Park City Museum docents speak for the dead during Glenwood Cemetery tours
The dead will speak Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Glenwood Cemetery.
Or, at least, Park City Museum docents will take on the personas of some of the people who are buried in the cemetery during two tours that day, according to Diane Knispel, the museum’s education director.
“All will be dressed in outfits of these historical figures and some docents will bring props based on that person’s life,” Knispel said.
The first tour will run from 10:45 a.m. to noon, and the second will run from 12:45 to 2 p.m.
The tour theme this year is “Law and Order in Park City,” so the docents’ stories will be about people who got into trouble, people who tried to prosecute the former and people who were able to get a law changed because of what happened to them, Knispel said.
Some of the historical characters represented this year will be Patrick “Patsy” Coughlin, Sheriff John Harrington, Alex Langdon, Michael Crowley and Mary Payne, she said.
“Patsy was the Park City strawberry thief who stole some strawberries from a peddler in 1895 and ended up in a shootout with the police,” she said.
Coughlin and his accomplice Fred George surrendered, but only after the shootout left two deputies dead. George was sentenced to life in the Utah state penitentiary, Coughlin was eventually executed by firing squad for the killings, according to Knispel.
Docents couldn’t talk about Coughlin without mentioning Harrington, the officer who brought Coughlin to justice, Knispel said.
“Sheriff John’s life took a turn because of his involvement with the strawberry theft,” she said. “Patsy was only 22, and people felt Sheriff John could have handled the case a little better.”
The other characters portrayed during the tour, while not involved in the strawberry case, are still subjects of interesting stories, Knispel said.
Langdon, a close friend of Silver King Coalition Mine Company founder Thomas Kearns, was killed during a bar fight in 1890. Crowley was one of the 35 miners killed in the Daly-West and Ontario mine explosions of 1902, and Payne was found guilty of vilating a milk ordinance by watering down and selling milk in 1911.
“We have some really good characters this year, and that’s why we come up with a theme,” Knispel said. “Themes give the tours a cohesive thread.”
The Park City Museum staff and volunteers research each historic figure, and the docents also add their own flair to these characters, Knispel said.
“We try to make sure the history is as accurate as it can be, and then we let the docents present the stories in a dramatic way so the people who go on the tour will learn about the Park City while being entertained,” she said.
One of the things that many people learn from the tours is how difficult life was back during the late 1800s and early 1900s, according to Knispel.
“While we all know people died, we sometimes forget that we didn’t have the medicine or technology that helped cure sick people and extend their lives like we can today,” she said. “If you got sick back then, there was a good chance you would die.”
While the tour’s featured characters are all colorful in their own way, hearing the stories in the Glenwood Cemetery setting adds more nuance because of its history, Knispel said.
The five-acre cemetery, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and currently registers approximately 900 graves, was set up through a number of fraternal orders, including Woodmen of the World, the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, she said.
“Many of the miners back then belonged to a number of these fraternal orders, and the cemetery was set up to make sure there was a place for them to be buried,” Knispel said. “The orders, in the event of a miner’s death, would make sure the funerals were paid for and that their families would have some insurance.”
Because of the sometimes disturbing nature of the stories, the Glenwood Cemetery tours are appropriate for ages 10 and older, Knispel said.
“We set the age limit because some of the stories are pretty intense, and we don’t want little children to have nightmares,” she said.
Knispel also encouraged participants to bring a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes.
“The cemetery is surrounded by a gravel path driveway, and the land can be a little bumpy, even though we do our best to clear out some of the grass by the tombstones,” she said.
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