Taken from "Nature's Choicest Spot" ... a Guide to Forest Home and Germany Waldheim Cemeteries prepared by The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest.
Forest Home/German Waldheim Cemetery
863 South DesPlaines Avenue
"MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE"
Settled in 1856 and incorporated as Harlem, Illinois, in 1885, today's Village of Forest Park has been greatly shaped by the business of cemeteries. A total of six cemeteries are located here: Forest Home, German Waldheim. Concordia, Woodlawn, Jewish Waldheim, and Altenheim. While there are approximately 15,000 people living in Forest Park, more than thirty times that many people are buried there. Numerous local businesses also have connections to the funeral trade, from monument makers to saloons.
A Partial History of Forest Home and German Waldheim Cemeteries
As the final resting place for Native Americans, early settlers, evangelists, gypsies, labor activists, and noted leaders in medicine, the arts, business, and transportation. Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois, is one of the Chicago area's most picturesque and historic cemeteries. The Des Plaines River cuts through the approximately 220-acre cemetery, and paved, curving roads divide it into landscaped subdivisions, where, as of 1998, over 188,000 people are interred.
A search into the history of Forest Home Cemetery reveals a rich interweaving of customs and cultures, at once typical of other cemeteries and yet unique to Forest Home. A natural ridge formed through glacial movements ran through this area, a sandbar of prehistoric Lake Chicago, the precursor to Lake Michigan. Vestiges of this ridge are still visible in the cemetery, as well as in nearby Oak Park, at Scoville and Taylor Parks and along Ridgeland Avenue from Division Street to North Avenue. Centuries after Lake Chicago receded, Pottawatomie Native Americans camped and buried their dead in mounds along the Des Plaines River; one undisturbed mound remains today.
Early Days, 1830 to 1876
The federal government first offered land in northern Illinois for public sale in the 1830s, after the Pottawatomie Native Americans were forcibly removed to west of the Mississippi River under the terms of the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, which ended the Black Hawk War. A French-Native American trapper, Leon Bourassa, purchased acreage in what is now Forest Home Cemetery. According to local legend, Bourassa and his Pottawatomie wife, Margaret, claimed this land in part because she wished to remain near the graves of her ancestors. Later accounts also show that Native Americans occasionally returned to visit the burial mounds well into the Civil War era.
Soon after arriving from Prussia, Ferdinand Haase, an early settler of what is now Forest Park, purchased some of the land formerly owned by Bourassa. Haase built a manor home and began to raise cattle and crops. His only close neighbors were his in-laws, the Zimmermans. Carl Zimmerman, his brother-in-law, died in 1854 and was buried on the property; he was the first non-Native American buried on the land that was to become Forest Home Cemetery.
The picturesque setting of Haase's land prompted some of his German friends to encourage him to open a picnic grounds. In 1856, Haase's Park became a new diversion for Chicago residents, especially those of German descent. An 1860s poster tells the story:
The most beautiful pleasure grounds
in the vicinity of Chicago is Haase's Park
. . . Parties will find various kinds of
amusement, as Fishing, Bowling Alley,
Hunting, Swinging, Boat Riding.
To make it easier for people to reach his picnic grounds, Haase struck a deal with the Galena &; Chicago Union Railroad (later the Chicago and North Western). In exchange for carloads of gravel needed for construction, the railroad built a spur line from the main tracks to Haase's Park. Through the years, such gravel removal destroyed most of the original glacial ridge, leveled much of the land, and uncovered several burial mounds.
By 1863 Haase began looking beyond the popular recreational use of his land. Increasingly rowdy crowds drew criticism from his neighbors, so that he had to build a jail on the site. He considered subdividing the land for home sites, but found no market at the time.
Another use was proposed for Haase's land in the late 1860s: as a burial ground for the burgeoning population of Chicago. The old Chicago City Cemetery, located in what is now Lincoln Park, was closed in 1866 as the result of a lawsuit. Difficulties arising from the removal of bodies and monuments were horrendous. By 1869, the Chicago Common Council ordered a ban on future cemeteries in the city; at the time, Graceland and Rosehill Cemeteries to the north and Oak Woods Cemetery to the south were outside the city limits.
Haase's property was accessible by train and had good drainage; the land would make an ideal cemetery. Gradually, Haase began to sell his land. Along Madison Street to the north, German Lutherans established Concordia Cemetery in 1872, and the northeast corner of today's Forest Home Cemetery was purchased by a group of German fraternal lodges which established German Waldheim Cemetery in 1873 (Sections in this area are generally identified by letters of the alphabet). According to Bernhard Ludwig Roos, the first superintendent of Waldheim, they look this step because Concordia Cemetery would not permit lodge insignias to be placed on cemetery markers. "Over this intolerance ... [they] founded a cemetery where everyone could repose after his own fashion." This Waldheim, or "forest home," was advertised as the only German, non-denominational cemetery in the Chicago area.
At about the same time, some leading landowners and community builders of die Oak Park settlement to the northeast approached Haase with a proposal to create a non-sectarian cemetery on his land that would appeal to the English-speaking, middle- and upper-class citizens of the area. Haase agreed and Forest Home Cemetery was established in 1876 (Sections in this area are designated by the numbers 1 - 76).
The Importance of Design
Before Forest Home opened, Haase and several other community leaders, including Henry W Austin, Sr. and James Scoville, traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to view Spring Grove Cemetery. This burial ground was considered an outstanding example of cemetery design, and was based in part on the world-famous Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But instead of the picturesque "natural" or "rural" look of Mount Auburn, Spring Grove modeled a more park-like, manicured setting for burials, later called the landscape-lawn style. Both presented a stark contrast to European and early American cemeteries.
The landscaping at Forest Home and German Waldheim Cemeteries was meant to lift the spirits of the living. It incorporated curving roads, plantings of trees and shrubbery, and ponds and other water elements. Picnics and boisterous conduct were banned; regulations on monument design and construction ensured a setting that confirmed shared societal values of good order. Even today, the essence of the built environment from the cemeteries' early decades remains intact, though some features, such as the artificial ponds and grand entrance gates, are gone.
In the 1920s the "memorial park" trend, epitomized by Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, had a significant impact on cemeteries nationwide. This look emphasized the lawn and the use of flat markers rather than monuments; inspirational sculpture gave identity to sections. These design characteristics can be seen west of the river, along the north and west boundaries of the cemetery, in sections which were opened after 1924.
A Resting Place for All
A review of the interment records for Forest Home and German Waldheim Cemeteries reveals a wide range of ethnic surnames and addresses from Chicago and the near west suburbs. The non-sectarian policies of the cemeteries, their location, their non-denominational nature, and the significant number of fraternal and union plots made these cemeteries the burial place of choice for a wide range of individuals, from evangelist Billy Sunday to anarchist Emma Goldman.
For example, the labor activists executed for their alleged role in the 1886 Haymarket Square bombing are buried here; their striking grave monument has become a magnet for labor leaders, activists, and anarchists from around the world. The monument, designed by Albert Weinert and dedicated in 1893, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.
Victims of epidemics and other disasters also found rest here. Interment ledgers record many deaths from smallpox outbreaks in the 1870s and 1880s, the Iroquois Theatre fire of 1903, the Eastland ship disaster of 1915, and the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.
The important role played by public transportation in the success of Haase's Park was also key to the later prosperity of Forest Home and German Waldheim Cemeteries. After 1900, special funeral cars added to streetcars and trains made it convenient for funeral parties to travel with the deceased to the cemetery.
Automobiles also had a significant impact, both directly as a popular means of transportation for funeral parties, and indirectly with the growth of highway systems. When the Eisenhower Expressway (1-290) was built in the 1950s, it cut through the northernmost pare of Forest Home, resulting in the movement of several hundred graves.
The Cemetery Today
In 1968, major changes came to the cemeteries when the Haase family sold Forest Home to a Chicago real estate developer. The cemetery was merged with the adjacent German Waldheim Cemetery, land along the property's borders was sold, and some original features, including the grand entrance gates and greenhouses, were removed. The entrance to the original Forest Home Cemetery was closed; the original entrance to Waldheim Cemetery to the north minus its grand gate, became the entry for the expanded Forest Home Cemetery.
Because of its unique history, this burial ground allows visitors to experience more than just the rich and famous. Local pioneers, including the Austins, Steeles, and Hemmingways share resting space with labor activists and fraternal groups. Noted architects, Civil War generals, a doyenne of modem dance, and a radical anarchist lie with immigrants, children, milliners and undertakers. Those interred here create a community as diverse, colorful and interesting as any in the living world.
The next few paragraph are to introduce you to a few of the significant people of Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park, buried in the oldest area of Forest Home Cemetery.
Drive past the Cemetery Office, and proceed left along Topel Road. The yellow stone Chapel, designed by Charles E. White, will be on your left, and the Haymarket Monument, a large bronze woman placing a laurel wreath on the head of a fallen worker, will be on your right. Stay to the right at the Chapel, then to the left at Section A (look for the Haase monument). Continue driving around Section A and turn left at Section H. At the open field, take another left and continue straight ahead until you reach the Stannard monument. Turn right and drive on the brick road to the Hillside Vaults. Park and look for the large HAASE obelisk at the corner.
Ferdinand Haase, founder of Forest Park and Forest Home Cemetery.
Born April 27, 1826, Prussia; died January 6, 1911, Forest Park, Illinois.
As a young man, Ferdinand Haase served as a sharpshooter in the Prussian army. After leaving the army, he journeyed to the United States, working as a harness maker and upholsterer. He later returned to his homeland to settle his father’s estate, then came to Chicago with his mother, step-father, and several other German families.
In 1851, Haase bought forty-nine acres of "beautiful oak forest" along the banks of the Des Plaines River. The land had previously been owned by trapper Leon Bourassa and included the remnants of a Native American village and burial mounds.
Haase established a dairy farm on his property and continued to acquire land in the area, eventually owning about 248 acres south of what is now Madison Street, bounded by the Des Plaines River, Des Plaines Avenue, and Roosevelt Road. His brother-in-law, Carl Zimmerman, was buried on the property when he died in 1854, at the age of twenty-one, and two years later, his wife's parents were also buried here. These were the first non-Native American burials on the site that later became Forest Home Cemetery.
In the late 1850s, Haase turned his dairy farm into a picnic grove called "Haase's Park." When Lincoln Park in Chicago opened, attendance at Haase’s Park dwindled and he finally closed the grove. Haase sold some of his land in 1872 to German Lutherans who established Concordia Cemetery. More acreage was sold the next year to several German fraternal organizations for German Waldheim Cemetery. In 1876, Haase and his sons opened Forest Home Cemetery, which remained a family-run burial ground for the next ninety years.
Haase’s brother-in-law. Henry Zimmerman, became the first village president when Harlem (Forest Park) was incorporated in 1884. Additional information on Haase and his family can be found in a "History of Forest Home and German Waldheim Cemeteries" section of this guide.
Henry W. Austin, Sr., community builder and temperance advocate.
Born August 1, 1828, Skaneateles, New York; died December 24, 1889, Oak Park, Illinois.
Henry Austin, Jr. (1864-1947), banker and state legislator, and Edna H. Austin (1879-1964), teacher and community activist.
Henry Austin, Sr. became a traveling salesman for a Seneca Falls, New York, iron pump manufacturer which established a Chicago office in 1860. Austin moved here with his family and built a house in Oak Park (then known as Oak Ridge) on a large lot bordered by what are now Lake, Marion, Forest, and Ontario Streets. Today, the Lake Theater is located where the house once stood, and Austin Gardens is the last remnant of the family estate.
Austin was elected a member of the Illinois state legislature in 1870. He was a believer in temperance, and, despite the disapproval of his largely German constituency, he worked with the Cicero Township Board to ban new saloons in Oak Park. Austin then bought the last few taverns in town and spilled all the liquor into the street before closing them. The village's prohibition against liquor sales lasted 100 years.
Austin also founded the Austin community, a village located between Chicago and Oak Park on 280 acres of land that he claimed in 1866; the area was annexed to Chicago in 1899.
Henry Austin, Jr., like his father, served in the state legislature, and supported prohibition. He also established the Oak Park Trust and Savings Bank. Edna Austin, his wife, had come to Oak Park in 1902 to teach school. An activist with a keen interest in domestic science and international relations, she helped establish the Council on International Affairs, the Oak Park and River Forest Day Nursery, and the Community Lecture Series. Their son Wallis continued the tradition of community service as a philanthropist, organizer of the Village Managers Association (a political group), and member of several boards.
The above ground grave belongs to Hannah, daughter of Henry Austin Sr., who died on Christmas Eve at the age of eight. Her father, it is said, could not bear the thought of his little girl buried under the cold earth.
Walter Wilcox Burridge, artist and set designer.
Born August 29,1857, Brooklyn, New York; died June 25,1913, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Walter W. Burridge brought The Wizard of Oz to life for the Chicago Grand Opera in 1902. His illusions and special effects for this first stage adaptation of L. Frank Baum's classic tale created a fantasy world which enraptured audiences. It was one of the highlights of Burridge's long career as perhaps the nations most talented theatrical scenic artist. Contemporary reports indicate that art lovers attended plays with his set designs just to enjoy his work.
Burridge learned his craft at an early age from renowned scenic artist Harly Merry. After working in New York theaters, he moved to Chicago in 1882 and settled in suburban LaGrange. For many years, he was the scenic artist for the Chicago Grand Opera and the McVickers Theatre.
Today’s audiences are accustomed to actual three-dimensional stage sets. But in Burridge's day, scenic artists were responsible for turning a two-dimensional surface -- a cloth backdrop -- into three-dimensional images. Burridge was famous for creating illusions that today would be called special effects, such as projecting images on a gauze screen. He achieved national exposure during the Columbian Exposition in 1893 with his construction of a panorama of Kilauea, a Hawaiian volcano, which used electric lights to enhance the image of flowing lava.
Burridge died while on a two-month painting trip to die Grand Canyon.
Edwin Conway, piano company executive, civic leader, president of Cicero Township Board.
Born March 21, 1850, McGillivray, Canada; died November 1, 1919, Oak Park, Illinois.
Although born in Canada, Conway spent the early part of his life on a small farm in Minnesota. His character was molded by his early struggles and poverty. His father left for service in the Union Army during the Civil War, placing young Edwin in charge of the farm and five siblings.
Conway attended college in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, intending to become a surgeon, and worked as a janitor to pay his tuition. He wed Sarah Rogers of Mauston, Wisconsin, and they had three children. Conway never despised menial labor, believing that "the man who cleans our drains and the woman who cooks our meals are as important as the doctor, the lawyer, and the physician."
Quite by accident, Conway became involved with selling organs to farmers and was so successful that W. W. Kimball invited him to head Kimball's wholesale piano establishment in Chicago in 1875. Once settled, he became active in politics and served as president of the Cicero Town Board from 1883 to 1888. He later served on the Republican Central Committee in Cook County.
Conway always remembered his early struggles and carried his lunch with him to the Kimball Piano Company office until he had $50,000 in the bank. He served as president of a railroad company, held top positions in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and became a leader in the Chicago Association of Commerce. He was also an early promoter of the first Historical Society in Oak Park, established in May 1898 but disbanded shortly afterwards. On his small gravestone is engraved "He loved his fellow men."
th Illinois Brigade. He served with General US. Grant at the siege of Vicksburg, and with General William Tecumseh Sherman on the march to the sea. As a result of his Civil War experiences, Cummings became active in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the largest Civil War veterans' organization.
Edmund A. Cummings, real estate developer and public transportation magnate.
Born November 29, 1842, Lowell, Massachusetts; died August 23, 1922, Oak Park, Illinois.
When the Civil War broke out, Cummings left his Elgin, Illinois, home and enlisted in the 127
After the war, Cummings came to Chicago and established E. A. Cummings & Co. in 1869, which became one of the city's best-known real estate firms. In 1872, he subdivided the town of Ridgeland, an unincorporated area that is now part of east Oak Park. He also was the driving force behind the River Forest Land Association, which subdivided land in River Forest.
His real estate interests convinced Cummings that reliable and inexpensive transportation into Chicago was needed. In 1889, he and his brother founded the Cicero & Proviso Street Railway Company, an electric streetcar line. Eventually, this grew into the West Town Bus Company, serving many of the western suburbs and portions of the 200 subdivisions that his firm had developed, including parts of Forest Park and Maywood. Cummings was so influential that, after his death, there was an attempt to rename Harlem Avenue in his honor.
The Cummings burial plot was once the most elaborate in the cemetery. Each of the individual family members' graves was decorated with colorful designs that used thousands of plants and angled in toward the central monument. At the front of the plot, the plantings were laid out in the shape of a wheel to mirror the one on the monument. This landscaped wheel, however, was ten feet in diameter. Inside the wheel, there was a spoke for each member of the family, plus an extra, broken spoke that symbolized death.
The monument was designed by the firm of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Sophy (1875-1953) and Charles (1873-1925) Drechsler, undertakers and business leaders.
Sophy Drechsler was the daughter of John and Carolyn Sievert, one of the first families to settle in what is now River Forest. As she was growing up, the area was so sparsely settled that she was the only one in her graduating class at Harlem School. In 1895 she married Charles Drechsler, a young man determined to succeed in business.
At an early age, Drechsler had left his family's farm in Leyden Township and trained with J. W. Senne, an early undertaker in Forest Park and Oak Park. When he was only twenty-two years old, Drechsler bought out Senne and continued to operate the under taking and ambulance services. In addition, he managed a wide range of business ventures that included repairing and upholstering furniture, renting fireproof storage space, moving furniture, and eventually, selling Franklin automobiles.
In 1898, Drechsler commissioned the noted architect E. E. Roberts to design a four-story brick building, which still stands in Oak Park at 1116 Lake Street, just west of Marion Street. The building housed and advertised all his various business ventures, as shown in the drawing here After his death, Sophy Drechsler kept the funeral home operating and served as its bookkeeper until her son Earl completed school. She remained active in the family business until her own death.
Turn right and head directly north down the slope. The large GALE family monument also has individual raised stones for family members.
Dr. Bernard M. Fantus, founder of the first blood bank.
Born September 1, 1874, Budapest, Hungary; died April 14, 1940, Oak Park, Illinois.
Dr. Bernard Fantus received his M. D. degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1899. His primary interest was the study of therapeutics, the branch of medicine which deals with the application of remedies to diseases, and he both taught and wrote extensively on die subject. From 1934 until his death in 1940, he was director of therapeutics at Cook County Hospital.
His most lasting achievement was the establishment of the first blood bank at Cook County Hospital in 1937. Prior to that time, the use of transfusions for emergency surgeries was limited because blood could not be stored, and transfusions required the immediate availability of the donor. Dr. Fantus' blood bank had a profound effect on major and trauma surgeries. Much of the major surgery performed today would be impossible if blood donors were required to wait at the operating room door. From its inception, the Cook County Hospital blood bank depended on volunteer donors, a concept still used today by most blood bank recruitment programs.
Gale family, real estate investors, druggists, architecture patrons.
Edwin Oscar Gale (1832-1913) arrived in Chicago with his parents. Abram and Sara Gale, in 1835. They purchased 320 acres north of Oak Park in what is now known as the Galewood neighborhood of Chicago. Sara opened a hat shop, the New York Millinery Store, in downtown Chicago. Young Edwin attended the College of Pharmacy in Chicago and, upon graduating, went to work in a drug store in the Palmer House Hotel. There he met William Blocki, who also worked as a clerk in the store. Gale eventually purchased the business and, when Blocki returned from serving in the Union Army during die Civil War, the two became partners in the Gale and Blocki Drug Store.
The Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed both the Palmer House and the. drug store. To rebuild. Gale obtained a loan from his friend Joseph Kettlestrings. Within a few years. Gale and Blocki had expanded their business to eight drug stores, including one in Oak Park.
Gale built a Gothic Revival-style home at the northwest corner of Kenilworth and Lake Streets in Oak Park in the 1860s. It stood for nearly 100 years until it was torn down and replaced by an apartment building. He was also a noted author and historian whose works included Reminiscences of Early Chicago and Falling Leaves, a book of poetry. A hitching post from the Fort Dearborn era, said to be donated by the Gale family, stands in Section Nine.
Emma Goldman, anarchist, lecturer, feminist and free speech advocate.
Born June 27, 1869, Kovno, Russia (now Kaunas, Lithuania); died May 14, 1940, Toronto, Canada.
Emma Goldman was an international anarchist who lived in the United States from 1885 to 1919. She worked in a clothing factory in Rochester, New York, and there attended meetings of the German Socialists. She was eighteen at the time of the Haymarket trials, and the hangings deepened her hatred of political repression. She moved to New York City in 1889 and became associated with the Russian anarchist Alexander Berkman. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Goldman traveled across the country lecturing on anarchism, free speech, and women's rights.
In 1919, J. Edgar Hoover had her deported to Russia (she was allowed to return to the United States only once, in 1935, to attend a dinner in her honor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York). She soon became disillusioned with the Communist government there, left Russia, and lived in Europe while continuing to promote radical causes. Her autobiography. My Life, chronicles her remarkable career as an anarchist and revolutionary. At the time of her death, she was in Canada raising money for the anti-Franco forces in Spain.
She asked to be buried here with others from the labor movement; Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, gave her eulogy. The portrait plaque on the gravestone was produced by the sculptor Jo Davidson. The date on the stone is wrong; she died on May 14, 1940, in Toronto, not 1939, as shown.
William C. Grunow, manufacturer and poultry merchant.
Born April 30, 1893, Chicago, Illinois; died July 6, 1951, Chicago, Illinois.
William C. Grunow, an accountant, formed Grigsby-Grunow Company in 1927 to produce Majestic radios, one of the first radios which used alternating current rather than messy, expensive batteries. The company also manufactured home refrigerators and phonographs. Both he and his partner, B. J. Grigsby, became wealthy within two years.
Grunow built a palatial home at 915 Franklin in River Forest in the 1920s; later it became the home of reputed mob figure Tony Accardo. After the Grigsby-Grunow partnership ended, Grunow founded General Household Utilities in 1933 which also produced radios and refrigerators. When that business failed, Grunow sold a Phoenix, Arizona, estate to finance a poultry-raising venture, Val-Lo-Will Farms, Inc., of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The farm was named for his three children: Valerie, Lois, and William. Eventually, Grunow owned twenty-four Val-Lo-Will Farms stores in Illinois.
As with his earlier ventures, Grunow sought to combine value with economy. He brought scientists and engineers together to design a cutting edge facility for the raising and processing of chickens. He also decided to market chicken parts individually, to meet consumer preferences.
Note the columned porticos on either side of the mausoleum. Within each is a statue; one represents commerce, the other communication, me two areas which dominated Grunow's life.
Origen White Herrick, school teacher, postmaster, shopkeeper.
Born January 1830, New York State; died January 8, 1907, Oak Park, Illinois.
O. W. Herrick arrived in Oak Ridge (now Oak Park) on Christmas Day, 1859, as the newly-hired principal/teacher of the town's two-room brick school at what is now the south-east corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue. He was a cousin to James Scoville, an important pioneer who had come to the village in 1856. A year after his arrival, he married Dora Kettlestrings, daughter of the first settlers in the area.
In the forty-eight years that Herrick lived in Oak Park, he filled almost every public office, including postmaster, school trustee, justice of the peace, notary public, and legislative representative. He also operated a general store. He was especially proud of being elected "mayor" of Oak Park when the village tried to separate from Cicero Township in 1899. However, it took a legal battle before Oak Park became a separate village in 1902.
Herrick was involved in real estate and help establish Avenue Bank at Oak Park Avenue and North Boulevard. On the day of his funeral, all businesses in town closed at 2 p.m. as a mark of respect.
James Herrick, his son, was in the first graduating class at Oak Park High School in 1877. After college, James taught at the high school until he entered medical school. He practiced medicine in Chicago until he was eighty-eight years old. He is credited with two major contributions to medical science: in 1910, he identified sickle cell anemia, and in 1912, he documented the first diagnosis of coronary thrombosis.
Dr. Clarence E. Hemingway (1871—1928), medical doctor, and Grace Hall Hemingway (1872—1951), musician and artist; parents of Nobel Prize winning novelist Ernest Hemingway.
Buried in Forest Park.
Both Clarence Hemingway and Grace Hall were born in Oak Park and graduated from Oak Park High School. Young Clarence, whose father Anson was a Civil War veteran and realtor, went on to Oberlin College and Rush Medical College before establishing a medical practice in the village. Grace, a gifted musician who aspired to a professional career, performed for local clubs and gave music lessons in her home.
Their parents' homes were located across from each other on Oak Park Avenue. The two became romantically involved when the handsome Dr. Hemingway made frequent visits to the Hall home while treating Grace's modern in her final, illness.
They wed and had five children, including world-renowned writer, Ernest. Dr. Hemingway's medical practice thrived, and his horse and buggy were a familiar sight at least until 1912. He shared his love of the outdoors with his children, often taking them along on hunting and fishing trips. He also suffered from depression and, despondent over a diagnosis of diabetes, shot himself with his fathers Civil War pistol in 1928.
Grace was a noted singer, as well as a piano and voice teacher, whose efforts often generated more income than her husbands practice. Formally trained as an opera singer in her youth, she was accepted by the Metropolitan Opera Company and made her debut at Madison Square Garden in 1891. But she gave up a career on stage to concentrate on rearing her children, and fostered Ernest's early writing efforts. She was an active campaigner for women's rights who served on the Illinois State Suffrage Commission and belonged to a variety of community organizations in Oak Park, including The Nineteenth Century Woman's Club. In her later years, she became interested in painting and produced over 600 works.
The inscriptions on their gravestones refer to Bible verses. Dr. Hemingway's verse, John 15:13, is Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend. On Grace's stone is Psalm 28:7, The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped.
Doris Humphrey, dancer and choreographer.
Born October 17,1895, Oak Park, Illinois; died December 29, 1958, New York, New York.
Born to a prominent local family, Doris Humphrey helped pioneer the art of modern dance, along with Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Martha Graham.
Humphrey attended Francis Parker School in Chicago, one of the first progressive schools in the area, and studied dance under Mary Wood Hinman. After graduating in 1913, Humphrey began teaching dance in Oak Park and River Forest, but soon felt isolated and despaired of making a name for herself. After five years, she joined the Denishawn Company in California and eventually established her own company in New York with Charles Weidman.
Humphrey’s movement idiom represented a radical break from ballet. She based her techniques on the body's relationship to gravity. Unlike many dancers, Humphrey could communicate her principles in a simple way. Her influence on dance continues through her book, The Art of Making Dances, which is still used by choreographers across the country.
Humphrey’s mother, Julia Ellen Wells, was a trained concert pianist; her father, Horace Buckingham Humphrey, was a journalist and hotel manager. Her grandfather was Reverend Simon Humphrey, a prominent Congregational minister who settled in Oak Park in 1867 and for whom Humphrey Avenue is named. Curving Elizabeth Court in Oak Park was named for his second wife, Elizabeth Emerson Humphrey. All are buried in the family plot.
Joseph Kettlestrings (1808-1883) and Betty Willis Kettlestrings (1802-1885), pioneer settlers, community builders. Both born in Yorkshire, England and died in Oak Park, Illinois.
Joseph and Betty Kettlestrings were the earliest white settlers in the area now known as Oak Park. Both natives of Yorkshire, England, they brought their two children to the United States in 1831 and had a third child in 1832 during a brief stay in Cincinnati. They lived in Ohio for less than a year before pushing on through the mud of Chicago to the high ground just east of the DesPlaines River. Joseph worked for friends from England who operated a sawmill on the river.
In 1837, Joseph purchased 172.78 acres from the federal government for $215.98 or $1.25 an acre. Today this land is bounded by Chicago Avenue and the Metra railroad tracks, between Harlem and Oak Park Avenues. The Kettlestrings continued to buy land in the area, but unlike many land speculators of the time, the family stayed and built a community.
They built their first cabin in 1835 just east of Harlem Avenue and south of Lake Street; it soon turned into an inn frequented by the many travelers who followed Lake Street between Elgin and Chicago. The Kettlestrings moved their growing family, which eventually included eleven children, to Chicago in 1843 for the schools and culture; Joseph worked grading the new city's streets.
Returning to their Oak Park farm in 1855, the Kettlestrings began to subdivide their land. Their insistence on temperance and their generous support of local churches and schools were also espoused by those to whom they sold land: the Gales, the Scovilles, and the Austins. Their children married into other early settler families, including the Herricks, the Whaples and the Dunlops. The Kettlestrings' second home, "The Grove," located near today’s Oak Park Public Library, lent Oak Park its first unofficial name, "Kettlestrings* Grove."
Arthur W. Kistenbroker, monument company founder and president and village clerk of Harlem (Forest Park). Born October 3, 1857, Chicago, Illinois; died February 25, 1935, Forest Park, Illinois.
Buried in Forest Park.
Arthur Kistenbroker's parents, John and Anna, were German immigrants who brought their family to Harlem in 1858 and raised cattle. Of Arthur’s twelve brothers and sisters, only three survived past infancy. After attending Chicago public schools, Arthur studied music and played the flute in Chicago orchestras.
In 1884, Kistenbroker opened a marble and granite business on DesPlaines Avenue, opposite the entrance of Forest Home Cemetery; he served as president of the company until his retirement in 1918. The excellent location adjacent to the still-new cemeteries in the area helped the business thrive, for it could easily supply burial monuments and markers. The firm also shipped monuments to cemeteries in other parts of the United States.
Kistenbroker served his hometown as the second village clerk and as five-term village president.
This so-called "Empty Mausoleum" was once owned by Ernst J. Lehmann, who established The Fair, a Chicago department store, in 1875. Born in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, in 1849, Lehmann came to America in 1858 and was considered a pioneer in the department store business. Legend has it that Lehmann had been a friend of the Haase family and helped them run the picnic grounds on this land before the cemetery was established. One account indicates that he may have piloted a pleasure boat drawn by geese on the Des Plaines River.
Lehmann eventually suffered a breakdown, attributed to overwork, and he spent the last decade of his life in sanitariums, dying in White Plains, New York, on January 5, 1900. His son, Edward J., ran the store in his absence.
According to an illustration on a 1905 letterhead for German Waldheim Cemetery, "E. J. Lehmann Memorial" was carved along the roofline of the mausoleum. Originally, six bodies were buried in the mausoleum, but in 1920, they were all moved to an even more impressive mausoleum on an island in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago; the crypt has been empty ever since.
Edward Hand Pitkin (1846-1918), china company executive and college trustee
Lillie Morey Pitkin (1851-1924), suffragist and school board member.
Edward H. Pitkin came from a prominent family with governors and state supreme court justices on both sides of his family tree. His father joined the thousands who followed the gold strikes to California in the 1840s and 1850s, and E. H. spent most of his youth living with relatives in Vermont. The family moved to Chicago when his father finally returned, unsuccessful in his search for riches. Since there were not enough funds for E.H. to attend high school, he worked in a crockery factory until he enlisted in the 132nd Illinois Volunteers during the Civil War. Underage when he enlisted, he always considered himself lucky that he never saw action.
He married Lillie E. Morey and they settled in Oak Park in 1871. He became a founding trustee of the Scoville Institute, Oak Parks first public library. Soon after the Chicago Fire, he established a retail and manufacturing firm, Pitkin and Brooks, which sold pottery, lamps and glassware, and manufactured diamond cut glass. The store, located at the corner of State and Lake Streets in Chicago, also offered "the most desirable goods in the largest variety, with guarantee of satisfaction and courteous treatment," according to a 1906 advertisement.
When Dr. Edward Dwight Eaton, Pitkins minister at the First Congregational Church in Oak Park, was appointed president of Beloit College, he asked for Pitkins assistance in fund raising. This connection with Beloit College became a dominant feature in his life; as chairman of the Ways and Means committee, Pitkin increased the college's endowment tenfold, and he remained a college trustee for thirty-two years. The Pitkins' daughter, Miss L. May Pitkin, taught English and served as Dean of Women at Beloit.
In 1893, Lillie Pitkin became the first elected woman official in Oak Park. Illinois women had been given the right to vote in local school board elections in 1891. Mrs. Pitkin, a member of The Nineteenth Century Woman's Club, was nominated and elected to serve a six-year term on the Oak Park High School Board. In an ironic twist years later, the Pitkin home was torn down to make way for the high schools athletic field.
Augustin Porter (1797-1880) and Elizabeth Porter Furbeck (1836-1920), pioneers.
The daughter of pioneer settler Augustin Porter, Elizabeth Porter Furbeck recalled her family's "hardscrabble" existence in a paper presented to the Society of due Pioneers of Chicago in 1898.
When the wind was not too strong we made our own fireworks and illuminations by setting the high grass and weeds on fire; we carried an armful of hazel brush to beat it out if it was liable to do harm. If you have never lived on the natural untrodden prairie, you can hardly imagine the beauty of the wild flowers, as each month from early spring to late fall brings flowers of different kinds and colors in the greatest pro fusion. I love the prairie as the seaman loves the sea.
The Porter family had come to Chicago in 1836 from Cicero, New York, via steamboat through the Erie Canal and down through Lakes Huron and Michigan. Elizabeth was just an infant and the steamboat captain once threatened to throw her overboard unless she stopped crying. The family seeded in Lombard, then known as Babcock's Grove, but their sawmill business was unsuccessful, and they returned to Chicago in 1843.
The following year, Augustin Porter bought a parcel of land in the vicinity of what is now Lyons. He proposed the names of Cicero and Proviso for local towns: Cicero for his home town in New York, and Proviso for the Wilmot Proviso under discussion by Congress at the time. He was later elected both assessor and justice of the peace for Proviso Township. In 1860, Porter built the first brick house in what is now River Forest at the corner of Railroad Avenue and John Street (now Central and Bonnie Brae).
Elizabeth Porter wed James Moore in 1852, and they had three children. After his death, she wed John H. Furbeck. She lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Titus, in her fathers home after his death. For years, she was the only Baptist in Oak Park and the immediate vicinity. Her father mortgaged his property to help build the First Baptist Church in Austin, which she attended until an Oak Park congregation was established in 1873.
Directly beyond the Porter monument is the large WESTPHAL monument with its engraved leaf decorations.
William Gray Purcell, architect.
Born 1880, Wilmette, Illinois; died April 11, 1965, Pasadena, California.
Purcell was a nationally known architect who grew up in Oak Park. He studied at the Cornell School of Architecture and graduated in 1903. He worked for Louis Sullivan before starting a private practice in 1906. Three years later, he formed a partnership with George Elmslie.
Purcell was an early proponent of creating a new American architecture, and he shunned the popular Tudor, Romanesque, and Classical Revival styles of the period. Purcell's firm became one of the most productive of the Prairie School practitioners. Purcell believed that buildings should reflect the lives of the people who inhabited them. The function of a building, together with its site, landscaping, materials, and decoration, should make a unified whole. His firm was particularly known for its many beautifully ornamented banks designed for small towns across the nation. Purcell and Elmslie remained partners until 1922. After the firm dissolved, Purcell continued in private practice and became involved with low-cost and speculative housing. After a serious illness, he retired to southern California and devoted his time to writing.
Purcell had been raised by his grandfather, William Cunningham Gray, a neighbor of Frank Lloyd Wright. Gray, who is buried on the other side of this monument, was a businessman who, later in his life, became absorbed with spiritual matters. The Interior was a religious magazine which he edited.
Take note of the "autographed" stones on the gravesites. The dates shown are the years of birth and death; the central date is the marriage year. The monument was designed by Purcell while a student at Cornell.
Martha Louise Rayne, journalist.
Born August 1, 1836, Halifax, Nova Scoria; died August 8, 1911, Oak Park, Illinois.
As a woman journalist, Martha Louise Rayne could go where no man was allowed. Thus, she obtained an interview with Mary Todd Lincoln while Mrs. Lincoln was confined in a mental institution in Batavia, Illinois, and was able to meet with and photograph members of the Beecher family during the much-publicized adultery trial of the famous preacher, Henry Ward Beecher.
Born Mardia Louise Woodworm, she married Robert Weir Rayne when she was only nineteen years old. Her husband ran a number of unsuccessful businesses, and in all probability, she was the family breadwinner. Of their ten children, only two daughters survived to adulthood.
The Rayne family arrived in this area in the early 1860s. Rayne wrote for the Chicago Tribune under the pen name "Vie," and later became the editor and owner of The Chicago Magazine of Fashion, Music and Home Reading. She also launched a successful lecture career, wrote five novels and two non-fiction books, and interviewed President Grover Cleveland, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John Greenleaf Whittier, among others. After her daughters married, she moved to Michigan and joined the staff of the Detroit Free Press.
Although she was never an advocate of women's rights, Rayne s most popular book. What Can A Woman Do: Or Her Position in the Business and Literary World, gave advice and counsel to women who would follow her into journalism. By 1885, she had developed her ideas for a "school" of journalism, rather than simply journalism courses, which she opened the next year. Her biographical sketch in the 1910 Who's Who in America credited her with having established the first school of journalism in the world.
Mrs. Rayne spent her last twenty years in Oak Park with her daughters. She established a second school of journalism in Chicago, and continued her free-lance writing and reporting until her death from cancer. In 1998, she was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Dr. Thomas E. Roberts (1865-1935), physician and civic leader, and Alice Hovey Hurlbut Roberts (1866-1925).
Dr. Thomas E. Roberts graduated from the Chicago Homeopathic Medical College in 1888 and taught there from 1890 until 1902, while he also served as an attending physician at Cook County Hospital. He was a general practitioner in Oak Park and Chicago until his death; he helped establish West Suburban Hospital and served on its staff and as a director.
In addition to his excellent reputation as a family physician. Dr. Roberts had a remarkable range of other interests. He served as captain and assistant surgeon of the First Illinois Infantry during the Spanish-American War of 1898. This experience sparked an active speaking career and a lifelong interest in veterans' groups and patriotic organizations, including the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
He was a charter member of the Oak Park YMCA; a director of the Oak Park Trust and Savings Bank for thirty years; founder and chairman of the local Red Cross for twenty years; a charter member of both the Oak Park Club and the Oak Park Country Club, and an organizer of the Oak Park Civic League, dedicated to good government. He took a special interest in the Boy Scout movement and was a founder of the Oak Park area Boy Scout council. He also found time for mountain climbing, golf, cycling, and Republican Party politics. His brother, E. E. Roberts, was a prolific Oak Park architect.
The name "Hurlbut" also appears on the monument. Dr. Roberts married Alice Hovey Hurlbut in 1892; her adoptive parents, Samuel and Mary Hurlbut, owned a palatial home at the northwest corner of what is now North Boulevard and Forest Avenue in Oak Park. That building became the first permanent clubhouse of the Oak Park Club, a prominent social organization, in 1893.
Albert Roos, Sr., banker and Forest Park civic leader.
Born April 18, 1855, Hamburg bei Zweibrucken, the Rhenish Palatinate; died February 27, 1945, Forest Park, Illinois.
Albert Roos came to Chicago from Germany in 1867. His father, Bernhard L. Roos, was one of the organizers of Waldheim Cemetery and its first superintendent. Albert learned the printing business by working for the Illinois Arbeiter-Zeitung, a leading German-language newspaper, first as a typesetter and then as a police reporter. In 1882, he joined his brother Edward in business.
Edward Roos had come to Chicago in 1865 and worked as a lathe operator in a furniture factory. In 1871, he established his own lathe works, but it was not successful and he turned the business over to his partner. Two years later, he established the Roos Manufacturing Company which produced curtain poles and other household furnishings. Eventually, cedar chests became a specialty of the firm, which had a large factory in Chicago. A later factory, at Harrison Street and Circle Avenue in Forest Park, was built in 1918 and still bears the Roos name carved in stone.
In 1897, Albert Roos and George Schrade, the president of Harlem (Forest Park), started a private bank under the name Roos and Schrade. They built a stone-front building on West Madison Street and specialized in real estate, loans and insurance.
Schrade retired in 1900, and in 1905, Roos' sons, Albert C. and Fred B., joined the bank. Albert C. served as cashier and bookkeeper, and Fred B., who was also the village attorney and a state legislator, served as legal head of the firm. By 1906 the bank was called the Harlem Savings Bank. It merged with the Harlem State Savings Bank to form the Forest Park State Bank in the early stages of the Depression, but the bank failed in 1931.
Albert Sr. served as president of the Board of Education for two years, as village trustee for three years, and as village collector for a number of years. He and his wife were active members of the community who served as officers of several benevolent and social organizations.
Adolph Joachim Sabath, United States Congressman, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Democratic Party Leader.
Born April 4, 1866, Zabori, Bohemia; died November 6, 1952, Bethesda, Maryland.
Adolph Sabath immigrated to the United States in 1881. After receiving his law degree, he soon became involved in Democratic Party politics in Chicago and served at various times as ward committeeman, justice of the peace, police magistrate and member of the central and executive committees of me Democratic Party. He served as a delegate to every Democratic National Convention from 1896 to 1944.
Sabath was first elected to the United States Congress in 1906 and continued to be re-elected until his death in 1952, serving under eight presidents. His Fifth District on Chicago's near west side (^reapportioned as the Seventh District in 1947) was a Democratic Party stronghold which included immigrants and their descendants from some seventeen nationalities.
An ardent New Dealer, Sabath was a strong advocate for old age pensions, workers' compensation laws, the GI Bill of Rights, pro-immigrant policies, collective bargaining, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Act. He opposed Prohibition and was the first Congressman to recommend federal aid to highways. Sabath never lost touch with his roots and supported Czechoslovakian independence from the time of World War I until his death.
st Street (now 2038 West 21st Street) in Chicago, died of diphtheria just two days apart. They were the sons of Frieda and Lars Schmidt, an undertaker. They still receive small gifts on their graves and their monument serves as a landmark for many who visit the cemetery.
Lars (1884-1890) and Eddie (1887-1890) Schmidt, victims of childhood diseases.
This poignant monument of two brothers commemorates the short lives of Lars and Eddie Schmidt, ages six and two respectively. The brothers, who lived at 869 West 21
Before the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics, many young children lost their lives to infectious diseases, such as diphtheria, smallpox, and influenza. During the nineteenth century, children under five years of age accounted for forty percent of the mortality rate.
James Fletcher Skinner, partner in Sears Roebuck & Co., philanthropist.
Born December 6, 1868, Madison, Wisconsin; died January 7,1917, Oak Park, Illinois.
Buried in Forest Park.
At age seven, James F. Skinner moved with his family to Redwood Falls, Minnesota. He later became a merchant, operated the town's general store, and wed Hattie Persons. He also met an individual who would change his life: Richard W. Sears, who operated the telegraph at the local train station and sold watches to travelers as a side business.
Sears and Skinner often discussed ways of improving business. They brain-stormed about developing a merchandising method that would reduce the number of middlemen and cut roses for transactions between producers and consumers. The result was a direct response mail order house which Sears opened in Minneapolis.
In 1895 Sears moved the business to Chicago and invited Skinner to join him. Skinner accepted and for a time both men lived in Oak Park. When Sears died in 1914, Skinner was deeply affected by the loss of his business partner and devoted friend. His health began to fail, and he felt a "sense of loneliness from which he never escaped."
In his lifetime. Skinner was a successful businessman, yet he was always kind and considerate to others less fortunate than himself. He was a strong supporter of the YMCA. At his death, the union printers of the Sears' firm eulogized him as a "friend and co-worker."
Junius R. Sloan (1827-1900), portrait and landscape painter, and Sara Spencer Sloan (1832—1923), teacher and penmanship promoter.
Sloan left his hometown of Kingsville, Ohio at age twenty-one to make his living as an itinerant painter. His first sales were in Ashtabula, Ohio: several portraits at $10 each. He traveled extensively across the Midwest and through New England, occasionally painting signs and houses in exchange for room and board.
In 1849, he visited his friend Robert Spencer in Geneva, Ohio. He painted a portrait of Roberts father, Platt R. Spencer, founder of the Spencenan method of penmanship, and wed Robert's sister Sara in 1858. Robert Spencer's son, also named Robert, was a noted Prairie School architect who lived in River Forest for a time and designed the original Oak Park High School building.
After 1863, Sloan produced only six more portraits, all of family members. His shift to landscape painting may be explained by several factors, including his self-described preference for nature over human company. Without any formal training or the benefit of study abroad, the shy Sloan developed his own style, one that depicts the American countryside in pastoral repose.
Sloan typically worked in oils and is considered by some to be the most talented landscape artist in Illinois during the period 1860-1890. His work has a freshness based on his strong personal vision which gives it an "American look" that rises above provincialism.
Throughout her husband's career, Sara Spencer Sloan promoted her father's penmanship method -- and supplemented her husband's sometimes sporadic income—by teaching school. The Spencerian handwriting method was taught with engraved and lithographed copybooks and became the most widely known system of handwriting instruction in the third quarter of the nineteenth century.
More than 250 of Sloan's paintings form the nucleus of the Sloan Collection of American Paintings at the Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso University. The collection was donated by Sloan's son Percy (1858 to 1950), an art teacher and supervisor in the Chicago Public Schools from 1892 to 1926.
William Sooy Smith, Civil War general and structural engineer.
Born July 22, 1830, Tarlton, Ohio; died March 4, 1916, Medford, Oregon.
Smith worked his way through Ohio University and graduated in 1849; he then procured an appointment to the US. Military Academy at West Point. He ranked sixth in the class of 1853; Philip Sheridan and John B. Hood, who would later become noted Civil War generals, were among his classmates. A year later. Smith resigned his commission to become a construction engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Smith returned to Ohio and was commissioned as a colonel. Eventually he was made chief of the cavalry forces in the West under Generals US. Grant and W. T. Sherman. In March 1864 he led 7,000 troops in a raid from Memphis to West Point, Mississippi, where he was badly defeated and driven back to Memphis. Ill health forced him to resign his commission on July 15,1864 and he retired to his farm in Maywood, Illinois.
After he recovered. Smith made major contributions to engineering, concentrating on foundations and structural engineering. He had a hand in the construction of virtually every tall building in Chicago between 1890 and 1910. Among the most significant was the Chicago Public Library main building (now the Chicago Cultural Center) on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Randolph Streets. Smith was responsible for the design and testing of the building's foundations and was so accurate there has been no appreciable settling in the building to this day.
Smith also served as an engineer on several bridge projects. He designed the world s first all-steel bridge over the Missouri River at Glasgow, Missouri. He retired to Medford, Oregon, where he died at age eighty-six. His grave remained unmarked until the West Point Society of Chicago placed a monument in his memory in 1969.
Ashbel Steele, River Forest pioneer and postmaster. Cook County sheriff and coroner.
Born 1794, Derby, Connecticut; died 1861, River Forest, Illinois.
Steele was a pioneer who settled on the banks of the Des Plaines River in 1836 and is credited with being the first white permanent resident of River Forest. Steele and his wife, Harriet Dawley, brought their two sons and seven daughters to the "beautiful woodland skirting the shores of the river of the plains." Their home, built in a clearing of forest which is today just south of the Metra tracks and west of Thatcher Avenue, was lovingly furnished with mahogany pieces brought from the east, including the first piano in Chicago. The majority of their land is now owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District.
By 1842 Lake Street was one of the first planked roads in the area, connecting Chicago to Elgin. In 1846 Steele moved his family to a new home on the south side of Lake Street between the current Thatcher and Keystone Avenues. This building was known as Montezuma Hall and included a general store, tavern, post office, and stagecoach stop. Wayfarers could find refreshments for man and beast. Overnight guests paid 12 1/2 cents for a bed; breakfast was a quarter.
Steele served as sheriff of Cook County in 1840 and became the local postmaster in 1849. A skilled tradesman, he built the landmark Harlem School on the northeast corner of Lake Street at Park Avenue in 1859. Today, that brick building serves as the administrative offices for the River Forest elementary schools.
Trader, craftsman, builder, law-enforcement officer, and postmaster, Steele was a kind of Renaissance man. He was first buried on his own land but his body was moved to Forest Home Cemetery when his wife Harriet died.
The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest raised more than $4,000 to purchase a new obelisk for his grave, as the original had crumbled beyond repair. The new stone was dedicated in September 1995.
Adolph Strasser, president of the Cigar Makers International Union and organizer of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).
Born 1844, Austria-Hungary; died January 1, 1939, Lakeland, Florida.
Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Strasser came to the United States in 1872. He may have first spent some time in England, as he spoke English fluently and was knowledgeable about British trade unionism when he arrived here. Settling in New York, Strasser became active in his local trade union, the Cigar Makers International Union (CMIU). One important early objective for the union was to achieve an eight-hour day.
In 1875, Strasser became the unions financial secretary, with Samuel Gompers serving as president. By 1877, Strasser had been elected president, a position he held for fifteen years. His leadership came at a time when the union was in trouble. When the cigar mold was introduced in the 1870s, unskilled workers flooded the market for the first time. Large numbers of recent immigrants were recruited to live in company-owned horsing and make cigars. With men, women, and children making these cheaper cigars, the skilled cigar-makers who made up the membership of the CMIU found that their own jobs and wages were declining.
Strasser introduced the union label to identify a quality product. This union label can be seen on the central monument. In 1886, he, with four others, issued a call for a convention in Columbus, Ohio, that organized the American Federation of Labor (AFL). He was a major force in the creation of that union. He worked for the CMIU and the AFL as a lecturer, auditor and general trouble-shooter.
By 1895 the CMIU headquarters had relocated to Chicago; Strasser lived here from 1918-1929. In 1930, he moved to Florida, all but forgotten. On his death in 1939, he was buried in a pauper's grave. When the union discovered this, they arranged to have his body moved to the plot of Union Local 14 at Forest Home Cemetery. A special stone was placed here to mark his grave in 1986.
Billy Sunday, evangelist.
Born November 19, 1862, Ames, Iowa; died November 6, 1935, Chicago, Illinois.
In the 1880s, Billy Sunday was a professional baseball player with the Chicago White Stockings, later known as the Cubs. A fast runner, he stole ninety-five bases in one season, and played for eight years. But in 1886, Sunday underwent a religious conversion outside the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, and went to work for the YMCA. He was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church in 1903.
As a famed evangelist, he brought a revivalist religious message to working class people. He preached against scientists, radicals, and liberals, and challenged participants in his tent revivals to "walk the sawdust trail" for Jesus Christ. Entertaining and controversial, Sunday attracted thousands to his revival meetings. It is estimated that he converted over 300,000 souls.
Sinclair Lewis' book, Elmer Gantry, is based on his life. Billy Sunday was also immortalized in the song "Chicago," described as the town he could not shut down. His popularity waned in the 1920s, and he came to be seen as a symbol of beliefs and values of small-town nineteenth-century America.
The tombstone inscription bears a Bible verse from 2 Timothy:
I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.
Dr. John W. Tope, surgeon and founder of Oak Park Hospital.
Born November 10, 1845, Ohio; died June 18, 1910, Oak Park, Illinois.
John W. Tope enlisted in the Union Army as a boy of just fifteen and fought in the battles of Antietam, Vicksburg and Atlanta. After the war, he decided on a medical career and was in the second intern class at Cook County Hospital in 1869. For more than thirty years he practiced medicine, and at one time he served as Superintendent of the Dunning Asylum, a public institution for the insane.
In 1904 Dr. Tope formed the Oak Park Hospital Association to build a hospital in Oak Park. Dr. Clarence Hemingway was also a member of the association. The proposed site north 'of Augusta Street was opposed by residents because of the perceived danger of infectious disease. The association disbanded, but Dr. Tope was determined there should be a hospital. He turned to the Catholic Sisters of Misericorde, who had established eight other hospitals. They agreed to build a ninety-bed hospital, just east of Harlem Avenue and south of Madison Street. The building was dedicated on April 4, 1907.
He was eulogized as a "man of plain speech; so frank as to be blunt and uncompromising; yet he had a very tender heart.... Dr. Topes sympathy was not that of the shallow sentimentalist; it was the sympathy, deep, Rill and sincere, of a strong man with a great heart."
Edward G. Uihlein, brewing company executive.
Born October 19, 1845, Wertheim on Main, Baden; died January 25, 1921, Chicago, Illinois.
Edward G. Uihlein came to the United States in June 1864 and settled in St. Louis, where he began working in a warehouse. Three years later, he moved to Chicago and worked in the oil business until 1872, when he became a general agent for the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Uihlein rose to vice president of the Schlitz Brewing Company and held various top offices in the Chicago and Milwaukee Brewers' Associations.
At the turn of the century, Uihlein spearheaded the Schlitz marketing effort to build dozens of company-owned saloons to attract customers away from competitors. He concentrated on German neighborhoods, and even used German-inspired architecture to attract patrons. A common characteristic of each building was the Schlitz logo incorporated into the masonry work.
Uihlein made one foray into local government: he served on the West Chicago Park Commission, a precursor to the Chicago Park District, and was called an "outspoken friend of flowers and plants." His interest in park beautification extended to his personal hobbies; he was a world traveler who sought rare tropical plants and orchids for his own collection, and he became vice president of the Chicago Horticultural Society.
Adolph Westphal, photographer and soda bottler.
Born November 1, 1835, Prussia; died October 7, 1913, River Forest, Illinois.
Adolph Westphal had been a photographer in his native Prussia, so it was only natural that he open a photography studio when he arrived in Chicago in 1864. His interest in outdoor photography took him to the Des Plaines River in River Forest. Westphal was delighted by the beauty of the area and decided to settle there.
He bought the old Quick homestead at Lake Street and Clinton Place, which became a successful tavern and dance hall. For years, it was the stopping spot for weary travelers going from the western farms to the Chicago markets. He also opened a photography gallery at Lake and Marion Streets in Oak Park and a grocery store. Eventually he closed the tavern and began bottling beer.
In 1894 local liquor restrictions forced him to switch to holding soda, but a loophole in the law let him continue to sell bottled beer on a wholesale basis. A 1906 advertisement for the Adolph Westphal Bottling Company, Inc. describes it as "bottlers of fine carbonated beverages, ginger ale, root beer, etc., also leading brands of bottle beer; distributors of Neptune Triple Distilled Water, Mammoth Springs Water, Attica Natural Lithia Water. Prompt Delivery."
Directly ahead is the square DRECHSLER monument.
On Memorial Day, 1961, the War Veterans Council of Oak Park dedicated a Field of Honor at Forest Home Cemetery. The Field of Honor included a flagpole, bronze memorial plaque, and rows of flat markers, designed to replace me practice of placing individual flags on veterans' graves. This section shows the increased importance of in-ground grave markers during the post-World War II era.
Gypsy burial traditions are a fascinating part of Forest Home Cemetery, evident just inside the gates. In the funeral monument industry, Gypsies are known to be highly respectful of their dead, and families will purchase large, elaborate monuments that frequently include photographs of the deceased. The name "Gypsy" originated in Europe as a label for dark-skinned Asian people who migrated through Asia Minor. They were mistakenly thought to be from Egypt, and thus were called "gypcians" or "Gypsies."
Gypsies today call themselves Romany people, or Roma, derived from their word from meaning man or husband. They have often been persecuted and arc without a land of their own; they have generally adopted Christianity in the Western world, with a special emphasis on the importance of ancestors. It is common for Gypsies to celebrate holidays and other important family events at the cemetery, to serve elaborate graveside meals, and to leave gifts, like a favorite beverage or cigarettes, on a relative's monument. While modern graves are located here, early in the history of Forest Home Cemetery. There were Gypsy burials west of the river; markers can still be seen there today.
UNITED ANCIENT ORDER OF DRUIDS
This is perhaps the most curious monument in Forest Home Cemetery. The United Ancient Order of Druids (UAOD), a fraternal order, was founded in England in 1781 by men who believed in the principles of "Unity, Peace, and Concord," as well as a Supreme Being. The true history of the ancient druids is shrouded in legend and myth, but the name was applied to priests among Celtic tribes. Religious ceremonies were held chiefly in oak groves and along rivers and lakes, and the circle symbolized the Supreme Being. The UAOD based its ritual on the history and legend of these ancient druids.
In 1883, Chicago was home to sixteen local UAOD lodges, called "Groves." This monument, erected in 1888, contains many of the symbols associated with this order: the "logs" arranged in concentric circles around the central monument, the all-seeing eye within the triangle, and the shrouded figure of the Druid atop the monument.
HAYMARKET MARTYRS' MONUMENT
The famous Haymarket monument, rallying point for the international labor movement, was dedicated on June 25,1893.The monument was named a National Historic Landmark by the US. Department of the Interior in 1997, and is the nations only cemetery monument to receive such designation.
Photograph by Lawrence Godson.
The Haymarket bombing occurred in strike-ridden Chicago on May 4,1886, at a mass meeting called to protest police brutality. On the previous day, at the McCormick Reaper Plant, police intervened in a fight between strikers and strikebreakers who were operating the plant, and several people were killed.
The gathering at Haymarket Square was peaceful until the police ordered the crowd to disperse. A bomb was thrown and the shooting began. Seven policemen were killed, as well as four workers, and more than sixty people were wounded.
Haymarket Monument Plaque. Photograph by Lawrence Godson
Eight labor activists were brought to trial and charged with inciting the bomb-throwing incident. The identity of the bomb-thrower was never established, but the eight were found guilty even though several of them were not even present at the Haymarket meeting. Four of the men were hanged, and one committed suicide in his cell. The other three were imprisoned.
German Waldheim was the only cemetery that would accept the bodies of the convicted men -- Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Albert Parsons, and August Spies -- and over 15,000 people attended the funeral. In 1893, lawyer Clarence Darrow and others approached Governor John Peter Altgeld about a pardon for the three remaining prisoners, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, and Michael Schwab. After reviewing the case, Altgeld became convinced that the trial had been unfair and granted the pardons. For his act of mercy, Altgeld was burned in effigy and vilified in the press, particularly by Joseph Medill’s Chicago Tribune.
Photograph by Lawrence Godson
When the three died, they joined their comrades here and are also buried around the marker. The Haymarket monument was designed by the sculptor Albert Weinert and is held in trust by the Illinois Labor History Society. Justice is represented by a woman placing a laurel wreath on the head of a fallen worker. She is marching into the future, ready to draw the sword if she must, to win a better life for generations to come. For more information on other dissenters buried in this area, see The Day Will Come . . ., published by the Illinois Labor History Society.
Scripture at the bottom of the Haymarket Monument. Photograph by Lawrence Godson.
Thousands of year ago, this entire area was part of glacial Lake Chicago. When the water receded, the ground was extremely swampy; a sand ridge, known as the Oak Park Spit, ran southwest toward the Des Plaines River from Chicago's Galewood neighborhood to Roosevelt Road. This "spit" was the highest ground in the area, and became a path for travelers as well as the site of both Native American villages and burial grounds.
These mausoleums are crypts built into the side of the "spit." According to the recollections of Mrs. E. R. Haase, a daughter-in-law of Ferdinand Haase, this summit once served as an open air assembly site for Native Americans, and was later the site of the cemetery's first chapel. Notice the height of the hill; this is how high the entire area was before it was strip-mined for gravel and leveled to create Forest Home Cemetery.
As you travel through the cemetery, you will notice a number of "tree trunk" monuments. These carvings, which include bark and inner rings, reflect the late nineteenth century interest in nature. Look for both horizontal and vertical examples, such as stacked logs, crosses, benches, and planters. Many larger monuments are laden with symbolism: ivy and other flora, birds and animals, broken ax handles, clasped hands, secret society emblems, and other signs of life, death, eternity, and resurrection.
GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
Phil Sheridan Post 615, Oak Park, Illinois.
The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, was founded in 1866, and became the largest and most important of the Civil War veterans' organizations. Its purpose was the "defense of the late soldiery of the United States, morally, socially, and politically." The GAR lobbied strenuously for pension increases and improved benefits for veterans and their dependents.
Phil Sheridan Post 615, an Oak Park GAR post formed in 1887, included as many as 232 members from all walks of life. This monument, erected in 1921, is topped by a small, iron mortar, the only one to be found in a Chicago-area cemetery. On one side is the GAR badge, on the other the inscription, "Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty." The last survivor of the Phil Sheridan GAR Post sold the balance of the lots in this section to veterans of the Spanish-American War.
INTERNATIONAL ALLIANCE OF BILL POSTERS AND BILLERS LOCAL #1
Bill posters pasted up, or "posted," advertising sheets for everything from circuses and political rallies to product advertisements. This is an excellent example of a trade union burial plot. The small, simple headstones with identical inscriptions speak of a union membership that was neither highly skilled nor highly paid. In the days before the widespread use of private life insurance, burial privileges and allowances were an important benefit of union membership. Such assurances provided members with the peace of mind that they would not end up in a potters field, but would receive a proper burial among their co-workers.
Compare the headstones in the Bill Posters plot to the more expensive red granite stones found in the Masonic Pleiades Lodge plot immediately to the north. To the south of the Bill Posters plot is the Cambrian Society plot, for those of Welsh descent. There is no central monument, but Welsh surnames and some Welsh inscriptions are evident.
On two occasions, aircraft have crashed in Forest Home Cemetery. In 1920, an airmail plane crashed while banking for a landing at Checkerboard Field, located at First Avenue and Roosevelt Road; the pilot walked away, unhurt. On July 17, 1960, a Sikorsky S-58 helicopter traveling a busy shuttle route along the Des Plaines River between O'Hare and Midway Airports crashed into Forest Home Cemetery, west of the river, killing thirteen people. There is no marker to the victims.
THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or IOOF, was the first American fraternal order to offer its members financial relief benefits for sickness, burial of deceased members, and assistance to orphans. It is one of the largest American fraternal organizations. This impressive monument, topped by the statue of a woman, was erected in 1884 by six German-speaking, Chicago-area Odd Fellows lodges.
German-language lodges were common until outlawed by the IOOF after World War I. The inscription on the south side reads "Freundschaft, Liebe und Wahrheit" [Friendship, Love and Truth]; on the east side are listed the six participating lodges.
When Ferdinand Haase first tried to till the soil, he made a startling discovery. In a gravel bed approximately 150 yards east of the Des Plaines River, Haase uncovered the bones and tusk of a huge mastodon just ten feet below the surface. He also unearthed several mounds that contained human remains as well as artifacts and ornaments. "Four score of graves have been unearthed," wrote his daughter-in-law, "and their contents exposed to human eyes. Each mound contained about ten bodies surrounded by the individual's personal property . . . knives, wampum, kettles, crosses, arm bands, beads, and other ornaments." The Historical Society of Forest Park has some of these artifacts on exhibit at the Forest Park Public Library.
NATIVE AMERICAN TRAIL MARKER
Nearly 200 years ago, Potawatomi Indians made their home along the banks of the DesPlaines River. The Potawatomi had been guaranteed this land by the Treaty of Prairie du Chien in 1829, but were forced to move west just a few years later, after the Black Hawk War of 1832.
A trapper, Leon Bourassa, and his Potawatomi wife, Margaret, remained on the land near the ancestral graves. Ferdinand Haase, who is considered the founder of Forest Park, bought and farmed the land in 1851.
In 1942, this boulder was placed here to commemorate the origins of Forest Home Cemetery. The inscription reads:
An ancient Indian trail once passed this boulder skirting the forest along the Des Plaines River, through groves of wild plum and hazel thickets. Eastward the tall grass of the prairie stretched as far as the eye could reach. Later it served as a road for the early settlers in the long months when the flooded prairies were impassable. May those who now follow this trail gain comfort from nature's peace and beauty.
NATIVE AMERICAN BURIAL MOUND
This burial mound of the Potawatomi Indians, who lived on and tended their dead in what is now Forest Home Cemetery, is indicated by a marker, placed in 1941, with a bas relief of an Indian on horseback created by River Forest artist Paul Strayer.The text reads:
This is the site of a village and burial ground of the Potawatomi Indians from ancient times until 1835 when they were exiled to lands beyond [he Mississippi. Later this locality was known as Indian Hill. Here stood the cabin of Leon Bourassa, the trapper. His Indian wife, Margaret, had been reared in this grove and, after the exodus other tribe, she chose to remain near the graves of her ancestors. As the years passed the visits of the Potawatomi became ever less frequent, and this memorial has been erected to perpetuate their memory. In 1832 Federal troops under General Win field Scott skirted this grove, forded the river a mile north, and marched on to the Black Hawk War in the Rock River country. These soldiers had encamped at a point that is now the Village of Riverside to rest and recover from an epidemic of Asiatic cholera. Upon the arrival of white settlers these acres became the homestead of Ferdinand Haase and his family. The first person to die in this new home was buried on this hill in 1854. Thus, many years ago, Ferdinand Haase and his sons re-established and dedicated to sepulcher the ancient forest home of the Pottawatomie to become the present Forest Home of the white man.
Atop the mound are the graves of three members of the Zimmerman family, Ferdinand Haases in-laws, who, in the 1850s, were the first non-native burials in what is now Forest Home Cemetery.
Sources used in the compilation of this entry include but are not limited to:
From "Nature's Choicest Spot" ... a Guide to Forest Home and Germany Waldheim Cemeteries prepared by The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest.
Graveyards of Chicago by Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski -- a book which describes many of the Chicago area cemeteries.
Last Modified: 11/17/2003