Ghost Tour showcases voices from the past

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2004

As twilight settled over Old Live Oak Cemetery, the ghosts of Selma’s past came to life.

Amid the large, moss-covered trees and faded graves, some highly decorated former citizens told visitors about their history and achievements.

There were large groups at the cemetery Saturday evening to participate in the annual ghost tour. Some had come from as far away as Indiana and Wisconsin to hear the stories being told.

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“We are on our way to the gulf from Wisconsin, and learned about the Pilgrimage online,” said Gary Rogers. “We decided to make a detour here.”

Led by Pilgrimage girls in hoop skirts, each tour began at the tomb of William Rufus King, Alabama’s first and last U.S. Vice President.

The “ghost” of King described how he helped to found the city of Selma and his rise to prominence as a U.S. Senator.

“Congress passed a special bill just for me so I could be sworn in as Vice President in Cuba,” King told the visitors at his grave.

Just across from the Vice President, greeting guests in his pastor’s robe, was the spirit of the Rev. Arthur Small.

The former pastor of First Presbyterian Church, looking pretty good for someone who’s been dead over 100 years, told of how he died trying to defend the city from approaching Yankees during the Civil War.

“I hear they have a new pastor at First Presbyterian now, some 50-year-old man from Arkansas,” Small said.

After enjoying the humor of Small, the group was lead to unremarkable grave of Sen. Edmund Winston Pettus.

“My grave is plan because I wanted it that way,” said the “ghost” of Pettus. “Then 30 years after my death they named the bridge after me.”

With much haggard emotion, Pettus spoke of his experiences as a general in the Civil War and the pure brutality of the it.

He also described how he created the first volunteer fire department in Selma and became a senator.

After Pettus’ speech, the tour group was introduced to Benjamin Turner, a former slave who became the richest black man in all of Dallas County and went on to serve in the U.S Congress.

“I introduced a bill to congress that gave rights back to the confederate soldiers,” the “ghost” said.

The final stop on the tour were the graves of Dr. Albert Mabry and his family.

Mabry told of how he established his medical practice in Selma during the 1840’s, a time when Dallas County was the richest county in the nation.

“I worked to organize the Alabama Medical Association, which I hear from the people who visit my grave is still in existence,” Mabry said.

By the time the final tour ended, dark had already fallen upon the candle-lit cemetery. The ghosts, after speaking to so many people, finally settled back into their graves to rest until they are invited to the next year’s Pilgrimage.