Manila founders and early pioneers came to life Thursday, April 22, as the Manila Depot Museum presented "Tales from the Cemetery" at the Manila Cemetery. Friends of the Manila Depot were dressed in period costumes as they told of the lives of four prominent people who helped shape the city's history, since its early beginning in the 1800s.
Isaac Daugherty, a steamboat captain and Manila's first mayor, was portrayed by Wendell Poteet.
"People just call me Ike," Poteet said. "I came to this area on a steamboat up the Big Lake. My steamboat carried passengers, mail and wild game to market. There was a lot of hunting going on here in the Manila area, which was known as Cinda back then. It was all wilderness, with cypress trees and water everywhere.
Several members of the Isaac Daugherty family traveled to take part in the program. Daugherty ancestors included Kenneth and Jackie Allred of Laurel, Miss., Dema Magers of Ocean Springs, Miss., Don Magers of Fredrickstown, Mo., Bernadine Starnes of Sikeston, Mo., Bobby and Imogene Harris of Jonesboro, and Patsy Bishop Vance of Hornersville, Mo. The family shared photos and memorabilia of Isaac Daugherty with the students, and told of a Daugherty mug that had been handed down through the generations.
Edward Smith, one of the first white settlers to come to Big Lake, was portrayed by Thomas Jaco.
"We raised hay, corn, cotton and ran stock on our land. Me and my wife Annie Bollinger Smith built the first permanent house in this area. This cemetery was about the only place that wasn't under water 10 months out of the year. Most people just lived in tents or lean-tos before that. We were poor and worked hard, and you talk about those skeeters and ticks and gnats--oh my."
Naomi Girdley Baker, a widow dressed in a long black veil, was played by Iris Poteet.
"What am I going to do, as I have four little ones to feed? I didn't have the government to help me and I was on my own. I took in boarders, for a $1 a week. I cook and clean and sew. My oldest son Alec had to quit school in the third grade to help me make a living. My daughter Sarah, 12, helps with the boarders. You just get along now (she begins to cry again)."
Jacob Minton "Mint" Milligan's widow Rosetta was dressed as a cowgirl and portrayed by Pam Hester.
"People just call me Zet," Hester said. "This big tombstone is where my dear departed husband is buried. See here where it says beloved wife, well that is me. Mint was killed on main street in a gunfight. Some low-down cur called him out--said he cheated at cards. My stars! My Mint never cheated at cards--leastways he never got caught at it afore. That man gunned down my Mint in broad daylight, and went around bragging about it for months. So what did I do? I got my gun out and shot him at a political rally in front of the whole town. His kinfolk threatened me and my little girl, so we left town and moved to Missouri. One thing I did though--for the rest of my life, was to keep a gun under my pillow, just in case."
Hester showed the students how she used a lasso whip to corral cows.
Manila fifth and sixth grade history teacher Janet Metheny came up with the idea for "Tales from the Cemetery" after a teacher's workshop in Little Rock where they talked about "Tales from the Crypt" tours produced by state historical societies. She applied for an Arts and Humanities grant and secured $3,000 to be used in the classroom for electronic equipment and Civil War educational games.
"I thought my students would really be interested in this," Metheny said. "And they certainly have been. I enlisted the help of a guest lecturer Donna Jackson, with the Manila Depot Museum. She located volunteers for the enactments and provided the historical information. This has turned out to be a great learning experience for the students."
The second phase of the "Tales from the Cemetery" will take place on Thursday, April 28, at the Manila Depot Museum, starting at 1 p.m. Jackson will present a "History of Manila," and the four characters will repeat their cemetery performances. Manila fifth grade students will be in attendance.
Rachel Miller will present the history of Herman Davis, at the Manila memorial erected in his honor, at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 28.