Contributing Factors in Moving the Cemetery: The Milliman Tract

January 6, 1866: Milliman Tract is appraised at $75,000. The City opts to remove the dead at a lesser cost, and return the land to the Milliman heirs.
January 25, 1866: An ordinance for the removal of the dead from the Milliman Tract is established.
April 16, 1866: An ordinance to prohibit the further burial of the dead in the City Cemetery is established. (See the ordinance on this page.)
September 24, 1866:
The City orders several hundred unclaimed bodies to be removed to a 27,000 square foot parcel in Oak Woods Cemetery. (See those grounds, here.)

The Mayor of Chicago decided the appraised price of $75,000 for the Milliman Tract was more than the City could afford, and chose to vacate the grounds to give the land back to the Milliman heirs. The City began disinterring bodies from the tract shortly thereafter, with the establishment of an ordinance regarding the removals. In February, the Chicago Tribune seized the moment to suggest it might be a good time to remove all the bodies from the old cemetery on account of the lingering sanitary concerns. In April, the City halted all burials in the Cemetery citing health concerns.

January 8, 1866
To the Honorable the Common Council of the City of Chicago,
The terms of arbitration in the matter of the City Cemetery could not be agreed upon. The failure to agree (as I think) was not caused by the city. The Heirs owning said property having sought for information of various persons in the city have under such advisement offered the terms just read to you by the Clerk. You will now understand that you are to pay $75,000, for the ground or vacate it. As tis necessary to act in this matter with as little delay as the city's interests will permit I think this the proper time to make the following Statement and Suggestions.

A person competent to judge says the whole expense of vacation will not exceed thirty thousand dollars. If Commenced soon the work of removal can be completed on or soon after the final day of May, next, I believe all or nearly all of the lot owners who can be reached will consent to the vacation.  The City must offer a lot of Same Size as now owned in any cemetery in the city or vicinity. To be selected by the owners themselves. The City Asks each owner to move their dead. Also the improvements of their burial lots at their own expense. If Said owners are not able to do this or refuse from any reason to do this – then the City must do it.  An Office must be opened and an officer appointed to attend to this whole matter. Said Officer and Salary to be fixed by you. All this and whatever further deemed necessary to be published in the News Papers of the City. - The men now employed at the City Cemetery to perform this work. Friends or relatives to be present when bodies are exhumed and none others. The remains can be disinterred during the day, and removed to other cemeteries during the night. The mayor will do what he can to assist in this. There should be a committee of three or five from your own body. Also a committee of the lot owners to assist.

The Comptroller should be authorized to pay expenses as they are incurred if you elect to pay $75,000 for the ground then all this is unnecessary.

J.D. Rice, Mayor

Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1866
Common Council.
The Old City Cemetery.

A communication was received from the Milliman heirs, offering to sell to the city the cemetery property for $75,000. This was accompanied by a communication from the Mayor, recommending the appointment of a committee to provide for the removal of the bodies.

On motion of Ald. Knickerbocker the communication of the Mayor was laid on the table.

Ald. Wicker moved that the city offer the Milliman heirs $30,000 for the fee of the property.

On motion of Ald. Franzen the motion was laid on the table.

Ald. Knickerbocker moved to refer the communication of the heirs to the Finance Committee.

Ald. Holden moved to refer the matter to the Committee on Judiciary. Carried.

Transcribed Common Council document, illustrated below:

Report of Committee
To the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Chicago, in Common Council assembled: Your Committee on the “Milliman Tract” to whom was referred the sale and exchange of lots in said “Tract” and the removal of bodies therefrom.

Having had the same under advisement, beg leave to report – that they have entered upon their duties in accordance with the vote of the Council. We have appointed a Superintendent and located his office at the City collectors Room, in the Court House, where he may be found at any time during business hours. We have also agreed upon the price, per foot, for lots in Rose Hill, Graceland, Oak Woods and the German Evangelical Lutheran Cemeteries. There are 600 lot owners of whom 155 have already made an exchange of lots, and there are as many more who have signified their intention of so doing. Your committee are pleased to report that all lot owners who have visited the office of the Superintendent, or with whom they have conversed, have expressed entire satisfaction with the arrangements made by the Council, and a willingness to aid, in relieving the City from the dilemma in which it is placed. Your committee would earnestly urge upon all owners of lots the importance of an immediate selection of grounds in some one of the above named Cemeteries and an early removal of bodies from the Milliman Tract. Those owning lots in this “Tract” have their choice of any unsold lots, of equal size, in either of the other Cemeteries. The sooner this is done the better the opportunity for selection. The removals will soon commence and it will save the City much expense if all interested will act promptly.

Respectfully submitted,
W. Woodard, Ch. G. Wicker, J. B. Rice, Mayor, Iver Lawson
Walter Kimball, Comptroller
Chicago. April 20 1866

January 25, 1866
An Ordinance concerning the removal of the dead from the Milliman Tract of the Old City Cemetery.

Whereas the titles to Out Lots Forty Eight (48) and Forty Nine (49) in the Canal Trustees Subdivision of the Section Thirty Three Township Forty North Range Fourteen East of the 3rd P.M. in the City of Chicago County of Cook and State of Illinois and heretofore a part of the Old City Cemetery has been declared to be in the heirs of Jacob Milliman Dec’d. And whereas it has become necessary to remove the bodies which are interred in said tracts and whereas this is a contingency happening since the passage of the annual appropriation bill and which makes it necessary to borrow money to meet said contingency as provided in the Revised Charter of 1863.

Therefore be it ordained by the Common Council of the City of Chicago,

Sec. 1         That the Mayor and Comptroller be and they are hereby authorized and empowered to purchase lots in the different Cemeteries as may be agreeable to the several lot owners in the said Milliman tracts, and of as nearly equal value and eligibility as may be and procure the Deeds therefore and deliver the same to the said several lot owners respectively in exchange for the Deeds held by them to lots in the said Milliman tracts.

Sec. 2         That in cases when parties hold deeds to lots in said tracts where no interments have been made, that said Mayor and Comptroller be authorized to purchase lots and exchange deeds in the same manner as provided in the preceding section or refund the purchase money as may be desired by the said parties.

Sec. 3         That a Committee consisting of three Aldermen, one from each Division, be appointed by the Mayor to act in conjunction with the Mayor and Comptroller to make the necessary arrangements and provide the necessary labor and vehicles for the removal of the dead.

Sec. 4         That said Committee with the Mayor and Comptroller be and they are hereby authorized to employ a competent Superintendent at a salary not exceeding one hundred and twenty five Dollars per month who shall supervise the whole matter under the direction of the Mayor, Comptroller and said Committee.

Sec. 5         That the Mayor, Comptroller and Committee be and they are hereby instructed to make arrangements with as many of the lot owners in said Milliman tracts as possible to pay the expenses or a portion of the expenses of the removal of the dead.

Sec. 6         That the Mayor, Comptroller and Committee be instructed if they deem it expedient to invite the lot owners to appoint a Committee of their number to act in conjunction with them in the removal of the deceased.

Sec. 7         That the Board of Policies be instructed, if occasion should form to demand it, to detail as sufficient police force to protect the parties engaged in making said removals, and to remove from the grounds any persons assembling there from mere idle curiosity and generally to preserve order and decorum.

Sec. 8         That the Mayor and Comptroller be and they are hereby authorized to borrow such sum or sums of money from time to time as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this ordained, the sum to be provided for in the next annual appropriation bill.

Sec. 9         This ordinance to begin in full force and effect from and after its passage.

Transcribed Common Council document, illustrated below:

To the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Chicago, in Common Council assembled.
Your Committee on the “Milliman Tract” beg leave to report progress.

By the energetic efforts of Joseph Ernst, the Superintendent, appointed by your Committee there have been found parties owning all but one hundred and eighty-two lots, containing twenty six thousand and fifty two sq. feet, exclusive of walks. We advise the purchase of a tract of land in Oak Woods Cemetery containing about 76,000 sq.ft. for the exchange of lots, the owners of which cannot be found, and for future use, and ask for passage of the annexed Ordinance authorizing us to make the purchase.


The location selected by the Committee, is one of the best in this Cemetery, and would, in our opinion, be entirely satisfactory to every reasonable lot owner. It will be observed that the ground selected is somewhat larger than our present demand, but we think that the City will need it all, and that, now is a favorable opportunity to make the purchase. We would call the attention of all lot owners in the “Milliman Tract” to the importance to themselves, and the City, of making an exchange of lots, immediately, thereby securing the most eligible locations, in the several Cemeteries. It is for the interest of all parties, that all removals of bodies should be made during the next month.

Respectfully submitted,
W. Woodard, Charles G. Wicker, Iver Lawson, Walter Kimball
Chicago, Sept 24th / 66

Whereas there are a large number of Lot owners in the so called Milliman tract in the City Cemetery who have neglected to come forward and quit claim thereto and receive Deeds for lots in other Cemeteries as contemplated by the order of this Council made January 22, 1866.
And whereas there are in said tracts some four or five Hundred bodies that no claim has been made to by any relative or friend. And whereas it will rest upon the City to provide a proper place for the re-interment of such bodies as remain unclaimed.

Therefore Be it ordered
That the Mayor Comptroller and the special Committee appointed under order passed by this council January 22, 1866, be, and they are hereby, authorized and empowered to purchase said lots, pieces or tracts of land in Oakwood cemetery as may be ample and proper for the purpose aforesaid, and not exceeding twenty-seven thousand square feet, and that the comptroller be, and he is hereby authorized to pay for the same out of the appropriation made or hereafter to be made, for clearing the Milliman tract.

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