SIBLEY, Iowa — Have you ever walked through a cemetery and wondered about the storied pasts of the people buried there?
The McCallum Museum in Sibley, in a research project that spanned several months, will shed light on the history of some of Osceola County’s early inhabitants during a Headstone History Tour from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Holman Cemetery, located along 180th Street, near Olive Avenue, southwest of Sibley.
To abide by COVID-19 precautions, participants are asked to wear a face mask and maintain social distance. The hour-long walking tours will usher small groups through the oldest section of the Holman Cemetery, with actors and actresses dressed in period clothing speaking at each of the seven stops on the tour.
McCallum Museum board member Beth Thole said museum volunteer Mark Frank has been working to update Osceola County’s cemetery information through the website, findagrave.com. During that process, Frank took photographs of a majority of headstones in Holman Cemetery.
“We were talking one time about how it would be really fun to do a tour,” Thole said, noting that she and fellow board member Barb Vander Veen attended a tour in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, last year.
“That was very interesting, but what got more interesting was digging into the names of the people here in Sibley,” Thole shared. “Once we dug into their past, it was remarkable what (we learned).”
Frank helped select the individuals to be featured, and Thole and Vander Veen researched them by looking through the museum’s collection of information and newspaper archives.
Initially, seven individuals were chosen to be featured on the tour. However, that was expanded as Thole learned more about their spouses and families.
She said the featured individuals range from Civil War and World War veterans to a prisoner of war, a slave and a builder of the AL-Can Highway. Each will be portrayed by local actors or those with ties to Sibley and include some teachers, Sibley-Ocheyedan High School graduates and an S-O Middle School student.
“The actors are all dressing in period costumes, either sourced through the museum or from a theater in Sioux Falls,” Thole said. “Some of the people buried out there, we have artifacts of theirs in the museum and we’ll be using those as the actors speak. We also have pictures that will be used to tell their stories.”
In preparation for the Headstone History Tour, volunteers have been cleaning headstones at the cemetery, particularly those of the individuals featured on the tour. Holman Cemetery is one of the larger cemeteries in Osceola County, and the tour focuses on just one area.
Thole said tour participants will walk primarily on the driveways, and she encourages people to bring their own lawn chair if they wish to sit during the presentations.
If Saturday’s event proves popular, Thole would like for the McCallum Museum to organize more Headstone History tours in the future. She already has a binder of information on other individuals buried in the Holman Cemetery, and said the project could be expanded to other cemeteries in the county.
“There’s a lot of little country church cemeteries in the area,” Thole said. “With COVID, it’s something we can do outside. We can usually socially distance outside and in small groups.”
The Headstone History Tour is a fundraiser for the McCallum Museum’s Barn Shed project, with a suggested donation being asked of those who attend. To reserve a tour time, call Leona Meendering at (712) 754-3715 or (712) 461-0712 anytime before noon on Saturday.
“We hope to video tape it and maybe it’s something we can feature at the museum at a later date,” Thole said.