Central Mine descendants return to ancestral home for annual service

CENTRAL – The original parishioners of the Central Mine Methodist Church, which closed its doors 115 years ago, are long gone. But their descendants live on, many of whom still feel the pull of their ancestral home.

The 107th annual Central Reunion takes place this Sunday at the church. Two nondenominational services will be held at 9 and 11 a.m.

About 240 people came to last year’s event, said Gary Bryant, a member of the reunion board of directors.

“These are folks that either have a connection to Central, an interest in Central or feel passionately about being where Grandma used to be in Central on Sunday,” he said.

Conducting the services will be Rev. Daniel Rosemergy, now an institution in his own right in his 24th consecutive appearance. Now a Nashville resident, Rosemergy is a Calumet High School graduate descended from two families who lived in Central during its mining heyday.

Rosemergy will continue a tradition he started years ago of taking a dozen or two of the hardiest faithful in a brisk morning dip in Lake Superior.

During the service itself, he’ll call up the children to the front of the church, tell them a biblical parable and give them a piece of copper.

In early years, some of the kids were hesitant to come up and meet the man with the booming voice, Bryant said.

“Now, they can’t wait to get out of their seats,” he said. “They scramble to the front to get as close as they can.”

The church dates back to 1868, when the Central Mining Co. built it for residents of the then-bustling town. The mine closed in 1898, dispersing the residents and shuttering the church.

Alfred Nicholls, Edward J. Hall and Thomas E. Mitchell helped create the inaugural event, inspired by a group of Central boys who were helping to repair the church.

The Keweenaw Central Railroad, which launched that year, ran two trips from Calumet to Central to accommodate the returning Centralites.

“That’s what gave them the idea,” Bryant said. “Now people who didn’t have any other mode of transportation had a way to get back to Central.”

People are encouraged to wear vintage clothing to the ceremony, and about a dozen do between the two services, Bryant said. As far as contemporary fashions, it varies.

“We have everything from blue jeans to three-piece suits,” Bryant said. “It just depends on what they want to wear.”

Bryant has his own connection to Central, dating back to a great-grandfather who was killed in the mine.

His dad started taking him to the reunions when he was 7.

“I’ll have six grandchildren at the service, so that’s kind of nice,” he said.

For more information, go to centralminemethodistchurch.com.