Here’s another interesting little Michigan village for you to drive-through: Alto, in Kent County.

Alto was started by the Skidmore and McVean families, who arrived from New York in 1846. The home of Daniel & Lucy McVean was used as a post office in 1851; Lucy is given credit for naming the post office and town, “Alto,” (after the Latin term 'altus', meaning 'high') based on it being the highest point of altitude between Detroit and Grand Rapids (is that true?).

When the railroad was laid through town in 1888, the community naturally began to grow. With the expanse of Alto, and the railroad bypassing them, little communities that surrounded the area – like Bowne Center and Merriman Corners – shrank down to shadows of their former selves. Merriman Corners’ Grange Hall was transported to Alto to be used as a general store and a new one was built in Alto in 1909.

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It didn’t take long for Alto to have a thriving town: businesses included a bank, barber shop, baseball team, beauty salon, blacksmith, cheese factory, creamery, depot, Dintaman Hardware, drug store, general store, grain elevator, grocery, harness shop, hotel, Hunt Produce, I.O.O.F hall, implement store, lumberyard, meat market, pickle factory, Standard Oil storage, and stockyard. People flocked to Alto in the evenings and weekends to partake in the hotel’s famous chicken dinners prepared by Clifford and Greta Proctor.

A new school was built in 1926 when the old one burned down; when the Alto Elementary school was built across the road in 1962, the old school was turned into an apartment building, which it remains to this day.

But yes, Alto has no cemetery - and before anyone tries to argue, I am very aware that there are other small towns that have no cemetery - with residents having to be buried elsewhere. Luckily, Alto's dead have found other places to rest their bones: the Bowne Center and Merriman cemeteries; in fact, to add to your history, search the graves of founders Daniel and Lucy McVean. They are in the Bowne Center Cemetery.

Now - on with the gallery...

Alto: The Town Without a Cemetery


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