Some of Fayetteville’s most famous former residents will tell stories from their remarkable lives on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Fayetteville’s Evergreen Cemetery.
The stories will actually be delivered by actors from local troupe, The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre, who will play seven prominent figures from the history of the city that are buried in the storied local cemetery at an event titled History Comes Alive.
The company, who has been researching local history for weeks, will tell stories from the lives of Roberta Fulbright, Peter VanWinkle, Sophia Sawyer, Stephen Stone, Adeline Blakely, A.S. Vandeventer, and Archibald Yell in their original performance piece.
The event is a fundraiser for the cemetery, located at the corner of West Center Street and North University Avenue, which dates back to the early 1840s.
Evergreen director Marilyn Heffner said she is hoping to raise enough money for several repairs and improvements needed at the cemetery, including restoration of the historic Archibald Yell monument which has fallen into disrepair.
Restoring the monument will cost around $18,000, Heffner said, but she thinks the investment will be well worth it.
“It’s a beautiful cemetery, and it’s an important part of our history,” she said. “We are working hard to bring awareness to it, and bring it back to its former glory.”
Evergreen Cemetary is full of history to tell. It is the final resting place of the second governor of Arkansas (Yell), four members of Congress, and several former presidents of the University of Arkansas, among other important historical figures.
History Comes Alive organizers decided to focus on the lives of the seven figures mentioned above for their first performance event because of the way they each uniquely helped shape the city, and in some cases, the state of Arkansas.
Yell, for example was the second ever Governor of the state, and a congressman. He left congress to fight in the Mexican-American war, where he died in 1847.
Stone and VanWinlke were prominent business people in their day, as was Fulbright, who took over her husband’s business interests when he died in 1923. Fulbright served as publisher and columnist of the Fayetteville Daily Democrat (which later became the NWA Times), was a bank president, and was the mother of future Senator, House of Representatives member, and University of Arkansas president, J. William Fulbright.
Blakely has an interesting story to tell as a former slave who was freed and became the first and only African-American buried in the cemetery. Sawyer is well known as the founder of Fayetteville Female Seminary.
Vandeventer was a general in the civil war who co-founded the Law School at the UA, served under “the hanging judge” Parker in Fort Smith, and was also once the mayor of Fayetteville.
Artist’s Laboratory Theatre executive director Erika Wilhite said telling the stories of these folks who helped shape Fayetteville has been a dream project to work on.
“I was already in love with this city, and the more I learn about its history, the more I fall in love with it,” she said.
Wilhite said that when she was approached about this project, she had already been working on a historical walking tour of the Fayetteville square for months. Her research for that initiative perfectly overlapped perfectly with the History Comes Alive project.
“We’ve been kind of armchair Fayetteville historians for a while, plus performances outside the theatre and in a natural environment is kind of our bag,” she said.
The performance will begin at 1 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the cemetery. Tickets are $10, on sale now at the Fayetteville Visitors Center, or available at the gate the day of the show.
For a bit more information, check out the Facebook page for the event.