Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, March 10, 2019, pg. 4

We continue with our story about David Duncan, the Albion Hermit. Tekonsha pioneer Henry A. Perine (1838-1891) moved to Albion in 1863, and purchased land adjacent to Duncan's land-locked property. Duncan would regularly have to pass through Perine's property in order to access the Homer Road (Irwin Avenue). On Sunday, March, 1, 1868, a severe winter storm hit the area. On the afternoon of Thursday, March 5, 1868, Perine went to the hermit's abode and found him frozen in a sitting posture, covered with snow. Henry hurried back to Albion where he contacted Fitz Williams, who organized a group of men which included the Coroner, Dr. Willoughby O'Donoughue.

The body was taken to the Albion Fire House, located in downtown Albion at 115 S. Superior St. Duncan's body was placed in a large cauldron kettle of water to thaw out. An inquest jury determined that Duncan must have been sick and died of natural causes. One witness stated, "After the clothes were soaked off, the skin actually looked like a scurvy hog and as the frost came out the dirt would crack off in chunks." His obituary featured the headline, "A MICHIGAN HERMIT. A Man Lives the Life of a Hermit for Thirty Years in Calhoun County. He is Found in his Hovel Frozen to Death."

Duncan had kept his money in the National Exchange Bank of Albion. With his funds in the Bank and the $11.18 in cash which was found in his residence, a cemetery lot and a coffin were purchased for him, with the remainder of the funds used for purchasing a tombstone. The First Baptist Church minister Rev. P. Van Winkle delivered the eulogy. At some point his tombstone became damaged and was cracked in two pieces. In 1947 the Albion Evening Recorder paid to have "Old Dunk's" tombstone encased in a cement foundation where it remains today in Block 27, Lot 22, Grave 3 of Riverside Cemetery.

Had Duncan lived a few years longer, his seclusion would have been destroyed when the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks were laid between Albion and Homer in 1872 diagonally across his entire property. Dr. Palmer lamented in his writings, "He was a misanthrope, a monomaniac. Earth had no charms for him and his life was a dreary waste. He was an alien to all the better impulses of mankind. He died as he had lived—alone."

From our Historical Notebook this week we present the full photograph of David Duncan, and then Duncan's broken tombstone in 1947 just prior to when the concrete base was applied. How many of our readers have visited his grave?

David Duncan, full photograoh

David Duncan, TOMBSTONE 1947


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