2005-08-06 / News

Island Cemeteries Provide Backdrop for Tombstone Tales

By Karen Gould

Those brave enough to take the Tombstone Tales guided tour will find eerie, weather-worn grave markers like these from the 1800s.
Those brave enough to take the Tombstone Tales guided tour will find eerie, weather-worn grave markers like these from the 1800s. As shadows grow longer, darkening the grounds of the Island’s three secluded cemeteries, past Island characters appear beside gravestones ready to tell stories of life, mostly in the 1800s.

Tombstone Tales, a production of Mackinac State Historic Parks, gives visitors a walking tour of Mackinac Island’s Post Cemetery, Ste. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery, and the Mackinac Island Cemetery, known locally as the Protestant Cemetery. Park interpreters and Island residents present eight vignettes of people buried here. Docents at each cemetery provide history and are available to answer questions.

Matthew Geary’s grave will be one of the stops on Tombstone Tours. He is the subject of the Island’s rumored ghost story.
Matthew Geary’s grave will be one of the stops on Tombstone Tours. He is the subject of the Island’s rumored ghost story. The character actors in period costumes make this one of the Park’s most popular special programs, said Katie Cederholm, who is in charge of the event and is the museum educator for Mackinac State Historic Parks. “The setting of the cemeteries, the ambiance, and the interpreters make it very authentic,” she said.

An Irish servant girl will tell visitors a tale about her employer, Matthew Geary, who is buried in the cemetery. “It’s a ghost story that’s been passed on through the years,” said Ms. Cederholm. Mr. Geary was a fish inspector in the 1800s. He lived next to the American Fur Company store on Market Street where, upon his death, a wake was held for him. The servant girl talks about turning around on her way to the cemetery and hurrying back to his house to get a pair of gloves she had left there. When she opened the door and looked up, she saw his ghost.

Other stories include a lighthouse keeper who was lost at sea, a mother who laments the loss of two children during early Island life, and Rosa Webb, who started the first Girl Scout Troop in Michigan on Mackinac Island. She died in 1942 and some Island residents still remember her.

Tombstone Tales does not take place every year, explained Ms. Cederholm. The park likes to rotate special programs, and the last time it was presented was in 2001. Last year, the Park offered a candlelight walking tour of Fort Mackinac. She speculated that next year might be a candlelight tour of downtown. Rotating the events gives visitors a chance to see something different each year.

“The programs are fun and educational at the same time,” she said.

Some of this year’s characters are based on a 16-page history of the Mackinac Island Post Cemetery by Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter.

Tours for Tombstone Tales begin anytime between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday, August 10. The cemeteries are on Garrison Road, a half mile north of Fort Mackinac within Mackinac Island State Park.

Prices are $35 for families, $12 for adults, $6 for children 6 through 17, and free to children five and under, and the program is free to Mackinac Associates, except Heritage level members. Tickets are available at the Post Cemetery or in advance at Fort Mackinac and the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center.

Ferry service to Mackinaw City continues until 10 p.m.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2005-08-06 digital edition