Tales from the Cemetery offers living history lessons

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Kennedy Woodall portrayed Ethel (Mrs. John) Chipman and told of her early years living through the hard times of early workers and farmers in the area.

Manila sixth grade students gathered at the Herman Davis Monument/State Park on Thursday, May 19, to begin the annual Tales from the Cemetery event.

Sherry Bunch Pratt portrayed Herman Davis' mother, Mary Ann Davis, told the story of Manila's World War I hero.

The Herman Davis Monument is located on Baltimore Street in Manila and is the smallest state park in Arkansas.

Davis Smith portrayed Herman Alston at the Tales from the Cemetery in Manila.

Davis was a guide and hunter raised on Big Lake. During the war he was a runner and sharp shooter. He returned from the war and never talked about his medals or his heroic deeds. When General John J. Pershing's list of the top greatest heroes of World War I was published, Davis' name was number four on the list.

Davis became ill from the poisonous gas used during the war and died at the age of 35.

Members of the Blytheville American Legion and others in the county raised money for the monument which came from Italy. Even the school children had penny drives to help. On Memorial Day 1925 Davis' body was moved from the cemetery and buried behind the monument. Also, a fountain was named in his memory at the Old State House in 1954.

Sherry Bunch Pratt as "Granny Davis," Herman Davis' mother, shared the story of the World War I hero and how his monument came to be a landmark in Manila.

A house built after his death for Davis' mother and family still stands near the monument.

Students continued on the tour gathering at the Manila Cemetery where the lives of Herman Alston, an early settler and pharmacist, and Ethel (Mrs. John) Chipman, were shared.

Davis Smith did a good job portraying Herman Alston telling the students about his arrival by train to Manila in 1906 at the age of eight. He came to join his dad who was working at a sawmill. He talked of the mosquitoes and living in a tent when he first arrived.

His family put down roots and built a home in Manila. Alston worked at several drug stores and in 1930 he took the pharmacy examination in Little Rock and opened his own store in 1936. He had his own business until 1972 when he sold his store to Delta Drug. He married Bessie Hutton and had two children.

Several of the Alston family members joined the tour with the students.

Kennedy Woodall took on the role of Ethel Chipman who came to Buffalo Island with her family settling in Caraway as a child. She took a job working in a boarding house at an early age. She met her future husband, John Chipman, who worked for Chicago Mill cutting timber.

After they married she joined him working as a cook for the crew. Kennedy shared her story of living in the wooded areas in box cars, cooking three meals a day. When the work was done and the crews were moving on she said they decided to put down roots and raised their family. They purchased their first land and started farming and the family farm grew from 20 acres to 240 acres. She talked about how it was to live through the depression, floods and the war. Mrs. Chipman loved the land and chopped cotton until she was in her 80s.

Several of Mrs. Chipman's family members were present for the tour.

The students enjoyed learning about the contributions made by the early settlers.

Social studies teacher Janet Metheny thanked local historian Donna Jackson and others who helped make the program successful.

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