Sturgis Historical Museum offering a living history walking tour


The men and women from the pages of Sturgis history will come to life on September 18 and October 16 at Oak Lawn Cemetery.

Members of Sturgis Civic Players will present 12 “Notable Firsts in Sturgis History”.

The idea for the cemetery walking tour originated with the Sturgis Historical Society, which partnered with Sturgis Civic Players and the Sturges-Young Center for the Arts.

At the 12 burial sites, artists in period clothing will share stories from the lives of those who left their mark on Sturgis and are buried there.

Some are famous names in the history of Sturgis and others are more obscure.

Notable firsts in the history of Sturgis

List of historical community members and the people who will represent them during the walking tour.

  • Judge John Sturgis (Doug Camburn).
  • Ardillacy Sturgis, “the cookie lady” (Marsha Loyer).
  • Thomas Collins, first mayor of Sturgis (Doug Bates).
  • Susan Buck Wait, matriarch of the Wait family, who helped establish the first spiritualist church in Sturgis (Tonya Purlee).
  • Jonathan Wait, the other half of the Waits, a powerful couple of Sturgis (Paul Rooyakkers).
  • Mary Hackstaff, first librarian at Sturgis (Barb Neff).
  • Wallace Weatherly, the first person of color to open a law firm in Sturgis and in the first class of Sturgis Union School (Jeff Mullins).
  • Helen Walton Bishop, the first person to board a sinking Titanic lifeboat (Jacquline Harrison).
  • Clarence Jesse, the first pilot to perform a solo flight from Kirsch Municipal Airport (Colin Eastman).
  • Dr Nelson Packard who opened the first Sturgis Hospital in what is now Christmere House (John Thierwechter).
  • Ray and Elsie Kimball, the first couple to receive the Book of Golden Deeds award from the Sturgis Exchange Club (Joe Rambadt and Amanda Camburn).

Hour-long tours depart every half hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $ 12 per person. Tickets are available at

At first, the plan was for 10 people per tour group, said Jenifer Blouin Policelli, director of the Sturgis Historical Museum. But the slots filled up quickly, so more tickets were added to each time slot. These are also almost sold out.

At the end of the tour, guests will have the opportunity to tip the artists, supporting Sturgis Civic Players, who donate their time and talent, said Blouin Policelli.

The event is sponsored by Sturgis Bank & Trust.

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Patrick F. Williams

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