200 North Main Street | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428
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Commemorating the Centennial of World War I

To commemorate the centennial of the United States entry into World War I, the Museum, in partnership with Illinois Voices Theatre Echoes and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, is pleased to announce that the feature characters for the 2017 Evergreen Cemetery Walk all played a part in the war effort--whether at home or abroad on the field of battle. Each story will illustrate the important role McLean County citizens played in “the war to end all wars.” However, the war brought out the best and the worst in Americans. Neighbors were turned against neighbors, the vibrant and visible German culture was pushed almost completely underground, and despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of African Americans fought in the U.S. military, they were still denied full citizenship and equal treatment after they returned home.

These voices will not only share their stories from “The Great War,” they will help us continue to educate members of our community about the historical importance of cemeteries, and the need to treat them with respect and reverence. We hope to inspire direct action amongst members of our community so that they can help us spread our important message and educate others as well.

Overview

Every year the Evergreen Cemetery Walk brings the voices of McLean County's history to life. Costumed actors portray individuals representing all walks of life from the county's past on the beautiful grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. This event serves over 3,500 people (mostly students) every year. To date, we have featured 172 different individuals from all walks of life, whose stories illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had on history – locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. In addition, the impact of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk can be felt throughout the state and nation. This award-winning, nationally recognized interpretive program is often referred to as the "granddaddy" of all cemetery walks. Put on your walking shoes and bring your family to participate in this fascinating, outdoor theatrical program.

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery is one of the richest historical resources in our community. People from all walks of life are buried in this over 150 year old cemetery. Rich, poor, famous, infamous, loved or forgotten alike, they are all buried here. Evergreen provides an honorable resting place for all members of our community.

This annual event is a collaboration between the McLean County Museum of History, Illinois Voices Theatre Echoes and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.

The McLean County Museum of History is pleased to announce that all students participating in the School Tours of the 2017 Evergreen Cemetery Walk will attend for FREE. We are committed to reaching out to diverse communities and removing barriers so that we can help as many students as possible discover our local history. Through the generosity of this year's sponsors, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery and Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, and support from our members, admission fees for students and chaperones to attend the 2017 Evergreen Cemetery Walk have been waived.

Please note that you will be walking approximately 1 mile, and standing listening to the actors for 5-7 minutes each. Each tour lasts 1.5-2 hours. We will have a limited number of wheelchairs and seat canes available to borrow for free, but if you have your own please bring it!


TEACHERS AND HOME SCHOOL FAMILIES:





Schedule

  • Saturday Sep. 30
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Sunday Oct. 1
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Saturday Oct. 7
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Sunday Oct. 8
  • 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets

Tickets will be available for purchase starting on September 5, 2017.

Please visit us to purchase tickets or for more information on purchasing tickets, please call 309-827-0428. Tickets are also for sale at Casey's Garden Shop, The Garlic Press, and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.

  • General Public
  • $17
  • Receive $2.00 discount on all tickets purchased before date. No discount for student or children's tickets.
  • Museum Members
  • $14
  • Receive $2.00 discount on all tickets purchased before date. No discount for student or children's tickets.
  • Children & Students
  • $5
  • Receive $2.00 discount on all tickets purchased before date. No discount for student or children's tickets.

Location

302 E. Miller Street, Bloomington. (three blocks east of Gene's Ice Cream Drive In)

Featured Characters 2017

  • Carl Vrooman
  • Carl Vrooman (1872-1966)
  • Featured with Julia Vrooman

    Carl and Julia Vrooman were one of the preeminent power couples of their day. Carl served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Wilson, and is best known for his agricultural work during World War I—particularly helping to launch the War Garden program. Julia, who was active in philanthropic work, decided she too wanted to help with the war effort. While she and Carl were in Europe, Julia began working for the YMCA with American soldiers at the front. In no time, she formed a jazz band comprised of soldiers to entertain and improve the morale of troops stationed in Europe. First Featured in 2008.

    To read Carl Vrooman's biography, click here.


  • Julia Scott Vrooman
  • Julia Scott Vrooman (1876-1981)
  • Featured with Carl Vrooman

    Carl and Julia Vrooman were one of the preeminent power couples of their day. Carl served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Wilson, and is best known for his agricultural work during World War I—particularly helping to launch the War Garden program. Julia, who was active in philanthropic work, decided she too wanted to help with the war effort. While she and Carl were in Europe, Julia began working for the YMCA with American soldiers at the front. In no time, she formed a jazz band comprised of soldiers to entertain and improve the morale of troops stationed in Europe. First featured in 2008.

    To read Julia Vrooman's biography, please click here.


  • Julia Holder
  • Julia Holder (1884-1970)
  • Julia Holder was dedicated to meeting the needs of others her entire life—be it her family, her students, or local and international relief efforts. A longtime teacher at Bloomington High School, Holder worked on behalf of the Red Cross War Fund and was in charge of a “corps” of volunteers cutting gauze to make surgical bandages for war-wounded during World War 1. She even played the part of a refugee mother in the huge parade sponsored by the Bloomington Red Cross in May 1918. Weekend Only Performance.

    To read Holder's biography, please click here.

  • Edward Bynum
  • Edward Bynum (1895-1954)
  • Featured with Lincoln Bynum.

    Edward and Lincoln Bynum fought heroically alongside one another on the battlefields of France during World War I. So fiercely did they fight, that the all African American 370th U.S. Infantry quickly earned the nickname “The Black Devils” from German troops unfortunate enough to encounter them in battle. Though these men were treated much better by French soldiers than their American counterparts, when the Bynums returned home in February 1919, they were greeted by their father and thousands of grateful Americans who lined the streets of Chicago to show their respect for this brave band of brothers.

    To read Edward Bynum's biography, please click here.

  • Lincoln Bynum
  • Lincoln Bynum (1900-1977)
  • Featured with Edward Bynum.

    Edward and Lincoln Bynum fought heroically alongside one another on the battlefields of France during World War I. So fiercely did they fight, that the all African American 370th U.S. Infantry quickly earned the nickname “The Black Devils” from German troops unfortunate enough to encounter them in battle. Though these men were treated much better by French soldiers than their American counterparts, when the Bynums returned home in February 1919, they were greeted by their father and thousands of grateful Americans who lined the streets of Chicago to show their respect for this brave band of brothers.

    To read Lincoln Bynum's biography, please click here.

  • Ethel Hamilton Hanson
  • Ethel Hamilton Hanson (1882-1920)
  • Ethel Hamilton Hanson was a popular member of society circles and active in educational and charitable work in the community. Before her marriage to Frank Hanson at the age of 28, she was a math teacher at Bloomington High School, among other places. Though she left behind her teaching career, marriage did not keep Hanson from her civic obligations. When the U.S. entered World War I, she became an “ardent war worker,” working tirelessly to help organize the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense in McLean County, and was active in Red Cross and YWCA work.

    To read Ethel Hamilton Hanson's biography, please click here.

  • Roland Read
  • Roland Read (1895-1954)
  • Roland Read was thrice rejected for volunteer service in the U.S. Army, and then rejected from the draft due to defective eyesight during World War I. While Read persevered and joined the American Field Services for transport duty in France, upon his arrival there, Read was once again rejected for service. A tenacious young man and true patriot, Read then applied to, and was accepted by, the French Army. During the next tumultuous year, duty would take him from Paris, France to Saloniki, Greece where he served as a First Lieutenant in the Serbian Army.

    To read Read's biography, please click here.

  • Carolyn Schertz Geneva
  • Carolyn Schertz Geneva (1892-1992)
  • Carolyn Schertz Geneva entered Brokaw School of Nursing when she was about 19 years old. Upon graduation three years later, Geneva was made head nurse for the surgical department at Brokaw Hospital, which coincided with the outbreak of World War I in Europe. Three years later, Geneva began working for the recently founded Bloomington chapter of the American Red Cross. There she taught classes in surgical dressing and, in August 1917, joined an Army Medical Unit and was stationed in tents set up along the west coast of England for six perilous months. First featured in 1998.

    To read Geneva's biography, click here.

As was true from coast to coast across the United States, McLean County men from all walks of life answered the call to arms when the country entered the Great War on April 6, 1917. Over 5,000 men served in the military--half of whom volunteered; half of whom were drafted. An additional 675 faculty, students, and alumni from Illinois State Normal University also answered the call of duty. However, men were not the only ones who pledge themselves to the war effort. At least 35 McLean County women, with an additional eight women from ISNU, served as Army nurses at U.S. military bases and overseas in Europe during the war.

As part of the commemoration of the centennial of the U.S. entering World War I, the Museum, took on the monumental task of identifying veterans of the First World War who are buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. Out of more than 6,000 names of individuals from McLean County and students who attended ISNU who served in the war, we have successfully identified 180 soldiers and nurses buried in the cemetery. During this year's Evergreen Cemetery Walk, the graves of these individuals will be marked with American flags and poppies.

To see the full list of World War I Veterans buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, including names, date of death, burial location, and service information, please download this pdf.

This is an ongoing project. If you know of a veteran of World War I who is buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery and is not on our list, please contact the Museum at education@mchistory.org or 309-827-0428.

Biographies

To read biographies of past cemetery walk characters, visit the biographies page of our online resources.