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Bringing history to life in cemeteries

LOCKPORT – The Niagara History Center’s “Step Back in Time Players” re-enactor troupe brings history to life, often against the dramatic backdrop of cemeteries or other reminders of the past.

It kicks off its summer season at 1 p.m. next Sunday.

Offered through Buffalo Tours, this visit with “The People of Glenwood Cemetery” will present well-known men and women of the past buried in this cemetery, carefully depicted by volunteers ready to give vivid “firsthand” accounts of their very interesting lives.

“There is so much interesting history in Lockport and throughout Niagara County,” said Melissa Dunlap, executive director of the History Center. “It comes to life through these tours. People learn about the interesting lives of people who lived here. And cemeteries are architecturally beautiful and nice, quiet and serene settings.”

Visitors will meet “Isabella Sutherland” (played by Marsha Zimmer), a member of the long-haired family of Sutherland sisters, and hear of undying love. Organizers promise that a few tall tales of grave-robbers and ghostly goings-on may be thrown in, as well.

“Washington Hunt” (played by Henry Peters) and his wife, “Mary Walbridge Hunt” (Kathy Heinemann), will share stories from their travels from Lowertown Lockport to the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, with stops along the way to practice law, establish a church and build a summer home recognized by all.

Visitors also will meet “William Morgan” (played by Clint Starke), who created volleyball. Originally called “mintonette” and later renamed, the sport borrows from many others and was created to be enjoyable for players of various ages and skill levels.

“Our re-enactors appear for nonprofits and events around the county,” Dunlap said. “Each one has a character, and some actually have two or three. A lot of them are retired teachers, but some are still teaching or substitute teaching. And they aren’t all history teachers. Some are elementary school teachers. These are just people interested in history.”

The tour group will meet at the mausoleum parking lot in Glenwood Cemetery, 325 Glenwood Ave. Lockport. Tickets are $10 per person. Call Buffalo Tours, at 852-3300, for reservations.

The “Step Back in Time Players” also will offer a tour of Cold Springs Cemetery at 1 p.m. July 13 as a cemetery fundraiser.

Dunlap said the organization in charge of the cemetery has been letting the group use it free of charge for years, so this is a way to pay it back.

Visitors should be prepared to meet trailblazing female physician “Dr. Sarah Lamb Cushing” (Kay Burgess); quarry owner “James Schuler” (Geoff Koplas); early Lowertown physician “Dr. Josiah Skinner” (Charlie Begley); and Lockport settlers “Amy Spalding” (Carol Caisse) and “Lyman Spalding” (Dennis Caisse).

Individual tickets are $5, and the fee for families is $15, payable at the gate. Reservations are not necessary. Use the Ridge Road/Route 31 entrance to Cold Springs Cemetery, 4849 Cold Springs Road, Lockport.

The “Step Back in Time Players” also will also take visitors on two additional tours through Buffalo Tours this year. The Players’ Charlie Begley will lead an architectural tour of Lockport’s Main Street at 1 p.m. Aug. 22. Begley is a Latin instructor at Niagara University and retired Latin teacher at Lockport High School. He also re-enacts as three late Lockport residents, artist “Raphael Beck,” inventor and entrepreneur “Birdsall Holly” and early Lowertown physician “Dr. Josiah Skinner.” An entertaining speaker, Begley eagerly shares his vast knowledge of Lockport history.

This tour is $10 per person, and reservations must be made through Buffalo Tours.

Cold Springs Cemetery will come to life again for Buffalo Tours at 1 p.m. Sept. 7, with “Step Back in Time” characters and re-enactors to be announced. This tour is also $10 per person, and reservations will be made through Buffalo Tours.

Dunlap said that the Niagara History Center has been sponsoring “Step Back in Time” events for 15 years and that this is the third year for its partnership with Buffalo Tours.

“They market these tours, so they reach a much wider audience now,” she said.

For more information on any of the “Step Back in Time” events, call the History Center at 434-7433.