Visitors Experience “Spirits with Spirits” at City Cemetery
The "Spirits with Spirits" tour at the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery Saturday night brought together visitors with first-person stories of people buried there.
The tour was organized by the Old City Cemetery Committee, Inc. and was held from 7-10 p.m.
"It’s a fundraiser," said Lynda Walls, president of the committee. "We’re raising money for our restoration, education and research projects. And we also just like to show off the cemetery."
About 40 people attended the 7 p.m. tour. "Spirits" such as wine and beer were available for those 21 and over, and soft drinks were on hand for non-drinkers.
Eight volunteers acted out the parts of, and in tribute to, people buried at the city cemetery who were once winemakers, brewers and saloon owners and operators. A handful of volunteers acted as extras walking the paths.
The actors told first-person accounts of where they were born, why they came to Sacramento, their occupations and how they died. With jokes from the actors and gasps from the audience, the tours lasted an hour and 15 minutes each.
"(I liked) just learning that we have researchable stories available to us," said Vikki Clark of Sacramento. "I was a volunteer here over a decade ago, and I’m still learning things."
Visitors swooned for the story of Maria Rupp, proprietor of Sacramento Beer Saloon. Rupp was engaged to a doctor named Francois. She was stabbed by suitor Peter Wetz in 1857 at the age of 25. Francois died a few years later. He donated his body to science but had his heart buried next to Rupp.
"The people buried here do have a history that had an impact on Sacramento," said Roxie Garrow of Sacramento.
The crowd laughed through the story of bartender Robert Allen who came to California during the Gold Rush.
"I knew wherever men were coming from or wherever they would go, they’d want a drink," the actor portraying Allen said.
Competitor J.D. Smith hired three men to rob Allen. He was hit with a hammer and then strangled.
"Next time you hear someone say they got hammered," the actor said, "think of me because I really did get hammered."
The Old City Cemetery Committee, Inc. is an organization with 115 active volunteers whose mission it is to preserve, protect and beautify the city cemetery. The city cemetery has one paid staff member and relies on the volunteers to garden and restore its premises.
"We’re completely donation-driven," Walls said. "We’re pretty proud of that. During our last full restoration last year, we did $15,000 worth of repairs here in the cemetery."
The committee has been restoring and preserving the city cemetery since 1986. Due to severe budget cuts last year, the cemetery now operates five days per week rather than seven.
The cemetery was established in 1849 with a 10-acre donation from John Sutter and expanded to 60 acres in 1880 by Margaret Crocker. Sixteen acres were reclaimed by the city throughout the years.
The gated property includes the Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery and Mausoleum and the Old Masonic Cemetery as well. The city cemetery is the largest of the three at 28 acres.
"It is a beautiful historic site that’s not just important to Sacramento history," Walls said, "but because we have so many Gold Rush ‘residents,’ it’s important to American history."
1) Visitors listen to the first stop of the tour.
2) Extra actors provide background atmosphere.
3) Actress toasting to brewer Adolph Heilbron.
4) Actor portraying Robert Allen.
5) Actress portraying Maria Rupp.
6) Actors discussing the Temperance Movement and Elvira Baldwin.
7) Enjoying "spirits" during the tour.
Agnus-Dei Farrant is an intern for The Sacramento Press.