Cemeteries | Rosehill | Calvary | Graceland | Oak Woods
Chicago’s first cemeteries were laid out as early as 1835 when they designated two areas – one on the North Side (Protestant) and one on the South Side (Catholic). Interments in the South Side cemetery were halted in 1842 and in 1847 the bodies were moved to the Lincoln-park tract known as the Chicago Cemetery. The Chicago Cemetery tract contained about 3,136 burial lots. This new location was thought to be safe from encroachment for many years. In just 17 years, the bodies would have to be moved again.
The Chicago Cemetery was to close in 1865. The City of Chicago passed an ordinance that cemeteries were to be located outside the city into rural areas that surrounded the city.
Calvary Cemetery, in Evanston, was the first cemetery established by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1859. By 1864, three new cemeteries were built and in 1865 the Comon Council ordered the evacuation of the Lincoln-park tract. The lot owners received lots of equal size in one of three new cemeteries, Rosehill (1859), Graceland (1861) or Oak Woods (1864).
1869 Gold Coast map showing the Catholic Cemetery, just north of Banks St and east of State Street.
Chicago Tribune October 29, 1961
Chicago history reflected in city’s old cemeteries
In 1833, yards were burial places
CHICAGO’S old cemeteries are an interesting part of the city s early history, when our great metropolis was a lusty, squawling infant. Before Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833, interments were made on or near the residences of the friends of the deceased. In later days, graves long forgotten often were opened by accident in excavations for new buildings. As late as
March 12, 1849, the Chicago Daily Democrat ewported that “during the spring freshet, two coffins were seen floating down the river.”
Such instances apparently provided the impetus for the founding of formal cemeteries. In 1835, the town surveyor was ordered to lay out two tracts suitable for cemetery purposes-one for Catholics at 23rd and the lake, where McCormick Place now stands; another for Protestants at Chicago Avenue, east of Clark Street. Burial in any other part of the town was forbidden.
Chicago’s first grave digger of record, incidentally, was a Prussian immigrant named Henry Gherkin, who arrived here in 1836.
The town’s original burial places were only a temporary solution of the problem, and several new
cemeteries originated within the next few decades. The property for Calvary, Chicago’s oldest existing Catholic cemetery, was purchased in 1851.
In 1866, a grave could be purchased at Calvary for $5. There was an additional charge of $2 for digging it.
Evanston’s First Mass
There, in 1865, the first Mass ever offered in Evanston was celebrated in a grove of oak trees, with a kitchen table for an altar. The celebrant was late because his horse and buggy mired in the heavy sand of Chicago’s north shore. Only one train—a funeral train—ran on this particular Sunday in August, making the trip from the city to Calvary in the good time of one hour.
The burial records of Calvary list many of the names of people who built the city and helped make Chicago great. It is the burial place of Gov- ernor Dunne and three mayors-John P. Hopkins, William E. Dever and Edward J. Kelly. Here, also, are the final resting places of four Catholic Bishops.
In more recent years, several Catholic prelates, including the late Samuel Cardinal Stritch, have
been entombed in the Bishops’ mausoleum at Mt. Carmel cemetery in suburban Hillside. Cardinal Mundelein, the predecessor of Cardinal Stritch, is entombed in the chapel at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein.
Family names on many of Calvary’s monuments are synonymous with Chicago’s development and growth-Plamondon, Quan, Comiskey, Cuneo, McLaughlin, Sexton, Cudahy, Smyth, Bremner, Hannah-Hogg, Lorimer, Brach, Harding, Hines, Murphy and Seng-to mention a few.
Cemetery Traffic Problems
Chicago traffic, even in the cemetery, was already a problem around the turn of the century. Writing “in a kindly spirit” in the early 1900’s, a lady visitor sent this plaintive message to the superintendent of Calvary:
No automobile should be allowed to proceed inside Calvary faster than a healthy person can walk. The people on foot should not be obliged to jump and run to save themselves and swallow the clouds of dust caused by the racing.
Presumably, since she did not belabor the point further, the aged and infirm were fair game for the mechanized sportsmen of the day.
About 1895, some people were expressing con- cern over the “endless repetition and stereotyped patterns” of floral offerings for funerals. Some of the sentimental favorites of the time could flood the tear ducts of the most jaundiced eye at the wake . . . “Gates Ajar,” “The Broken Column,” and “The Unstrung Harp” (available with gold-or silver wires).
Before the advent of the auto, travel to outlying cemeteries was an adventurous undertaking, either in chartered street cars or horse buggy. The street cars had a rather ingenious casket compartment which was recessed into the side of the car, permitting the deceased to ride along with the mourners. If the motive power of the cortege was equine, the casket travelled in a horse-drawn hearse.
Around 1915, when Oak Forest in winter was practically a roadless wilderness, the local undertaker used a sleigh to bring caskets into Mt. Olivet cemetery.
A trip to the cemetery in the “good old days”—especially in the biting cold of winter—frequently was an all-day affair. Many elder citizens recall the ritual of pausing for a glass of spirits at taverns euphemistically known as “halfway houses.” This tradition could not be construed as a gesture of irreverence, they say; rather, it was an antidote to the peril of joining the departed prematurely.
RETAIN THIS SUPPLEMENT
May we suggest that every Catholic family retain this section for convenient reference. This information may help to ease the burden of sorrow by answering questions that arise when there is a death in the family.