Sunday, September 18, 2011

Item From the Past: Waldheim Cemetery

Way back in the spring of 2003 -- seems like a different era, doesn't it? -- I posted about visiting Waldheim Cemetery (a.k.a. Forest Home Cemetery) in western suburban Forest Park, Illinois. Warm September days are fine times to visit cemeteries, I think. Yesterday would have been a good day for such an expedition, since it was warm after a string of unseasonably cold days, but I didn't make it. Today was cool and rainy, so no go.

I wrote: "I went to see Waldheim Cemetery early last September [2002], on a warm day when I unexpectedly had a few hours free. Besides some lawn maintenance men, I had the place practically to myself. It was all you would expect in a cemetery dating from the 19th century, plenty of ornate old headstones set in lush grass, surrounded by big trees, and featuring inscriptions ranging from the laconic to the poetic. Many were in German: VATTER and MUTTER were popular on family stones."

This formally posed couple, as I recall, were one such Vatter und Mutter pair, looking out at us from the late 19th century.

I continued: "The Haymarket Martyrs' Monument is near the entrance, and so was easy to find. That day there were fresh flowers at its base and costume jewelry around the neck of Justice and the fallen worker.

"According to Graveyards of Chicago, the 'Haymarket Martyrs' Monument was erected in 1893... It features a granite shaft and two bronze figures — a woman as Justice placing a crown of laurels on the brow of a fallen worker, while preparing to draw a sword. Sculptor Albert Weinert designed this monument based on a verse from the "Marseillaise," which [the men] had sung before their hangings.

“ 'The monument was dedicated June 25, 1893. Thousands of workers and visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition marched to the downtown train station and then rode to the cemetery. Floral tributes had been sent by several nations, and red bunting decorated the monument and speakers' platform. Speeches were made in English, German, Polish and Bohemian, and an orchestra played the "Marseillaise." ’ ”

At the time I posted that, no memorial to the victims of the Haymarket Riot existed besides the one at Waldheim. One was erected on the site of the riot a few years later.

"The cemetery had other interesting spots, only some of which I could find, considering the maddeningly vague guide pamphlet. I saw the mound that was a burial site for Pottawatomie Indians before the 1830s, which was one of the reasons this area later became a cemetery. I also happened on the large headstone of Samuel Fallows, who was a bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church — a breakaway group from the Anglican Communion — and a lesser-known brigadier general in the Union Army.

"But I couldn’t find several better-known people, such as Emma Goldman, Samuel Gompers or Billy Sunday. Some other time, perhaps."

I haven't made it yet. So many interesting cemeteries, so little time (till one must become a cemetery resident oneself).

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