Angels take center stage this weekend

Published 1:25 am Wednesday, November 7, 2007

NATCHEZ — I, Major Isaac Guion, am a Revolutionary War veteran. I was captain of the third infantry and was chosen by Gen. Wilkinson to come to Natchez and convince the Spanish to leave. I arrived in 1798. Four months later, the Spanish marched out of town. I did what Andrew Ellicott had been unable to do. Sure, he had raised an American flag at Ellicott’s Hill, but the Spanish were still there. On March 30, I raised the American flag at the Spanish fort, signifying that Natchez was now completely under American control. I retired as a major and married a Natchez woman, Sarah Lewis. We reared our four children here in town. One of my sons, John Isaac Guion, was a judge, senator and governor of Mississippi. He is the only one of our family who wasn’t buried in the city cemetery.

This is the story Vidalia resident Sam Jones will tell this weekend for the annual Angels on the Bluff cemetery tour. Jones and five other actors will portray veterans who are buried in the 100-acre graveyard.

Visitors will be led through the cemetery by a tour guide, who will stop at the veterans’ grave sites. There, actors will tell the stories of the dead.

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It’s a night tour through a cemetery where dead people talk, but the actors and organizers are adamant that its purpose is not to scare.

“It’s about the history and it’s entertaining,” Jones said. “But it’s definitely not meant to be spooky.”

“It’s very informative and historical,” cemetery association president Nancy Kimbrell said. “We have a lot of good characters buried out there and we like to shed some light on them.”

Veterans from several different wars will be represented during the tour. Fred Emrick will portray War of 1812 soldier James Miller. Darrell White will depict Wilson Brown, the first African American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Emma Gene Wensel Venn, a World War I Red Cross nurse, will be played by Sallie J. Ballard. Rusty Jenkins will tell the story of Civil War veteran August Doerle and Drew Adams will portray Col. William Allen Adams. Adams fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

The tour was originally conceived eight years ago by a former cemetery superintendent as a fundraiser for the facility. Kimbrell said the event is still crucial to the upkeep of the cemetery.

Tours for Angels on the Bluff will begin at 5:30 Friday and will conclude with a 2 p.m. Sunday show for the elderly and handicapped. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7.50 for children. Admission is free for children under 6. The Saturday night tour is sold out.