published Monday, October 29th, 2012

Historic Cleveland comes to life at Fort Hill Cemetery

Lee University history students Peter Nelson and Asa Harris, portraying 19th-century residents Christopher Lafayette and Isabella Hardwick, speak to visitors during the 2012 Lantern Walking Tour at Fort Hill Cemetery in Cleveland, Tenn., on Sunday.
Lee University history students Peter Nelson and Asa Harris, portraying 19th-century residents Christopher Lafayette and Isabella Hardwick, speak to visitors during the 2012 Lantern Walking Tour at Fort Hill Cemetery in Cleveland, Tenn., on Sunday.
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — For a few chilly hours Sunday evening, some of Cleveland's most famous and colorful personalities came to life on the ridges of Fort Hill Cemetery during the sixth annual Lantern Walking Tour.

Despite the overcast and windy weather, crowds trekked through the cemetery to see and hear re-enactments from the lives of more a dozen of the city's 19th century movers and shakers, performed at their own gravesides and monuments.

The event, presented by the history faculties of Lee University and Cleveland State Community College and the Bradley County Historical Society, uses senior history majors from Lee to research and portray historic personages.

More than a dozen students, decked out in period clothing, told of their characters' lives and how they touched Cleveland's history before, during and after the Civil War.

"I really love the research, but to live it out and to share it is phenomenal," said Lee senior Shay Slaughter. She portrayed Myra Inman Carter, who left a diary detailing Cleveland's hardships during the war.

The tour gives people a chance to see how much history can be found locally, said Alex Maxwell, who performed as John G. Carter, Inman's husband.

Tour groups showed keen interest in the characters, interacting with them and taking pictures.

"We learned a lot of different things about Cleveland history," said Derida Waters, who traveled from Polk County for the tour. "We really enjoyed it."

The event has been quite popular, drawing 100 to 200 people each year, said organizer Dr. Randy Wood of Lee's history department.

The lantern tour is a great way to show people Cleveland's history and how important the town was to both the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War, said Bryan Reed, president of the Bradley County Historical Society.

Reed said people should understand the historical significance of the Fort Hill Cemetery, built on the site of a former Union encampment. He hopes that will encourage more efforts at conserving the city's historical resources.

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