Nesbitt Memorial Library
Columbus, Texas

Last Updated November 30, 2009
Use "CTRL F" to Search This Page
Click Here to Return to Home Page

Live Oaks and Dead Folks

The Cemetery Tours Conducted by the Nesbitt Memorial Library


In 2002, at a professional conference, Linda Wolff of Victoria mentioned to Bill Stein that she had once conducted a tour of a cemetery, with actors at various selected headstones portraying the deceased. She commented about how successful the tour was and recommended that Stein create one for Columbus. Stein mentioned the idea to library-board-member Dorothy Albrecht, who immediately told him that the library in nearby La Grange had already conducted one or more similar tours. That fall, Albrecht induced Stein to go to the event in La Grange, and Stein came away with the idea to write a tour for Columbus.

Stein completed a script so rapidly that the Nesbitt Memorial Library considered conducting its first tour the following spring. However, the board finally decided that autumn was more appropriate, and the tour was delayed for six months. Over the summer, the library board discussed the upcoming tour many times. After much discussion, the board decided to call the tour "Headstones and Haints," the word "haints" being an old slang term for "ghosts." As the date of the tour approached, Stein and Albrecht were discussing the name when Albrecht mentioned the old motto of the City of Columbus, "The City of Live Oaks and Live Folks." Stein immediately came up with Live Oaks and Dead Folks for the name of the cemetery tour, and, at close to the last minute, the tour had its name. The word "haints," however, lives on in the program, to head the list of the actors and their roles.

Since that first tour in 2003, Live Oaks and Dead Folks has evolved into the library's principal annual event. The library has conducted tours of both the old Columbus City Cemetery and the larger Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery in Columbus. The following are profiles of each of the cemetery tours.

Live Oaks and Dead Folks 1

Cemetery: Columbus City Cemetery
Dates: Tuesday, October 28, 2003; Saturday, November 1, 2003
Actors and Characters: Larry Hickman as William B. Dewees
Tracey Wegenhoft as Ophelia Johnson
Mary Anne Pickens as Sarah Whitfield
Christine Hancher as Mary Wallace
Betty Jo Seifert as Mary Anderson
Paulina Kearney as Molly Nelson
Ernest Mae Seaholm as Nannie Thatcher Andrus
George Fox as William Harbert
Bob Pickens as William Harbert
Amber Hollywood as Bettie Schultz
Pierce Arthur as Jacob Scherer
Toni Burns as Dilue Rose Harris
Mary Mattingly as Dorothea Jordt
Harvey Steward as Bartley Harbert
Bill Mosley as Emil Untermeyer
Charlene Anderson as Lucinda Wolters
Guides: Darlene Argo
Jim Kearney
Bob Pickens
Tana Ross
Mary Lynn Skinner
Bill Stein
Crew: Susan Archuletta
Judy Gates
Alma Hilburn
Patty Simmons
Bill Stein
Gatekeepers: Dorothy Albrecht
Judy Gates
Ticket Sales: 230
Comments: 1. Rehearsal, held on the Sunday before the first tours, was a near disaster, as the weather was damp and frigid and the wind so intense it destroyed some umbrellas. However, all the scripts were monologues, allowing the actors to work on their parts at their leisure, and everybody was ready to perform on the night of the event.
2. After rehearsal, the cast adjourned to the library for a chicken dinner. We intended to eat at the cemetery, but the weather was too bad.
3. The gatekeepers sat at a table under a tent. Tours were scheduled to start at 7:00 p. m. and leave every twenty minutes. Because of the unexpected crush of walk-up business, extra tours were created, which started ten minutes after the previous tour departed.
4. There was a water break about halfway through the tour. The water station was manned by Patty Simmons.
5. We used Tiki torches to illuminate the grave sites. Each guide carried a lantern; some fuel based and some battery powered.
6. One of the actors, George Fox, got ill and could not perform on Sunday night. Bob Pickens, who had enlisted as a guide, stepped in an performed the role on very short notice.
7. Another of the actors dropped out of the tour rather suddenly. Amber Hollywood, a high-school student who worked at the library, was recruited to take the role, and drew much acclaim.
8. Mary Anne Pickens played the role of one of her ancestors.
9. There were problems with traffic flow, as not enough consideration to the spacing of the gravesites had been given.
10. About a week after the tour, Bob and Mary Anne Pickens hosted a party for the cast and crew at their home.
11. After the tour, in response to several requests for copies of the script, we created a souvenir booklet and distributed copies to the people who participated in the tour.


Live Oaks and Dead Folks 2

Cemetery: Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery, Columbus
Dates: Saturday, November 6, 2004; Sunday, November 7, 2004
Actors and Characters: Bob Pickens as Jesse Johnson
Christine Hancher as Virginia Baker
Bill Mosley as Oscar Zumwalt
Mary Anne Pickens as Mattie Burford
Elizabeth Flint as Stella Luck
Paulina Kearney as Fannie Darden
Bob Gillespie as the feud historian
Laura Ann Rau as Pauline Russell
Ron Lambert as Ike Towell
Robert Russell as Larkin Hope
Betty Jo Seifert as Martha Gloger
Amber Hollywood as Tyla Hadden
Chelsea Hollywood as Polly, Tyla's parrot
Tracey Wegenhoft as Sophie Bridge
Ernest Mae Seaholm as Bettie Munn Gay
Jim Kearney as Bob Stafford
Guides: Cathy Blymyer
Toni Burns
Cindy Eden
George Fox
Pat Gillespie
Larry Hickman
Mary Mattingly
Laura Obenhaus
Bill Stein
Dana Wagner
Crew: Susan Archuletta
Judy Gates
Larry Hickman
Alma Hilburn
Jane Mattingly
Noah Roberts
Patty Simmons
Bill Stein
Glenn Welch
Gatekeepers: Dorothy Albrecht
Judy Gates
Ticket Sales: 239
Comments: 1. Rehearsal, held on October 31, was again very poor. Few people knew their lines.
2. The gatekeepers sat at an open table. The tent that had been used in the first year was abandoned.
3. As this cemetery contains many more fences and narrow pathways, we experimented with Christmas lights and various glow-in-the-dark materials to help provide illumination. In the end, we simply added more Tiki torches.
4. During one of the tours, the guide's lantern broke.
5. As much of the tour was concerned with the violent events of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century known as the Colorado County Feud, Bob Gillespie was stationed at the water station, where he gave a brief history of the feud.
6. Charlene Anderson had to drop out of the cast at the last minute. Elizabeth Flint stepped into the role and, with little or no time to prepare, did an admirable job.
7.One of the characters, Tyla Hadden, owned a parrot. The parrot is buried beside her. At her gravesite, Amber Hollywood and Chelsea Hollywood portrayed the lady and her parrot (whose name unfortunately was Polly). Chelsea Hollywood crouched behind the gravestone, draped in a black sheet, and manipulated a hand-puppet parrot, perhaps the most physically demanding performance anyone was ever asked to give at the cemetery tours. This was also the only dialogue in the history of the tour.
8. The tour marked the first appearance of the wandering spirit, Martha Gloger, played boldly and amusingly by Betty Jo Seifert.
9.On Sunday night, we had more guides than we needed.


Live Oaks and Dead Folks 3

Cemetery: Columbus City Cemetery
Dates: Saturday, November 5, 2005; Sunday, November 6, 2005
Actors and Characters: Ron Lambert as William B. Dewees
Laura Ann Rau as Sarah Baker
Tracey Wegenhoft as Alma Pinchback
Bob Gillespie as Augustus Jones
Paulina Kearney as Mollie Nelson
Pat Gillespie as Sophie Vogel
Cathy Blymyer as the chippy
Amber Hollywood as Betty Schultz
Toni Burns as Ella Ilse
Ernest Mae Seaholm as Minna Senftenberg
Jacob Truchard as Emile Houillion
Ernie Lambert as Edwin A. Malsch
Bill Mosley as Emil Untermeyer
Betty Jo Seifert as Martha Gloger
Guides: J. Paul Bruhn
Mary Mattingly
Cindy Schneider
Jim Schneider
Bill Stein
Ruth Electra Terry
Crew: Nita Sue Rogers
Patty Simmons
Bill Stein
Joe Wegenhoft
Gatekeepers: Susan Archuletta
Alma Hilburn
Nita Sue Rogers
Ticket Sales: 214
Comments: 1. Dorothy Albrecht, our usual gatekeeper who was largely responsible for the creation of the tour, was ill and missed the tour.
2. Rehearsal, on October 31, was poor.
3. Because of the limited size of the cemetery, we repeated four characters from the 2003 tour. We also had the wandering spirit of Martha Gloger, who had been seen searching for her grave the year before in another cemetery, again lamenting that she was lost. In four of those five cases, the same actors played the same roles.
4. Tours left every fifteen minutes.
5. Two linked characters, Emile Houillion and Edwin A. Malsch, drew considerable comment. Houillion talked about how he was convicted of murder; Malsch talked about how Houillion murdered his father. In the following years, linked characters became the hallmark of the tours.
6. One character talked about a well-known prostitute who was commonly called Cowpen Annie. To avoid using her real name, we created an imaginary "chippy" who was said to have worked for Cowpen Annie.


Live Oaks and Dead Folks 4

Cemetery: Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery, Columbus
Dates: Friday, November 3, 2006; Saturday, November 4, 2006
Actors and Characters: Tracey Wegenhoft as Fannie Mahon
Gary Chandler as Jesse Harrison
Roxanne Hartley as Carrie Grobe
Bob Gillespie as John D. Gillmore
Mike Ridlen as Reid Carter
Toni Burns as Jeanette Flachmeier
Chuck Parsons as James W. Guynn
Ernest Mae Seaholm as Betty Hurr
Pauline Kearney as Clara Kollmann
Elizabeth Flint as Cynthia Tanner Youens
Bob Pickens as Albert Hahn
Bill Mosley as Robert Henry Harrison
Laura Ann Rau as Clara Madison
Guides: Adrienne Burris
Kathy Burris
Pat Gillespie
Pat Parsons
Mary Ann Pickens
Bill Stein
Jake Wegenhoft
Joe Wegenhoft
Crew: Bob Pickens
Mary Anne Pickens
Nita Sue Rogers
Patty Simmons
Bill Stein
Joe Wegenhoft
Gatekeepers: Dorothy Albrecht
Susan Archuletta
Alma Hilburn
Ticket Sales: 234
Comments: 1. The rehearsal, on October 29, was the best yet.
2. Six of the slated eight guides dropped out of the program in the weeks before the opening. Pat Parsons agreed to be a guide at rehearsal. Kathy and Adrienne Burris and Jake and Joe Wegenhoft, were added in the week before the show.
3. For the first time, the tours were conducted on Friday and Saturday, rather than Saturday and Sunday. This arrangement drew a larger crowd and worked better for the cast and crew.
4. Tours left every ten minutes.
5. To make things easier for the guides, the route of the tour was marked with red surveyor's tape. This innovation was copied by us from our friends in Lockhart, who also conduct an annual cemetery tour.
6. The library was able to make photographs of only two of the characters on the tour. The camera's batteries went dead and nobody had the opportunity to get new ones. Accordingly, for the first time, no souvenir booklet was created.
7. The actors did their best work yet, really getting into the spirit of the event and making their stories amusing and entertaining.
8. The characters Jesse Harrison, John D. Gillmore, James W. Guynn, and Robert Henry Harrison, were linked. All provided variations on the same stories.
9. For the first time, there were objections from people in the community to elements of the script. We dealt with those as well as we could.
10. There was a cast party at Roasters, a local restaurant, after the tours on Saturday.


Live Oaks and Dead Folks 5

Cemetery: Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery, Columbus
Dates: Friday, November 2, 2007; Saturday, November 3, 2007
Actors and Characters: Bob Gillespie as Joseph W. Brown
Mike Ridlen as John Cassagne
Allison Jones as Mathilda Tait
Tracey Wegenhoft as Caroline Delany
Jim Kearney as J. W. E. Wallace
Laura Ann Rau as Kate Oakes
Bill Mosley as John H. Bowers
Gary Chandler as Charley Stafford
Paulina Kearney as Ruth Gillespie
Elizabeth Flint as Mabel Miller
Sally Rogers as Mary Farrar Holland
Guides: Kathy Burris
Diane Callen
Martha Flint
Pat Gillespie
Bill Stein
Jake Wegenhoft
Crew: Patty Simmons
Bill Stein
Joe Wegenhoft
Gatekeepers: Dorothy Albrecht
Patty Simmons
Ticket Sales: 271
Comments: 1. For the first time, there was no rehearsal. The actors were instructed to arrive at least thirty minutes before show time so they could be placed at their gravesites
2. For the first time, the tour competed with a Columbus High School football game, which was played nearby on Friday night. We had no idea how annoying this would be, but it was tolerable. Many of the actors were encouraged to make jokes about the game, which were well-received by our audience. These jokes, of course, were not made on Saturday, when, thankfully, all was quiet and dark.
3. On Saturday night, one guide's lantern fell apart, starting a small grass fire. The fire was quickly extinguished. This was the second time a fuel-based lantern fell apart. As a result, the fuel-based lanterns were all replaced with battery-powered ones..
4. Once again, there was a substantial walk-up business, which left us perilously short of guides.
5. Allison Jones, an eighth grader, played the role of her great-great grandmother.
6. The tour was to stop at twelve gravesites, but one actor did not show up either night. Her station was dropped. Still, the tour was quite long enough.
7. The cast and crew had a party at the cemetery after the last tour on Saturday.
8. In early December 2007, the five persons who had participated in every tour, Paulina Kearney, Bill Mosley, Patty Simmons, Bill Stein, and Tracey Wegenhoft, were awarded the Live Oaks and Dead Folks Dorothy Albrecht Award, a medal shaped like a tombstone and suspended from a black drape. In future, the same medal will be awarded to persons who participate in five tours.


Live Oaks and Dead Folks 6

Cemetery: Odd Fellows Rest Cemetery, Columbus
Dates: Friday, November 7, 2008; Saturday, November 8, 2008
Actors and Characters: John Foard as Robert L. Foard
Sally Rogers as Hattie Middlebrook
Amber Hollywood as Helen Hunt
Tracey Wegenhoft as Elmina Haskell
Jim Kearney as Fred Miller
Betty Jo Seifert as Martha Gloger
Paulina Kearney as Kate Glithero
Kerry Whitfill as Kayte Koliba
Gary Chandler as Benny Isgrig
Bill Mosley as Jacob Mattern
Bob Gillespie as Anton Meduna
Guides: Kathy Burris
Diane Callen
Ester Chandler
Martha Flint
Carla Foard
Pat Gillespie
Allison Jone
Bernadette Marsh
Laura Myres
Holly Strother
Bill Stein
Crew: Carla Foard
John Foard
Patty Simmons
Bill Stein
Joe Wegenhoft
Gatekeepers: Dorothy Albrecht
Elizabeth Flint
Laura Ann Rau
Patty Simmons
Ticket Sales: 321
Comments: 1. The cemetery tour was prominently mentioned in an article about Columbus which appeared in the November 2008 issue of Texas Highways magazine. That might have contributed to the rise in ticket sales.
2. Again, there was no rehearsal. The actors were instructed to arrive at least thirty minutes before show time so they could be placed at their gravesites
3. John Batla, owner of Armadillo Portable Toilets, donated a portable toilet for use on Friday and Saturday nights. We set up the toilet so that it blocked one of the entrances to the cemetery, both to assist us in keeping automobiles from driving through during the tours and because it was a prominent, easily visible location. However, shortly after we set the toilet up, the caretaker of the cemetery objected to its placement. After an unnecessarily lengthy discussion with him, he allowed us to proceed with setting up the cemetery. Later that afternoon, we were able to get two workers from Armadillo Portable Toilets to move the toilet.
4. The tours were set to begin at 7:30, however, it was dark well before seven each night. Accordingly, on both nights we added tours at 7:20. There were ten tours on Friday night and eleven on Saturday.
5. The tours again competed with a Columbus High School football game on Friday night.
6. Walk-up business was smaller than normal.
7. John Foard played the part of his relative (first cousin, three times removed), Robert L. Foard, and Kerry Whitfill played the role of her grandmother, Kayte Koliba.
8. Pat Gillespie was ill, but came to the cemetery and led tours both Friday and Saturday nights.
9. As one of the guides did not return on Saturday night, we had to impress Holly Strother, the daughter of one of the actors into service. She graciously agreed.
10. After the tours on Friday night, while returning to her car, Laura Ann Rau fell and injured her head and shoulder. She had a black eye the next day.
11. The cast and crew had a party at the cemetery after the last tour on Saturday. At the party, two persons, Dorothy Albrecht and Bob Gillespie, were awarded the Live Oaks and Dead Folks Dorothy Albrecht Medal, for participating in five of the library's cemetery tours. Three persons who did not attend the party, Susan Archuletta, Pat Gillespie, and Laura Ann Rau, also received Albrecht medals.