Elgin Historical Society logoThe Elgin Area Historical Society (EAHS) will host its 26th annual Cemetery Walk on Sunday, September 22, 2013, at Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, from 11-3:00 p.m. This year begins a new quarter century of educating and entertaining visitors who enjoy both history and dramatic presentations.


This year’s walk features 6 former Elginites such as Edward Szula, an early professional parachute jumper;Mary Stewart, a 19th century woman who fostered a former slave child; Louis Blum, owner of Blum’s Ice Cream Parlor; Levi Tennant, Civil War African American soldier in the 106th US Colored Troops; Annie Tallent, Black Hills gold rush pioneer; and Polly Rutland, a freed slave who arrived in Elgin in 1862.


Edward Szula 1914-1970; portrayed by August Conte

Mr. Szula was one of two Ripley’s Believe It Or Not personalities from Elgin.  Edward Szula stepped from an airplane in 1938 with the intent of falling gently to the ground with the assistance of his parachute.  Unfortunately, it didn’t fully deploy and his descent was a little faster than he had planned.  He survived the plunge and lived until 1970.


Mary Elizabeth Stewart (nee Smith) 1846-1934; Portrayed by Linda Rock

Mary Elizabeth, who was known as “Lib”, was a beautiful red-haired woman in the Smith family home. Her father, Phineas, left the family farm to explore the gold fields of California in 1848. He returned without success, bought a dairy farm and successfully shipped the milk from his farm to Chicago, the first Elgin farmer to do so. This set the pace for Lib’s life and she continued to find success in life as well.


Polly Rutland 1798-1888; Portrayed by Traci Ellis

Polly was born into slavery in North Carolina. In 1862 she arrived in Elgin on the so-called “contraband train”. She was the mother-in-law to Arthur Newsome twice over, since two of her daughters at different

times were his wives. Polly was a pillar of her community and was one of the founding members of the SecondBaptistChurch. She lived to the age of 90 and died in Elgin in 1888.


Levi Tennant 1847-1883; Portrayed Rick Ellis

Levi was born into slavery in Alabama. He joined the Union forces in Decatur, Alabama on March 31st 1864 in the 106th United States Colored Troops. He served in a garrison unit until the end of the civil war. He came to Elgin after the war and died of pneumonia at the age of 36.


Louis Blum 1872-1941; Portrayed by Bill Briska

Louis was the owner and proprietor of an Elgin institution – “Blum’s ice cream and homemade Candies”. This ice cream parlor was located on Douglas Avenue for many years and it was a popular place for children and adults.


Annie Tallent 1827-1901; Portrayed by Bonnie Conte

Annie was born in New York, one of eleven children. Her father was active in the Scotch church, which later was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. In 1874 she traveled with her husband to the Black Hills in the Dakota Territories, becoming the first white female to enter this area.  Gold had been reported to have been discovered there and a group of men set out to try their hand at discovering it. The area was declared off-limits to any settlers by a treaty with the Native Americans and the group was sent home.