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Through These Gates: The Evergreen Cemetery Walking Tour

Posted on October 7th, 2021
Have you tried the Evergreen Cemetery Walking Tour yet? Here’s a first-hand experience, as told by Alpena local and CVB staff member, JoEllen DesRocher. 

This walking tour, created by the Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library and available through the izi.travel app, begins and ends near the cemetery chapel and will be an ideal afternoon stroll as autumn approaches and the leaves begin changing colors. I recently took advantage of a windy, overcast, “sweater weather” afternoon to take this tour.

Pro tip: make sure your phone battery is charged to at least 80% before starting. Mine died before I’d wrapped back around to Little Flanders Field.

Each point along the tour has a transcript you can access by tapping within the white border of each point along the tour. This will also give you additional notes, such as the section and lot of the cemetery where each individual is buried. You can also click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos and scroll through additional photos – the number of photos for each site is in the lower-left corner of each thumbnail next to a photo icon. Your guide in the app will tell you what is significant about the people on this tour. I’m going to give you a little extra help finding the ones I found challenging to locate.

Stanley S. Whitier, Vanderbilt, and Viall

Viall grave marker

After walking along Washington Ave. make sure you enter at the Evergreen Cemetery Gate – if you aren’t zoomed in enough on the map that opens in the app when you begin your tour, you may miss that the first marker. Stanley S. Whitier in Evergreen Cemetery is just inside the gates to your right near a signpost. The zinc Vanderbilt marker was a bit of a challenge to find. It’s made of a unique material but similarly shaped to numerous other markers in the area. It is behind a cluster of three similarly shaped, whitish markers, one of which is cracked near the top. The Viall marker is also shaped similar to numerous others in the area. It is easily seen from the Vanderbilt and has three small “traditionally” shaped markers to its right; one is a veteran and may be marked with a small U.S. flag.

Phelps Collins, Daniel Hanover, Dr. Cameron, and Comstock

The memorial to Phelps Collins is much more easily found if you know that it is nestled in an arch between several cedar trees. Daniel Hanover’s marker is also between a small copse of cedar trees. The Camperdown Elm is a bit harder to identify when it’s in summer foliage. However, the small, brick building that used to be the restroom is visible from the tree. Keep in mind that Dr. Cameron’s marker is far more covered in lichen than it was when the library took its photos. Using the six-pointed star the cemetery road system creates will also help. The photo of the Comstock monument is the last in the series of four. It’s massive. You can’t miss it.

George Henry Connor and Leon “Tony” Barnum

George Henry Connor, aka Black Hawk, the Poet Ranger, is literally in an unmarked grave. The audio will begin playing in the general vicinity of the space between where Ruth Jean Keetch and Peter Kelley are buried. There is also a dying conifer nearby (I think it’s a hemlock). Leon E. “Tony” Barnum’s marker may be completely covered by pine needles when you arrive. Look for Jeane L. Barnum’s marker and the two little angels on top of Mr. Barnum’s marker instead.

Nancy Knoodle, Young Jimmie Takagi Yoki, and Ester Eddy

Nancy Knoodle grave marker

While the famous, or infamous, Nancy Knoodle’s marker isn’t strictly speaking difficult to find, it is much easier to find if you look for the rusted chair just behind it. Young Jimmie Takagi Yoki’s marker is clearly seen on the corner of Section 19. However, it has been cleaned much more recently than when the library took its photos and is the tall, white marble you can probably see from James “Poke O’Dare” Darrah’s marker. Walking down the lane from the Yoki monument in Section 19 looking for Esther Eddy’s marker in Section 16 you’ll see a similarly shaped marker bearing the names “Eddy” and “Coville.” This is the correct marker. Esther May Eddy’s inscription is on the other side. She is the last Alpenian on the tour whose grave I had difficulty finding or is notably different from when the library took the photos included in the app.

I hope you enjoy this walking historical tour as much as I did. I had seen images of many of these grave markers on the covers of my dad’s copies of Alpena Gleanings, but never bothered to read about why these people were significant in Alpena’s storied history until now. If you want a unique, guided experience check out the events at the Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library for Evergreen Cemetery Tours. The one taking place this weekend is currently sold out.

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