The Ghost Walk through the Chestnut Street Cemetery located along Avenue E at 6th St., slated for this Saturday evening beginning at 6:30 p.m., has been sponsored by The Apalachicola Area Historical Society since its inception in 2010, with Dolores Roux being the founder and its current coordinator.
The Ghost Walk began as an event to be held during the first weekend in May to coincide with the Trinity Church’s popular Historic Home Tour and later expanded to the last weekend in October to coordinate with the Halloween season.
The walk is lit by many luminaries which lead you around the cemetery during the evening hours. This semi-annual event is held as a major fundraiser for the historical society with proceeds going to the restoration of the cemetery.
Admission is $5 (children under 12 free with an adult) or if you wish to join the Historical Society for a $10, your admission is free.
For the uninitiated, this “ghostly” tour features many longtime residents of Apalachicola, or actual descendants in costume, portraying figures from history who are buried at Chestnut Street Cemetery. As participants stroll through the cemetery, these portrayers will share the stories of the people that they portray. For the residents, background information is provided by Mark Curenton, a local historian. However, the actual descendants in their own costumes offer their own histories of their ancestors, often bringing them to life with small familial details.
For history buffs, this walk through time takes you back to the early 1800s when the city was a hub of activity for the maritime industry. Many of the figures from the city’s history who are buried at the Chestnut Street Cemetery represent both notable and everyday people who have contributed to Apalachicola’s story. Many have been featured during the Ghost Walk tour.
Over the years, many residents have participated in this event portraying different figures from local history. However, perhaps the most interesting are the actual descendants of the departed who have offered their own perspectives.
Wesley Chesnut portrayed his great-great-grandfather, Francis B. Wakefield (1838-1886); Katherine Anne Shimonis portrayed her great-aunt, Anna Buzzett Fry, and Rob Roy Rice portrayed his grandfather, Rob Roy Rice.
In addition to sharing the stories of Apalachicola prominent families such as Coombs, Orman, Grady and Chapman, it is often the stories of the average residents that prove to be the more fascinating during this tour. For example, Mary Fuller (?-1905) who along with her husband, William, was the only African American business owner at the time operated the finest hotel in Apalachicola; or John G. Ruge (1854-1931) who started the first oyster canning business; and Mercia Montgomery who headed up the local Red Cross.
Another historical figure who has been featured during this tour is Capt. Leander M. Crawford who died when the John C. Calhoun paddlewheel exploded in 1860 while entering the Apalachicola River.
Several solders of both the Confederacy and the Union have been included in this tour. Most recently, two veterans of the Confederate Navy have been featured - Antoine Messina (1832-1906) and Eugene Labatute (1838-1886). Alfred Henry Le Favre (1847-1922) served in the 9th Michigan Infantry Regiment and was featured during 2017 October ghost walk. Charles Miller Harris (1830-1875) who served in the Confederate Commissary Department, procuring food to feed the troops and rising to the rank of Captain has been featured in the ghost walk.
Other gravesites featured on the tour include the Hull family plot, which uniquely, holds two Confederate soldiers next to two Union soldiers. R.H. Hull and L. N. Hull served in in the 4th Florida Infantry while J. H. and P. R. Hull rode with the 4th Missouri Cavalry (Union). Given the massive war effort during the 1860s, it is likely that most of the departed featured during the Ghost Walk had some connection to the War Between the States.