SYCAMORE – It was an opportunity to to explore history in a unique way, and more than 50 people attended the second annual “Etched in Stone” Heritage Cemetery Walk at Elmwood Cemetery in Sycamore.
The Heritage Cemetery Walk originated 23 years ago with Sycamore resident Juanita Doss, who passed away in 2001. Doss was extremely involved in Elmwood Cemetery and especially in improving the gravesites of soldiers.
“She was the sweetest lady,” presenter Jim Lyon said. “And these were her vet’rans. Not veterans. Vet’rans.”
The DeKalb County History Center worked with the Sons of Union Veterans to organize this event, which began just after 1 p.m. After distributing programs and collecting the recommended $5-a-visitor donations, Michelle Donahoe began the opening remarks in the mourning house at the center of the cemetery.
The history of the Heritage Cemetery Walk continued to unfold, from the founding of Elmwood Cemetery in 1865 to the present-day planning of this Sunday’s walk, which began in April.
Donahoe’s remarks were concluded by Sons of Union Veterans Camp Commander Dennis Maher, who then led the program attendees to the grave of Peter Lloyd Pratt, president of the Class of 1897 at the U.S. Naval Academy. Pratt died in 1913, but the story of his life was told by presenter Jim Lyon.
“We just pick people we see,” Lyon later explained. “There’s a lot of families who want to talk about their ancestors, which is cool because we get to show artifacts. And we try to do different people every year.”
Speakers this year included DeKalb and Sycamore residents Tom Oestreicher, Joe McCormick, Dennis Maher, Lars Jacobson, Bill Shipper and Jim Lyon. Several of them were in Union soldier costume, though it was made clear that they do not do reenactments.
“We do things in costume to honor the memories and lives of the people we’re talking about,” Jacobson explained during his presentation of Linus Holcomb, a a sergeant who died in 1865.
Altogether, eight Sycamore residents were presented over a span of three hours. Not all were Civil War veterans.
Though it was originally scheduled for Oct. 1, the walk was moved because of inclement weather. Yet, Maher said, the rescheduling had little to no negative impact on attendance.
“I’d say there are more people here than there were just last year,” he said. “Mostly regulars, but there’s a few new people every time.”
Two of those new people included Sycamore residents Charles and Lynn Shepard.
“It’s a beautiful cemetery,” Lynn Shepard said. “And we love to know more about its history.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle