Old Mike

The person known only by "Old Mike" was a familiar figure in South Arkansas from about 1908-1911. He sold pens, paper, thread and other small items from a pack made of canvas and leather. He was seen regularly in Little Rock, Hot Springs, Benton, Arkadelphia and Texarkana. No one ever knew a name, where he came from, or the existence of relatives. This man came to Prescott about every three to four weeks. He would arrive on the South Bound 3:00 p.m. train. He would work the streets and residences near the railroad and would stay over night at Black's (later O'Hollarans) Hotel on West Main Street. (Where Otwells Well Service is located). He would leave South Bound the following day on the same train that brought him to Prescott.

On an April night in 1911, a religious revival was being held in the City Park on the corner between the Old Armory and the swimming pool. Mike was found the next morning, dead, seated on the ground beneath one of the large trees. There was no sign of foul play. Apparantly he died of a stroke or heart attack. He was previously reported to have walked with crutches and was somewhat crippled on one side, which further supports his possibly have a stroke, as it could be surmised that he had suffered from one previously.

There was no identification in his pocket, luggage, or otherwise. He had no wallet or purse, just an envelope, blank, containing a small amount of cash.

Mike was embalmed by Cornish Mortuary, placed in a coffin and placed where he could be seen. Such cases were usually identified within a few days. Such did not happen with Old Mike. Efforts by the authorities failed to produce any information. Over the years, many people viewed the body; none could identify it. No missing person reported from anywhere fit Mike's description.

Here is a brief list of known facts about Mike. This information is from the Coroner's report issued by A.M. Ellsworth, Coroner at the time. I was furnished these facts by O.R. Ellsworth, son of the Coroner.

  • Mike was possibly of Italian or other Southern European nationality.
  • He was probably about 40 to 45 years old.
  • Had eigther suffered a stroke or serious injury to his right arm and left leg.

  • He spoke perfect English with little accent.
  • He had no known permanent address.
One unusual fact existed: Mike had very sophisticated dentistry performed. Local experts thought that such work could have only been performed in Europe, New York, or Boston. O.R. Ellsworth was an expert photographer -- he photographed the dental work. This work could not be identified in Boston or New York.

Hundreds of people viewed the body. No one could ever offer a positive identification. Part of the mystery is that Mike had very expensive dental work done, including several gold teeth. Samples of this work were sent to Boston and New York, the only areas capable of such sophisticated work at the time and no one could positively identify where the work was done. That, in conjunction with his speaking with a slight accent, suggests that he was probably from Europe somewhere, which also reveals why no one was ever able to identify his remains. It has been suggested that he was possibly of Italian descent, though some reported that his hair had a reddish tint.

There were two other bodies in Arkansas in similar circumstances. During the 1970s, the Attorney General of Arkansas, Guy Tucker, ordered all three bodies buried. Mike rests in a marked grave in DeAnn Cemetery. More can be learned by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9Q4GM19ROU and watching a short documentary made in 2009.