The lives, hopes, accomplishments, adventures and travails of six historical figures of note from the Highland County area were personified Tuesday in dramatic narratives as part of the annual Highland County Historical SocietyGhost Walk held at the Hillsboro Cemetery.
Anna Catherine “Kitty” Newby, “Mourning Emma”, Sarah Ella “Byrde” Ayres, George Beecher, the Rev. Emile Grand-Girard, and Granville Barrere (portrayed by Debbie Newby Williams, Carolyn Hastings, Dr. Tara Beery, Dr. Jeff Beery, Robert Brown and Steve Roush, respectively), were the six noteworthy people who had their stories posthumously told through dramatic re-enactment at the event.
Among these was the story of Granville Barrere, whose “ghost” recounted how his opinions as the publisher and editor of the News-Herald, circa 1908, often got him into some interesting confrontations with those who disagreed with him.
Sarah Ella “Byrde” Ayres, another local citizen who was profiled, was a bookkeeper turned professional photographer, and was the first person to buy a ticket for entrance into the Colony Theatre in Hillsboro when it opened in 1938.
George Beecher’s surname might be recognizable because his aunt, Harriet-Beecher Stowe, wrote, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.
Thew Rev. Emile Grand-Girard, who immigrated from France, served as a Presbyterian pastor in Mowrystown, where there was a significant French population.
Anna Catherine “Kitty” Newby was the wife of Judge Cyrus Newby, who served as Highland County Common Pleas Judge from 1892-1918.
Finally, “Mourning Emma”, illustrated the mourning practices of the late 19th and early 20th century.
The historical society’s John Glaze, chairman of the Ghost Walk, said that while he writes most of the scripts that, “our ghosts often take what I write and do their own research to come up with their own version.” He said that Hastings and Newby Williams, who portrayed “Mourning Emma” and Anna Catherine, “Kitty” Newby, wrote their own scripts.
Newby Williams, an author of historical fiction who has recently self-published “Hillsboro’s Mystery Child” about Sarah Dorney Stroup, a 4-year old girl who was abandoned at a train depot in Hillsboro in 1857 and taken in by the famous temperance advocate, Eliza Thompson, had heard about the historical society’s yearly Ghost Walk, and thought it was a perfect opportunity to tell the story of her great-great-grandmother, Anna Catherine “Kitty” Newby. Newby Williams said that she had, “always wanted to participate in it,” so she approached Glaze about volunteering to portray her great-great-grandmother, Newby. Newby Williams said that her prior experience as an educator helped prepare her for the public speaking required for the presentation.
This year, there were more ghosts and less walking, as the event allowed for attendees to bring lawn chairs and congregate around a stage near the cemetery’s chapel, instead of walking, as in years past.
For more information about Highland County Historical Society call 937-393-3392.
Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.