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Dine with residents of Rose Hill Cemetery, historical society’s annual “Dine with Departed” event is a big success

Posted on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 10:05 am


By Tiffanie Reynolds
Staff Writer
It’s not every night that you get to dine with Kissimmee’s past.
But, last Saturday night about 200 people, including some city and county staff, did just that in Osceola County Historical Society’s Dine with the Departed. It’s the society’s biggest fundraiser event of the year, held just before the change to daylight saving time.
Held on the grounds of the Rosehill Cemetery, participants are treated to a dinner, silent auction and tours of the cemetery, along with professional storytelling of some of the county’s well-known places and names. Although, it’s not all flickering candles and ghost stories. Walking around the cemetery by lantern-light, the county’s most influential people come to life—via reenactors—and tell their story.
“All the characters we pick area actually here in the cemetery, so we have a list of those characters. Then, we just find the ones that we can find the most information on. It’s really neat. A lot of people don’t know about the old history of the county, so that’s what we’re trying to highlight,” said Osceola Historical Society Program Coordinator Kimber Davis.
History is the focus of the event, with research going into each historical person selected, including actors dressed in period clothing and mannerisms. Those that participants got to meet this year include Dr. William Sears, who opened the general store that became Makinson’s Hardware and became the first superintendent of schools in the county and Samuel Lupfer, who was very involved with the city council and school board, as well as helped open a school in St. Cloud.
The cemetery itself holds some history. Originally farmland, it was passed from the Boswell family to the Morgan family, who gave it to their daughter, Mary. She then married to Rufus Rose, and the two turned the land to the city as Rose Hill Cemetery in 1905. Along with some graves moved to Rose Hill, many influential families and residents are buried in the grounds. But, records of the land and some of the earliest buried have been lost in a city hall fire in 1891, making researching some of people that the society highlights difficult.
The event itself was started by a suggestion from a board member of Osceola County Historical Society four years ago. Previously seeing similar events around the country, the society decided to try something like them in Kissimmee as a unique way to talk about the history of the county to residents. Since the first year they held the event, it has grown to two tours and about 200 people attending.
“Every year it kind of evolves. So, we try different things each year. Doing the tours at different times, doing different people, the set up is a little bit different each time.  So, it’s getting better each time we do it, but it definitely has evolved into something really good,” said Osceola Historical Society Executive Director Donnita Dampier.
This year was the biggest, best orchestrated and brought in the most funds for the society. All funds go toward future projects the society is working on, such as the expansion of Pioneer Village and their summer camp held every year.