In a few months the Katy Depot and Crown Hill Cemetery will make their international debut in a documentary being filmed by a crew from Dublin, Ireland.
Stray Dog Films is filming across the U.S., tracking down the story of Mary Devine, an Irishwoman who, legend has it, walked from Peoria, Ill. to New York with her baby in tow in the late 1860s. Devine was married to Patrick Gallagher, who worked on the railroad and may have been buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.
“When we heard that Patrick may be buried here, we knew we’d have to make a stop,” said director John O’Donnell. “We have no concrete proof he died here, but seeing the town and hearing about its history with the railroad, it will definitely add some great details to the story.”
While at the Depot, film presenter Danny Sheehy spoke to local historian Ken Bird — dressed in a conductor’s uniform — about the history of Sedalia and its place along the railroad. As O’Donnell filmed, they discussed the Irish workforce that built the rails, along with conditions at the time and what sort of life Patrick may have had. Later that day, the crew went to Crown Hill Cemetery where Patrick may be buried.
“The whole film is really a journey of discovery,” O’Donnell said. “Finding pieces of Mary’s life to create a more full picture of who she was and why she may have made that journey.
Researching her life, we have found some interesting things. For instance, originally we thought she’d walked with a baby, but she actually had two daughters; one was probably 4 or 5, the other older, 16 or 17.”
Production assistant and researcher Deirdre Learmont got into contact with the city’s administrative assistant Joleigh Melte, who was on the scene Thursday, about the best places to film in town.
“(Joleigh) was great about finding Ken and the archives for the cemetery,” Learmont said. “Mary’s story is pretty fascinating. Why would this woman walk 1,000 miles to New York? We knew the bare skeleton of the story but not much else.”
The crew was only in a short time and had plans to drive to Atchison, Kan., on Thursday night to visit a convent one of Devine’s daughters attended, but said they enjoyed their time here.
“Sedalia is a great town. It really has charm,” Learmont said.
“It’s a bit like Ireland actually,” O’Donnell added. “Except for the weather. We were saying how nice it’s been. In Ireland it’s cold. We’d be running around with jackets on. When we walked into (Hotel Bothwell) last night I thought, ‘Now this is a real hotel’; very welcoming and right in the heart of the downtown square.”
O’Donnell said he also enjoyed seeing the historic downtown buildings that were probably standing when Patrick worked in town.
“You can really picture what it looked like in its heyday,” he said. “Even though we don’t know exactly what happened, as documentary filmmakers we’re obliged to turn over every stone and Sedalia was one of those stones.”