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History in the Cemetery

I used to play in a cemetery when I was a kid. We were always respectful of the graves, but my friends and I would play house claiming different plots as our “homes.” Loved it. So when I had the opportunity to go on a tour of a cemetery that has as much beauty as history, I jumped at it.

The tour was at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, OH. Among many other famous folks buried there are Erma Bombeck, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and the Wright brothers. That alone makes this a really interesting place. It also has a 3,000 trees and 165 specimens of woody plants. Oh, and it is considered one of the most haunted places in Dayton.

The theme of the tour I was on was History, Mystery, Murder, and Mayhem. We got to hear about all sorts of people from inventors to murderers to robbers. The cool thing was we heard about people I hadn’t heard of before like Rev. Lorennzo Lorraine Lanstroth, the father of modern beekeeping. He lived in the 1800s and more than a century later, his beekeeping methods are still in use.

Near his burial site is the grave of Elizabeth Richter. She was the Queen of Dayton’s Red Light District back in the day. She may have been a madam, but apparently she was very good to the girls in her employment. She would help them open bank accounts and even bought them houses if they got married. Richter also made sure others treated her girls well and would not tolerate crass behavior in front of them.

Later on the tour, we saw the grave of Marguerite “Maggie” Doane. She was a rodeo rider and that alone makes her pretty cool. In her early twenties, she was dared to ride “Gentile Annie.” As you might guess, Annie was not gentle. Maggie stayed on a few seconds before being thrown off and crushed. Then the horse stepped on her face, crushing her skull. It is said Maggie managed to stay conscious long enough to say, “Well, I rode her.”

If you ever get a chance to tour Woodland Cemetery, I highly recommend it. If you aren’t where you can easily get to Dayton, check your local area to see if something similar is near you. Who knows what interesting characters you might unearth (not literally, please :)).

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