Danville Cemetery
: Stories of Old
By: J. Daniell Isaac

The ghosts of a historic Kilgore cemetery come to life, in a manner of speaking, a week before Halloween.

Gregg County Historical Museum’s annual Cemetery Tour turns to Danville Cemetery on Oct. 25. Volunteers including Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin will dress in period clothing and portraying several of the people buried at the cemetery that’s among the last remnants of the Danville community.

“It’s like a historical time machine, and it’s great for the family as well,” says Niki Groce, a member of the museum’s Cemetery Tour Committee. “You can bring kids. It’s not like a spooky ‘Let’s go to the cemetery.’ You get to go to the cemetery, meet these people, go back in time and hear their story and what their lives were all about.”
Last year, the committee showcased Greenwood Cemetery in Longview. Among the people portrayed were survivors of the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, and a member of Bill Dalton’s gang shot and killed while robbing a Longview bank in the early 20th Century - all buried at Greenwood.

This year at Danville, volunteers will portray characters like famed judge and horse exhibitor B.A. Skipper, confederate soldiers from the Civil War era, and Karen Silkwood, a Longview native turned chemical technician and labor union activist. Silkwood became the title character of a 1983 Academy Award-nominated movie starring Meryl Streep.

“We want to bring notoriety to the people who were influential and important in the Kilgore and Gregg County area,” says Raina Howerton, director of Gregg County Historical Museum. “By educating people about the past and who is buried there and how they affected lives around them, because each one has a different story to tell and affected us in different ways.”

The list of honorees also includes Annie V. Rossun Holt, Rev. John May Beckton, Steven Slade Barnett, June Knighton and R.J. Ogle.

“Their contributions, or their infamy, in some cases, is what makes them interesting and make people want to talk about them,” Howerton says.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $1 for children and may be purchased at the cemetery. The Danville Cemetery is located on FM 2087, between FM 349 and the U.S. 259 Bypass.

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