Dead man, dead man come alive
October 24, 2008
A policeman arrives safely back from a tour of Main Street only to accidentally shoot himself in the head; a the man who acquires the land for a local cemetery is one of the first to be buried there; scarlet fever robs a young boy of life and a fall from a wagon takes another.
News of accidents spreads quickly. Today, we know more about how some of Park City’s early residents died than how they lived. But the ghosts of Glenwood Cemetery were not always the subject of local lore. Before they were ghosts, they were people. They built cabins out of aspen trees and cast fishing lines into Poison Creek. They mined. They farmed. They collected scraps of food to feed cattle.
Before they died, they survived.
"It’s real people’s history," said Johanna Fassenberg, the curator of education at the Park City Museum. The 15th anniversary of Halloween at the Glenwood will be celebrated on Sunday, Oct. 26, from noon to 2 p.m. at the historic cemetery near Park City Mountain Resort.
Park City history comes alive with a dozen actors in period costume standing by their characters’ graves to tell about life and death in the historic mining town.
The Glenwood Cemetery Association and the museum decided to revamp the tour for 2008. Of 12 characters, nine are new. The ghosts dramatize the rough mining town that existed before skiing became popular. "Just reading a book is totally different than if you hear a first-person narrative," Fassenberg said.
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One of the aspects of the cemetery’s history that strikes Fassenberg most is the number of children who never lived to become adults. "It was a lot harder back then and many kids died at birth or early on," she said.
That’s why she and Glenwood Association members decided to give dramatic roles to kids for the first time. Students from local schools researched characters and wrote scripts to earn credit toward International Baccalaureate degrees.
Others are doing it just for the fun of it.
Molly Jager, a seventh grader at Ecker Hill International Middle School, plays Fredrick Norman. The boy was born in Lehi in 1882, Molly learned, and died of scarlet fever when he was eight. "It starts with a rash on your stomach and spreads over your whole body," she plans to emote in the graveyard. "This lasts for a few days. After that, the skin on your finger tips starts to peel off . . . And then you die!"
Jeff Keuhn plays Alexander Smith, who is credited with building a straight-line horse racetrack at Deer Valley. Keuhn admires the man he will imitate. "Alex Smith was really involved in the Park City Community," Keuhn said, "which really hits home because that’s what I’m trying to be."
Keuhn spent time poring over the man’s obituary and old newspaper clippings to research his part. Smith, who died in 1885 of a rheumatic heart, died just more than 100 years ago.
That’s young for a ghost.
"It’s cool to see how our lives are so different," he said. "People think this is just a resort town, but it used to be completely different."
Asked if it is eerie to pretend to be a dead man, Keuhn shrugged. "I guess we’ll find out on Sunday."
The Park City Museum is in a state of flux.
Its $8.9 million exhibition space on Main Street won’t be ready for occupants until the July of 2009 and it has set up a sort of triage on the second floor of a building on 333 Main St.
But construction hasn’t stopped docents, curators and history buffs from reaching out to the community.
A strong connection to locals explains, at least in part, the museum’s success at gathering money for an expanded museum. Fund-raising for a larger museum started in 2003 and organizers have to raise $450,000 to complete the project in the next several months, a relatively small amount when considering the overall price tag of the project, Fassenberg said.
The slow economy has not stalled construction plans, which will pick up after the Sundance Film Festival ends in late January.
Historic walking tours garnered a record number of participants from May until the middle of September, about 200 more than in 2007, according to Fassenberg. The museum also continues to participate in a Latino outreach program with the United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah and other nonprofits at four affordable housing apartments in Park City. Volunteers teach arts and crafts, make costumes and play sports with kids at Parkside Apartments, Aspen Villas, Iron Horse Apartments and Elk Meadows apartments. "It was important for us to keep in touch with the community," said Fassenberg, who plans to dress as the Silver Queen for the ghost tour on Sunday.
Ghosts of Glenwood is free and open to the public, though The Park City Museum and the Glenwood Cemetery Association will be accepting donations. Books on the ghosts of Park City will be on sale for $10.
Mary Mawhinney Holly Huggins
Matilda Wiest Barbara Martz
Edmund Thiriot George Wozencraft
Henry & Annie Cunnington Terry & Pat Kutzbach
Alexander Smith Jeff Kuehn
Ancil Johnson Stacy Dymalski
Fredrick Norman Molly Jager
Joseph Finch Heal Cozy Huggins
Mary Rasmussen Julie Hooker Baker
Blanche Fletcher Sue Brekke
Albert Holindrake Micajah Burke