Davenport's historic Oakdale Memorial Gardens is the final resting place of many of Davenport's most notable residents and on Saturday, Sept. 15, the public will have an opportunity to hear some of those people's stories.
The cemetery's biennial Living Epitaphs walking tour will begin with an opening ceremony at noon, followed by the first tour at 12:15 p.m. Additional tours will embark every half hour until the last one leaves at 3:45 p.m. They will last about an hour and 15 minutes.
Costumed characters will play the parts of various individuals, focusing this year on those who were prominent in early agriculture and manufacturing.
Participants will learn about the Kohrs Packing Plant that was the largest plant in Davenport before being sold to Oscar Mayer.
They will hear how Mary L. Putnam not only helped create and fund today's Putnam Museum, but also farmed and gave food to the needy so all could have fresh produce.
They'll be introduced to Miles Collins, a livestock farmer, as he recalls the first Scott County Fair that he attended as a young adult.
Admission is $5. Proceeds will help to maintain the 78-acre Oakdale, located at 2501 Eastern Ave. In 2015 the cemetery was accepted for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, a listing maintained by the U.S. Park Service.
Areas of significance for Oakdale include its building architecture, landscape architecture and ethnic heritage, including European and African-American, during the years from 1855, when the first burials occurred, to 1965.
In the architecture category, Oakdale contains thousands of markers, monuments and mausoleums in the Gothic Revival, Romanesque and Classic Revival styles.
In the area of landscape architecture, the design of the original 40 acres was drawn by landscape designer George F. de la Roche of Washington, D.C., and included rolling hills, paved roadways, grass alleys and a lake.
As for its heritage, a large number of European descendants buried there were significant both locally and statewide.
Among them were about half of Davenport's mayors, the first doctor, members of Congress, Civil War veterans, original Scott County pioneers (who were here before Dec. 31, 1840) master architects, merchants, lumber barons and children from the Iowa Soldiers' Orphans' Home.
Significant individuals include Phebe Sudlow, the first female public school superintendent in the United States, and Leon Bix Beiderbecke, the Davenport-born jazz great.
And, as has been revealed in the past several years through research by high school students in Nebraska, Oakdale contains the graves of at least 11 former slaves who escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad.