Iced bottled water and golf carts greeted those who spent part of their Saturday at West Hill Cemetery in Sherman. The iced water was to keep the day’s heat at bay, and the golf carts provided transportation both to various plots, and in a way, back in time.
The annual local history event hosted by the Sherman Museum, History Comes Alive, was back in its usual setting to tell folks about Grayson County’s past.
Marilyn Pemberton, who has lived in Grayson County for 38 years, said she came to learn more about the area’s history.
“I have seen it advertised before and I’ve just always missed the opportunity,” she said as she and her husband waited on the tour to begin.
Pemberton really hadn’t thought of herself as someone who would enjoy hanging out in cemeteries before Saturday. But when she thought about it as the group made their way to the first stop, she said she had been to a few other famous burying places in other cities.
The first stop brought Pemberton and about a dozen or so other attendees to the grave of Olivia Oatman Fairchild who lived from 1837 to 1903. Margaret Alverson served as the re enactor to tell Fairchild’s story of being captured as her family tried to make their way to a new home. She was eventually freed and married into a prominent Sherman family.
Telling Fairchild’s story, Alverson’s voice broke as she talked about Fairchild watching her entire family be slaughtered and then shook with excitement when she talked of learning that one of her brothers had survived. Those who attended the event Saturday clapped enthusiastically when Alverson finished her portrayal of the woman who had ended her life as a popular hostess in Sherman.
The next stop took the group to the George Raymond “Scuffy” Stephens Sr. grave site where his granddaughter Susan Stephens portrayed his mother Hattie Stephens Banks Sadler.
Speaking before she started her work for the day, Susan Stephens, who is on the board of the museum, said her interest in local history led her to be part of the project, but playing a family member helped her to get to know more about her family’s past and its impact on her.
“Growing up in Sherman, West Hill Cemetery was always a nice place family place to come,” she said noting that there are generations of her family in the plot where she would do her re enactment on Saturday.
“My father taught us to drive in West Hill Cemetery because you couldn’t (hurt anyone) and there are lots of right hand turns and left hand turns and you had to go slow,” she explained.
She said it was interesting to find, during her research for the event, that her grandfather had been mayor of the town, in the 1960s when the city had built its new police station on the piece of land where once sat the house in which he had been born.
Margaret Vaught Newman portrayed Lucille Hardin Mathis Vaught to tell about the life of one of Sherman’s earlier lovers of gospel music. She told about Dr. Paul Titus Vaught’s love of the music and the way he helped it to flourish in area by hosting a local radio show, hosting choirs and groups and by providing song books to area churches.
The event also included a tour of the cemetery’s Mausoleum which features Tiffany stained glass and more than 400 interment spaces. In addition, the event included a visit to the grave of Jesse Pipkin Loving who lived from 1833 to 1919.