Oakwood Cemetery Tour set for Oct. 30

From left, Deborah Carl as Lily Elser and Debbie Clarke as Sadie, one of the tour guides in a past presentation. This year,Carl will play Frances Cooke Lipscomb Van Zandt, wife of Isaac Van Zandt who was ambassador from the Republic of Texas to the United States.

With fall in the air, when thoughts turn to cider and flannel shirts, a hint of mystery tickles the nose with Fort Worth’s upcoming annual Oakwood Cemetery Tour. Benefiting the North Fort Worth Historical Society, the tour will be presented this year on Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31. Tours will take place each day at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Rich in history and deeded to the city in 1879, Oakwood was founded with 20 acres donated by John Peter Smith, one of Fort Worth’s earliest settlers. North of the Trinity River with the heart of downtown nearby, it is the resting place for local citizens from all walks of life and encompasses more than 100 acres today.

And you never know who you might “bump into” at the tour, “Saints and Sinners.” Among things that go bump in the night, perhaps it will be someone from “Bartenders Row,” or the notorious Bessie Williams who appeared in 2019. It is said that she gave Tarrant County Sheriff Nace Mann a run for his money. “No desperado gave him more trouble than Bessie, the ‘jailbreak queen’ of Fort Worth,” said Deborah Carl, who portrayed her in 2019. “She was briefly a guest of the county jail half a dozen times before dropping out of sight for good.”

Other notable citizens interred at Oakwood include Winfield Scott, Mary Couts Burnett, the W.T. Waggoner family, and Woodmen of the World, distinguished by their tree-stump tombstones.

Carl, who has been with the tour as an actor or guide all of its 15 seasons (except for last year’s cancellation due to Covid), adds that the walking tour is about 2 hours long. Participants should wear weather appropriate clothing and good walking shoes, and note that there are gravel roads. This year, however, there will be no twilight tour, as it concludes in the chapel and social distancing is not possible.

Tickets are purchased at the gates, with adult prices for $10 and children and students for $5. Oakwood Cemetery is located at 701 Grand Ave., Fort Worth. 

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