14 Skeletons found under a Pickle Farm


portraitaaaMeet Lyman Budlong (1829-1909) a  pioneer in the pickle industry, who built a massive farm of 700 acres in Bowmanville, now just a neighborhood on Chicago’s north side, centered about Lincoln and Foster. Budlong aerialaaaHe grew tomatoes, onions, carrots, and lettuce but his huge money crop was cucumbers and became one of the largest supplier of premium pickles. In later years he began growing flowers in a huge number of greenhouses. And, along the way,  he discovered skeletons buried on his property!Bowmanville areial2aaafarmaaa

At the peak of his vegetable operation,  circa 1900 he seasonally employed about 1500 women and children as well as 800 men harvesting 12,000 bushels in a day, 150,000 bushels of cucumbers per year. The farm extended from Chicago’s Foster Ave (5200 North) to Bryn Mawr (5600 north) and from Western Avenue (2400 west) to California Ave (2800 west)trib aug301903


One fine day, Lyman was excavating for a gravel pit on the far west edge of his farm and found a Native American burial ground is in the middle of California Avenue, (2800 west), 10 rods (165 feet) north of Foster, (5200 north) at about what today would be 5215 N. California

14 skeletons were found arranged in a circle, with all feet pointing to the center of the circle. The Indians were probably Pottowatomies and were of the Bowmanville Indian Village. The account further described the location as “when California Avenue is opened, the site will be in the highway.” Today this location is in the shadow of the growing Swedish Covenant Hospital complex.
A reference to this burial location is found in Evanston, Its Land and its People, 1928, page 63, by Viola Crouch Reeling of the Fort Dearborn Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. The book is described as being a “narrative” of Evanston history, “carried only to the year 1900.” It mentions that the gravel pit was excavated in 1904, exposing Indians buried with their feet toward the center. It further said that “the bodies were apparently well preserved until exposed to the air, when they crumbled, leaving only the skeletons. This was probably a Potowatomi Indian grave.”

looking north at 5210 n calif

Looking north in California Avenue from Foster today.
The cemetery would be about where the person is crossing the street

There is no record that the graves were relocated. Lyman Budlong himself died November 6 1909 and was buried next to his wife Louise Newton Budlong in Rosehill Cemetery, just a stones throw from his massive pickle empire and not all that far from the 14 buried Native Americans.


4 thoughts on “14 Skeletons found under a Pickle Farm”

  1. The Budlong mansion was a the northwest corner of Foster and Western. it later became the Drake and Son Funeral Home. In the olden days it was not uncommon to have the first night of a visitation “wake” with the family in attendance only. Some funeral homes had rooms with beds on the second floor. The deceased was dressed in bed clothes and placed in the bed for this private visitation. The next day the wake would be held downstairs on the main floor with the remains dressed and placed in a casket. Drakes had this arrangement and Mrs. Budlong’s family visitation was held in her former bedroom. Drakes moved to is present location in the 50’s and the mansion was torn down and the current building was erected.


    1. Hello Glenn, You are speaking of their CUURENT location at 5303 N Western.

      Prior to that they we in the old Budlong mansion on the NW corner of Foster and Western, the land later occupied by Henry’s burgers and then a convenience store. There are many obituaries for those waked out of the old location at Foster and Western. I remember that scary Victorian building as a kid on my bicycle. And even before that Drake was on Lincoln Avenue, about the 2200 block.


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