Cemetery strolls bring Augusta's history alive

The dead lived for a few hours Saturday and Sunday as re-enactors told the colorful tales of Augustans from centuries past.

Ross Snellings, as Maj. Archibald Butt, told of hobnobbing with presidents and seemed excited that he had been booked as a passenger on the Titanic.

While aboard the ship, he asked for drinks with lots of ice; maybe that wasn't such a good idea, Mr. Snellings said.

Most of the Augustans featured on the Walk With the Spirits Tour, presented by Historic Augusta and the Watson-Brown Foundation, are buried at Augusta's historic Magnolia Cemetery. Butt went down with the Titanic in 1912, but his parents are buried in the cemetery.

Led by Sydney Farrell Peden as Mary Clark De l'Aigle, a group walked through the cemetery to meet those buried there.

De l'Aigle's grandfather-in-law, Nicholas, provided property from his brickyards to the city to expand the small cemetery. The original land was purchases from the Academy of Richmond County in 1817.

Widowed in her 20s, De l'Aigle ran a boarding house on Greene Street across from the municipal building.

"I had three young children to care for," she said.

Her boarders, she said, were of the highest moral character.

One person, however, believed immoral acts were taking place in the boarding house. George Ratcliffe, played by Simon Grant, made accusations against her and Charles Dawson Tilly, played by James Mason.

Their disagreement led to Augusta's final duel, fought at the Sand Bar Ferry.

The two men re-enacted the 1875 duel, in which Tilly was killed. He is buried in the De l'Aigle family plot. After the duel, Ratcliffe disappeared from the area. The duel was reported by The Augusta Chronicle.

As the guide, Ms. Peden provided visitors with tidbits of information on burial traditions. Many of the monuments in the cemetery are carved with symbols. A lamb represented a small child; roses represented the brevity of human life; garlands represented victory.

Others on the tour included wealthy cotton merchant Michael O'Dowd, played by Brian Mulherin; and James Sanford Lamar, who was the father of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Lamar and was played by Judge Danny Craig.

This is the second year the two organizations have worked together to present the cemetery tours. More than 400 people attended this year's two-day event, according to Julia Jacksonm of Historic Augusta.

Last year's tour was in Historic Summerville Cemetery.

"We're talking about next year and what to do. Should we come back to Magnolia or Summerville?" she said.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at charmain.brackett@augustachronicle.com.

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justus4 10/19/08 - 11:19 am
The thought of such

The thought of such activities may have an adverse affect on African-Americans, because they obviously were treated inhumanely during this time period. Do these participants long for yesterday's evils & injustices? What message are they sending to those African-American relatives, who had family members lynched or murdered by those sworn to protect? Do these participants believe in equal justice under the law? Did it exist in 1890? This piece opens more questions than answers. However, there does appear to be a positive development for minorities: The stroll starts & ends in a cemetery.

TheGeorgian 10/19/08 - 11:59 am
Oh, good grief, stop playing

Oh, good grief, stop playing the race card! Not everything in this world is or should be about race. This is about history and it brings home to young (and old) that history isn't just names and dates on mouldering paper but about real people who lived and breathed and loved and sometimes lost. Anything which helps people to understand this is altogether good.

pfft 01/04/09 - 04:08 pm
hIstory is history. The

hIstory is history. The unfortunate ill treatment of African Americans is a part of history. Let us remember so that we do not make the same mistakes. There are many wonderful African Americans who contributed to the history of Augusta. Remembering the past is part of progressing into the future.

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