Actors haunt cemetery

Germaine St. John, center, portrays Christy Grover as she stands at her grave alongside Chris Knudsen (as Della Briggs), left, and Kathy Keenan (as Monte Arlington Grover) during a walking tour Friday evening at the Greenhill Cemetery.

Ravens circled over Greenhill Cemetery on Friday, and a brisk wind whipped between the tombstones as dozens gathered to witness Laramie’s long dead rise to tell their tales.

Sponsored by the Laramie Plains Museum, Laramie Main Street Alliance and The Unexpected Company theater group, the Sesquicentennial Walking Cemetery Tour featured actors portraying several of Laramie’s pioneers, who dazzled attendees with stories about their lives and their deaths.

“I don’t know how many burials are in this cemetery,” Laramie Plains Museum Collections Manager Judy Knight said, kicking off the tour. “But each one has a story.”

Splitting into various groups, the visitors meandered through the necropolis, learning quips of Laramie’s history from the living dead.

Christy Grover: 1853-1882

“I am Christy Grover, and I was one of Laramie’s ladies of the night,” Germaine St. John said, standing beside Grover’s marble tombstone. “I was born in Scotland.”

Flanked by two actors portraying Christy Grover’s fellow prostitutes, St. John’s pink and black evening gown rippled in the breeze as she recalled Christy Grover’s journey to the Wyoming territory.

“She followed the tracks to Cheyenne, where she became a highfalutin soiled dove,” St. John explained. “She did quite well for herself working at an upscale brothel in Cheyenne, before coming over to Laramie.”

With the money Christy Grover earned, she bought property in Laramie and married a known rascal named John Grover, St. John said. The duo established the Grover Institute, a brothel on Grand Avenue, but Christy Grover’s story was cut short at the age of 30, when she died of a gunshot wound. While John Grover insisted it was suicide, others suspected he pulled the trigger, St. John said.

Kathy Keenan adjusted her black and pink feathered hat before stepping up to resume the story as Monte Grover, Christy Grover’s friend who married John Grover after her death.

“Monte was a smart one, but she, too, died of apparent suicide,” Keenan said. “She tried to commit suicide several times, but finally succeeded by starving herself to death.”

Monte Grover died in 1895 and is buried in an unmarked grave, Knight said.

Eventually, the Laramie City Council forced John Grover to close the institute, St. John said.

Nathaniel K. Boswell: 1836-1921

A few rows away from the concubine’s final resting place, a squat stone marks the grave of Nathaniel K. Boswell.

Although no actor was available to recount the lawman’s life, Knight gave the visitors a summary of his accomplishments.

“N.K. Boswell was mining in Colorado and won the contents of a drug store while gambling — not the store itself, just the contents,” Knight said. “So he traveled up to Cheyenne to set up shop. The town was full of rowdy sorts at the time, and those rowdies needed to be taught a lesson. So, Boswell set up a vigilante mob.”

After lynching several people, the mob disbanded and Boswell moved to Laramie, where he rounded up more vigilantes. The second mob also hanged ne’er-do-wells and possibly an innocent person, Knight said.

“The Territorial Legislature decided (Boswell) would be a better sheriff than the one they appointed, which never showed up,” she said. “So, while he was Albany County’s first sheriff to show up for the job, he was the second one appointed.”

Later, Boswell was appointed as the first warden of the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

Augustus Trabing: 1841-1906

Partially entwined with a pine tree and surrounded by a sunken concrete barrier, a tall obelisk watches over the cemetery’s entrance.

The monument marks Augustus Trabing’s family plot, where he, his wife, Hannah, and his brother Charles are buried.

The two brothers arrived in Laramie when it was still a tent city, but soon owned a chain of stores in Laramie, Medicine Bow, Rawlins, Buffalo, Crazy Woman Creek on the Oregon Trail and Fort McKinney, said Nancy Mikelson, Augustus Trabing’s great-granddaughter.

“(Augustus Trabing) sold everything,” Mikelson explained. “His catalogue had 438 pages of items ranging from soup to wagons.”

From beneath a straw bonnet, Mikelson retold the brother’s trials that included one store allegedly torched by Native Americans, Charles Trabing’s death as a result of a wound received during a cattle drive and the flames that engulfed a store the Trabings built on the corner of Second and Garfield streets.

“Augustus and Hannah lived in a penthouse on the top floor of the store before it was burnt down,” Mikelson said. “It was quite the ordeal, because he employed more than 50 clerks at the store.”

Augustus Trabing built another, smaller store and moved his family out to their ranch in Sybille, northeast of Laramie, in 1898 before dying in 1906.

Call the Laramie Plains Museum at 742-4448 for more information about Laramie’s history and events. An additional cemetery tour is scheduled Sept. 7.

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