The Dead Come to Life on Pine Hill Cemetery Tour
The people of Auburn will have the chance to see the dead come back to life when the Auburn Heritage Association hosts its biennial Auburn Cemetery Lantern Tour of Pine Hill Cemetery Oct. 8 and 9.
Tourists will stop by the gravesites of notable Auburn historical figures where volunteers will portray these characters and give a brief biography.
The characters will come alive to educate visitors about the history of Auburn.
"The goal is to educate the public and give a microcosm of the history of Auburn," said Mary Norman, president of the Auburn Heritage Association. "We do this and we use the money that is raised to put back in the cemetery."
Norman said more than $30,000 has been put in the cemetery over the last 10 years to keep up the landscaping and refurbish the graves, fences, gates and iron works.
The tour will have 15 characters.
Among those will be Charles Thach, Auburn president from 1902 to 1919.
Molly Hollifield Jones, who donated a lot of money to the city for the first public library. She also worked for the first clubhouse for the Woman's Club.
Confederate Gen. James Henry Lane, whose men accidentally shot and killed Stonewall Jackson behind enemy lines.
Dr. Charles Cary who was a veterinarian known throughout the country.
Lucky Meager, who started the first kindergarten class in Auburn, and started the speech and hearing clinic, because of a child in her class who had a speech problem.
Jethro Walker, died mysteriously from a gunshot in his head at his home and soon afterward, his son left for Cuba.
It is said that Walker haunts the cemetery to this day.
The Rev. Billy Mitchell, who is buried above ground on a double bed with his boots under his bed inside a brick mausoleum.
Virginia Howe, who was 16 when she died and was first buried in her front yard.
Her husband then began a relationship with her sister who requested Virginia be moved from the front yard into Pine Hill.
Norman said five former University presidents are buried there.
Charles Hendrix, professor in veterinary medicine, has portrayed George Petrie for the past three years.
"It's a great honor to portray Dr. Petrie," Hendrix said. "When he was alive, he was a living legend."
Hendrix, who also portrayed Petrie at Auburn's sesquicentennial, said he got involved in the tour because Norman asked.
Pine Hill's first cemetery in Auburn dates back to 1837 when a track of land consisting of six acres was given by Judge John Harper.
Past mayors, lawyers, doctors and many Auburn professors are buried there.
Many of the graves are unmarked, including a number of slave graves, excluding the grave of Gatsy Rice, a freed slave who became a seamstress.
"We want to keep the history of our founders alive and it is our main fundraiser," said Cathy Jones, chairwoman of the Lantern Tour. "Those funds maintain not only Pine Hill, but also the oldest black cemetery in Auburn, Baptist Hill."
Rosemere Cemetery, the oldest in Opelika, hosts the tour the years Pine Hill doesn't.
The tour is open to the public with $10 admission.
The cemetery is located at 303 Armstrong St.
"We feel it's important for people to understand and know something about their local history and the people who created Auburn and why Auburn is the way it is," Norma said.