Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

By Brandon LaChance

Dwight’s history is rich. There are buildings that speak for themselves, residents who can speak of their ancestors who were village pioneers and there are interpreters who do their best to portray some of Dwight’s legends and icons.

The Dwight Historical Society created a cemetery walk through Old Town Cemetery, Oaklawn Cemetery, and McDowell Cemetery to share some of Dwight’s greatness on Oct. 17.

“The Historical Society has done three cemetery walks in the past that I know of. The last one was in 2003,” Historical Society President Mary Flott said. “We like to have activities going on at least once a year. Last year we did 60420 and we had to alter plans with that because of Covid-19. We almost always have an ice cream social at the depot in the summer, but with Covid we didn’t think we could have any food activities. “We thought, ‘Oh, a cemetery walk.’ It would be outdoors, it would be safe and we had a framework from what had been done in the past. That was our inspiration. We started planning in June and anyone in the Historical Society that wanted to help meet every Thursday morning. We had about 10 people that came regularly. I think part of it for us is that we just enjoy getting together to plan these activities.”

The cemetery walk featured actors – Don Ahearn, Todd Bean, Lindsey Jensen, Bill Kelch, Alex McWilliams, Dave Moyemont, Clark Reamer, Kathy Stewart, and Mike Wolinski – sharing the tales of the past as the ones who lived them. At Old Town, George T. Conant (1831-1906) and Hannah Maria Conant Tracy Cutler (1815-1896) were showcased. Anna Sophia Katharina Erigen Strufe (1836-1917), George A Seymour (1842-1900), Richard Price Morgan, Jr. (1828-1910), Ernest Kelch (1873-1952), and Samuel Thornton Kemeys Prime (1834-1907) were at Oaklawn, and Archibald Bard Dunlap (1869-1898) was the lone act at McDowell.

Dwight Township High School borrowed the society its two short buses and volunteers Chuck Butterbrodt and Stephanie Flott to haul the activity visitors from the museum’s depot to Old Town to Oaklawn to McDowell and back to the depot.

“What was important to me was that we included women because the previous cemetery walks didn’t include women, mostly because historically women don’t get as much attention as men do,” Mary Flott said. “We had two in Hannah Maria Conant Tracy Cutler and Anna Sophia Katharina Erigen Strufe. “We think we had about 75 people go through and we were very happy with that. We had asked for everyone to make reservations and pay ahead. We realized the weather hasn’t been very nice lately, so I think people were hesitant, but it turned out to be a beautiful day. Because of Covid, we thought we should give people the option of driving in their own cars so they would be more comfortable than being in close quarters on the buses. The buses were pretty full and we had some following in their own vehicles.”

Kathy Stewart, a teacher at Dwight Grade School for the last 24 years, was Hannah Conant Cutler’s interpreter. In 1880s garb, including a long skirt, gloves, a hat and bloomers, Stewart enjoyed her character. “Hannah Conant Cutler wasn’t someone I knew of beforehand. She was extremely interesting and did lots and lots of different things,” Stewart said. “She was involved in woman’s rights and met Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln and Sojourner Truth. She went to England and worked for woman’s rights all of her life. Her second husband farmed in Dwight and the two of them helped form the congressional church.”

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