Cemetery tour to bring Manistee history to life

Duane and Susan Coyle will be leading Cemetery Walk: The Women of Oak Grove during the next two weekends at Oak Grove Cemetery, located on Veterans Memorial Oak Grove Drive in Manistee. (Dave Yarnell/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Susan and Duane Coyle don’t pretend that they can bring the dead back to life; and they don’t necessarily believe in ghosts. But during their upcoming Cemetery Walk: The Women of Oak Grove, as they stroll around Oak Grove Cemetery in Manistee, they will be telling tales of a number of notorious Manistee women.

“We will be walking for approximately an hour and 15 minutes, and we will be visiting some women who lived in Manistee and talking about their lives, lifestyles back then, and even about a couple of ghosts who are women,” Susan Coyle said. “Also, I hope we will enjoy beautiful weather on those days.”

The tours will be held Saturday and Sunday and June 1 and 2. Those attending are asked to meet at the cemetery’s front gate at 4 p.m. The cost is $2 for ages 5 and older; there is no charge for those under 5. Proceeds are divided between the Manistee County Historical Museum and the Oak Grove Cemetery flower fund.

“Susan and Duane, a number of years ago, started doing cemetery tours in October,” said Mark Fedder, executive director of the Manistee County Historical Museum. “They do a wonderful job — the tours are very informative. They are getting really good turnouts for them, so they decided to do one on women.”

Fedder said that a lot of noteworthy women are buried at Oak Grove.

“There are lots of lumbermen’s wives who were very integral to the town; just a lot of unique individuals there,” Fedder said.

Susan Coyle said about a dozen women will be discussed.

“Philanthropist Carrie Filer is one; we’ll be talking about Gail Gardner, who was an international opera star; Nona and Rose Bauer, who are two ghosts who live on River Street; and Ruth Ramsdell Campbell, who had a 30-year career as sort of a Dear Abby columnist at the Nashville Tennessean newspaper. She came back after her death to be with her family at Oak Grove Cemetery,” Susan Coyle said.

“She is also a ghost at the Ramsdell Theatre,” Duane Coyle added.

Fedder agreed that Ruth Ramsdell Campbell had an interesting life.

“At some point in time I’d like to do an article about her,” Fedder said. “I’ve done some research and found that she was a very fascinating individual, not just because she was the youngest of T.J. Ramsdell’s children. She eventually married a gentleman who was some sort of an opera singer, they invested heavily in the Florida land boom, had some bad investments and went bankrupt.

“He passed away and then she was in Atlanta for a number of years where she was a good friend of Margaret Mitchell, the author of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ She ended up in Tennessee, where she was a newspaper columnist. She wrote several children’s books — we have one of them at the museum.”

The Coyles will be talking about a woman associated with a notorious murder case and a woman who is the lone occupant of the largest mausoleum in Oak Grove.

“Mrs. Kanouse is a member of the Salling family,” Fedder said of the woman interred alone in the mausoleum. “I’ve done a lot of research on her. She died in 1910 at the age of 34. She was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, but two years later her husband had this huge mausoleum built. It has room for six people, and she’s the only one in there. It’s the biggest mausoleum out there, and her husband is buried on the other side of the cemetery. Eventually I was able to figure out why she’s the only person in there — and Susan and Duane will let people know during the tour.”

The Coyles said they have appreciated Fedder’s help in researching the individuals they feature in their cemetery tours.

“Mark has done a wonderful job helping Duane and I acquire information about interesting people at the cemetery — men and women,” Susan said. “The cemetery is a great place to spark a fire if you are interested in history. Duane and I feel that cemeteries are a great repository of information. Cemeteries do not have to be depressing and morbid. They can be enlightning, they can be energizing and they can be very peaceful.”

 

avatar

Posted by Dave Yarnell

Dave was formerly the News Advocate features writer and retired in November 2013.

Leave a Reply