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Maple Hill cemetery walk brings to life the past

Cemetery Walk brings life to history
Cemetery Walk brings life to history
Photograph taken by Danielle Coots

The Tippecanoe Historical Society hosted the fourth annual cemetery walk this past Sunday evening at the Maple Hill Cemetery in the midst of a rainy day. But, the rain didn’t keep history seekers away, although the number of participants was low, the clouds moved on and the sun peeked through and made for a wonderful night of storytelling and reliving the past with five new family remembrance and tribute of individuals that shaped the community. This year, visitors learned the stories of the White family, the Kyle family, Dr. William Crane, Martha Bennett Crane and Abraham Garver.

Maple Hill Cemetery Walk
Photograph taken by Danielle Coots

“It's a relaxing, interesting and informative way to spend an evening. My Grandma Messick and I used to walk around the cemetery and as we would look up different stones she would tell me about our relatives, her friends and people of the community, Tippecanoe Historical Society member, Susan Spitler said. “I'd encourage families to do the same. You can learn a lot while spending time together. There are the various ways our community veterans are honored from the Civil War to the present. There are some very old stones of intriguing size and shape. And the newer stones are so beautiful and tell so much about those they represent. It's important to teach children that the cemetery isn't a scary and boring place you visit once a year, if that often. It's a place to stroll and talk and to remember and honor our loved ones.”

The remembrance of Fred and Ruth White was told by Jim and Denise Hooper, as they played the part of the happy married couple and told their life story and how they came to shape this community. Fred White was instrumental in the development and ideas of Wright State University and the development of the tunnel system, which was originally designed to protect the handicapped students from outside weather. Today, a building holds Fred’s name: Fred A. White Ambulatory Care Center, named in his memory. Until his death, he was instrumental in the ideas and values of the merge of OSU and Miami University, which is now Wright State.

Of course, any successful man has an equally driven woman at his side. Ruth White was an active presence in the community and actually began the town’s first kindergarten. In the beginning, she taught 75 students in the morning and 65 in the afternoon. For the first year, she was the only teacher and had two helpers. Even through her years fighting cancer, she supported husband, children and their home on North Third Street and later on at 230 W. Main Street, until her death.

“My husband really enjoys the history of the people from Tipp City, visitor Cheryl Buck said. “We rode our bikes here today. This is our second cemetery walk. We missed it last year because of our daughter’s wedding, but wanted to make sure that we made it today.”

Cheryl and Mike Buck came specifically to hear the story of the Whites because they were told they lived in their house. Turned out they do not own Fred and Ruth’s home but that of the son and daughter-in-law, which was also a kindergarten teacher. But nevertheless, their home will remain known as the “White house".

The family of the Spring Hill nursery was also featured in this night. Thomas and Hilda Kyle married in 1930 and were a happy young couple in the area with three small children. Hilda’s granddaughter, Kate Kyle Johnsen played the part of her long ago grandmother, Hilda. Hilda was a spirited young lady who sang and played the harp in area weddings but loved her family deeply. Her husband, Tom, helped manage the family nursery, Spring Hill. One a day of celebration in 1937, Tom and Hilda were pulling out of a gas station and they were hit by another car. Hilda’s head hit the winged mirror and died instantly, leaving a distraught husband and three small children, Carolyn 6, Tom 5, and Jimmy 2. Jimmy, who is Johnsen’s father ended up marrying the daughter of the couple who were first at the scene of his parent’s accident and witnessed his mother’s death. Johnsen’s parents were also present.

“We try to think of people that community members would find interesting. We try to have characters from different eras. From the Civil War era to those who people might have known personally and that they can add information about during the presentations. We always encourage those attending to offer memories and ask questions,” Spitler said. “Sometimes people ask us to have certain people portrayed for various reasons.”

Gene Maddux portrayed the life and accomplishments of Dr. William Crane who was a surgeon during the Civil War and survived years of the harsh war. When returning home, he decided he saw enough blood and wounds; he went into the tree business until his death.

“We begin planning in March. It is a combination of deciding who to have portrayed, finding the location of the sites for convenience and spacing, and lining up the speakers,” Spitler said. “There are people buried in area cemeteries we would like to include but doing so would be quite a logistics problem.”

Sandra Spangler told the life of Martha “Maddie” Bennett Crane who was known in the area for her happy disposition and “Old Fashioned” outfits. She was known to wear high collar blouses and long black skirts to her ankles. She sat in her front room and was known to wave at everyone that passed.

Ron Re, a retired New York cop told the story of an area furniture maker of Abraham Garver and his family dynamics and the history of his delicately crafted bedroom, living room and dining room furniture of the well known Furniture Co. He also built the little white house on Third and Dow Street, which was across the street from his warehouse and was where they would finish the furniture.

For more information regarding the walk or about the Historical Society, contact the museum at (937) 667-4092.

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