Like any good host, many of Ivy Hill Cemetery’s permanent residents greeted visitors at the front gate. Despite many being deceased for well over a century, on April 4, the tenants were brought to life by costumed reenactors who guided visitors on tours of the cemetery.
Burials on the cemetery grounds began in 1811. Lucy Burke Goddin, president of the Ivy Hill Historical Preservation Society, said the tours are part of a campaign to get people to come to the cemetery for reasons other than dying.
Stacy Hawkins, while dressed in a historic bonnet and gown, wasn’t playing a particular character. Instead, Hawkins said she filled the vital role of a 19th century town gossip. Despite the intrepid reporting of the Alexandria Gazette, Hawkins said word of mouth was still how news of events most often travelled around Alexandria.
Hawkins directed visitors towards George Mason, a Virginia statesman and considered one of the fathers of the Bill of Rights, played by Richard Robinson III. Mason stood watch over the grave of his great-grandson Beverly Randolph Mason, a Confederate soldier as a young man and later founder of the Gunston School for young women in Washington D.C.
Robinson said he wasn’t very familiar with Mason before he joined the event, but said that as he read more on the subject he realized that Mason doesn’t get the credit he should as a founding father or as an early proponent for education in the United States.
“Education is not as valued or cherished now as it once was, ” said Robinson.
Further down the hill, Sarah Ceteras stood in character as as Constance Cary Harrison, an American writer who died in 1920, above the woman’s grave. Between 1876 and 1911, under the pen name Refugitta, Harrison wrote serialized historical fiction and romance novels for young women.
“She was from high society, ” said Ceteras on what interested her about the character, “But she was adventurous, brave, and bold.”
In addition to her fame as a writer, Harrison and two of her cousins are credited with sewing the first confederate battle flag.
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