Old Mike (?–1911)

Old Mike is the name given to a traveling salesman who died in 1911 in Prescott (Nevada County). The people of Prescott only knew him by his first name, Mike. He was subsequently embalmed and publicly displayed for over sixty years.

Mike visited Prescott about once a month to sell pens, paper, and thread to homes and businesses near the railroad tracks in the center of town. He would arrive on the southbound 3:00 p.m. train and stay overnight. The next day, he would re-board the 3:00 p.m. train and continue his journey.

On April 11, 1911, Mike probably attended an outdoor revival in the city park. The next day, his body was found underneath a tree in the park, where he had apparently died of a heart attack or stroke.

The body was taken to the Cornish Funeral Home, where it was embalmed. A search of Mike’s belongings did not turn up any identification. What was known about Mike was that he was forty to forty-five years old; spoke English with little accent; was probably Italian; had suffered some type of injury to his right arm and left leg, possibly the effects of a stroke; and had had very elaborate dental work done. The body was placed on display at the funeral home in hopes of someone identifying it. No one came forward to identify or claim the body.

As the years passed, it became more and more unlikely that Mike would ever be identified. The body turned into somewhat of a tourist attraction, and people traveled from surrounding areas to view the remains.

In 1975, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office asked Cornish Funeral Home to bury the body. On May 12, 1975, a quiet ceremony was held at the DeAnn Cemetery, and Old Mike was put to rest.

For additional information:
“Mike.” Nevada County Depot and Museum. http://www.depotmuseum.org/articles.php?article=25 (accessed May 13, 2011).

Nichols, Mike. “The Mystery of Prescott’s Ol’ Mike.” The Old Time Chronicle. February–March 1996, pp.10–12, 42.

David Sesser
Nevada County
Depot and Museum

Last Updated: 05/13/2011