BELLVILLE — Voices from the past were heard once again at Bellville Cemetery on Saturday.
The second annual cemetery walk, a partnership between the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library and the Bellville-Jefferson Township Historical Society, brought back to life seven historical figures of Belleville and Richland county. Through the actors who portrayed these men and women, visitors learned about parts of their lives, heard stories they may have told and connected with a time long since gone.
Kelli Dotson, adult programming coordinator for the Bellville branch of the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library, said part of what helped bring the walk about is the library’s on-going interest in working with with people and groups to put together events.
“A lot of people come to the cemetery and just walk it (on their own),” Dotson said about how the cemetery walk came about.
The seven people portrayed included Robert Bell Sr. and his wife Mary Yost Bell, whom the town of Bellville is named after. The duo were played by two of their sixth-generation descendants, Robert Sands, of Columbia Station, Ohio, and Merry Bering, of West Branch, Michigan.
Bellville resident John Spayde helped visitors get to know more about his great-great grandfather John Spayde, who founded the Spayde Drum and Fife Corps, and had a 400-acre farm along Spayde Road.
Another family member who brought a character to life was Larry Hill. Hill shared some of the highlights of his great-great grandparents McKiah Hill and Barbara Halderman Hill, which included information about the Hill family building a house at 151 Markey St. in Bellville, which is still standing today. McKiah Hill also about Hill being declared an orphan at the age of 16 and being in the indentured service of a stonemason named Lawerence Davis. Hill talked about how in 1840, his great grandfather William B. Hill and a great uncle moved from Bellville to Shelbyville, Indiana, where most of that part of the family still lives.
Hill said that for more than 100 years none of the Hills who had moved away, had come back to Ohio, even for a visit, until they brought his father back for a Halderman family reunion.
“I am very blessed to (be able to portray my great great grandfather,”Hill said. “ Also, I’m blessed to be able to come back to see where he was and come back to see the house he owned.”
A famed storyteller and speaker in Richland County during the late 19th and early 20th century, Cyrus Gatton, was portrayed by local actor Aaron Sharp. Gatton’s family property, known as Gatton Rocks, was a popular resort area served by the early railroads.
Gatton (Sharp) shared a local story explaining how Richland County got its name, from having the best soil in the area for growing plants and crops. As the story goes, the soil was brought down from the Arctic when a huge glacier traveled over Ohio. However all the soil left behind as the glacier melted, was not so good. The soil deposited in Ashland, Knox and Huron counties was not so good. Only the very best soil was deposited in this area, making it a very rich land.
The other two historical figures portrayed were Everah Celestian LeBlond, by Lexington author and historian Jason Ireland; and Donald W. Wilson, by Mansfield Richland County Public Library member Peter Moore.
Larry Hill protrayed his great-great grandfather McKiah Hill during an informative Cemetery Walk on Saturday at Bellville Cemetery.
Aaron Sharp, an actor with Renaissance Theater in Mansfield, portrayed local storyteller Cyrus Miller Gatton during a program Saturday at Bellville Cemetery.
Dick Spayde, of Bellville, protrayed his great-great grandfather John Spayde during a Cemetery Walk on Saturday. The program at Bellville Cemetery was a joint project of the Mansfield-Richland County Library and the Bellville Jefferson Township Historical Society.