Friends of Wheeling To Host Greenwood Cemetery Tour on Sunday
WHEELING — Friends of Wheeling will host another Greenwood Cemetery Tour on Sunday. Walking tours will feature 14 notable people from Wheeling’s past in costume discussing the person’s historical significance.
Continuous tours will begin at 1 p.m., with the last tour starting at 4:30 p.m. The tours are free and open to all ages. Parking is available at Wheeling Park, and funeral home limousines will transport visitors to and from the cemetery.
Several people will be included who had a role in the Civil War. Andrew J. Sweeney was the city’s mayor during most of the Civil War and was known to have defied the Virginia Governor when a request was made to secure the Custom House/Post Office for the Confederacy. Sweeney, whose family included noted glassmakers, was later credited with bringing electricity to Wheeling. He will be portrayed by the current Vice Mayor of Wheeling, Chad Thalman.
Lewis Baker was co-owner of the Wheeling Daily Register during the war. When Baker and the paper’s co-owner wrote editorials criticizing President Lincoln and Union Major General David Hunter, Hunter had the pair arrested and imprisoned in Wheeling’s Athenaeum Prison for seven weeks, with no charges ever being filed. After their release, Baker and his co-editor returned to writing editorials critical of the war. Baker will be portrayed by Jay Frey.
DeMarquis Lafayette “Lafe” Githens served as a private in the 50th Ohio Infantry. Captured in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee in late 1864, he was sent to Cahaba Prison in Alabama. At the end of the war, he was aboard the heavily overloaded, ill-fated Sultana riverboat when a poorly repaired boiler exploded, killing nearly 1200 people. Githens survived and lived out a long life in Wheeling. He will be portrayed by Dave Barnett.
With the recent COVID pandemic in mind, two people will portray people with pertinent histories. Dr. James Reeves was Wheeling’s first public health officer and instituted improvements in the town’s water, ice, and milk supplies; inspected breweries for cleanliness; and investigated cases of tobacco poisoning among cigar rollers. His daughter Annie Reeves will be portrayed by Susie Nelson.
Gael Fincham will portray the grandmother of Mary Elizabeth Doepken, a six-month old who succumbed to the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed many in Wheeling, as well as Wheeling soldiers in camps preparing for service in World War I.
Others will relate stories of scandals in Wheeling. Jacob Grubb, Wheeling mayor in 1885, accused the local police chief of turning a blind eye to police officers who were preying on local prostitutes, offering protection in exchange for liquor and professional services. In retaliation, the police chief accused Grubb of similar offenses. Grubb will be portrayed by Hal Gorby.
Grace Schenk was the second wife of John Schenk, a wealthy meatpacker whose first wife was tried for attempting to poison him. Grace became a leading social figure in Wheeling, hosting well-publicized parties at the couple’s mansion. She will be portrayed by Judi Hendrickson.
The family of Emma Feller Taylor, a niece of wealthy brewer Henry Schmulbach, became involved in a series of lawsuits when they contested his will. Although Emma died before the cases were settled, there was enough money to erect in her memory one of the most beautiful monuments in the cemetery. She will be portrayed by Pat Jeffers.
And Dr. James Comerci will portray Dr. Henry T. Ford, who treated a local woman murdered by a man who married several wealthy widows across the midwest, poisoned them, and inherited their bank accounts and collected on their life insurance.
Others featured in the tour will be May Hornbrook Carpenter, an active suffragist who battled at the local, state, and national levels for the right for women to vote. She will be portrayed by Jeanne Finstein. Ron Scott will portray Dr. Baswell Henson Stillyard, an early African-American doctor who was one of the first of his race in the entire country to be elected to a seat on city council. Entrepreneur William Weiss began a very successful company that was later known as Sterling Drug. He will be portrayed by Frank O’Brien.
J. Sumner Stone, son of the co-founder of Stone and Thomas Department Store, and his wife, Katherine “Kate” Elson Stone, daughter of glass maker William Elson, were noted Methodist missionaries who served together in India and later opened their home to recruits and invalid veterans of World War I. They will be portrayed by Dave and Sondra Clutter. And John Wesley Glasscock, the first West Virginian to play Major League Baseball, will be portrayed by Greg Smith. Glasscock was said to have been one of the three greatest shortstops of all time.
This tour is the latest in a series of similar tours offered by Friends of Wheeling, the local historic preservation organization. The tours are typically well-received, with attendance numbering as many as 600 in a single afternoon.