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'History Comes Alive' in Dunedin

DUNEDIN — It has been 127 years since William Seaborn Smith took his last breath. But in a few days, he'll be around to talk about what life was like in the 1800s, when he served in both the Civil and Seminole wars.

He will appear near his headstone at the Dunedin Cemetery wearing an officer's uniform and an M1833 "hog killer" hat. (The caps were used for foraging and storage; this model was so big and tall, it took an entire hog to make it, "Smith" will tell visitors. He is portrayed by William Matthews.)

This is the Dunedin Historical Museum's annual History Comes Alive event, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The $4 admission fee includes parking, refreshments, program, map and a reproduction antique fan. Children 6 and younger are free.

"This is the largest History Comes Alive we've ever done," said Vinnie Luisi, the museum's executive director. "We're hoping for a really big turnout."

Highlights include encampments, a 1920s-era fire truck, seven actors portraying historic figures, and a photo dressup opportunity.

The Dunedin Cemetery, built in 1876 at 2400 Keene Road, is a priceless repository of history. The presentation provides a unique opportunity to mine that information and learn about the town's early inhabitants, a rather interesting lot.

There's Grace Nigels, a member of a pioneer family who taught local children in a one-room schoolhouse. She lived from 1894 to 1974 and was reputed to be quite flirtatious, according to Lauren Sherbuk, 24, who will portray her.

"I was married to the stationmaster, who was always defending my honor," said the Clearwater resident. "Rumor has it that there was gunfire."

"Grace" will be sharing family recipes for orange marmalade, sweet pickled peaches and molasses candy.

The former president of the Chicago Board of Trade, Robert McDougal, and his wife, Persis, will resurface.

The couple was married in 1902 and wintered in a three-story waterfront home on Victoria Drive. They had two sons, Robert and Christopher, who attended Ivy League schools. Dunedin's Eric Houghton will play Robert (1868-1949).

"We were members of the yacht club and held lovely parties on the water," he said.

"The crème de la crème," added Linda Sanders, also of Dunedin, who will depict Persis (1876-1964).

Letters found in the home showed the couple corresponded with the likes of Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, William H. Taft, John D. Rockefeller and a pope.

Though they were rich and well-connected, there were challenges.

Persis spent lavishly and had a nervous disorder that manifested itself through fainting spells, he said.

Robert escaped life's problems and pressures through his obsession with golf, she said.

Other re-enactors will portray a former fire chief, a woman said to be a witch, and an early settler.

Two encampments from the Seminole Wars will be re-created along the banks of Jerry Lake by "American officers" and "Seminole Indians."

Bring your camera. There will be a dressup station with old-timey costumes and props.

This year's presentation is dedicated to Army Spc. Zack Shannon, who died in a March 2013 helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Shannon is buried in the cemetery; flags to place on his grave will be sold for $1. Proceeds go to the Zack Shannon Scholarship Fund.

Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at

>>if you go

Annual History Comes Alive

What: A presentation by the Dunedin Historical Museum

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Dunedin Cemetery, 2400 Keene Road

Admission: $4 includes parking, refreshments, program, map and reproduction antique fan. Children 6 and younger free.

Information: (727) 736-1176

'History Comes Alive' in Dunedin 03/04/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 11:44am]
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