THE GHOST of Christmas Past from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” whisked Ebenezer Scrooge back through the ages of time where together they viewed reminders of his greatest triumphs and his most bitter tragedies. When faced with these stark reminders, Scrooge was compelled to learn from past mistakes and chose to live each day for the betterment of his fellow man.
Fayetteville’s Host of Christmas Past Cemetery Stroll held November 12 at the First Presbyterian Church seeks to help each of us do the same. The First Presbyterian Church and Cemetery have countless stories to tell. The church website states, “the Union Army used the upstairs of the building for a hospital and the basement as a stable” during the Civil War.
“Lincoln County’s history is the history of a variety of people,” co-director Amelia Webb said. “Their stories must be told for us to understand who we were, are, and can be as a community. The Presbyterian Cemetery is a good place to tell these stories, because we have representation from all groups of people… there are at least three enslaved people buried there, and Bell’s Route of the Trail of Tears went right down Mulberry Avenue in front of the church, representing the sad fate of the indigenous people who were stewards of this land before us.”
Webb goes on to say, “The opportunity to bring the lives— the good, bad, and ugly— of all these people to life and apply an element of humanity to these individuals” is what excites her most about the annual cemetery stroll. “The farther removed you are from something or someone in history, the less human they seem. Interactions like this help remind people that these folks were more like them than they think.”
Ezekiel Norris, often called the Father of Lincoln County, was reenacted by Steve Webber who passed away last year and will be greatly missed. “Watching him take on the persona of Ezekiel Norris was always magical,” recalls Webb. “He had a way with the crowd and was able to keep their attention, so they hung on every word and for those few minutes the real Ezekiel Norris was there talking to them. It’s definitely not going to be the same without him.”
Webb plays Mrs. Chilcoat, whose husband was murdered by Federal Troops during the Civil War over a pair of horses. During the stroll Webb brandishes a skillet, seeking revenge stating “someone looks an awful lot like one of the men who took my husband” helping to remind the crowd that the stroll is not meant to be ghoulish.
Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can revisit the past and learn important lessons from those who walked the streets of Fayetteville long before we ever laced our first pair of shoes. GN