Chicago’s early white settlers buried their dead along the banks of the Chicago River. The town's first two cemeteries were established in August 1835 and were located by the Lake Michigan shore, at the north and south boundaries of the city. The south side cemetery occupied land at 23rd Street. The north side cemetery occupied the grounds from Chicago Avenue, north to today’s Oak Street. (See an 1836 map denoting the early north side graveyard in the tab, above.)
On March 2, 1837, as part of a large land grant, the Federal Government gave the tract that includes today's Lincoln Park to the State of Illinois. This occurred during an early phase of the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Beginning in 1838, the State sold off portions of the land to help pay for the Canal. In February 1837, the State Legislature wrote an act that appointed part of the newly surveyed land to the Town of Chicago for use as a graveyard. Chicago became incorporated as a city in May, that same year.
The acreage was not used for burial purposes until the city paid for and thereby acquired the title for the land. In December 1842, the Common Council passed an ordinance for such a purpose. In the interim, during the Canal sales, three parcels of land within the cemetery's appointed grounds were acquired by individuals, including Jacob Milliman, who would later figure into the cemetery's history. (See the Milliman Tract section.)
Burials in the new Chicago Cemetery began in 1843.
On May 13, 1843, the Common Council passed an ordinance forbidding interments in the older burying grounds.