10/27/17 — A ghoulish lesson in Mount Olive history

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A ghoulish lesson in Mount Olive history

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 27, 2017 5:50 AM

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Ashley Walls, right, portrays the ghost of Eva Wilkins during Thursday night's ghost walk at Maplewood Cemetery in Mount Olive.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Creepy? No way.

Scary? Not at all.

Would she walk through Maplewood Cemetery with its aged large tombstones without the benefit of lanterns and the safety of a crowd?

"No way," said 10-year-old Skylar Ingram as the group she was with finished a ghost walk Thursday night through the graveyard.

"I really didn't know what to expect," she said of her first ghost walk.

Instead of vengeful spirits, ghouls and things that go bump in the night, the 115 who participated in the walk received an education in the town's history.

The walk, featuring five "ghosts" of some of the town's earlier citizens, was a joint project of Steele Memorial Library and the Mount Olive Area Historical Society.

It was held from 6 to 7:45 p.m. and golf carts were used to ferry participants to and from Steele Memorial Library.

Pathways were lighted and a lantern lighted the area near each "ghost" as participants were ushered around by volunteer "ghosts" from the Mount Olive Area Historical Society.

The "ghosts" being represented were Elizabeth Breazeale and her husband, Pete Breazeale, Eva Wilkins, Sam Byrd and David John Aaron.

Breazeale served as mayor, helped organize the town's fire department and was one of the incorporators for the Bank of Mount Olive, now Southern Bank and Trust.

Elizabeth Breazeale had an art studio in her home where she taught many local students.

Her "ghost" told participants she created quite a stir when people found out she smoked in her studio.

She was a poet and organized the Mount Olive Woman's Club, a social and civic group, around 1917.

Wilkins was active in the First United Methodist Church and was a charter member, and long-term president, of the Galatea Club that was formed in 1920.

She was 104 when she died July 15, 2002.

Byrd began his theatrical career in New York City in 1929 performing in 14 Broadway plays by 1952. Byrd played Dude Lester in "Tobacco Row" in 1,151 performances. Byrd also produced four Broadway plays.

He wrote two books including "Small Town South" in 1942 depicting life in Mount Olive and Sanford.

As a U.S. Navy officer, Byrd helped evacuate casualties from the Normandy beaches during D-Day. He was beach master of landing operation in the Battle of Okinawa.

Aaron served as mayor and alderman in Warsaw in Duplin County before moving to Mount Olive in 1881.

In 1883, he founded, edited and published the Mount Olive Telegram, the town's first newspaper until 1890.

He was one of the original incorporators of the Bank of Mount Olive, now Southern Bank.

In 1902, he was elected to the state senate, the first person from Mount Olive to serve in the state legislature. He served two terms.

Paige Newcomb, reference librarian assistant at Steele Memorial Library, came up with the idea for the ghost walk, and then approached Ken Dilda, president of the Historical Society, for help.

The event was free, but tickets were required. Close to 115 signed up.

"We had a lot more interest than that, we just ran out of tickets," Newcomb said. "I was excited and very pleasantly surprised (at the interest). We want this to be an annual thing. Next we hopefully will be able to do it two nights so we can accommodate more people.

"We weren't sure what the interest would be like, but we are just thrilled. I am just so tickled."

She attributed the walk's success to a growing interest in ways to celebrate Halloween.

It was also a way to honor and celebrate local history, Newcomb said.

"They learned something they might not have known" she said. "I think they were interested in that. We have had really good feedback so far from the groups that have been through."

Dilda said he, too, was pleased with the collaborative effort.

"It has made for a good project I think and the comments I have heard have been positive," he said. "We are hoping to build on this and do more other type things like this.

"I am pleased and look forward to more."

Boy Scout Troop 200 members helped guides. They also assisted with the setup and breakdown following the walk.

Girl Scout Troop 389 provided refreshments including Girl Scout cookies.