A walk in the cemetery on All Saints Day

November 1, 2022

A walk in the cemetery on All Saints Day

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

N.G. Sayles

SCOTTVILLE — Nov. 1. Today has different meanings for different people. The Catholic and Anglican churches observe Nov. 1 as All Saints Day or All Souls Day or All Hallows Day (therefore, All Halloweens Eve, or Halloween is Oct. 31). Samhain, which begins on sunset on Oct. 31, is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. It is historically observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. In Mexico, Nov. 1, is Dia de Muertos, day of the dead, along with Nov. 2. 

Several years ago I happened to be in New Orleans on Nov. 1 and observed the tradition of cleaning gravestones in observance of All Saints Day. While I wasn’t quite ready to clean gravestones this morning I decided to attempt to start a tradition of honoring some of the dead by visiting a cemetery and reflecting on their impact on local history. I texted my friend and fellow local history lover, Lisa Cooper, who was willing to help start the tradition. We met at sunrise at Scottville Brookside Cemetery and toured some graves. Each of the individuals buried in those graves had multiple connections to the other in one way or another.

We started at the graves of Nathan G. and Clara May (Peck) Sayles. Nathan, known as N.G., founded the People’s State Bank of Scottville in 1911. The bank was located on the northwest corner of State and Main streets in the building that still exists at that location, known more recently as the McMaster Professional Center. 

The Sayleses lived in a house located at 202 E. State St., the southeast corner of State and Elm streets. The site is now the western portion of the Mason County District Library Scottville branch. The house was moved in the 1990s to Victory Drive, between Stiles and Amber roads in Victory Township and is now owned by Lisa and her husband, Paul. For this reason, Lisa has a special interest to the Sayleses, who had no children. 

N.G. died in 1913 at the age of 48. Clara died in 1950. They are buried on the western side of the south section of Brookside Cemetery with a large marble marker prominently displaying their surname along with two individual marble markers. They own several graves surrounding the marker, which will likely never be used. 

Photo of the Alway family, about 1922. From left: Evalyn, Clayton “Bud” (born 1922); Tom (born 1911); Eileen (Sisko, born 1920); and W.G.

Read more about the fate of the People’s State Bank here. 

Next, we visited the graves of Walter Glenn and Evalyn Alway, my great-grandparents, located just across the roadway from the Sayles’ graves. Walter Glenn, known as W.G., and Evalyn moved to Scottville in 1914 where he started a law practice that continued for about 40 years. My grandfather, Tom, was 3-years-old when they built a Sears American Foursquare house on the outskirts of the growing city on North Main Street; where I have lived for the last 16 years. 

Here’s the connection: W.G.’s law practice was located on the second floor of the People’s State Bank building. His practice outlasted the bank, which closed in 1933, a victim of the Great Depression. 

Just a few feet to the south of W.G. and Evalyn are the graves of the Mack family, including John Newton and Catherine (Coburn) Mack and their son, George and his wife, Flossia (Reader) Mack. My wife Becky and I have the privilege of being the current owners of the house the Macks built on North Columbia Avenue. We operate it as The Reverie Retreat. J.N. Mack jointly owned a general store in downtown Scottville with lumber baron Justus Stearns, along with a farm in Carr Settlement that fed the lumber jacks in that area, including the town of Stearns Siding. 

The Stearns & Mack Store was located at 132 S. Main St., the south end of what was most recently the South Main Tavern, known better around Scottville as the former Steve’s Bar. After Mack purchased his share of the business from Stearns he became partners with son George. It evolved into a menswear store and was sold to employees Ray Schulte and Charlie Thompson in the early 1940s. They eventually changed the name to Schulte & Thompson menswear. In 1947, Ray Schulte called some friends together in that store and declared that he was starting up the local town band again, after being in hiatus since 1941 due to World War II. Ray officially named the band the Scottville Clown Band. 

Stearns & Mack Store 1890s.

Emma Bishop and her 5-year-old daughter Ruth, a year after arriving in Scottville. Both Emma and Ruth taught at Amber Station School.

Just to the south of the Mack store was another building that Mack owned. In 1898, he leased the building to the new bank called State Savings Bank of Scottville. That bank has since evolved to become West Shore Bank. 

Read more about J.N. Mack here. 

Lisa and I then walked up the lane to the north. Next to the busy US 10-31 highway are the graves of Emma Bishop Loomis, her daughter, Ruth Falconer, and Ruth’s husband, David. The story of Emma and Ruth is a true pioneer story that celebrates a windowed mother and her 4-year-old daughter who left New York state for the frontier of northern Michigan, settling in a lumber town of Sweetland near the shores of the Pere Marquette River in 1880. In her later years, Ruth wrote down her story, which became the topic of June Newkirk’s master’s thesis and eventually a book, published in 1976, called “Back Home With Ruth,” the same year Ruth passed away at the age of 99. 

History seems to often be written about men. We are blessed, though, that there is a lot of written information about these women. And, here’s the connection between these two women and Catherine Coburn Mack. Both Emma Bishop Loomis and Catherine Coburn Mack were founding teachers of the Scottville school, which has evolved into Mason County Central Schools. Ruth also was a teacher in several of the rural one-room schools that now also make up the school district. 

Read the story of Emma and Ruth here.  

Our tour extended to the eastern portion of the cemetery where we paid homage to a couple other Scottville heroes, not necessarily connected to our above-named pioneers. Lisa and I chatted that perhaps this can become a tradition and we invite more people to meet at sunrise next year on Nov. 1 for a cemetery walk and a tribute to those who came before us. 

Brookside Cemetery, Nov. 1, 2022

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