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Newton/Cohron Gravestone Dedication
June 24 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Since 2002, Vintage Voices has been a significant cultural event in our community. Every October, tours are held in the Alton Cemetery with actors, in period costumes, telling the story of Altonians who have shaped the Riverbend’s history. The Hayner Public Library District is proud to support Vintage Voices in this important work.
In addition to sharing local history, Vintage Voices has a role in contributing to it, particularly in the two recent portrayals of the Newtons. Charles Newton (portrayed by Jared Hennings in 2021) was the first Black graduate of Alton High School in 1873. He went on to graduate from Shurtleff College in Alton, becoming one of the first Black teachers in the St. Louis Public Schools. He later became principal of the Colored School No. 1 (also called Dumas). Sadly, he died at 30 years of age, on September 17, 1886. His funeral was held at Union Baptist Church in Alton. While researching Newton, Genealogy & Local History Library staff members discovered that his wife, Sara Woodson Newton Cohron (portrayed by Velva Parker in 2022), was buried next to him in the Alton City Cemetery.
Sara Newton Cohron had a distinguished career of her own. She was a very accomplished teacher in St. Louis and East St. Louis, and she continued teaching even after marriage. She was also a delegate to the Berean Baptist Sunday School Convention. She had what was essentially a prenuptial agreement for her second marriage in 1891, to Rev. John Lewis Cohron. Sarah Woodson Newton Cohron was also a founder of the Louis Colored Orphans’ Home (which is now Annie Malone Family Services in St. Louis). Sadly, despite their significant achievements, there was nothing to mark their graves.
Vintage Voices and The Hayner Public Library District worked with Gent Funeral Home, who generously donated a marker for Newton’s grave. While the marker was placed in the cemetery in September 2022, the dedication ceremony is planned for June 2023 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Prof. Charles Newton’s graduation from Alton High School. The Hayner Public Library District, Vintage Voices, Union Baptist Church, the Alton School District, the Alton Black Alumni Association, and other community organizations will be part of this important dedication. Jared Hennings and Velva Parker will reprise their roles as the Newtons. We hope you will join us!