Year of Lanier
Mansion to celebrate life
and times of the 1840s in Madison
re-enactors, carriages to highlight
funeral re-enactment, 1841 presidential visit
MADISON, Ind. (March 2000) The majestic Lanier Mansion and its
expansive sunken gardens hold an impressive presence on Madisons
And this year, the solemn, state-owned historic site will
come alive with the sights and sounds and colors of life in 1840s as
part of the year-long 200th celebration of J.F.D. Laniers birth.
Perhaps the most unusual in a series of events will be a re-enactment
in April of the funeral and graveside burial of Lanier's wife, Elizabeth,
who died of tuberculosis in 1846.
The funeral will be staged at 2 p.m. in the double parlor and conclude
in Madison's Springhill Cemetery on Elizabeth's actual grave. The public
is invited to attend, and visitors will be greeted at the door as if
they were stepping back in time to the real funeral of Mrs. Lanier.
A funeral may seem to be an unusual way of celebrating ones life
and times. But organizers believe the event will provide a fun and unique
way to educate the public on a variety of levels about life and
death during the period.
A lot of people may have issues with us staging a funeral, but
it is still presenting a part of life, and it helps us tell a story
about what life was like in the 1840s, said Melanie Maxwell, a
consultant from Greensburg, Ind., hired to organize the numerous special
events for the Lanier celebration.
Madison's Linda Limer, who works as an interpreter at the mansion, will
play the deceased. The Rev. Mark Porter of the Madison Presbyterian
Church will officiate the funeral.
Afterward, a restored, 1914 horse-drawn funeral hearse, owned by Dove-Sharp
& Rudicel Funeral home in North Vernon, Ind., will be used in the
funeral to transport the fictional deceased Mrs. Lanier to the cemetery.
Aboard the carriage will be Bill Bruggen, who has recently completed
a historical novel about J.F.D. Lanier that is scheduled for release
in May. Bruggen is the assistant director of the Indiana State Museum
and Historic Sites in Indianapolis.
The mansion, meanwhile, will be prepared for mourning using traditional
1840s rituals: black drapes on the pillars and picture frames throughout
the house, portraits turned against the wall, clocks stopped at the
hour of death, mirrors covered and straw scattered on the sidewalks
to help muffle the sound of footsteps to avoid intruding on the family's
Two men, called "glums," will stand outside the door wearing
dark suits and inform visitors that the house is in mourning. A recently
purchased piano forte, circa 1824, that sits in the front parlor will
be used to provide funeral music.
"We've had a lot of people interested in the funeral re-enactment,"
Maxwell said. "We're still working on the funeral route (with local
officials). Mt. Vernon (Va.) recently had a re-enactment of George Washington's
funeral, and it attracted a lot of people."
Kevin Hereford, who works part-time at the mansion, has been busy making
additional costumes for extra volunteers who will be playing bit roles
in the various events this year.
For example, Madison's Kim Franklin and John Nyberg will play William
McKee Dunn and his wife, Elizabeth Lanier Dunn, who was Mr. Lanier's
oldest daughter. Steve Kennedy of Indianapolis will play Judge XX Cravens,
husband of Drusilla, the second-oldest daughter. Drusilla will be portrayed
by Katie Beaver, a Lanier descendant from Louisville.
J.F.D. and Elizabeth Lanier still had four of their seven children living
at home in April 1846: Louisa, Margaret, Charles and the oldest son,
Alexander. Another son, John James, drowned in the Ohio River in 1836
at age 7.
Alexander Lanier will be played by the mansion's acting curator, John
Clerkin of North Vernon.
These re-enactors will join the mansion's usual group of costumed greeters
and tour guides, which includes Kevin's mother, Anna Hereford, Luis
and Judy Buckendorf, Sue Ellen Voris, Betty Copeland and Mary Clapham.
"I usually only have to make costumes for four people, but we've
got eight more volunteers to take care of this year," said Kevin
Hereford, 42, who has handled the costuming work at the mansion since
In all, there could up up to 30 people in costume for these special
events. To prepare, a seamstress in Greensburg, Ind., has been hired
to make some of them.
The year-long list of free special events began in February with an
unveiling of new portraits of President George and Martha Washington.
The two families were related. The event was held in part to mark President's
Day as well as kick off the Lanier celebration.
Several Lanier descendants attended the February event and plan to return
to Madison to take part in other activities.
This month, re-enactors will stage the 1841 visit to Madison by president-elect
William Henry Harrison. Harrison spent one night at Lanier's first home,
located across the street from the mansion, on his way to Washington,
D.C, for his presidential inauguration.
Richard Day of Vincennes, Ind., will play the president, a role he has
played before. He works as a seasonal interpreter at the Vincennes State
Harrison is scheduled to arrive at the mansion, as he did back then.
The Highland Chamber Players will provide campaign music, and a display
of Harrison presidential memorabilia will be on display in the hallway.
Harrison and Mr. Lanier will then take a carriage ride to the Broadway
Hotel and Tavern, where they will have a business lunch with other "local
businessmen." The public is invited to participate and dine with
"We're still working on the menu," Maxwell said. "We
want it to be as authentic as possible."
After lunch, the men will return by carriage to the mansion and retire
to the study to "talk politics."
In May, a special Lanier family reunion is being planned in conjunction
with the mansion's annual Lanier Days Social. This popular event features
Civil War re-enactments, period craft demonstrations and music. This
year, the weekend will also feature a three-hour Ohio River cruise on
the Belle of Lousiville.
In June, the mansion will be dressed for an 1840s-era wedding. In September,
the mansion's front lawn will be transformed into a concert hall for
the Louisville Orchestra, which performs Sept. 10 as part of the Madison
Main Street Program's "Music in the Park" series. The mansion
also will take part in the city's annual Chautauqua of the Arts festival
in late September.
The year-long celebration will culminate with a celebration of Mr. Lanier's
actual 200th birthday on Nov. 18. Festivities, which are still being
planned, will begin at noon.
"These special events will be great fun for visitors who come to
Madison and offer local residents who have never been to the mansion
an excellent opportunity to come down and see what it's all about,"
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