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Cemetery tour offers opportunity to experience history

This Saturday history will come to life as the Franklin County Bicentennial Committee hosts a tour of Sadler Cemetery, part of the continuing celebration of the 200th birthday of Russellville, Franklin County and Alabama.

Guests will tour the cemetery as 10 different volunteers portray people buried there.

“That little cemetery, as small as it is, has doctors, lawyers, a probate judge, a confederate soldier and a state representative,” said Franklin County Archives director Chris Ozbirn. “Some of the most prominent people of this town and founders of this town are buried there, so it’s a very important part of our history.”

The tour will begin at the gate and travel south, stopping at each site before reaching the side of the cemetery and continuing north. The number of tours will depend on how many people are in attendance.

Russellville Street Department manager Shannon Wilson will be the tour guide, wearing period clothing and carrying an old lantern. Volunteers will speak as though they are the people they are portraying, delivering a 10-minute speech as their characters.

“(Attendees) are going to be surprised, the same as I’ve been the past three weeks that I’ve been doing all of this research, what those people did for this area,” Ozbirn said. “I think it’s important for people to know (what people went through when establishing the town).”

Some of the people who will be featured on the tour include Confederate soldier Peter Clay, who Ozbirn said was one of her favorites to learn about; probate judges Sidney Stokes Anderson and James Harvey Trimble; the Rev. David Owen; and Elizabeth Dixon, who will be portrayed by her great-great-granddaughter, Doris Hutcheson. 

There will also be four volunteers portraying the Rufas Nance family.

Ozbirn said this event is part of the bicentennial series. When the committee was discussing what event to host for October, one member mentioned a tour of Sadler Cemetery, something the city did one Founder’s Day almost 20 years ago. 

Ozbirn said she has enjoyed learning about all of the history associated with people in Sadler Cemetery and hopes people will come out to the event to learn more about the history of the area and some of its founding members.

“Everybody needs to know the history, and to me this year, as we are celebrating our bicentennial, I think that makes it more important to know the history of this town,” said Ozbirn, “and not only this town but the whole county.”

The event is free to the public. Those attending the event will need to park at the courthouse, in the lot on Limestone Street.