First two Chicago municipal cemeteries

Two early municipal cemeteries were designed to limit burials to specific areas. 

The Chicago Tribune writes: “Finally in 1835, the town undertook the establishment of regular cemeteries. A.J. Bates, the first Chicago undertaker then appeared. Two cemetery sites were selected,  one at Twenty-Third Street (South Side Cemetery), the other at the foot of Chicago Avenue (North Side Cemetery), where the waterworks now stand. The former was never used to any great extent. The latter became the regular city burying ground.”

North Side Cemetery 1835-1847

Also known as Chicago Avenue Cemetery, the Chicago Tribune of 1897 described the cemetery as “..extended from Rush to Sand (now St. Clair) street, and from Chicago avenue (to) five blocks north.

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 Dewitt C. Creiger who had to do with the removal of bodies, described the cemetery as a “most dismal place. There was nothing but sand and sand”, said Mr. Creiger. “Tombstones there were some, though over some graves, wooden crosses and other emblems had been put up. After a windstorm, the bleak shore looked positively grewsome. The sands would be piled in little piles on some graves, while at the low places the coffins, sometime half showing their contents, would be exposed. By 1843, the removal of the bodies to the half mile section north of North Avenue (City Cemetery) bought by the city, had begun, but a large number of bodies were never taken out, and to this day, human excavations are made at or near the water-works.”   Another report states that this process of grave removal continued to 1847.

South Side Cemetery 1835-1847

About 1833, 16 acres of land were purchased at this location for a town cemetery reserved for Catholics. On August 15, 1835, the town surveyor was ordered to survey the property and completed the task on August 26. The location varies among several secondary historical accounts. A letter written by Fernando Jones, who managed land abstracts later to become Chicago Title and Trust, described the cemetery as being at 22nd street near Prairie Avenue (300 east). A letter written by Robert Clark to the Chicago Tribune about 1897 states the location to be about 22nd and Calumet Avenue (325 east). He stated that the “McAvoy brewery stands about the center of it.”

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The Chicago Tribune of 1897 refers only to 23rd street.   From other sources we learn that the brewery was at 23rd Street and South Park Way, now Martin Luther King Drive.

 

An article in the Chicago Tribune dated October 7 1900 described the location only as:…Twenty second Street and Prairie….long been obliberated by the handsome residences in that section of the city.”Colbert describes the location as being at about 23rd and Wabash Avenue. This conflicts with two or three other estimated locations.

In 1937 a bronze plaque was placed at the 23rd Street viaduct over the Illinois Central Railroad. The inscription reads “First City Cemeteries – This was the site of one of Chicago`s first two cemeteries, and comprised sixteen acres. It was laid out in August, 1835, and enclosed in September, after which burials elsewhere on the south side were forbidden. – Erected by Chicago`s Charter Jubilee – Authenticated by Chicago Historical Society – 1937.” Reports state that an identical plaque was to designate the North Side Cemetery of 10 acres on Chicago Avenue, east of Clark Street, but there is no confirmation that it was put in place.

Based upon these descriptions, A best guess for the sixteen acre cemetery could have been bounded by 22nd on the north, 23rd on the south, Cottage Grove on the west, and Lake Michigan shoreline on the east.  The cemetery was as unpopular as the North Side Cemetery and was closed by the Common Council in 1843. They ordered all graves moved to the new Catholic Cemetery at State Street and North Avenue (1600 north). This task was reported to have been completed by 1847.

Reference: Chicago Tribune, Aug 8, 1897. By 1847, the corpses remaining at 23rd street had all been removed to Lincoln Park.

But as we well know, despite best efforts, early burying grounds never seem to be completely removed as intended. The Tribune of 1897 stated “It was only a few weeks ago that in excavating for a building on the south side, the laborers found three well preserved graves, evidently not those of red men. Upon investigation, it was learned that the bodies had been interred over half a century ago in a corner of an old cemetery situated at Twenty-Third Street.”

 

Both cemeteries were replaced by City Cemetery now Lincoln Park, a subject all its own.

 

Chicago: A city built on graves

There have been an  incredible amount of early burials in the downtown area of Chicago. Many could be thought of as the earliest “backyard” burial, where the first Chicago residents simply buried their deceased where they lived. Many others were native Americansac3ce9a011293bf6d295e01e99c922da--nephilim-giants-human-skeleton.

Bodies most everywhere

Both Native Americans and early Chicago settlers buried their dead in or along the Chicago riverbank. The Tribune of 1897 state:

“..that all along both sides and partly under its present bed, from Market Street to Dearborn or State, bodies of early Chicagoans are thickly laid.”

 Andreas, in his History of Chicago, used the phrase “..all along the borders of the two branches….on or near the residence of the friends of the deceased.” 

The Daily Democrat reported :

“Two coffins seen floating down the river (were) supposed to have been from some burying ground on the North Branch of the Wabansia Division.” One early observation was of a boatman paddling up the river who saw the ends of bark coffins projecting from the sand hills on the right bank…and even occasionally noted their contents.”

 

As early as 1897, the Chicago Tribune printed an article entitled:

 “City built on Graves – Chicago buildings stand upon sites of old cemeteries…the structures of the downtown district cover unnumbered dead.”

 

John Kinzie’s home along the Chicago river might be considered one of the earliest sites for a backyard burial.  John Kinzie (1763-1828) remained at the house until his death on January 6, 1828 when Chicago’s population was only about forty people.

Kinzie_House

 

Jean LaLime Buried by Kinzie

Andreas described the La Lime burial site as being “near the bank of the river about the present terminus of Rush Street and within about 200 yards (600′) of Mr. Kinzie’s house, in plain view from his front door and piazza.”  This grave was also mentioned in The Fort Dearborn Massacre by Helm, published 1912.

 

This is (or was) the burial site of Jean LaLime, (  -1812) an interpreter at Fort Dearborn who was killed by John Kinzie (1763-1828) in a dispute early in 1812. Although Kinzie was cleared of any wrongdoing, it is reported that his feelings of guilt prompted him to have LaLime buried near the Kinzie home. According to The Story of Old Fort Dearborn by J. Seymour Currey, 1912, the grave was enclosed by a picket fence and cared for by Kinzie and his family. John Kinzie and other family members dutifully placed fresh flowers on the grave.

 

 

The Chicago Tribune of 1897 stated As the number of families multiplied, fewer bodies were buried in the neighborhood of the houses, and by 1825 it had become customary to carry the dead to the lake shore just north of the (Chicago) river, and east of the Kinzie home for interment. This spot had been used as a burying ground for the inhabitants of Fort Dearborn.”

1834 Soutrh water street

 

 And on October 7, 1900 the Chicago Tribune printed the story “Forgotten Graveyards of Chicago – Beautiful Homes built over the tombs of departed Pioneers”

 

The Chicago Tribune article of  October 7, 1900 describes a cemetery referred to as the “ Common Acre”:  “On the west side, on the North Branch of the Chicago River, north of Kinzie Street, another old cemetery has been obliterated, the ground being taken up for manufacturing sites and business blocks. The remains buried there were taken to burial grounds outside the city limits, as they were at that time, the the cemeteries are now incorporated within the legal precincts of the city.”

 

 The Daily Democrat refers to “…some burying ground on the North Branch of the Wabansia Division”

 

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How did we forget so many graves and even whole cemeteries?  And where are they?

 

Did you know the John Hancock building is built upon and near the site of an early burying ground?  The North Side Cemetery, surveyed in 1835, included a portion of prime North Michigan Avenue real estate including the Hancock Building and Water Tower Place.

 

A portion of Lincoln Park, the beautiful park along Chicago’s lakefront, was once City Cemetery, the primary municipal burying ground for Chicago between 1837 and about 1871.  Most bodies were removed after the Chicago Fire, but many still remain buried there. Over the years, human remains have often been found in Lincoln Park and in the Gold Coast neighborhood during construction or repair projects. Most of the God Coast area  bodies were from where Catholic Cemetery was located. Today, the Cardinal’s mansion now stands on the north end of that site.

 

Other cemeteries existed near and under portions of the McCormick Place complex, under the University of Illinois Circle Campus, under housing developments, and under many city streets. Construction crews often discover human remains during street and sewer work.

In future blogs I will describe how the city began to consolidate bodies in two municipal cemeteries.

But for now, think twice as you walk in and enjoy the downtown and northside area. There just may be someone under your feet!

Celebrate Lutheran Cemeteries

I have again turned to my good friend, the somewhat elderly, long retired, but wise priest,  Father Barton. He and  Minnesota’s Father Wilmer  guide me on all things of spirit and goodness. Father Barton tells me that an abiding faith is the foundation of church cemeteries. Although we commit the body to the earth, death is not the final word,  believing the soul is in the immediate presence of God. Today we look at the more than 40 cemeteries in the Chicago area where just the physical bodies of generations of Lutherans rest.st john rodenburg

It is surprising that there are over 90 Catholic and Lutheran cemeteries in the Chicago area, more than any other type or group of cemeteries. Again surprisingly,  the number of those cemeteries are split somewhat evenly between Catholic and Lutheran.

In this blog we will concentrate on just the Lutheran cemeteries, but a future blog will also celebrate the Catholic cemeteries as well.

Continue reading “Celebrate Lutheran Cemeteries”

Over 260 Cemeteries Within ONE Cemetery

jewish waldheimfixed

Of all the Chicago area cemeteries that I have researched in the last twenty-five years, Jewish Waldheim in Forest Park, a suburb west of Chicago,  has proven to be the most fascinating and complex. Whether or not you  are Jewish,   I promise that this will be a fascinating topic.

The people buried here, for the most part, represent the amazing and touching stories of Jewish emigrants who discovered the old Maxwell Street neighborhood as a gateway to a new world of freedom and unlimited opportunity. Chicago once had the third largest Jewish population of any city in the world. By 1930 there were 300,000 Jews representing 9% of the  population. They came primarily from Germany, Poland, Russia and Eastern Europe to seek a better life.

Jewish Waldheim  became one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world,  a patchwork of over 260 separate cemeteries within one large complex with different owners, rules, regulations, prices and appearance. There are now over 175,000 burials, possibly approaching 200,000. Continue reading “Over 260 Cemeteries Within ONE Cemetery”

Ten Cemeteries and Wrigley Field

Join me on a virtual tour of Chicago’s Northside cemetery corridor. It will help you to understand the growth of burial places along Clark Street,  a north-south street and one of the oldest roads in the city. It runs parallel to and not far from the shore of Lake Michigan, extending north into Evanston Illinois where it becomes Chicago Avenue.clark map Continue reading “Ten Cemeteries and Wrigley Field”

Bachelors Grove – Struggling to survive

bgwoodsHere is a cemetery where those buried there deserve better. This is the story of Bachelors Grove,  most mentioned for its ghost stories and desecration. However this blog will focus on its history.  It is has also been known as: Everdon’s Cemetery,  Smith’s Cemetery,  Schmidt’s Cemetery,  Bachelder’s Grove,  Batchelor Grove, Batchelder,  Bachlor, Bachellor, and Batchel.  It is believed, and I concur, that the “Batchelor Grove” variation is the most historically correct and is the version found on the cemetery plat map in the collections of the Tinley Park Historical Society and the original plat for the Village of Bremen from 1853.

Continue reading “Bachelors Grove – Struggling to survive”

Same Churchyard – Two Counties!

gate colorGrandpa and Grandma can be buried in the same exact cemetery plot and in the same cemetery and yet be in two different Illinois counties.

Whoa!

Impossible you say. Ask any ten people in the area where the St Mary’s Catholic Church (Buffalo Grove) cemetery is located and they will tell you “The church and cemetery is in Lake County of course, north of Lake-Cook Road on Buffalo Grove Road in Lake County” And they will boldly emphasize “Lake-Cook Road” as their proof positive.   Well,  they are only half right. The Cook County-Lake county boundary line actually (and rudely) cuts right through the cemetery, east to west. Half the cemetery is in Vernon Township-Lake County and the other half of the cemetery is in Wheeling Township-Cook County. How can this be you ask,  when the cemetery  is clearly NORTH of Lake-Cook Road,  named after the dividing line between the two counties.s7

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Continue reading “Same Churchyard – Two Counties!”