Oakwood Cemetery Hosts Spirits Of Oakwood

It's the oldest cemetery in Tyler, filled with stories that have never been told, until today. Saturday afternoon, the Oakwood Cemetery Restoration Committee held Spirits of Oakwood, an event that reveals the stories behind the tombstones. They do this through actors reading the stories of those buried there. It's history of those who helped start Tyler, and just those who had a tragic end.

People lined up early for a chance to learn a little history about this very old cemetery. Oakwood Cemetery dates back to the 1850's and is the first cemetery used by the people of Tyler and Smith County.

"This is where all the history of Tyler is," said Spirits of Oakwood Committee Chair Maxine Herbst.  "I mean there is a governor buried here, senators and you know the people that started Tyler."

Captain Richard Long died is buried in Oakwood.  He was the sheriff of Smith County in 1854. John Henry Burruss died at age 18.  His father served as district clerk and his brother was a Smith County judge.  "I died with the measles, and so did my whole family in the family plot," said Josh Herbst, who played Burruss.

Then there's Maxine Evans, AKA Dana Chadwick. "She was an artist," said Maxine Evans, who played Chadwick.  "These are her sketches. She went to San Francisco to study art and was in the San Francisco earthquake. She became deaf from all the explosions and her husband was never seen again."

Evans says Chadwick eventually moved back to Tyler. When she died, she was buried at Oakwood with no marker.  That is until the restoration committee gave her one.

"Nobody knew she was here," said Evans. "I just got real interested in her and kept on until I found her obit at the public library."  It's a happy ending for Dana Chadwick.  Not the case for Katie Bannon.

"At 18 a man came into town from the North and ended up boarding at her parents house," said Katie Reagan, who played Bannon. "She was soon informed that she was going to marry this man against her will and wishes. She told her mother I would rather be buried in my wedding dress then marry this man."  Her wish came true, for just three days before the wedding, Bannon shot herself and was buried in her wedding dress with his wedding ring.

It's just a few stories of a cemetery filled with Tyler's past.  Money raised today will go towards repairing the hundreds of broken monuments in the cemetery. Since the events beginning three years ago, the Oakwood Cemetery Restoration Committee has been able to repair 65 markers.

Molly Reuter, Reporting. mreuter@kltv.com