THE WHEEL AND A CEMETERY NEARBY

 

Chicago History in Pictures 1895It is well known that George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., 1859-1896 a structural and civil engineer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, built the colossal Chicago Wheel for Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. What is not as well known is where the huge wheel reappeared after the fair had ended.

The fair wanted a landmark, something daring, and unique. They wanted something that would surpass the Eiffel tower which was built in 1889. Ferris’s enormous vertical structure served their purpose, which rotated around a massive center axle weighing 71 tons, and featured 36 gondolas capable of holding up to 60 people each—for a total capacity of 2,160 people. It carried some 38,000 people daily who each paid 50-cents for a 20-minute ride. Some 2.5 million people rode the wheel before it moved to a quiet northside Chicago neighborhood.

Continue reading “THE WHEEL AND A CEMETERY NEARBY”

61 years ago -December 1, 1958

There are no words to describe the horror of the Chicago’s worst  school fire. We should never forget the 92 children and 3 nuns who perished in this awful disaster.  So  with all due respect to their memory,  I offer a link to my  post a year ago.Sized_FrontPg

https://chicagoandcookcountycemeteries.com/2018/11/30/never-witnessed-a-sight-so-terrible/

 

 

Mac & Cheese and a Farm Cemetery

 

 

Thanksgiving is our special time to give thanks for all we have and enjoy turkey dinner with friends and family. But today I connect that popular blue and yellow box of mac and cheese to the story of a Chicago area cemetery. Continue reading “Mac & Cheese and a Farm Cemetery”

Grave Mistake-the Story of Cook County Cemetery at Dunning

Cook County Cemetery at Dunning, Chicago, Illinois.

The most unique story of all Chicago area cemeteries. With over 38,000 burials spanning some seventy years, It began as a cemetery for the Cook County institutions at Dunning. These consisted of the County Poor house and farm opened 1854, the Insane Asylum opened 1869, the infirmary opened 1882, and the Consumptive hospital (TB), opened 1899 .

The cemetery rapidly grew in size and soon evolved as the official county Potters Field for the unclaimed and unwanted dead of Chicago and Cook County. The cemetery received bodies from the Cook County Hospital, the city morgue, many Chicago area hospitals, foundling homes, and many other city social institutions. It was the official cemetery serving the poor and indigent of the Cook County, Illinois from 1854 to well into the 1920’s.

And then it was forgotten. Hidden behind the fences surrounding the Dunning institution, the cemetery, without markers or stones was out of sight and out of mind until March of 1989 when builders attempted to recycle the land into houses and condos.

In May of 1989, Harold Henderson wrote “Grave Mistake” an excellent full length feature article about the beginning months of the struggle to rediscover, understand and fight for this huge forgotten burial place.

Here in Mr. Henderson’s words is the entire text of this well researched and now timeless article,  published in the Chicago Reader on September 22 1989, just as the rediscovery of the cemetery was in it’s first early months. The story would go on for years after this article, and those souls who are buried there  will never again be forgotten.

 

At the very end of this article I will post a series of pictures and maps that will help add some visual understanding to the article.

How did the old county cemetery get in the way of Ridgemoor Estates?

By Harold Henderson Continue reading “Grave Mistake-the Story of Cook County Cemetery at Dunning”

The Battered Helmet

Born in Chicago 12 May 1905, he was Nellie O’Boyle’s son, He began his career in the 1928 Chicago Fire Department candidate class.   He served in the Navy in World War II, He was decorated for heroism during a three-day battle against a fire on a tanker loaded with aviation fuel. . he then served just shy of 50 years with the Chicago Fire Department.

He proudly wore a battered helmet, who in a 1971 interview  said “I wouldn’t trade it for a solid gold one. I have worn that helmet since it was given to me the first day I entered the fire academy as a recruit. It was my good luck charm.”

He invented a most innovative piece of fire fighting apparatus, the snorkel.

Continue reading “The Battered Helmet”

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”

 

 current

 

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!

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”