Providing a different take on Halloween, St. Joseph’s Mount Mora Cemetery comes alive with its annual “Voices from the Past.” This year’s tour was titled “Civil War – Influence and Beyond.”
People who have been buried in the cemetery “come” to life and discuss their lives in St. Joe. The “ghosts” are portrayed by local actors.
“Voices” takes place along “Mausoleum Row.” This section of the 163-year-old cemetery is home to 21 mausoleums. Each structure is lit with a small flame in front of it or with torches next to it.
The evening starts at the Wyeth-Tootle mansion. Drinks and treats are available to the guests. Then, the spirit of Lucy Aage (portrayed by Sharon Kosek) – a domestic servant for the Wyeth family back in the day – welcomes guests. She provides a bit of history of the home, as well as she and her husband. The tour then departs for Mount Mora Cemetery.
Visitors are met at the gate by Jane Ann Kemper. Mrs. Kemper was portrayed by Suzanne Lehr. Acting as our tour guide to the dead, Mrs. Kemper introduced us to some of the cemetery’s residents. Simeon Kemper, Jane’s husband, was one of the cemetery’s founders.
First up was a visit by her daughter, Sarah Ann Kemper. The younger Kemper died in 1851, a few months shy of her 17th birthday. The actress, Alexander Giles, sang two songs – one from the past and a current church hymn.
Colonel Jo Hansen (Wes Revels) entertained grave visitors with tales from the Civil War.
The evening’s most entertaining tale may have involved St. Joe’s many pubs back in the day. John Bogle (Shane McDonald) told us of his migration from Ireland to the banks of the Missouri River. Bogle ran one of St. Joe’s 80 taverns. As he delivered his presentation, the spirit of Seamus (Jim Lehr) popped out of the dark and walked through the crowd, seeking some liquid refreshments.
Seamus approached the barkeep Bogle, who shooed him away. Determined to imbibe, he came back. Again he was turned away. After a few attempts, the spirit of Seamus returned to the darkness.
Moving along, we approached the Powell family mausoleum. A female figure in white exited the crypt, surprised by the group gathered in front of her eternal home. Preparing for an evening stroll through the neighborhood, Gracie Powell (Dee Dee Squires), instead, visited with us. She told us the tale of how she ended up on Mausoleum Row.
The daughter-in-law of the cemetery’s designer, Gracie suffered a stroke in 1914. She passed away at the age of 47. Her husband, William, survived her for another 17 years. He died on the west coast. He had previously arranged for his ashes to be returned to St. Joe and he reunited with his love in their mausoleum. His ashes sit next to a portrait of his bride.
The tour features stops at seven mausoleums and the Confederate soldiers’ monument. The monument was dedicated in the early 1900s by the Daughters of the Confederacy. Almost 50 men who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War are buried at Mount Mora.
The tour – which starts at the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion – takes place annually in October. This year’s “Voices” were Oct. 23-24. Next year’s event will be Oct. 22-23 and features “Love Stories – Passion, love and Heartbreak.”
“Voices from the Past” is a joint effort between the Mount Mora Cemetery Preservation and Restoration Association and the St. Joseph Museums.
For more information on the tour or to check on advance tickets for next year, please visit www.stjosephmuseum.org or www.stjomo.com.
Disclaimer: Thank you to the St. Joseph Visitors and Convention Bureau for the complimentary tickets. However, all opinions and views are ours.