Ghosts of Dell Rapids past come alive during weekend tour
September 17. 2013 2:04PM
History came to life here Sunday during the second ever Dell Rapids Cemetery Tour. Attendees met historical figures and learned of past community leaders who helped a new city transition through the industrial revolution.
About 20 braved chilly conditions and gathered at the Mother’s Healing Garden Sunday afternoon before setting out across the cemetery, learning tidbits about the 132-year-old plot every step of the way, and even ran into some unlikely visitors.
As the group moved east, they were met by a man in a blue suit who introduced himself as Mr. William McFarland, the first turnkey for the Dakota Territory, who died at age 76 in 1930.
“I logged in prisoner number one down in Sioux Falls,” McFarland, portrayed by Dell Rapids resident James Rueckert, said. “His name was Charles Hunt and he was indicted and convicted for murder, and he was logged in from Detroit, Mich. in December of 1882.”
McFarland moved to Dell Rapids from Springfield, Ill. and was in the grain business for a spell.
McFarland is among thousands buried in the cemetery, which was originally run by the City of Dell Rapids. In 1905, a cemetery board was established, and to this day, the board controls cemetery operations.
Teri Fiegen, local historian and the organizer of Sunday’s event, said the tours are a fun and different way to preserve Dell Rapids history.
“For me this is exciting because it’s another way to share the history of Dell Rapids and kind of keep it going in our minds and keep it fresh,” she said. “The best way to preserve history is to … keep telling stories about it, to keep writing about it, share those photos.”
Others featured on the tour were Herman Mohrman, who established the first auto garage in Dell Rapids in 1909, and Nellie Harrington, poet and author who was portrayed by Sharon Judd.
Dell Rapids resident Mariah Mergen portrayed her great, great grandmother Anna Mergen, a dedicated farm wife and mother.