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Past comes alive at tour of historic cemetery

Neighbors make graveyard's residents walk, talk again

October 15, 2012
By JESS MANCINI ( , Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG - Notable figures in Parkersburg's past came to life on Sunday at the Riverview-Cook Cemetery Comes Alive program organized by the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.

Residents from the district portrayed the historical figures that included governors William E. Stevenson and Jacob Beeson Jackson, his niece Lily Irene Jackson and Sen. Peter VanWinkle, whose vote in the U.S. Senate saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment. VanWinkle's story was in "Profiles in Courage" by John F. Kennedy.

"This is really a national treasure here," said organizer Judith Smith.

Article Photos

Photo by Jess Mancini
The players and guides in the Riverview-Cook Cemetery Come Alive tour of the cemetery on Sunday were, from the left, Norman Smith, Julie DeKlavon, Sam Church, Rebecca Blevins, Judith Smith, Destina Sloane, Cathy Bungard, Cynthia Buskirk, Katharine Brown and John Martin. Top level, Madison Brown and Jeremy Bungard.

The tour of the 19th century cemetery at 13th and Juliana streets, which originally was on the Cook Farm established in 1795 by Capt. Joseph Cook, one of the earliest settlers of what eventually became Parkersburg, was part of the Reflections of the Past series of events and attractions promoted by the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Portrayers were at the graves and spoke to the audience touring the cemetery.

Among the portrayers was Cathy Bungard and her husband Jeremy Bungard, who portrayed Lily Irene Jackson and VanWinkle, respectively. VanWinkle's mansion is several blocks away on Ann Street.

"My wife and I were married there," Bungard said.

Lily Jackson was Jacob Jackson's niece. A weeping woman stands above her monument.

"This was popular today," Mrs. Bungard said.

Lily Jackson was an acclaimed artist who, when she died in 1928, willed her work to the city of Parkersburg provided the city establish a gallery. In 1929, the city decided not to and her art was auctioned.

The Blennerhassett Museum on Second Street this year restored her self-portrait.

While the Bungards have participated in prior tours, Rebecca Blevins made her first appearance re-enacting Elizabeth A. Cook. Cook was the last surviving member of the Cook family and lived in the Cook House at 13th Street and Murdoch Avenue, now the headquarters of the Junior League of Parkersburg, until she died in 1941.

Blevins will be back for the next tour.

"I will if they ask me to," she said. "I enjoy these with the whole neighborhood."

Madison Brown portrayed Jackson, West Virginia's sixth governor. An attorney, Jackson died in 1893 in Parkersburg.

"He combined his private law practice with public service," Brown said.

Brown has also participated in previous tours and will do it again.

"I was a Dils last year," Brown said.

The tour was a brainchild of Cynthia Buskirk, a local historian.

While many of the notables are buried at the cemetery, so are the lesser-known but equally significant, she said. Among those was Norton Upson, a soap maker whose creation eventually became Ivory Soap, she said.

Buskirk also plans another tour next year.

"We hope to," she said.

Other re-enactors were Sam Church as Stevenson and Destina Sloane as Clara Lavassor Diss Debar, the wife of Joseph Diss Debar who designed the seal of West Virginia. Tour guides were Julie DeKlavon, John Martin and Norman Smith and Bud Ludford was the script writer.



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