Hundreds trek through Montgomery cemetery for lesson on local history
BY JUDY POCHEL For Sun-Times Media October 3, 2013 8:34PM
John Aman as he portrays Aurora Police Officer Thompson Richardson who died in the line of duty in April, 1928. | Judy Pochel~for sun-times media
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:25AM
Walking in a cemetery after dark may not be the usual setting for a history lesson, but that is just what hundreds did in the Village of Montgomery earlier this week.
The Historical Preservation Commission staged their 5th annual cemetery walk portraying the early lives of pioneers who shaped this area at the turn of the 20th century. Tour guides would take visitors along the paths to the various gravesites armed with only the flashlights they brought and a few torchlights at the gravesite they visited.
“The actors dress in historical costumes and portray the life of their character. The players and the commission do a lot of research surrounding the people buried in the graves,” said Marion Bond, a tour guide. When visitors arrived at one of the highlighted gravesites on the tour the actor would take on the persona of that character and speak as they felt their character would have years ago.
“She was a quiet woman who had a big family,” said Kelly Lee who portrayed Anna Lamb. “I am afraid I may cry when I start talking,” she said as she prepared to talk as her character.
Lamb was born in the United States but her parents had immigrated to the country from England in the 1880’s. In early 1913 she took her four children to visit her parents in Montgomery. One of the children got caught under a streetcar and died in a tragic accident.
While Lamb eventually had ten children she said losing her daughter so tragically spurred the beginning of pedestrian protection movements in local governments and some eight new council actions in Aurora. Those early laws were designed to prevent tragic accidents and called for signals and gongs be used when two trains meet on opposite tracks.
John Aman, a veteran of portraying early village residents took on the part of Aurora patrolman Thompson Richardson. “This is a great way to get people to come out and see who lived before them and who died in the community, said Aman.
Historical Commission researches utilized a book written by former Beacon News Reporter Matt Hanley, “True Tales of Aurora, Il.” when writing the script for that resident.
“I had apprehended two men who were driving a stolen automobile. I was marching them to the police station when one turned around and shot me in the stomach with a 22,” he said in character as the police officer that died three days after that gunshot in 1928.
Police Officer Richardson had worked with the railroad and had been a fireman prior to his seven-year career as a policeman. During that fateful arrest he continued to take his suspect into the police station. “By God, he shot me,” was a comment used from books written regarding the event. “I fired twice and kept advancing. Miller (suspect Delmar Miller) started to fall but I grabbed him, shoving my gun into his back.”
In the lobby of the police station the officer collapsed and was taken to a hospital in St. Charles where he died two days later. He left behind a wife and three children.
Another early pioneer visitors met during the walk were Emma Murdock Van Deventer.
“I was married to Lawrence Lynch and we moved to Cheyenne Wyoming for a couple of years where I spent long evenings writing snippets of short stories and making lists of ideas for novels that I would one day assimilate into mystery novels,” said Jeaneete Lee who portrayed the early writer.
Historical society members who researched the life of the early author said at that time women were not published. Her mysteries were never published but her novels did make it into early print, only being sold in England.
In 1885 the woman divorced and married a popular doctor A.E. Van Deventer. From that day on she was referred to as the “doc’s wife.” She and her husband were two of the early residents of the Mausoleum, later being buried in the cemetery when that structure developed leaks and cracks.
A group of eager cub scouts representing Sugar Grove Pack 347 took the tour. Their leader said the adventure would be part of their hiking requirements. “I like it, the people tell good stories,” said nine-year old Jackson. One of his fellow cub scouts had a head lantern to help lead the way through the cemetery.
Others said they came to get a look at the people who lead very interesting lives and each helped shape what the Fox Valley has grown to become.
“The committee works to pick out people who have interesting history,” said Gene Michaels, a member of the commission.
Debbie Buchanan has organized and researched history for all five of the annual events. Kay Gerry is a volunteer who worked on research for this walk and Buchanan said life-long residents of the village are interviewed each year to make sure the living history of the region is recorded.