Mapping the Cemeteries: Catholic Cemetery
The detail on the right, from the page of a Chicago Title and Trust Company Ante-fire tract book, lists the 1849 acquisition of a warranty deed for part of the grounds of the Catholic Cemetery. This parcel of land covers the area between Burton Place and Schiller Street, and from Dearborn Street to today's State Street. Chicago's first Catholic Bishop, the Right Reverend William J. Quarter originally acquired the land that he left in his last will and testament to the Sisters of Mercy, who established the University of St. Mary of the Lakes, Chicago's first school of higher education. It does not appear that the university ever occupied these grounds. The early university campus was located between Wabash Avenue and State Street, and Chicago Avenue, south to Superior Street. Bishop J.O. Van de Velde acquired the Sisters' land, and extended the cemetery into these grounds.
By courtesy of the Chicago Title and Trust Company.
 

By courtesy of the Chicago Title and Trust Company.
The detail of the Ante-fire tract book, presented above, lists a variety of legal land exchanges, including those that occurred in the area of the Catholic Cemetery covering the grounds east of today's State Street, from North Avenue, south to Schiller Street. This parcel of land, described as the John Jacob Astor Addition to Chicago, covers the entire area east of State Street, from North Avenue, south to Division Street.

The list of transactions begins with a continuation of the transfer of land described as being the North 18 83/100 chains of the Northwest fraction quarter of the Astor Addition. A chain is a unit of measurement used by surveyors, most commonly prior to the year 1900. One chain has the length of sixty-six feet.

Defining the land area as the Astor Addition occurs as the sixteenth transaction on a larger tract of land. The first legal record of ownership of these grounds occured in 1842. In May, 1844, the month Bishop William J. Quarter arrived in Chicago, he is listed as acquiring the deed to the fraction of land described above, encompassing the grounds east of today's State Street, from North Avenue, south to Schiller Street. That land is listed as having the area of 17 6/100-acres.

Bishop Quarter died in 1848, leaving this parcel, as well as the 10-acre area listed in the tract book at the top of this Web Page, to the Sisters of Mercy, six nuns who came from Pittsburgh, who had founded the University of St. Mary of the Lakes. The first line of the illustrated page, above, lists Bishop Quarter's brother Walter acquiring the grounds through a power of attorney, from the Sisters. Within days of that transaction, the land is listed as being acquired as a Quitcaim Deed to the St. Francis Xavier Female Academy. It is unclear if these grounds were ever used as a school, or if any building stood on the land. The Catholic Cemetery, established in 1845, occupied the northwest quadrant of Catholic-held land.

In the Archdiocese of Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archives & Records Center, there is a January 19, 1999 letter on file from Cardinal Francis George, in response to an inquiry about the Catholic Estate grounds. Cardinal George gives a fairly detailed history according to a research center archivist. He states that the mansion grounds were acquired by Bishop William Quarter in 1844 for $853. Four years later, after the Bishop's death, the land was sold to the Sisters of Mercy for $100. (On the 1846 cemetery map in the Archdiocese Archive, that portion of the land outside the platted cemetery is marked, "Sisters Property.") Cardinal George states that in 1856, Bishop Anthony O'Regan bought the land back from the Sisters for $1.00.

It is unclear to me how, beginning in 1862, Bishop James Duggan transfered the grounds then used as the Catholic Cemetery. By 1871, the cemetery land appears to be owned by Gertrude M. Cleveland. See newspaper articles about the cemetery's transformation to residential land, and a Chicago Tribune editorial about the 1876 disinterments, here.


By permission and courtesy of the Chicago Park District Special Collections.
By permission and courtesy of the Chicago Park District Special Collections.

Reproduction with digital watermark, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archives & Records Center.


1845 Catholic Cemetery plat, covering the grounds from Dearborn Street (top), east to today's State Street, and from North Avenue, south to Burton Place.
In 1845, the first land subdivision was conducted of the area that would become the Catholic Cemetery. Bishop William Quarter annexed a parcel of land from William B. Ogden. who owned land west of today's State Street. The Catholic Archdiocese in Chicago has that original plat of this earliest section of the cemetery in its Archives. I was able to photograph a copy of the plat for my personal research purposes, but I was not allowed to publish those images on this Web Site. See a complete description of that map, here.

The first subdivided section of the Catholic Cemetery covered the area from Dearborn Street, east to what would become State Street, and from North Avenue, south to Burton Place. In several subsequent land acquisitions, the cemetery extended south and east to include the entire area from North Avenue, south to Schiller Street, and from Dearborn Street, east to the lakeshore, approximately today's Astor Street.


Pamela Bannos © 2017
It is unclear to me why the 1869-dated map, above, shows the Catholic Cemetery as only occupying grounds east of State Street. Some later maps continue to show Dearborn Street as the western border. The earliest surveyed portion of the cemetery occupied the grounds from Dearborn Street east to today's State Street. The Eastern direction is at the top of this map. The cemetery's earliest potter's field occupied the grounds in the northeast quadrant of the land between North Avenue and Burton Place. It is possible that graves in this area were removed to the new Calvary Cemetery beginning in 1860 at its opening. As with the City Cemetery, interments continued until 1866. Clearly all graves were not removed, as I came across two specific references of unexpected findings between Dearborn and State Streets, north of Schiller Street, during construction projects in 1947 and 2004. Hearsay and off-the-record conversations also suggest forgotten graves. See a map detailing unexpected findings in the area of the Catholic Cemetery, here.
By the time the map pictured above was drawn, the lakeshore had advanced outward, extending the Catholic Cemetery's area. The eastern (top) edge of the map, shows city streets extending directly into the lake. Portions of Stone Street are submerged, suggesting the lakeshore also had the tendency to recede. The 1880s era map presented on the right, depicts the entire Catholic Cemetery grounds illustrated above. This map indicates the earlier 1840s lakeshore as following the eastern edge of Astor Street.

Beginning in 1869, with the construction of Lake Shore Drive, which connected Oak Street to North Avenue, landfill established the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The Catholic Bishop, who became incorporated in 1861, acquired ownership of the landfill area. He then subdivided the grounds and sold the lots as individual properties.

See information about the Catholic Bishop's two lawsuits for riparian rights against the Lincoln Park Commissioners, here. See information about the developing Gold Coast, here.