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posted: 8/28/2011 6:00 AM

Cemetery walk tells of small town's past

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  • Jack Thompson portrays Billy Beal, a lifelong resident of Minier, Ill., during the Minier Historical Society Cemetery Walk on Aug. 14.

      Jack Thompson portrays Billy Beal, a lifelong resident of Minier, Ill., during the Minier Historical Society Cemetery Walk on Aug. 14.
    Lori Ann Cook-Neisler/The Pantagraph

  • Andy Johnson portrays his mother's employer, Dr. Lembit Lainvee, a physician born in Estonia who practiced in Minier, during the Minier Historical Society Cemetery Walk.

      Andy Johnson portrays his mother's employer, Dr. Lembit Lainvee, a physician born in Estonia who practiced in Minier, during the Minier Historical Society Cemetery Walk.
    Lori Ann Cook-Neisler/The Pantagraph

  • Don Frietag talks about the life of his great-grandfather, Simon Adolph Conrad Frietag, during the Minier Historical Society Cemetery Walk.

      Don Frietag talks about the life of his great-grandfather, Simon Adolph Conrad Frietag, during the Minier Historical Society Cemetery Walk.
    Lori Ann Cook-Neisler/The Pantagraph

 
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

MINIER, Ill. -- In 1867, George Minier received a plot of land west of Bloomington for his work for the Illinois Central Railroad. He established a town which he named Minier and from that, residents with a wide variety of personalities settled in the small town.

Some of those residents who have passed on came back to life through portrayals done by current residents during the recent Minier Historical Society Cemetery Walk.

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"My great-grandfather was Simon Adolph Conrad Frietag," said Don Frietag. "He was from Germany and he came to the area about 10 years before Minier was even founded. He worked for relatives for $1 a day and he did such good work that a year later, he got a raise to $1.20 per day."

Those were good wages at the time, Frietag said. In fact, good enough that he bought 80 acres of farmland and established roots.

Seven different former residents were portrayed during the third annual walk including Billy Beal, a lifelong Minierite who owned a grocery store and was also a teacher and superintendent at the school.

"One of the interesting things about him is that at the time of his death at the age of 98, he had lived to be the oldest of any Minier resident," said Jack Thompson. "He died in 1974 and was married for 60 years and everybody in town knew him."

Minier is proud of its heritage, said Historical Society President Diane Bennett.

"This is learning about our past," Bennett said. "It's very informative and our actors have had a great time doing the research and learning about this town's history. Many of them are portraying family members and they can bring specific and real memories to their roles."

Steve Myers and Jann Israel told the stories of Gus and Martha Struck. Gus farmed near Minier for many years and also helped out as janitor at the local school.

"One time, we had a huge rainstorm and then it got freezing cold and the rain turned to ice near where the baseball field where the school is now," Myers said in his portrayal of Struck. "Well, I was about 70 then, but I went out and showed those kids how to ice skate. I don't think Martha was too happy about that, but they wrote about it in the local newspaper."

For Frietag and many of the actors, telling stories seems to come naturally.

"When my great-grandfather died, they said everyone in town came to his funeral," he said. "They said he loved to sit around and tell stories. Remind you of anyone?"

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