Wednesday, November 05, 2014

TOP STORY >> Who's who of past and present

Leader editor

The Lonoke County Museum and Grand Prairie Civil War Round Table will hold a fundraiser dinner and historical theater called “Tales from Beyond” from 5 until 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $20 per person, or $35 for a couple, and can still be purchased by calling 501-676-6750. The museum is at 215 Front St.

Beans and cornbread will be served, while 15 community members, dressed in 19th Century period costumes, share the stories of local Civil War soldiers, their wives and sisters, and former slaves. The event is one of four annual fundraisers for the museum, which is dedicated to preserving history at the local level with an emphasis on genealogy.

Sherryl Miller and Shirley Tomlinson, who are unpaid volunteers, rely on four annual fundraiser dinners like the one this Saturday to keep the museum open. They are hoping to have 100 guests attend.

The women are arguably the gatekeepers of the county’s past and seem to know the bloodlines of almost everyone in the area.

“One of our characters is going to be a former slave named Emaline Waddle. She died in the 1930s,” Miller said. Waddle will be portrayed by Annette Nellan.

Dwayne Nichols has the role of Lidge, the personal servant of Captain Eagle.

The Goodrum women — who were wives of Civil War veterans William and John Goodrum — will be played by three sisters — former Lonoke County Treasurer Patti Weathers, former Coroner Sherry Stracener and Rita Schmitz, who works for County Judge Doug Erwin. Erwin will portray his fellow Republican, President Abraham Lincoln.

About the sisters, Miller said, “They’re gonna ham it up because one of them is the second wife. It’s gonna be lots of fun.”

She continued, “The sisters-in-law and their husbands worked at the county courthouse that was in Brownsville, so they’re gonna tell what happened when the Union troops came in.”

Despite popular belief, Miller said the courthouse building itself was not transported to Lonoke because Union troops “used the bricks to build the camp ovens.”

Lonoke’s courthouse is not the antebellum building that once stood in Brownsville. “It’s a proven fact that the old one was torn down,” Miller said.

A lawyer in DeValls Bluff sued the Union years later and made them pay for tearing the courthouse down, she recalled.

Lonoke County Justice of the Peace Bill Ryker will play German-born Confederate soldier Ferdinand Gates. Miller promises Gates’ story is funny, like many of the other segments. “I like the humor in history,” she said.

Carrie Acree Parsons has the part of Elizabeth High, who became a hero after chasing off post-war looters known as jayhawkers. She later married the founder of Lonoke County, Isaac Clark Hicks.

Joel McClintock, the first sheriff of Lonoke County and a Union soldier, will be played by Nate Parsons. The museum also has an exhibit about McClintock.

Tommy Dupree of Jackson-ville, where he has spent years building up the Reed’s Bridge Civil War Battlefield site, will take the stage as Mancel U. Stone. Dupree is chairman of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.

Civil War historian R.D. Keever has the part of Sam Rister, a soldier who was at Camp Nelson near Cabot.

Suzy and Jim Schmidt have the parts of Susie Morrison and Dr. R.N. Ross. Leanna Rich will channel Lou Boone Wheat, the third wife of Capt. Pat H. Wheat. Jane Benton and Shirley McGraw will play Martha Ann Benton and Sallie Jones respectively.

Many of the stories are drawn from first-person accounts published in The Lonoke Democrat after the war. Several have been compiled into a book Miller wrote, which will be available at the dinner for $30.

A children’s coloring book is $5 and is filled with local historical events. It  was well received by a 5-year-old girl who is unfamiliar with Lonoke County history.

Miller’s articles on local Civil War figures have been published in The Leader, along with historic photos, since last spring. Some of the people she wrote about for this newspaper will be portrayed during Saturday’s dinner.