Seth Shull portrays local resident Henry Rose during the Tales of the Crypt event.
For two days last weekend, University of Arkansas – Fort Smith students assumed the roles of Fort Smith residents “ignored by history” for the annual Tales of the Crypt event held April 29-30 at Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith.
The events, which were held Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, offered local residents an opportunity to learn more about the everyday people who populated Fort Smith in the past while giving students in the university’s historical interpretation class a chance for hands-on learning.
“Part of the focus of this event is to bring to life people who have been ignored through history, kind of the common working people,” said Dr. Steve Kite, assistant professor of history. “So I let students roam around the cemetery and find a stone or a grave that kind of speaks to them and that they might find interesting and let them go from there.”
After selecting a figure, the students pored through a plethora of local historical resources – including the Pebley Center in the Boreham Library at UAFS and the genealogy department of the Fort Smith Public Library – in addition to Internet sources such as Ancestry.com and consulting local experts.
“They comb through the historical journals, the obituaries and the newspapers, and they get into the census material,” Kite said. “Really, there are a lot of avenues for research, and they explore most of them.”
Sheila Gilbert of Alma, who portrayed Lillie Main Bailey, faced a challenge when researching, as all of Bailey’s descendants were either deceased or had moved out of state.
“Luckily, her husband was a very prominent physician here in town,” Gilbert said. “He actually proclaimed the dead at Judge Isaac Parker’s hangings, so they were very well-known in the community. So we were able to find information from other sources rather than the descendants.”
Gilbert portrayed Bailey alongside Laci Metheny of Van Buren, who portrayed Katherine Price Bailey, Lillie’s daughter-in-law who was a conductress and who married Lillie’s son, a brilliant violinist.
“I have an avid love of music, so it just seemed fitting to portray her with her being a conductress and having the passion that she did for vocals and the violin,” Metheny said. “I just really felt a connection with her.”
“The research isn’t arduous. It’s actually fun,” Metheny continued. “You learn little things, and sometimes you’ll have conflicts with times and dates, but the fun part is solving the puzzle.”
Students participating in the event were:
Alma: Michael Gatewood, Sheila Gilbert and Clayton McMurray.
Booneville: Joe Robbins.
Bryan, Texas: Abigail Phillips.
Fort Smith: Storm Basinger, Jorge Garcia, Sara Kincannon, Seth Shull and Ryan Smith.
Glenwood: Savannah Porter.
Harrison: Christian Tatum.
Van Buren: Laci Metheny.
West Fork: Jennifer Hardaway.
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu.