CHICAGO CEMETERY HISTORY
"History of Chicago from the Earliest Period to the Present Time." Vol. 2
(Chicago, Ill.: A. T. Andreas Co., 1885)
Transcribed by ©Donna Walton for Genealogy Trails, Aug. 2006
Let us turn for a time from the few brief years, crowned with riant life and activity, which have made up the wonderful past of Chicago, to the other great city where reigns voiceless silence and eternal peace. The virtues and achievements have been sounded of many how were identified with the city's rapid rise to prosperity; whose very bones have been crowded from their resting place by the encroachments of the queenly city of their pride and early hopes, to find anew some distant, still abode, that now again lies almost within sound of her busy, restless life. This chapter must be limited to a mere recital of facts regarding the burial of the city's dead, for space will not admit for any extended description of the natural beauties and artificial improvements of the many cemeteries adjacent to Chicago.
An account of the laying out, by the town authorities of Chicago, in 1835, of two cemeteries - on the North and South sides respectively, - is given in the first volume of this history. * The northern half of the plat so set apart on the North Side was used as a place of sepulchure by the Protestants, while the southern portion became the first Catholic burying ground in the city.
The first Grave-Digger in Chicago was Henry Gherkin, one of the early settlers.
Henry Gherkin was born in Hanover, near Bremen, in Prussia, September 15,1757, and educated in Bremen. In 1823, he was married in England, to an English lady, who died in New York, as also did their three children, of cholera. During the following year, Mr. Gherkin moved west to Buffalo, where in 1831 he was married to Miss Mary Specher. In 1836 he came to Chicago, where he was of great use to both Germans and Americans, as an Interpreter. He made a business of grave-digging, and, as has been said, was the first regular grave-digger in Chicago. In addition to this occupation, Mr. Gherkin was a market gardener, supplying vessels and steamers on the lake, and was popularly known as "Dutch Henry". He died in July 1877, at the good old age of ninety years, having ceased to dig graves in 1854.
The first Undertaker in Chicago was an Englishman, named A. J. Bates, and he also owned the first hearse. He was succeeded by the firm of Gavin & Gehr, one an Irishman and the other a German.
No interments were made in the South side grounds after 1842. About 1847, the city authorities re-interred the bodies from the South side burying-ground in the Lincoln-park tract, known as Chicago Cemetery.** The Chicago Cemetery tract contained altogether three thousand one hundred and thirty six burial lots, and was designated under the old survey, as the "Milliman" tract. By a decision of the Supreme Court, the city lost the title to the Milliman tract, and, not being able to perfect or obtain the title, the Common Counsel, in 1865, ordered the vacation of the tract, authorizing lot-owners to exchange their lots for lots in any of the new cemeteries, of equal size and of their own selection Graceland, Rosehill, and Oakwoods had, at this date been established.
When the time allowed the city to vacate the tract, (two years) had expired, a special committee, appointed by the Common Counsil, consisting of Aldermen Woodard, Wicker, and Lawson, made the selection for about two hundred lot-owners who had not made any selection and could not be found. The committee selected lots, of equal size and in the best obtainable location, in that part of Oakwoods known as the "Third Division, Section B" where the bodies were re-interred in precisely the same order as they had been in the Chicago Cemetery. The city holds the title to the whole tract purchased in Oakwoods, and any of the owners of the so exchanged were given the privilege of obtaining a deed to the new lot upon execution of a release of the old one. After several years of litigation, the portion of the old Chicago Cemetery included in the present limits of Lincoln Park passed under the control of the park commissioners. Joseph H. Ernst, of No. 271 North Avenue, was the sexton of the Chicago Cemetery for a number of years and had charge of the exhumation of the bodies.
The Rosehill Cemetery Company was chartered February 11, 1859, the incorporators being William B. Ogden, Charles G. Hammond, John H. Kinzie, Hiram A. Tucker, Levi D. Boone, Benjamin W. Raymond, Charles V. Dyer, James H. Reese, John Evans, Jonathan Burr, Levi B. Taft, E.K. Rogers, Robert H. Morford, Andrew T. Sherman, William Turner, George Schneider, C.H. Diehl, Andrew Nelson, James V.Z. Blaney, Henry Smith, Philo Judson, E.C. Jansen and Francis H. Benson. Dr. Blaney was the first president of the association. The land bought for the cemetery was five hundred acres lying six and a half miles north of the city. Improvements were at once begun. The cemetery was dedicated by the laying of the corner-stone of the chapel with Masonic ceremonies July 28, 1859. M.W.I.A.W. Buck, Grand Master, officiating. The first interment was of the remains of the Dr. J.W. Ludlam, July 11, 1859.
Rosehill has a magnificent entrance arch, a capacious receiving vault, and a spacious chapel. A steady flow of clear water is obtained from an artesian well; a number of artificial lakes have been formed; there are large and handsome greenhouses and conservatories; the avenues, drives and walks are constructed to be durable and permanent; and the grounds are well tended. About two hundred and fifty acres of the grounds are thus improved, and the interments up to date number nearly 30,000. By an amendment to the charter, the company is required to pay ten per cent of all proceeds to a perpetual care fund, which now amounts to about $35,000. The trustees of this fund are Charles B. Farwell, Orrington Lunt and Henry F. Lewis. The present officers of the company are Frederick Tuttle, president; William H. Turner, vice-president and auditor; Van H. Higgins, treasurer; and Joseph Gow, secretary and superintendent.
Graceland Cemetery was founded in 1861, by Thomas B. Bryan, who purchased eighty acres of land, five and a half miles from the center of the city, on rising ridges near the lake shore. Since then, various additions of land have been made, until the cemetery is larger than any other in the country except Greenwood Cemetery, New York. The first board of mangers was composed of William B. Ogden, Sidney Sawyer, E.H. Sheldon and George P.A. Healy. The grounds are improved in much the same manner as those at Rosehill --- there being several natural springs, from which water for irrigation and supplying the artificial lakes and fountains is drawn by steam pumps. The grounds are superbly ornamented with rare vases, beautifully designed statuary, noble monuments and handsomely kept walks, terraces and flower beds. The cemetery is reached by steam and street-cars and the lake shore boulevard drive. There have been 40,000 interments to date. The same charter provision as in the case of the Rosehill Company, for a perpetual improvement fund, applies to the Graceland Corporation. Ten per cent of the gross receipts from the sale of lots is set apart, and draws compound interest, and insures the perpetual maintenance and preservation of the cemetery. The trustees and managers of the fund are William Blair, J.M. McGennis, Daniel Thompson, Marcus C. Stearns, E.W. Blatchford, Hiram Wheeler, George C. Walker, Jerome Beecher, Edwin H. Sheldon, A.J. Averill, John DeKoven and Henry W. King. Bryan Lathrop is the president of the company, and T.E. Patterson secretary.
Oakwoods Cemetery, already mentioned in connection with the transfer of the bodies from the old Chicago Cemetery, lies three and a half miles due south of the city limits. It is reached by the boulevard drives through the North Park, and Illinois Central Hyde Park trains stop at 67th Street, from whence a broad walk leads to the cemetery entrances. The cemetery was laid out in 1864, by M. A. Farwell, who at that time, owned one hundred and sixty acres of land, and has since added forty acres more to the site. The cemetery is conducted entirely upon the lawn plan, and has many beautiful and attractive features. There are some splendid vistas of waterscape from different points about the four ornamental lakes, and the lawns are well kept and inviting. Four greenhouses supply flowers for the purpose of decoration, and, portions of the grounds are shaded by native oaks. Two new lakes and two greenhouses are under process of construction. There is an artistically constructed house for the use of the superintendent; a chapel 18 X 30 feet in area, and vault of large capacity. The Soldiers' Home has a burial plat here and a handsome monument, surrounded by cannon and stacks of balls. There have been 19,000 interments since the cemetery was established. The corporation is subject to the same regulations regarding the creation of a special maintenance fund as the other cemetery associations. The incorporators were Joseph B. Wells, William B. Egan, Ebenezer Peck, J. Young Scammon, R.K. Swift, and Charles N. McKubbin. The present officers are Marcus A. Farwell, president; W.C.D. Grannis, treasurer; George M. Bogue, secretary; and William Dennison, superintendent.
Forest Home Cemetery lies on the banks of the Desplaines River, four and a half miles west of Chicago, on Madison Street. It is reached by the Chicago and Western Dummy, and the Chicago & North-Western steam-cars to Oak Park. The cemetery comprises a part of the beautiful Haase's Park, once a noted pleasure resort. There are now nearly eighty acres under improvement. The cemetery is provided with an elegant entrance, commodious waiting rooms, a chapel and a vault of sufficient capacity for all demands. The lawn system of keeping the cemetery was adopted from the start, and its superior beauty can be seen at a glance. The company is incorporated and has a permanent improvement fund. The officers of the company are Ferd. Haase, president; E.S. Dreyer, treasurer; Emil R. Haase, secretary. Mr. Haase founded the cemetery in 1876. The Concordia Church Society bought forty acres of land near by, facing Madison Street, in 1870, and the grounds are now handsomely improved. There have been about 10,000 interments in both cemeteries. Seven Evangelical Lutheran Churches bury their dead here.
Waldheim Cemetery - Directly opposite Forest Home Cemetery, to the south, and lying between Harrison and Twelfth streets, on the Desplaines River, is Waldheim Cemetery. Its distance from the city is four and a half miles. It is owned by a corporation re-organized in 1881 under the law of 1879, and is subject to the same provisions as to maintenance as the other cemeteries. The Odd Fellows, Musicans' Union, Sons of Hermann, St. Peter's German Lutheran Church, and other societies, have burial-plats here. The cemetery is beautified with fine lawns, flowers, shrubbery, and well-kept walks and drives. There are two ornamental lakes, one containing natural springs, and a system of water-works distributes the water where needed. The cemetery is, also, well sewered, over 10,000 feet of tile having been laid during the past two years. There is a neat brick chapel on the grounds, and one of the largest receiving vaults in the country. The interments number about 15,000 up to date. The officers of the association are: Phillip Maas, president; Jacob Heissler, vice-president; John Buhler, secretary; John M. Faulhauber, treasurer; and C. Schwartz, superintendent.
Wonder Cemetery. - A German cemetery was laid out, near Waldheim, in 1860, at which time it consisted of four and a half acres. It was called "Wonder" Cemetery, in honor of Henry Wonder, a noted German Lutheran divine. In 1866 it was increased to fourteen and a half acres. There was no burials here after 1872.
St. Boniface, a German Catholic Cemetery, consisting of about thirty acres, is located on the Green Bay road, three and a half miles north of the city.
Calvary Cemetery is the favorite burial-place of the Irish Catholic Churches. It lies nine miles north of the city near Evanston. It was consecrated shortly after the date of the opening of Graceland, although prior to this some of the bodies taken from the consecrated ground in the old Chicago cemetery were re-interred here. The office of the cemetery was formerly located on Franklin Street, in the city, but it is now at the grounds. The cemetery is a large one, well kept, and beautified by many costly improvements. The interments number upward of 20,000.
The Hebrew Congregations have a cemetery five miles north of the city, on the Green Bay road. They formerly had a plat of ground in the Chicago Cemetery. The Hebrew Benevolent Society established a burial-ground here in 1855. The grounds are high and overlook the lake, and contain a number of fine monuments. Sinai and Zion congregations have an extensive plat reserved at Rosehill.
As nearly as can be ascertained, the total number of Chicago's dead buried in cemeteries near the city is one hundred and fifty thousand.
C. H. Jordan, an old citizen of Chicago, and to-day one of the oldest undertakers in the city, was born in Piqua, Ohio, in 1826. His father, David J. Jordan, was a prominent dry-goods merchant of that place, in which business the younger Jordan was trained. He was, however, given a liberal education. After completing his academic course, he entered Woodward College, at Cincinnati, Ohio, from which institution he graduated as a member of the class of 1845. Immediately on leaving college, he entered upon a mercantile career in Piqua, Ohio, afterward connecting himself with a wholesale house in Cincinnati. In these two places he remained for several years, and, in 1854, he came to Chicago as the general western agent for Crane, Breed & Co. manufacturers of metallic burial cases. Making this city his headquarters, and carrying a large stock of goods in his store, he spent some years in traveling, selling and introducing his goods in the West. At the same time, too, he established himself in the undertaking business, at No. 134 Clark Street, remaining there until he was burned out in the great fire in October of 1871. Immediately thereafter, he resumed business on the West Side, where he remained until the summer of 1872, when he removed to No. 112 Clark Street, in the old Exchange Building, the site where now stands the new Chicago Opera House. His next removal was to No. 114 Monroe Street, where he remained until 1881, when he removed to his present location. In 1854, when Mr. Jordan came to Chicago, there were but three firms besides himself in his line of business; these were Wright & McClure, located on LaSalle Street, John Gavin, on Market Street, and W.T. Woodson, on Washington Street. Of these firms, none are now in existence but a son of Mr. Wright, of the first mentioned house, who is still in this line of business. It is, no doubt, safe to assert that Mr. Jordan has officiated in his capacity as undertaker on the occasions of the deaths of more of Chicago's old and leading citizens than any other funeral director in the city. He was married, in 1845, to Miss Mary Scott, daughter of William Scott, formerly president of the First National Bank, of Piqua, Ohio: and has had two children, one of whom, Scott Jordan, is now connected with his father in business.
James Wright was born in England, in 1816. While young, he emigrated to America, and learned the trade of carpenter and cabinet-maker in this country. In 1846, he came to Chicago, and soon after reaching this city, formed a partnership with Andrew McClure, under the firm name and style of McClure & Wright. This firm succeeded A.J. Bates, the first undertaker in Chicago. At Mr. McClure's death, William A. McClure succeeded him, the firm name being Wright & McClure, as a member of the firm, when the firm name was changed to James Wright & Son. James Wright died on February 16, 1880. To accurate and systematic business habits he united sterling integrity and rare social gifts. His many friends deplored the loss which they incurred by his removal to a life upon which he entered without fear. Mr. Wright was married, in 1835, to Annie E. Hood, of this city. Mr. And Mrs. James Wright had six children, only three of whom survive-George P., Margaret and Mary.
George P. Wright, who succeeded his father in business, was born in Philadelphia, on August 11, 1839. In 1864, as has been already said, he entered into partnership with his father, since whose death he has successfully conducted the business alone. In the same year of the formation of his partnership with his father, he married Miss Mary A. Brown, of Beloit, Wis. Five children have been born to them-George James, Charles P., Clara, Addie and Walter.
Joseph Rogerson is a son of John and Agnes (Parkinson) Rogerson. He was born in England, in December 1833. At the age of sixteen, he came to the United States, and settled in Chicago. For ten years he was employed in a carriage-shop. In 1859, he started in business as an undertaker, at No. 115 West Randolph Street, and was, for a number of years, the only undertaker on the West Side. His success has exceeded his expectations. He soon purchased the property which he first rented, and now owns real estate in various portions of the city. In 1857, he married Miss Eliza Daro, a native of England, whose parents had come to this country while she was a child. They have had three children, only one of whom is living-Edward J., born in 1860. He married Miss Fannie Dayton, and is at present engaged in business with his father. Mr. Rogerson, Sr., and his wife have been members of the Baptist Church for more than thirty years. He is a member of Fort Dearborn Lodge, I.O.O.F., and for four years has been president of the Undertakers' Association. He enjoys the esteem, not only of his own guild, but of the community at large.
F.H. Hill & Co. - This firm was first organized in 1866, by J.H. Boyd and F.H. Hilt for the purpose of manufacturing coffins and caskets, and continued until 1874, when Mr. Boyd withdrew, and a partnership was formed by F.H. Hill and Mortimer Goff, under the present name. They were first located at Calhoun Place, and then removed to No. 292 South Franklin Street, and erected a large brick building, which was destroyed in the great fire of 1871, and partly re-built and running within thirty days after. The building they now occupy is 105 by 120 feet, and has an area of about 120,000 square feet. During the first year of their business they employed about ten hands, and their gross sales amounted to about $15,000, while last year they gave employment to about one hundred and fifty hands, and their sales amounted to over $300,000. They are among the largest houses in their line of trade in the West, and are an important factor in Chicago's industries.
Francis H. Hill was born in Canal Dover, Tuscarawas Co., Ohio, in 1835, and is the son of Edmund and Mary (Rupp) Hill. At an early age he went to Pittsburgh, Penn., where he received a good common-school education. After completing his studies he learned the cabinet business, and was employed in it until 1864, when he became associated with Mr. Algeo in the manufacture of coffins, under the name of Algeo & Hill. This continued for six months, when a joint-stock company was formed, the business being carried on until 1866, when Mr. Hill came to Chicago, and during that year permanently settled here. He soon became associated with Mr. Boyd in the manufacture of coffins, and continued with him until 1874, when the firm changed to the present style of F.H. Hill & Co. Mr. Hill was married in Columbus, Ohio, to Miss Caroline Griffith of that city, in 1856.
* See Vol. 1 page 163
** As a matter of interest in this connection it may be mentioned that Thomas B. Bryan secured the South-side tract and sub-divided it into lots, the principal street being Calument Avenue. On every deed of lots along this street, Mr. Bryan incorporated a provision that the houses should be built one hundred feet back from the street line.
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