“Old Mike put to rest after 64 years,” the front-page headline in the now-defunct Nevada County Picayune trumpeted after the burial. Even though no one knew Old Mike’s real name or much of anything about him, his burial was big news — it had been a long time coming. Old Mike died Aug. 21, 1911, his death bringing with it notoriety he likely would never have experienced while living. Actually, what happened after he died accounted for his macabre celebrity status.
For 64 years, Old Mike’s embalmed body was on public display at Cornish Mortuary in Prescott, the wizened figure in its glass case becoming a fixture in the Nevada County seat as townspeople and tourists alike gawked and speculated. Some said Old Mike — a name bestowed upon the corpse by the mortuary staff — had been a traveling salesman who hawked pencils and other small items. Others thought he was a man down on his luck, who had been forced into the life of a hobo. Whatever his profession or origin, this man no one really knew was found leaning against an oak tree in the Prescott City Park with nothing on him offering information about who or what he was.