By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Past Ellinwood residents narrate ‘Graveside Conversations’
Cemetery tour is educational, not scary
Graveside Conversations 2019 Theresa Townsend
Theresa Townsend appears in 1950s attire as her grandmother, Marie Hines. She is one of the guides for the 2019 Graveside Conversations, which are being conducted Sunday by the Ellinwood Community Historical Society. - photo by Susan Thacker

ELLINWOOD — The ghosts that will guide people through the Lakin-Comanche Cemetery on Sunday have stories to tell. Former Ellinwood residents will be depicted for “Graveside Conversations,” sponsored by the Ellinwood Community Historical Society.

It starts at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the cemetery, located on East E Street in Ellinwood.

“It’s not scary, but it’s all done by lamplight and we go to each grave,” said Joyce Schulte, president of the historical society. “People should bring a flashlight and be up for a short walk.”

People will follow paths and roads in the cemetery that are accessible to someone in a wheelchair. The program lasts about 90 minutes and is appropriate for ages 10 years and older. Admission is free with donations going to the Ellinwood Community Historical Society.

This is the third installment of Graveside Conversations, which started in 2016 and is now offered every other year. Ellinwood’s historical society members choose a few area residents from the past and do their research. A script is developed and the actors dress in period costume as they appear beside their gravestones to tell their stories.

Facts for the scripts were gleaned from Ellinwood newspaper articles, the Kansas Historical Museum and from family histories and genealogical research.

Past programs have included some background on the settlement of the town in the 1870s. 

“We’ve recounted the life of a Civil War veteran who settled here later,” Schulte said. “Another two women left letters to their family about the grasshopper plague in 1874. We’ve also done a recreation of the first Christmas tree and celebration.”

The guides for Sunday evening’s program are also characters. W.J. “Bill” Hines, a local plumber and water well driller, will be portrayed by his grandson, Dan Hines.  W.J. Hines and his wife Marie emigrated to Ellinwood from Austria in 1909. Marie Hines will be portrayed by her granddaughter, Theresa Hines Townsend.

Sharla Thill, vice president of the historical society, and Lois Hammer, treasurer, will be the hosts for the evening, welcoming participants and giving directions. Six former Ellinwood residents will be portrayed, staring with Wm. Jung, a barber-surgeon and town band director in the 1890s. This popular character has been featured before but “people are expecting an update from him,” Schulte said.

When Jung was last featured, historical society members were surprised to discover this once prosperous man did not have a headstone in the Ellinwood cemetery. Schulte said they are accepting donations with plans to change that.

Jung suffered a paralyzing stroke and was cared for by his family for the last three years of his life, Schulte said. “We don’t know why he didn’t have a stone, but we just came to the conclusion they probably didn’t have the money after that many years of him being paralyzed,” she said. “There was no Medicare, per se; there weren’t rest homes and such in that day, so his wife and sister took care of him at home.” After he died, the women went back to Wisconsin.

The people the historical society has chosen to research all had a part to play in the story of Ellinwood, Schulte said. Some of the parts were large and well known, but even the lesser-known players helped shape the community, for better or for worse. The members of the historical society hope their stories will spark others’ interest in local history and the bigger story of the times.

“That’s one of our goals,” she said. “I really hope that people learn something about the community.”

The Ellinwood Community Historical Society also has a museum, located at 104 N. Main in Ellinwood. During the winter months it is open by appointment only; call 620-564-2886 to schedule an appointment. The museum will also be open on Dec. 1 for the citywide Christkindlmarket event and on Dec. 8 for the historical home tour.