Not all people can afford a nice casket. For those without funds or family, the county would bury a body in a simple pine box. The costs were well documented back in the day. In 1885 the Cook County undertaker stated that his largest annual budget item was $404.03 for the lumber to build simple pine coffins. He spent an additional $19.50 on “nails, tacks, screws etc.” as well as $4.45 on muslin trimmings “at 10 cents per yard”. For the year ending in August of 1885, the County undertaker buried 990 souls in Cook County Cemetery at a cost calculated at only 43 cents per casket. In addition, he had a salaried coffinmaker at $360 per year ($30 per month) which resulted in a total cost to Cook County of only 79 cents per casket for materials and labor .
8,510 Chicagoans died in a matter of months despite signs placed in theatres, streetcars and elevated trains to warn against the danger of spitting, coughing, and sneezing . Undertakers and cemeteries were overwhelmed. There were orders that wake attendance be limited to 10 people at a time. Public funerals were totally prohibited for a time.
John Robertson, the Chicago Comissioner of Health warned theater managers to ensure that patrons used handkerchiefs or that he would shut down their establishments. Churches, schools, theaters, restaurants, streetcars, and other places where people congregated were ordered to maintain proper ventilation . The Illinois Influenza Advisory Commission ordered the hard closing of all nonessential places including theaters, cabarets, dance halls, skating rinks and other venues. These establishments were not re-opened until they supposedly passed an inspection by the health department. Large gatherings were banned including conventions, lectures and debates, club and society meetings, union gatherings, athletic contests, lodge meetings, Billiard and bowling matches and political meetings. Banquets and weddings were postponed. Children playing in the parks were told to go home. Church services were instructed to be brief . Hotels were ordered to keep their lobbies clear of loiterers. Oddly, saloons could remain open, as could poolrooms and bowling alleys, so long as they were properly ventilated however bars were raided for disobeying the crowd-size violations set by the city. Smoking on all streetcars, elevated trains, and suburban rail lines. Businesses were asked to stagger working hours in an attempt to minimize crowds on public transportation
Despite all of these restrictions , the human toll in Chicago in 1918 was staggering. Former mayor John Hopkins and pioneer educator Ella Flagg Young were the most prominent victims. And there were the thousands of others, known only to their family and friends.
So what happened?
The Spanish Influenza was one of the deadliest epidemics in history, lasting from 1918 to 1919 and during another time of crisis – World War I. . An estimated 50 million people, 3% of the world’s population died. 675,000 in the United States alone. Of those, 8,500 lived in Chicago. One-fifth of the world’s population suffered from the disease.
There are three theories as to where it began. One was China, another a British Army base in France, and the third Haskell County Kansas. 99% of the fatalities were under 65 and 50% were healthy young adults between 21 and 40.
On March 11, 1918, Army Pvt. Albert Gitchell at Fort Riley, Kansas reports to the camp hospital complaining of fever, sore throat, and headache. Before the day is over, over 100 soldiers fall sick. A week later, 522, cases had been reported at Fort Riley in what would be the mildest of the flu’s three waves. Forty-six died at Fort Riley that Spring .
The epidemic began locally on September 8, 1918 when several sailors reported sick at the Great Lakes training station just 32 miles north of Chicago. It became evident that the Influenza would soon spread and it certainly did. Officers instituted isolation and quarantine controls, ordered all 50,000 sailors to be given daily nose and throat, placed 1,000 men in isolation and ordered an additional 4,000 sailors under quarantine for suspect contact with the ill, and cancelled all liberty leave for enlisted sailors. And in weeks, the Flu hit Chicago hard. The most visible lasting effect are the thousands of gravestones in Chicago cemeteries.
On January 18, 1930, Paul Gerhardt Sr. the Board of Education architect released plans for three schools to be built in the shadow of Riverview Amusement Park on a former clay pit on the southwest corner of Addison and Western in Chicago.
All three schools were to be named after Albert Grannis Lane, a renowned educator. There was to be the Lane Junior College, Lane Technical High School and the Lane Trade School. Due to the financial problems caused by the depression, only one building, the Albert G.Lane Technical High School was completed. In 2004 it was renamed to the Lane Technical College Preparatory High School.
The festive Kinderheim Picnic was held annually at Lake Street and Addison Road in Addison Illinois twenty-eight miles west of Chicago. It was a scene of thousands of happy children and families, music, hymns, games, and a baseball game.
There was also a tour of the German Evangelical-Lutheran Orphan Home Association of Northern Illinois which hosted the event.
It was so popular that in 1890, five of Addison’s citizens formed the Addison Railroad Company and made an agreement with the Illinois Central Railroad to maintain the short two mile line connecting Addison to the Illinois Central Railroad that came out of Chicago. The very first train came to Addison for the Orphan Home Picnic on September 21, 1890. The picnic train doubled festival attendance from 5,000 to 10,000.
After a wonderful outing on that September day, the thousands of children and adults began boarding trains back to Chicago about 5PM. The picnic train was actually four trains, the fourth and last containing eight passenger coaches. About 7PM, that eastbound train was standing at the Kedzie avenue crossing and on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad tracks, only a few feet from the Douglas Park station, warned by semaphore of a danger ahead. About fifteen minutes later as the picnic train was about to proceed, disaster struck. A Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Downer’s Grove express train crashed into the rear car of that fourth section of the picnic train.
Festive had turned to disaster. Read on for the human toll.
Many of us think of ghosts to be an apparition of someone who has died. Ghosts are generally described as solitary, human-like essences. The overwhelming consensus of science is that ghosts do not exist but I take no position that they exist or do not.
But what if a church is a ghost?
The German Lutherische Zions Church at 826 W. 19th was built in the Pilsen neighborhood on the lower west side of Chicago, Illinois. The 90-foot-tall bell tower, sturdy wooden doors, worn Chicago brick, and Gothic German script above the entrance celebrate the architecture.
But wait! Something is missing. The wooden doors and façade are still there but the rest of the church is gone and could well be described as a ghost.
97 years ago today, fire alarm box Number 848 was pulled at 12:40 PM at State and Chicago Avenues in Chicago. The loud fire bell then rang in Engine 11’s firehouse at 10 East Grand Avenue, about a third mile south and just off State street. Teddy, Dan, Buck, and Beauty then unknowingly made their last fire run. The alarm was purposely false, pulled to bring about the last run of a horse drawn fire engine in Chicago.
So, you may ask “what do fire horses have to do with my Chicago website featuring cemeteries?”
Well I invite you to read on and I promise to tell you about a horse grave at the end of my story.