March 26, 2011 8:24:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
When the wooden-hulled paddle steamer Eliza Battle went up in flames on a frigid night in 1858, it became the greatest maritime disaster in Tombigbee River history. Augustus Jones lost his life that night, leaving behind his grieving grandmother, Rebecca Anderson, in Columbus.
Anderson, buried long ago in Friendship Cemetery, makes a spirited return to her former hometown to tell her story through Mississippi Math and Science junior Anna McCollum during Tales from the Crypt. The 21st annual award-winning history project will be presented by MSMS students during Columbus'' annual Spring Pilgrimage March 28-April 9.
McCollum, of Corinth, and 10 other classmates will bring history to life for visitors on candlelight walking tours at the historic cemetery on Fourth Street South March 28 and 30, and April 1, 4, 6 and 8.
Tours run from 7-10 p.m. each designated evening; participants are asked to arrive no later than 9:30 p.m. for the final tour. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
"It''s exciting and new to me every year," said project director Chuck Yarborough of MSMS. "The characters and performers are different every time. This year we even have a Mexican war veteran, which is highly unusual. Columbus, and Mississippi, played a big role in that war."
That veteran, Jerry Dowsing, will be reenacted by Clay Sulfridge of Sarah. Dowsing was also a Lowndes County Sheriff.
Other portrayals range from a prominent Civil War surgeon to a railroad baggage master. Each played a part in shaping the region.
"We also have Mary Jane Crump Leigh (Taylor Galmiche of Picayune), whose husband was a prominent theologian who played a role in founding several Methodist colleges across the South," Yarborough added. And then, there is Susan Billups Sherrod (Katie Howell of Brookhaven), the daughter of Col. Thomas Carleton Billups and Sarah Ann Moore. Her family was prominent in the early settlement of Lowndes County.
"Many in our audience are repeat customers, so to speak, who are back for a second or third time," Yarborough said of the family-friendly event. "We have had a couple from Chattanooga (Tenn.) who came for 12 or 13 years."
The two weeks of Pilgrimage will showcase antebellum home, garden and church tours, book signings, carriage rides, the Mayor''s Unity Picnic, Tour of Kitchens, Artisans'' Alley, a 10K run and more.
Learn about events at columbus-ms.org, or contact the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center at 300 Main St., 662-328-0222, or contact the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation at 662-920-3533.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.