- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) - There are more people in the Sheridan Municipal Cemetery than there are in the city itself.

With 20,000 backstories ranging from World War I veterans to town founders, there is not only local but also regional, national and even world history to experience just by taking a walk through the plots.

Sheridan High School government teacher and history buff Tyson Emborg has been giving tours at the cemetery for a while now, but soon interested parties will be able to give themselves a tour armed with his research.

Emborg, along with help from The Wyoming Room and cartographer Rich Urbatchka, has developed a self-guided walking tour of the cemetery that he hopes will help make history more real for people.

The tour follows a logical walking path from the entrance and highlights 53 people or sections of interest with short snippets of information on each.

Emborg said the tour offers the intrigue of being truly surrounded by history.

“When you’re in different parts of the city or reading it in a book, you’re doing one thing at a time,” Emborg said. “But, when you’re at a spot in the cemetery, you look over at someone who is a Civil War veteran next to the Spanish American War and WWI and WWII and you find out that the history you’ve been reading about on a Utah beach in Normandy, for example, this person before you was actually there.”

He added that, to him, it makes history especially real knowing there was a Sheridan connection.

“A lot of historical things seem distant and far off, and it’s hard to put together, say, just how long ago the Declaration of Independence was,” he said, “but then you’re standing next to two people whose great-great-grandfather signed it so you think, ‘maybe this really happened.’”

In addition to the self-guided tours, Emborg has been leading walking tours in conjunction with the Sheridan County Museum, which he hopes will take ownership of the project.

“We had a very rainy and cold tour on Sunday afternoon and we had 26 hardy souls that ventured out and had a great time,” museum director John Woodward said. “Cemetery tours are a popular historical activity not just in Wyoming but across the U.S. You often find them connected with museums or historical interest groups in communities large and small.”

Walking around town from restaurants to parks, Woodward said, the history of Sheridan can be found, but only in the cemetery can you see it all in one place.

“These people are important because they helped build the foundations of the community we live in today,” Woodward said. “If it were not for Whitney, we might not have our college. If not for Kendrick, we might not have the shops downtown. A lot of the things we enjoy might not have existed without the efforts of these people.

“And for some of the lesser known people, it shows some of Sheridan’s historical flavor,” he added. “It tells the stories of our past that can only be told through the retelling of these characters.”

One such story is that of Horton S. Boal.

Born in 1865, Boal was the son-in-law of Buffalo Bill Cody and he took his own life at the Sheridan Inn - which was owned by Cody at the time.

According to reports, Boal was distraught over his wife, who had left him, and wrote a note to his father-in-law innkeeper apologizing for the “trouble I am about to make in your house.”

Just before visiting Boal, the tour brings you to the resting place of Delilah S. Sonnesberger, the first woman to cast a ballot in an election in Wyoming - done in the 1880s, long before women were regularly voting in other parts of the country.

These and other tales are told in the tour book that will be on sale for $5 soon at both The Wyoming Room inside Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library and at the museum.

“I’ve done a lot of research but there’s still a ton to be discovered up there,” Emborg said. “There’s a whole section of typhoid victims. If you’re in to different trials, there’s all sorts of shootouts and those kind of things. What about our founding mothers? There are whole lines of discovery up there that I hope people take what I’ve done - which is an extension of what other people have done before me - and take it a step further, that’s kind of my hope.”

Emborg said depending on your interest, there’s sure to be a connection to the cemetery; and further research at The Wyoming Room or the museum will help put together more pieces to the puzzle of our past.

“Every time you’re up there you find out how much more there is that you don’t know,” he said. “My hope was they would be able to go up anytime and get a general overview of the cemetery but there’s all kinds of stories up there, and I have lots more that could have been included, but I think the discovery is on the part of the participant, not on being told this is what you’re going to learn.”

Emborg and Woodward hope the tours will become a regular part of the museum’s offerings.

“We ask for younger children not to attend. A cemetery is a final resting place of a lot of people and we want to be respectful of not only the people we are touring but others there,” Woodward said. “Tyson uses the term walk with purpose, watch where you are. This is one of the reasons we’re very grateful the city allows us to do this.”


Information from: The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, https://www.thesheridanpress.com/

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