Dells Cemetery Tour meant to foster storytelling
September 18. 2012 6:00AM
Cemetery-goers could learn a few things about Dell Rapids heritage this weekend, as Sunday will bring a tour of the city’s graveyard that will include stories and a few familiar guests.
Through a guided tour of the burial plots and some in-character local portrayers, the Dell Rapids Cemetery will play host to the historically themed outing.
The idea for the tour, organized by Teri Fiegen, came about through discussions with the Rev. Michael Mortvedt at the Lutheran Church of Dell Rapids, according to the tour’s guide. She said that he encouraged her to conduct the tour to share community stories.
“It’s another way to celebrate the lives and stories of our ancestors and remind us of their accomplishments and their hardships,” Fiegen said. “I hope those attending will find a new appreciation for history and genealogy in a way that goes beyond the names and dates in a book.”
The event, which is set for Sept. 23, will start at 1 p.m. on the north end of the Dell Rapids Cemetery and will last about 1.5 hours. Fiegen said that noted figures in the discussion and before visitor’s eyes will include Titus Unger, local inventor of the minnow bucket; Thomas Lilly, Dells’ last surviving Civil War veteran; and Gina Smith Campbell, organizer and promoter of the swimming beach.
In addition, Fiegen hopes guests enjoy the final activity on the tour, “grave witching,” a process of discovering unmarked graves.
“For those who are just a little bit curious, I want to spark that interest,” she said, “inspiring them to become more aware and active in preserving and sharing the history.”
That interest was piqued for Fiegen when she started assembling a family tree 25 years ago. She said that part of her research entailed photographing headstones of ancestors for accuracy, which expanded into cataloging entire cemeteries.
“It was another way to help others in search of their ancestors,” she said. “To share that information is to preserve it. I have been amazed at the amount of history I have learned from photographing the area cemeteries.”
This is the event’s first occurrence, and Fiegen hopes that it can continue.
“There are more than 4,500 individuals buried in Dell Rapids,” she said. “They all have stories that deserve to be shared.”