A Texas governor, Confederate Army officer, state senators and judges are just a few of the Tyler pioneers who are buried in the city's historic Oakwood Cemetery.
The cemetery, at the intersection of West Oakwood Street and North Palace Avenue, is home to more than 3,000 marked graves, according to the East Texas Genealogical Society website.
It includes a Jewish section and a large section of unmarked graves for African-Americans.
This weekend, people will have the opportunity to learn more about the cemetery — and some of the people buried in it — through the Spirits of Oakwood event.
The walking history tours start at 1 p.m. Saturday. Tours will begin every 10 minutes with the last tour starting at 4:30 p.m.
Guides will take visitors around to six gravesites where they will stop and hear locals dressed in period attire portray one of the people from Tyler's past. This year's event features eight "spirits" with two of the stops having a man and woman portraying a married couple.
"It's interesting, and it's educational, because you learn so much about Tyler and the people who really started and made Tyler grow," said Maxine Herbst, chairwoman of the Oakwood Cemetery Restoration Committee. "And there are people buried there that streets are named after, schools are named after. It's very educational."
This is the event's 11th year. Sponsored by the Oakwood Cemetery Restoration Committee, it serves as a fundraiser to pay for repairs to broken monuments in the cemetery. The committee already has repaired more than 200 markers in the cemetery.
The event costs $10 per person, and children ages 12 and under get in free but must be accompanied by an adult. The entire tour lasts between 45 minutes and one hour.
Each year, the restoration committee chooses which spirits will be portrayed. All of this year's spirits have never been portrayed.
If family members of the deceased person are living, the committee asks them first if they want to portray the person. If they don't, the committee has a list of people who want to be a part of the event and they can play the role, Ms. Herbst said.
Vicki Betts will portray Bessie C. James, wife of Finis Ewing Gaston. Ms. Betts said she likes to participate because she believes this is a meaningful project. She said her desire is that visitors realize how much wonderful history is behind Tyler.
Cliff Johnson will portray Horace Henry Rowland, a Civil War veteran who went on to start a drug store business in Tyler. Johnson said this event provides an opportunity to honor many of the men like Rowland who fought for the South.
Jimmie Horton will portray John B. Mayfield, a wholesale grocery store owner. Horton said he loves history and has always enjoyed walking through graveyards. He said his hope is that guests will learn about history and share what they know about local residents.
The cemetery continues to reveal new finds. About two weeks ago workers, who were putting up a sign about the Spirits of Oakwood, unearthed a tombstone in the African-American section for a 23-year-old woman named Catharine Collins and her infant.
Horton said after that, he started digging and found another one. He said his hope is that the restoration committee can raise enough money to rent a ground-penetrating radar machine to search for unmarked graves.