Personal ties to Pilgrimage

Published 12:41 am Friday, March 16, 2012

Linda Rester will volunteer once again as a tour guide during Selma’s Pilgrimage, providing tours at the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum, where her grandmother attended and graduated nursing school in 1918. -- Tim Reeves

The city of Selma is filled with historic jewels — a famous Civil War battle, traces of the civil rights era and homes dating back to the early 18th and 19th centuries. These events have been recaptured through storytelling, by families who have deep roots here. Selma native Linda Bowman Rester’s family is no different.

As a Vaughan-Smitherman Museum tour guide during this weekend’s Pilgrimage, Rester’s family hails from royalty, with ancestors having come from France and England, and having fought in the American Revolution.

“I’m proud of my family background,” Rester said, who leads tours both Friday and Saturday inside the museum. “I just want to show history with other people and help them to remember the past.”

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Rester, who has been volunteering as a tour guide for seven years, said she enjoys history, especially genealogy.

“My aunt Margie started collecting information after information, 10 or 12 years ago and that’s how I started getting more and more involved,” Rester said. “I love history and I just thought it’d be interesting (the tour); each year I learn more and more about the history of Selma and my own history. It makes me wanna dig deeper; It’s unreal what you can find when you start uncovering.”

Rester, who is also a social worker in Demopolis, donated some of her family’s history to the museum in 2006. Rester’s paternal grandmother, Annie Laurie Pope Bowman, was a 1918 graduate of the Vaughan School of Nursing. Rester is proud of Bowman’s nursing diploma, license and picture adorning a wall in the museum’s medical area.

“She was so influential in my life,” Rester said reminiscing. “She influenced several of her nieces to be nurses. She influenced me to be a social worker, which I became; she helped so many people in her life, in everything she did … she would be proud.”

A descendent of Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States, through her maternal grandfather Thomas James Rives, Pierce’s brother, Lt. Col. Benjamin Kendrick Pierce, married Amanda Boykin of Alabama. The couple had a daughter, Amanda Pierce, who later married a doctor in Dallas County. When Pierce died, she was buried in the Rives Family Cemetery near Minter.

For Rester, the history woven in her lineage is what keeps her telling stories over and over, again.

“It’s just so much history, it’s unreal,” Rester said. “A lot of people can connect with history and hopefully others can reconnect with their families. I hope it sparks an interest for Pilgrimage.”

Tours will be held Friday beginning at noon on the first floor and Saturday beginning 8:30 a.m. on the museum’s third floor.

Rester plans to donate a book detailing Lt. Col. Pierce’s life, titled “Our Worthy Commander — the Life and Times of Benjamin K. Pierce,” to the museum and the Selma-Dallas County Public Library.