Ray and Julia Jones portray Charles and Harriet Kingsbury.
Ray and Julia Jones portray Charles and Harriet Kingsbury.

Archived Story

Ironton’s late, great get chance to tell their tales

Published 10:27am Monday, September 30, 2013


Once a year the onetime second richest woman in the world pops out of her marble mausoleum with its tuberose stained glass windows to play hostess to the crowd.

“I am glad to be out,” Nannie Kelley Wright, aka Kay Rader, told this year’s visitors to the Historical Walk at Woodland Cemetery on Saturday. “I only get to come out once a year.”

And with that, Rader was off telling the story of the woman who made a fortune in the pig iron industry, then lost it in the Wall Street Market Crash of 1929.

“Fortunately, I still had all my diamonds,” Rader said. “When I died, Mim Grimes wrote my obituary and in it she said that I lived a life of bold adventure. And you know she was right.”

For more than a decade, members of the Lawrence County Historical Society and community volunteers have put on the walk, dressing up in costume to portray the lives of those who put Ironton and Lawrence County on the map.

There was Charles and Harriet Kingsbury, portrayed by Ray and Julia Jones. Kingsbury was Ironton’s first public school superintendent serving from 1851 to 1865 and so revered by his students and community that they erected a monument to him in the cemetery. Their daughter donated her home, the Burr Mansion, to the Briggs Lawrence Library, which used it for its headquarters until it was torn down.

Bob Long, portraying the World War I ace, Col William Lambert, told of Lambert’s war record and his years as a barnstormer. Bob and Cheryl Cleary brought back their recreation of the life of Dr. Joseph and Sarah Jane Lowery, while Carol Pennington and Martin Smith told the story of Lowery’s brother, Andrew Clark and his wife, Nellie Marting.

As Rader was holding court at the Kelley mausoleum, her grandson, John Higgins, was recreating the life of James Slater, Civil War veteran, pharmacist and husband of nationally known poet Mary White Slater, who built the house Ironton attorney Mack Anderson now lives in.

This was the first time for 13-year-old Higgins to be part of the historical walk and found he was adapting to the experience.

“The first couple of times I was sort of nervous,” he said. “Then I started to get used to it. It’s fun once you get used to it.”

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  • Poor Richard

    This event is wonderful!

    Recently I had been in the Woodland cemetery caring for family headstones and am always admiring the large stones. Must have been quite a deal to set those things in place. One stone has the “Means” family name on it. While visiting the Huntington Museum of Art, a friend of mine took a snapshot of a portrait of John Means, painted in 1868. Seems Mr. Means was born in Adams county Ohio and operated one of the iron furnaces and was also part owner of the KY Iron, Coal and Mfg Company. I was wondering if this is the same ‘Means’ located at the cemetery?

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  • mickakers

    My compliments to all involved in this program. This is the way to move Ironton forward, by emphasizing it’s history. Great picture! Nurse01; I concur with your comment “People seem to have lost respect for everything, even themselves.”

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  • nurse01

    I thoroughly enjoy this historical walk. The characters do such a wonderful job telling their stories. I was very bothered this year by the lack of respect many of the visitors had for these storytellers, however. If you do not want to listen to what these characters have to say, then do not come. I could not believe grown adults would stand and carry on loud conversations while others were trying to hear. It was worse than kindergarten children. People seem to have lost respect for everything, even themselves. Kudos to the actors/actresses for carrying on their performances. Great job!

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