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”

New Years 1885 at 12:30 PM

Wells_Street_Station_ca_1910

It is a cold but sunny January day in 1885.

I take you to Wells and Kinzie streets on the north side of the Chicago River, We are at the massive Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad depot,  later known as the Chicago and Northwestern depot.  (It was since replaced by the Merchandise Mart and a new station built at Madison and Clinton). We board train Number Thirty-One, just one of fifty-five daily Northwestern trains.  What makes this train very different and special is that it is the daily Northwestern funeral train leaving Chicago every day at 12:30 PM sharp including Sundays bound for two cemeteries. This route dates back to 1857.

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Christmas in the Cemetery

 christmas1Chicago area cemeteries are a bit more quiet during the special Christmas season. This is in part because the holidays are centered on activities for the living. Families gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus, shop for gifts and a tree, attend church services and family gatherings. Hanukkah too is also a special family time although  under Jewish custom it is not appropriate to mourn on days of celebration and happiness. The holidays are traditionally when all the family gets together, so when we  are sitting down for Christmas dinner, we understandably feel the empty space left by the missing person. The cemetery and that departed family member buried there are less visited than other times of the year.

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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.

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Cemetery Hitchhikers and Ghosts

halloweenHalloween is upon us.   I am not at all a fan of ghosts, especially the hitchhiker stories that come up every year at this time.  In the Chicago area, most of us know “Resurrection Mary” from Resurrection Cemetery in Justice. But as the television commercial goes: “but wait, there’s more!  There is “Melody Millie” who supposedly visits Forest Home/Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park and the “Flapper Girl”  supposedly around Jewish Waldheim and the Phantom girl at Woodlawn Cemetery. It turns out that the hitchhiker story repeats itself all over the country, in cemeteries from coast to coast.

But bowing to the season, I will breathe life into these ghosts for just one solitary blog, and then I will put them all to bed while I write about the more factual cemetery stories. Maybe this topic will inspire people to take a more serious interest in real cemetery issues. I prefer to concentrate on the history and preservation of cemeteries, the genealogical benefits, and the moral value of honoring those who have come before us. I say many times that cemeteries tell us who we were.

The hitchhiking ghost has been a staple of American folklore for many generations.  Usually the hitchhiker is female and quite beautiful and her destination is invariably the cemetery.  So which one is the real hitchhiker? Well, take your pick. Here are just a few on my dance card.

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