Chicagology has just added a special section on the development of the first cemeteries in Chicago. The descriptions contained are from early chronicles that describe the land and the original beauty of these heavenly parks.
Chicago has some of the most beautiful and picturesque cemeteries that can be found in a large metro area. These cemeteries were built on land at the outermost borders of the city at the time and perhaps that is one reason why they are like several oasis in a urban surrounding.
Until 1835, the Chicago area had no designated burial place. In these early times, each interment was made on or near the residence of the friends of the deceased. Later, the settlements about the forks had a common acre on the west side of the North Branch, where the dead were buried. The dead from Fort Dearborn were buried generally on the north side of the main river east of John Kinzie’s old house near the lake shore. Mr. Kinzie was buried there in 1828. The soldiers who died of cholera in 1832 were interred near the northwest corner of Lake Street and Wabash Avenue. Early interments were made all along the borders of the two branches of the Chicago River, wherever settlements have been made and deaths have occurred. In later days the forgotten graves were often opened in excavating, which has lead to much speculation as to whom the disinterred remains belonged. As late as 12 March 1849, the Daily Democrat records the fact that during the spring freshet, “two coffins were seen floating down the river, supposed to have been from some small burying grund on the North Branch in the Wabanasia addition.” On 15 August 1935, the town surveyor was ordered to lay out two tracts suitable for cenetery purposes; 16 acres on the South Side and ten acres north of the river. These two lots, the first established cemeteries in Chicago, were located as early as 26 August 1835; on the North Side near Chicago Avenue, east of Clark Street; on the South Side near the lake shore and what is now 23rd Street. These lots were fenced in September, and burials forbidden elsewhere within the city limits.