Cemetery1Beginning of cemetery tour
Tour2Part two of cemetery tour
tour3Part three of cemetery tour
tour4Part four of the cemetery tour
tour5Part five of the cemetery tour
The tale of Chloe, the legend about the crack in the wall and Midway’s very own version of Romeo and Juliet were recounted as wide eyed listeners moved from grave to grave at last Saturday’s legends and tales tour of the historic Midway Cemetery.
Tour guides Tony and Dianne Behrens and Daphne Eller donned clothing reminiscent of days gone by as they paraded a large group through the cemetery which is the final resting place for some of the earliest settlers of Midway and where General Daniel Stewart, for whom Fort Stewart is named, currently lies in rest.
The tour, in its third year, recalls the stories of the families and tales. All are based on factual events researched and verified by records on file at the Midway Museum.
“Up in our research library we have several books and records that contain information that back up the cemetery stories,” Dianne Behrens said.
She said they have purchase sale information regarding Chloe and information regarding William Robarts and his three wives.
Behrens said she saw the need to educate the younger generation about Midway’s history and the importance of maintaining the sacred burial grounds of the cemetery.
“I worked in the museum on and off with the museum all my life with my mom,” she said. “I recently moved back to work in the museum full time four years ago and I thought it would be a really good idea. For one reason a lot of teenagers were misusing the cemetery. I thought we could try to get them to come in and teach them about the cemetery so they wouldn’t do that. We found drug paraphernalia over there and stuff like that. We didn’t want it to be some spooky teenagers hang out. Plus the history is just so great.”
Behrens said she has taken several of the ghost tours in Savannah and noticed some of the stories told were based on folklore.
“Savannah has a lot of history,” she said. “But this is a tiny little town (Midway) that has so much history just in that one cemetery. I really want to promote the history any way we can.”
Behrens said her mother, Joann Clark, was the Midway Museum curator for more than 30 years. Dianne Behrens grew up learning and knowing the history of Midway and her daughter Daphne did as well.
“She’s been doing tours since she was a baby,” she said. “Ever since she could talk she had a little dress and she would give tours.”
Daphne’s daughter Vega will carry it on to the fourth generation.
“All my children were brought up in the museum,” Behrens said. “So they know the history, it just comes natural to them it’s like a second home.”
She said they enjoy doing the tours and it helps to preserve the rich history and educate the community about Midway, the cemetery, the church and the museum.
Behrens said they had 20 people at their first tour, last year they estimated nearly 30. This year they had doubled their audience size.
The Midway Church and cemetery are registered in the National Registry for Historic Places. The Midway Museum was built in 1957 and is managed separately from the church and cemetery. Behrens said maintain the integrity and history of all three was vital.
The museum was run by the state for some time until the Daughters of the Colonists took control. But they were unable to manage it. Clark worked for the museum while it belonged to the state and they allowed her to run the museum. The County later took control but the museum is now a non-profit corporation and runs primarily on grants and donations.
“The museum runs on donations and grants,” she said. “But right now we don’t have any grants and we need funds.”
On Dec. 13 the museum will host their annual Christmas Tea from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“We dress in period costume and we decorate the museum in that period,” Behrens said. “They prepare a fire in the old kitchen and they serve homemade cider and cookies and the folks can come in and get a tour and learn how people lived back then. Admission is free.
The crack in the wall
The crack can be found in the north wall of the cemetery.
Due to the high cost of the bricks, the wall was constructed by the free labor of slaves. During the construction two slaves started to argue. Because they had not completed their share of the work they were ordered to stay behind and finish their portion of the wall.
Instead the two argued and began to fight. One of the men struck the other in the head with a brick accidentally killing him. Afraid of what he did he buried the body within the wall of bricks. The next day he said the other man had run away. Later the wall was completed, separating the living from the departed. It was a beautiful enclosure and a sturdy wall, everyone was sure. Yet, no sooner had everyone admired the glorious wall, when it started to shift, crack, and crumble. Years later, they discovered the man’s treachery when they found the bones in the wall. After the bones were taken out, the wall was repaired. But, to this day, the crack in the wall remains.
The story of Chloe
By Matt Norsworthy
Near the middle of the cemetery are the graves of three wives, all of whom were married to one William Robarts. Yet all three of these poor women met unfortunate, early deaths.
Mr. Robarts had purchased a young mulatto girl from a ship at Sunbury. No one knew much about this young girl, or her past, other than her name was Chloe.
Chloe was placed as a servant in Robarts’ house, but upset Robarts’ wife so much that Chloe was sent to the rice fields to work. Mysteriously though, Robarts’ wife became suddenly ill and died soon thereafter.
Chloe was brought back to work in the house, yet this made Hannah, Robarts’ long-time house servant, worry. Robarts’ married again after about a year. Robarts’ second wife soon became angered with Chloe’s misbehavior and argumentative nature with everyone she came in contact with. Hannah even felt Chloe was thinking too much of herself and her place in the household.
Robarts sent Chloe back to the fields again exclaiming, “Chloe, if you can’t behave in the fields, I will have no other choice but to sell you!”
This turned out to be the wrong decision and action to take where Chloe was concerned. The very next day, Robarts’ wife became suddenly ill and died within a few hours.
Years later, Robarts married a third time. She lived for a few years, but died mysteriously as well. Hannah and the other slaves became suspicious and fearful of Chloe.† Some even claim that Chloe “totes poison.”
Mr. Robarts was a man of strength and determination, but couldn’t stand the loneliness. Yes, to everyone’s surprise, Robarts married for a fourth time.
On the night following his wedding night, he and his new wife had a party at their house. A toast was proposed and then Chloe served the wine.
The bride and groom decided at the last minute to exchange glasses and began to raise them to take their first sip. Chloe ran up to the front and knocked Robarts’ glass away and hysterically shouted, “That glass ain’t for you!”
Chloe then turned around frantically and yanked a black vial from her dress. She chugged down the liquid and ran out of the house yelling, “Chloe is gone ... gone ... gone!”
Chloe was never seen or heard from again, but you can go to the Midway Cemetery today and see the graves of the three unlucky wives of William Robarts.
Midway’s Romeo and Juliet
There is a tree just outside the east wall of the cemetery with a large branch that extends into the grave sites. Sylvia, the daughter of a wealthy man, spent most of her time with her best friend Anthony, the son of a servant, playing within the cemetery grounds as children. When she reached a certain age her father decided it was time to fins Sylvia a suitor. After a few different men, Sylvia soon realized she only loved one man, Anthony. He also pledged his lover for her. She decided to tell her father she already met a man she loved and invited him to dinner.
When her father discovered it was Anthony he was outraged and told Sylvia she was never to see him again. He threatened her by saying, “The next time you see Anthony, he would be dead.”
She was locked in her room and terribly upset. Hoping to see Anthony one last time she escaped and ran to their favorite spot in the cemetery to look for him. As she walked through the darkness she came to the area and searched for him. She suddenly felt something touch her shoulder. She looked up and discovered her lover hanging from the branch. A knife was stabbed in his heart holding a note. Somehow Sylvia was able to bring him down and read the note from her father that said, “I told you the next time you saw him he would be dead.”
Distraught Sylvia used the same knife and stabbed herself in the heart. Some say you can see the two lovers in their favorite spot of the cemetery, underneath the tree branch.