WWI History to speak during Cookeville Cemetery Walk on Sept. 22
COOKEVILLE – Several Cookeville City Cemetery “residents” will be rising from the grave – for just one evening – to share their stories from the World War I era.
It’s happening during the Cookeville Cemetery Walk on Sept. 22, with two theatrical presentations to choose from: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Music from the Ballingers, a Cookeville folk and Americana band, will be included.
“This is our 10th biannual Cemetery Walk, so it has been happening for almost 20 years,” Beth Thompson, Cookeville museums manager, said. “It is an event the community really anticipates, and it’s always a sell-out.”
Tickets are $15 and available at www.cpactn.com. They may also be purchased at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center by calling 931-528-1313.
During this educational and entertaining event, presented by the City of Cookeville Department of Leisure Services and Public Facilities, a guide will lead groups to gravesites along a candlelit path.
“Knowing these are real people with real families makes it even more special, and people really feel that when they hear their unique stories in the darkened cemetery in the glow of the candles and torchlight,” Thompson said.
Thompson noted the significance of this year’s theme – The Great War.
“This is one of many statewide events being promoted by the Tennessee Great War Commission, with local Tennessee Tech University professor Dr. Michael Birdwell serving as president, surrounding the centennial of Tennessee’s involvement in WWI,” she said. “Look for an exhibit about Cookeville’s Great War Opening at the Cookeville History Museum in October, too.”
The Cookeville City Cemetery is located at 241 S. Walnut Ave. Participants should meet behind the cemetery office.
The following “residents” will share their stories:
Sgt. Aubrey C. Wright
Sgt. Wright of Cookeville was a mechanic in U.S. Army aviation service. His death was caused by an aeroplane propeller blade hitting him on the head in 1919. Hear his story of those who didn’t make it home from the war.
Judge Dick L. Lansden
Born at Bakers Cross Road in White County, Judge Lansden served on the Tennessee Supreme Court and as its chief justice. He and a hard-working suffragette will tell about the battle for suffrage that ended in Tennessee.
Clara Cox Epperson
Epperson’s passion for the written language inspired her pioneering efforts to establish two libraries in Putnam County and to be named Poet Laureate of Tennessee. She will read some of her Great War poetry.
Capt. Benton Carlen
Carlen enlisted in the World War in August of 1917 as a cadet, Second Officer’s Training Camp, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. He was overseas for 18 months and will talk about being one of the lucky ones.
Mary Lee Adcock and Dr. Walter McClain
Mrs. Adcock and Dr. McClain will share their experiences starting the Cookeville chapter of the American Red Cross during The Great War. Adcock, born in Roane County, chose teaching as her life’s work. She was a member of the faculty for more than 20 years in the Cookeville city schools. She was an active member of the Temperance movement and organized the first Parent-Teacher chapter in Cookeville. Dr. McClain, born in 1868 of pioneer residents of Cookeville, was a prolific writer for osteopathic journals. He also authored a History of Putnam County, published in 1925.
Elmer Lincoln Wirt
Wirt, who started the Putnam County Herald (now known as the Herald-Citizen), will tell about reporting on The Great War and “sedition.” Born in 1863, Wirt grew up on the prairies of Minnesota. At the age of 31, he followed his family to Cookeville, a town less than 40 years old at the time. Desiring to get into the newspaper business, he started the Putnam County Herald and wrote about progressive topics such as the importance of schools in the area, the arrival of the railroad system, and the need for an incorporated town.
“Miss Clara,” as she was called by many, will tell of her experience being a teenager during The Great War. Born in 1901, she spent her childhood surrounded by books and learning. She began her formal education in her father’s one-room schoolhouse. She attended high school at what was to later become Tennessee Technological University. At the end of her formal education, when she was only 18 years old, she began teaching a one-room school of her own.
For more information about the Cookeville Cemetery Walk, call CPAC at 931-528-1313 or the Cookeville History Museum at 931-520-5455.