The members of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows Lodge and the Washington Historical Society are once again teaming up to offer a historical family-friendly tour of the Wildey Odd Fellow Cemetery later this month.
The tour, which is slated to begin at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26, will feature people portraying 10 historical figures from Washington and Franklin County’s past.
The Wildey Odd Fellows Cemetery, which opened in 1865, has more than 2,900 burials and is near the intersection of Highway 100 and Clay Street.
Marc Houseman, director of the Washington Historical Society said the event is not spooky or scary but instead, a fun way for people to learn about the history of the town and those who lived in it.
For example, one of the Washingtonians from the past who has been portrayed is Franz Schwarzer, an Austrian immigrant who came to the U.S. eventually settling in Washington. He found fame later in life and today is known as Missouri’s Zither King. A zither is a stringed musical instrument similar to a guitar.
While a roster of historical figures being portrayed at this year’s tour was not available as of press time, Houseman said he anticipated four new historical figures buried in the cemetery will be portrayed at this year’s event.
Among those new figures will be the superintendent of the now defunct-Pest House, which once stood adjacent to the Wildey Odd Fellows Cemetery.
Houseman said the historical society has been studying the history of the Pest House in recent months.
“It was built around 1883 and was used to house those who were sick with contagious diseases,” Houseman said, adding after it was a Pest House it was used for various purposes until it was demolished in the 1960s.
“At this year’s tour we will have the superintendent of the Pest House speaking on it,” Houseman said.
The speaker will go by the name anonymous because not everything is known about the history of the building, according to Houseman.
Houseman added the roster of historical figures being portrayed is subject to change because some of the participants who normally act as the characters have not registered, which Houseman attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cemetery tour has been an event in community for over 20 years and the proceeds go toward helping maintain the cemetery, Houseman said.
Currently, there are 10 people preregistered but Houseman said that is not unusual.
“Most people pay at the gate and don’t preregister,” Houseman said, adding due to the pandemic, the usual crowd of 100 to 120 people is not expected.
Even though a large crowd is not expected this year, the tour is prepared if there is one, according to Houseman.
“If we get a large crowd we will break it up and do the tour in smaller groups,” Houseman said.
Attendees will be asked to practice social distancing and wear masks. They are also encouraged to bring their own flashlight.
The tour of Wildey Odd Fellows Cemetery will be Monday, Oct. 26, and begins at 6 p.m.
The cost is $8 for those who preregister or $10 at the gate. Children 12 and under are free.
For more information or to preregister, call Marc Houseman at 636-239-0280.