Ghosts of Jefferson’s dead rise on Haints and Saints tour

Just a few days before Halloween arrives, stories will emerge from a hilltop cemetery in Jefferson where many bodies were laid to permanent rest.

Living souls will stand among these dead to tell long-forgotten stories at the inaugural “Haints and Saints Historic Cemetery Tour” on Oct. 26-27.

“It’s an alternate Halloween event,” the tour’s creator Vicki Starnes said one morning at the Crawford Long Museum in Jefferson, which is hosting the tour.

The tours start at 7:30 p.m. both days with groups of 20 leaving the museum every 30 minutes as they make their way to the former location of the Harrison Hotel. The last tour leaves at 10:30 p.m. And already many of the tour times have been booked.

When the tour makes its first stop at the hotel site, a woman dressed as the hotel proprietor will talk about its history in the 19th century. The tour group will then ease across the highway’s cold blacktop and enter Woodbine Cemetery, a graveyard that overlooks downtown Jefferson.

Here the tour participants will hear stories from the farmer who owned the vast Shield-Ethridge farm, a Civil War widow, a doctor, and veterans of the Civil and Revolutionary wars.

Dr. J.B. Pendergrass will be played by Andy Garrison, who said he plans to wear a black jacket, top hat, white shirt and tie as he tries to chameleon the physician, who was once the town’s mayor, councilman, doctor, and the father of nine children.

“Back then, you didn’t have to go to medical school (to be a doctor). You could just apprentice and he apprenticed under Dr. David Long,” Garrison said. “He later went to the Kentucky School of Medicine and performed his first surgery in 1873.”

In that surgery, Dr. Pendergrass removed a fatty tumor from a woman’s arm that weighed one pound, Garrison revealed.

Most of the actors, like Garrison, are from the Jefferson Community Theater, Starnes said, adding that local writer Laurie Anderson wrote the script for the tour.

“We’re hoping it will become an annual event so that next year we can research and have more past residents brought back to life through their stories,” she said.

Tickets are $12 and reservations must be made in advance. Call the museum at (706) 367-5307. Participants must be able to walk five city blocks.

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