WARRENTON - The dead actually did come to life this Halloween. In a way.
Actors breathed life into 10 people from the past for the Clatsop County Historical Society's seventh annual Talking Tombstones re-enactment Sunday at Ocean View Cemetery in Warrenton. With sponsorship from Astoria Granite Works, the nonprofit puts on the event on the last Sunday of October to promote interest in local history. This year's event, themed "Think Inside the Box," fell on Halloween.
Volunteer performers assumed the roles of individuals who contributed to the community in a variety of ways.
With music playing from a gramophone set in the grass by his 1929 Ford Model A, Sherman Lovell greeted visitors to his headstone.
He and his 10-year-old son, Bob, (portrayed by Steve Nurding and his son, Bryce) were playing croquet and having a picnic lunch, like they would have enjoyed doing some 80 years ago.
The elder Lovell operated the biggest car dealership in Clatsop County and the sixth largest in Oregon. He recounted seeing his first car in 1905 and realizing then that the automobile would bring a new freedom to women, who would be able to go places without the escort of a man and a horse. He sold Buicks and Chevrolets in downtown Astoria.
Impressed by the durability of the Ford Model T, he began selling them out of catalogs until Henry Ford summoned him to Detroit and told him to build a separate Ford dealership.
He was proud of his son, Robert, who took over the dealership, was active with Boy Scouts and became a civic leader like his dad. Bob, who died at age 88, is buried nearby in his Eagle Scout uniform. "Very thrifty of you, son," dad said in approval.
Seaside history in reviewMartha Gilbert Finch, played by Enid Archer, talked about her father, Alexander Gilbert, who served as mayor of Seaside nearly 100 years ago.
He was born in Paris in 1846, one of nine children, grew up and married in Paris. He and his five brothers fought in World War I, and only he and one other came back. Disillusioned, he sought a new life in Montreal, Canada, and then in San Francisco, where he owned The Gilbert House Hotel.
He was lured to Astoria by cheap land and began buying land and building on it. One of his businesses was a saloon and brothel on Astor Street. He moved his family to Seaside a few years later, where he built a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian mansion, which still stands at Beach Drive and Avenue A. He bought land downtown, constructed buildings that he rented to businesses.
"Just what he always wanted - his own town," his daughter remembered.
Tourism was booming and life was good. Then fire destroyed Seaside. With the tourism season looming, he used his own money to rebuild and get the businesses back on their feet. When he died in 1935 at age 90, his funeral procession detoured through downtown so he could enjoy one last look at the downtown he'd built.
Megler served in governmentInside the mausoleum, Joseph C. Megler, portrayed by David Reid, reminisced about starting a business when the stock market was sinking, many were out of work and people were angry with government. "Can you imagine that sort of time?" he asked, eliciting knowing nods and giggles from his audience.
Megler had been the senior partner in a fish cannery on the Columbia River in what became the town of Megler in Washington. He was bemused that the Astoria-Megler Bridge carries his family name.
In 1873, he founded the town of Brookfield, Wash., which he named after his wife's hometown in Massachusetts. He was elected to Washington's first Legislature and served in the House for 18 years, four years as the speaker. He was most proud of his service as postmaster of Brookfield for 41 years.
After his death, his wife Nellie took over as postmistress for the next 15 years. Today, a logging road called Brookfield Road is the only reminder of the town.
How the area got its nameDressed in gingham and lace, Sarah Jeffers stood by a wooden rocking chair and sipped from a china tea cup. She recounted her "rough and weary journey" across the Oregon Trail in 1846 with her husband, Joseph, 1-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.
In 1850, they settled along the Lewis and Clark River, and their donation land claim became Jeffers Gardens.
Close to homeActress Elsie Hansen, a new grandmother, said she felt a closeness to the woman she portrayed - "the love for her children, the love for the land; she was a hard worker."
Other spirits who made appearances for the event were Frances Arrigoni McVicker (Terry Arnall), whose father organized volunteer fire departments in Portland and Astoria; Chriss Carlson, a chauffeur for George Flavel Jr. and his daughter Nellie; Frits Elfving (Matt Hensley) a Swedish ship's carpenter who turned his tug and barge business into the Astoria North Beach Ferry Co.; Maria Louise Tallant Carruthers (Susan Wentworth), the 1900 Regatta Queen whose father founded the Astoria Packing Co., later known as Bumble Bee; Ida Crosby (Rachel Fackler and Caelan Hensley), whose father was partner with Capt. Flavel and one of the first Columbia River bar pilots; and Sophia Pirila Salvon (Judy Johnson and Susana Gladwin), who was born poor in Finland, but through hard work became a grand dame in Astoria with a good marriage and successful children.