CHARLES CITY — Riverside Cemetery will be a lively place Friday. Eighth graders are making sure of that.
Since October, these Charles City Middle School students have been working on meeting many needs at the cemetery through their project dubbed “Tomb It May Concern.”
“The students have been working so hard on their chosen projects and we have had many successes and acknowledgments from the community,” says an email to parents from the eighth-grade teaching team of Ryan and Amanda Rahmiller, Tiffany Ranweiler, and Toni Smith. “One last way we would like to showcase our work over the last eight months is to have a community day at Riverside Cemetery.”
It will be from 2-5:30 p.m. Friday, May 26, and students will inform the public on their findings and work in a variety of ways.
“There will be many special events taking place,” the e-mail says. “We will have a live role-play of the James Cullen story, ribbon cutting of a new plaque that will be placed to commemorate those who died of diphtheria, videos produced by students will be played continuously throughout the event in the historic Riverside Chapel, a scavenger hunt, and many other displays will be presented as well.”
The Cullen story is that of Iowa’s last lynching. In Jan. 9, 1907, a mob of several hundred men, rammed down the doors of the Floyd Gounty Jail with a rail iron, and seized prisoner James Cullen, 62, a wealthy, white contractor, who murdered his wife and stepson the previous day, according to the article “Iowa’s Last Lynching: the Charles City Mob of 1907 and Iowa Progressivism” by Michael James Pfeifer for the State Historical Society of Iowa.
“Rejecting a suggestion from some of the lynchers who wished to fill Cullen’s body with bullets, one of the ringleaders insisted that a simple hanging would suffice,” Pfeider wrote. “Approximately five hundred residents of Charles City, including women and children, witnessed Cullen’s hanging from the Main Street bridge at 11:30 p.m.”
The eighth-grade drama club will present it’s dramatic retelling of the tale at 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the cemetery’s chapel.
Between Cullen performances, a movie about veterans in the cemetery and a documentary “What Hides Behind the Gates: The Untold Stories of Riverside Cemetery,” will be shown in the chapel.
A memorial for the victims of a diphtheria epidemic will take place at 5 p.m. at the resting place of the Fiji family.
The Nature Trail and the Bird Sanctuary group will give tours from 2-5 p.m.