Dining With the Dead tells stories of area pioneers

Hannah Grover The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — People interested in learning about local history will have the chance to hear about area pioneers during the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club's third annual Dining With the Dead on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Greenlawn Cemetery.

The popular event has sold out in previous years, so Paul McQueary, a Kiwanis member, urges people to buy tickets early.

"We'll probably sell out this year, too," he said.

Dining With the Dead introduces people to many of the area's early residents, including Effie Bryce, Mother Agnes O'Flynn, Ike Stockton, Emily Jane Stockton, Charlie Mumma and Sylvester Blake.

"It gives people an opportunity to learn a little bit about the people who were here and founded this area," Tom Taylor said.

Taylor, who last year portrayed his paternal grandfather, Elmer Taylor, returns this year to portray his maternal grandfather, Charlie Mumma.

He was accompanied Friday by his grandson, Ayden Churchill, 11, who told the story of Mumma's childhood during a dress rehearsal at the cemetery.

Taylor said he wanted Ayden to portray the young Mumma because Ayden "looks just like him." Their presentation was pieced together using Taylor's memories and family stories.

"He was a rather stern man," Taylor recalled.

Mumma, who moved to Farmington in 1905, served two terms as a state senator and two terms in the New Mexico House of Representatives. He was also a city councilor and member of the school board in addition to serving on numerous other boards and commissions.

Mumma was also remembered as being intelligent.

"He read the classic 'Paradise Lost' and the Bible from cover to cover by age 9," Ayden said.

While Taylor will be portraying a relative, other actors had a little more research to do.

Charley Tyler has portrayed different characters each year, and this year he will be relating the history of oil and gas exploration in the region through the perspective of Sylvester Blake.

Tyler tells the story of when Blake was trying to dig a water well on his property that was located near the present-day San Juan Regional Medical Center.

During the drilling process, the well filled with natural gas.

"That blamed gas hole wasn't good for nothing but tossing matches in just to hear it go 'poof,'" Tyler told children during Friday's dress rehearsal.

Blake also was one of the early prospectors searching for oil in the San Juan Basin. While he never found the black gold, oil began to be extracted four years after his death.

Tyler told children that Blake's legacy can be seen in all of the oil and gas wells in the area.

"It's all because my water well brought up natural gas," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.