be held at Grace Episcopal Church in Galena, on June 20, at 8:00 PM. Tickets will be available at the performances for $15.

“Greenwood is a link to our past, like an open history book,” said Ronn Toebaas, writer and director. “The cemetery is a place to celebrate life and to connect with Galena history in a very tangible way. We have an outstanding cast of local actors to bring these wonderful stories to life.”

Many interesting and notable Galenians will be portrayed this year, including John Turney (played by Mark Haman), who was Galena’s first lawyer and had a tremendous influence in the city’s early development. He helped establish many municipal offices and services, including fire safety and rescue companies. He is considered one of Galena’s founding fathers and will tell his story of frontier life in early Galena.

Doctor Thomas Livermore (Ted Williams) was a dentist in Galena prior to the Civil War and will speak to the rudimentary beginnings of dentistry. During the presentation from Doctor Livermore, two dental patients (Dave Yonda and Marion Roberts) will be inspected and performed upon by the doctor.

2015 marks the year in which the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender to Grant and the impending victory of the Union Army. With this, it is appropriate that the Cemetery Walk highlight two of Galena’s nine Civil War generals. General Augustus Chetlain (Kevin Melancon) was instrumental in organizing and training 17,000 black soldiers during the War. Under Grant’s presidential administration, Chetlain later served as U.S. Consul-General in Brussels, Belgium.

The audience will also be visited by both of Augustus Chetlain’s wives. The story of his first wife, Emily Tinny (LaVon Petsche) was one of tragedy. She died early in their relationship and was originally buried in Galena’s Old City Cemetery, but was later removed and buried next to Chetlain in Greenwood.

Chetlain’s second wife, Annie M. Smith (Nancy Hyman), was the widow of Colonel Melanchon Smith. She assumed Smith’s role as Postmaster in Rockford, IL while he fought for the Union cause. After Smith’s death, she met Chetlain and quickly remarried. This marriage, the second for both Annie and Augustus, ended on a low note. After their residence in Brussels, they separated. She died in Canada.

General William Rowley (Gary Jobgen) was aide-de-camp to Grant during the Civil War and saw action at Fort Donnelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg. He will recount these events—focusing heavily on Shiloh—and reflect on the sad realities and losses the war precipitated. Rowley returned to Galena after the war and opened a real estate and insurance business. General Rowley was  another  of  Galena’s nine Civil War Generals.

The next act will recount the difficult life of Mrs. Lucy Venable (Robyn Davis). Lucy’s husband suffered from a painful, terminal illness. Lack of medical knowledge and the difficulties brought on by it were so harsh that he committed suicide. Lucy will tell his story and her own, while also speaking of the prevalence of suicides before doctors had means of effectively alleviating pain and before many safety nets were available to help patients avoid financial ruin.

The final stop on this year’s  Cemetery Walk will be with Ann Fiddick Edwards (Susan Barg). This performance should lighten the mood, as the Edwards lived rather luxuriously in a well-to- do neighborhood on  Galena’s  “Quality Hill”. Her family came from modest means in Cornwall but earned wealth operating lumber and other businesses throughout Wisconsin. They owned properties in and around Hazel Green and Galena. Her life became one of relative ease.

Toebaas  concluded  by  saying,  “it  is  an  amazing  testament  to  the  community’s  past  that we continue to find such fascinating stories to share. This also helps keep the performances fresh year  after  year.”  Ronn Toebaas writes and directs the performance, historical research is done by Scott Wolfe and Kris Chapman, Bryan Ackerman is the stage manager, and Michelle Blanchard is costumer.


resnicksSociety’s Annual Historic Cemetery Walk, a seated, indoor performance will be held at Grace Episcopal Church (107 S. Prospect Street, Galena, Illinois) on June 20, at 8:00 PM.  Tickets will be available at the performance for $15. The evening will include all of the scenes shown at the cemetery walking tour and will feature the music of Brian and Lisa Schoenrock.

This year’s performance will recount the lives and contributions of past Galenians For those who cannot attend the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical, including: Augustus Chetlain, a Civil War general and US-consul to Belgium, will tell of his exploits, and his two wives, Emily Tinny and Annie M. Smith, will share their memories; William Rowley, another of Galena’s nine Generals, will recount the tragedy he witnessed at the Battle of Shiloh; Lucy Ann Venable will talk about her losses, while Ann Fiddick Edwards will talk about her times of prosperity; John Turney will talk about the earliest days of Galena and his role in establishing various civic organizations; and Dr. Thomas A. Livermore will demonstrate some of the primitive aspects of pre-Civil War dentistry while being visited by a couple patients. Each year, new individuals are researched and presented at the Cemetery Walk, keeping the event fresh and enjoyable for those who have seen it once and those who have seen it many times before.

For more information, visit www.galenahistory.org or call 815.777.9129. All proceeds to benefit the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society Tickets will be available at the performances for $15. Proceeds benefit the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society. Cash and check only.