Mapping the Cemeteries: City Cemetery
The years 1851 through 1859 were the most active in the development of the cemetery grounds. These years also saw the majority of burial lots acquired, then filled with graves.

In 1850, the City acquired the Milliman Tract to incorporate those twelve acres into the rapidly-filling burial grounds. In 1852, that area was subdivided and interments began.

Chicago Daily Journal, January 25, 1851
The Cemetery Bell
We notice a paragraph in a city paper, to the effect that the City Sexton has placed a fine-toned bell in the cupola of the new Cemetery Chapel, which will be tolled on the approach of funeral processions to the grounds.

A mournful note of welcome to the silent guest, will swing out over those breathless billows of the dead – that bell on the confines of time.

It should be plaintive, yet not gloomy in its tone – no startling peal, but soft and sweet and full, that it may not fall rudely on the hearts of the living, for thus it is that men hear funeral knells, and not with their ears.

In 1852, a mile-long cemetery fence was constructed to surround the graveyard.

Several documents throughout the 1850s and 1860s mention the need to repair the fence at the cemetery's northern boundary, to prevent pigs and cows from entering the burial ground.

In 1854, there were complaints from citizens regarding the leaving of dead animals, raw sewage and other foul matter, at the northern end of the City Cemetery. An ordinance was suggested to bury dead animals in the city-owned lakefront grounds between today's Diversey and Fullerton Parkways.

In June, 1854, burial lots were reduced in size from 9'x24' to 9'x12'. Half-lots had been sold prior to this date, to accommodate lesser needs.

The last burial lots were sold in the City Cemetery in May 1859. Interments continued to be allowed in the previously-owned lots, and in the potter's field until March 1866.


Various ordinances and other transcribed documents detailing visual aspects of the cemetery grounds, are presented chronologically, at the right.

Scroll to the RIGHT ----->>

Courtesy of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository.
(Transcribed document, original presented at left)

June 6, 1851
To the Mayor and Aldermen in Council assembled

Your communication on wharves and public grounds to whom was referred the two communications of the former city sexton with instructions from this body to report an ordinance in relation to the regulation of the cemetery and the sale of the herein beg leave to submit the following ordinance and order – Respectfully submitted
John P. Haines

Ordered that the committee on wharves and public grounds together with the Mayor be and they are hereby authorized to take such steps by the framing of an ordinance or otherwise as shall enable the Common Council to vacate such public streets as now run through or into the grounds designated as the Chicago Cemetery.

July 23, 1851

Courtesy of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository.

Ordered, That the Mayor be authorized to sell an old Barn now standing in the Cemetery grounds, for such sum, as he, or the City Superintendent may deem, for the interest of the City.

April 25, 1853
That the fence around the Cemetery Ground be fixed, (previous to its being whitewashed) so as to prevent Pigs and other Animals from entering said Ground from under the fence. And that the City Sexton be authorized to proceed at once to make said improvement.

June 27, 1853
That the City Superintendent forthwith proceed to remove the pest house to within 40 feet of the south fence of the cemetery and that a fence at least 10 feet high be built on the west and north side of said house.

February 27, 1854
Your petitioners respectfully express that the water passage through the north end of the cemetery has become very much filled up and could probably be opened at a cost of thirty five cents a Rod if done just now while laborers are unoccupied – they therefore respectfully request, that the matter of opening said ditch be referred to the appropriate committee with authority to act in the premises.

May 22, 1854

Courtesy of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository.

To the Common Council of the City of Chicago
The undersigned respectfully represent that persons unknown to them are in the habit of depositing dead animals, night soil and other offensive matter around the North end of the Cemetery grounds to the great annoyance of persons living or traveling in that vicinity and they respectfully ask your Honorable body to take such action in the premises as may be deemed advisable.

They would suggest that the SE frct 1/4 of Sec 28, T. 40 R 14, belonging to the City be designated as the proper place for depositing such matter and that the parties making such deposits be compelled to bury them
May 22, 1854
James H. Rees
E.S. Williams
Timothy Wright

June 5, 1854

Courtesy of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository.

To the Mayor & Aldermen of the City of Chicago, in common Council assembled
Your Committee on Wharves & public grounds to whom was refered the petition of JH Rees and others in Relation to Deposits of Dead animals and other offensive matter in the north end of the Chicago Cemetery Grounds
Beg Leave to Report that they have examined & find the same to be the case and would ask the passage of the following order

Ordered that the city Marshall prosecute all persons who shall Deposit or cause to be Deposited any putrid or offensive substance Dead animals or other unwholesome matter of any kind Contrary to the ordinances of the City.
and that the health officers cause to be removed or buried all Nuisance or nuisances that now exist adjacent to the Chicago Cemetery on any part of Said City that may come to his Knowledge hereafter.

all of which is Respectfully submitted
JD Outhet, Chairman
Chicago June 5th, 1854

July 31, 1854
That that portion of street and road extending from North Clark Street through the Cemetery grounds to the City limits and connecting with the Green Bay road be declared a Public Highway and be called N. Clark Street.

September 25, 1854
Grade Blocks 2,3,4, & 5

April 2, 1855 
That the Committee on Wharfs & Public Grounds be and they are hereby requested to report to the Council the propriety & probable Cost of setting out two rows of forest trees on the South end & West side of the Cemetery grounds as far North as the ground is laid out in to lots. The one row on each side of the principal Avenues running East and West through said grounds.

May 3, 1855
Ordered that the City Superintendant be and the same is hereby directed to Repair, the Fence around the Chicago Cemetery in such immediate a manner as to prevent Cattle from Destroying Shrubbery and other improvements in Said Cemetery.

August 10, 1857
Whereas the Lots in the last survey of the City Cemetery are mostly sold, your Committee in Wharves and Public Grounds would beg leave to offer the following order,
That the City Surveyor be and hereby is directed to survey immediately the remaining portion of the City Cemetery grounds into lots and prepare a plat of the same that they may be offered for sale at the earliest day possible.

October 5, 1857
Ordered that all of that part of the Cemetery lying East of the first and second New Survey not occupied by surveyed and platted by the City Surveyor and report to this Council.

July 19, 1858
The undersigned respectfully represents to your Hon. Body, that he is the owner of Lots 1376, 1377, 1378, 1380, 1381, 1382, & 1383, & Fraction 1455, in the 2nd New Survey of the Chicago Cemetery and that it was agreed between the undersigned and Superintendent Harper that whenever an avenue or Street should be laid out on the North End of said Lots, the City would be at the expense of erecting an area or protecting wall on said North Ends.

He further represents that said street has been afenced, and in excavating for the same, have undermined the fence which your petitioner caused be built around his lots. Your petitioner therefore requests that said area or protecting wall be constructed as agreed.

John B. Turner


This last correspondence, above, from John B. Turner, established the northern boundary of the New Survey, and helped me properly layout these one hundred and twenty-seven lots within cemetery.

Chicago, November 6, 1859
To the Honorable the Mayor & Aldermen of the City of Chicago.


         At a meeting of Citizens, owners of lots in the Chicago Cemetery, held on the night of 22nd October last past, the undersigned were appointed, a Committee to Memorialise your Honorable Body in relation to the subject of permanently improving the Cemetery. They would therefore impress upon your attention a few facts and observations touching the matter.

         The ground constituting the original survey of the Cemetery, was acquired by the City in 1842 at a cost of $2425.00 and comprised about 35 acres. It was soon after laid off into lots and sold under the Direction of the Common Council, and was at the same time declared to be forever dedicated as a place of burial of the dead. And by an Ordinance upon the subject of it was provided that to each purchaser a deed should be executed containing the following covenants, viz: -

         “And the said City of Chicago hereby covenants with said__________his heirs and assigns, that the premises designated by Ordinance as the Chicago Cemetery, shall be Kept and preserved as a place for the burial of the dead of said City, and that all moneys which have been or which may be reserved for lots sold therin shall be laid out and expended in paying for said ground and in ornamenting and improving the same, and if necessary in purchasing and improving an addition thereto, and that said Cemetery shall be enclosed with a good and substantial fence which shall at all times be kept in good repair.”
         “And by an Ordinance, passed July 3, 1851, it was provided That all moneys arising from the sale of lots shall be Kept a distinct fund and be exclusively expended in adding to or ornamenting and improving the Cemetery.”

         Since the selection of the original site large additions have been made to the Cemetery, and the whole ground now comprises about One hundred and twenty one acres, and has been acquired by the City at the aggregate cost of $5,715.00 The total number of lots sold to date is nearly twenty four hundred, and the total receipts on account of such sales about $40,000. And there are now remaining unsold, as we have been informed, somewhere about seventeen hundred and forty lots, besides about fifty acres of the land purchased for the Cemetery, which has never been surveyed. In short there is still unsold in the hands of the City nearly or quite Sixty acres or one half of the original purchase.

        Concerning the expenditures which have been made by the City in improving and ornamenting the Cemetery, we have no Definite information. Probably ten or at most fifteen thousand dollars, would cover all the expenditures upon that and all other accounts including the fence and the original purchase price of the land, - leaving still an unexpended balance of actual receipts of not less than $25,000. From this statement it is apparent that as yet the City has done but little towards the fulfillment of the faith which it has pledged, or the duty which it owes to the public.


         Yet though the authorities have done but little it must not be supposed that nothing has been done towards carrying out the original design of improving and adorning the place. On the contrary a large sum of money perhaps exceeding $250,000 has been expended by individuals interested, in the planting of trees, in the filling of lots, and in the erection of fences, vaults, head stones, monuments and other appropriate memorials of the dead. For not less than ten thousand and some say as many as fifteen thousand, burials, have taken place in the Cemetery.

         Is it not therefore time that a well devised plan for its improvement should be prepared and undertaken by the City? A large portion of the ground is susceptible of a high degree of improvement and ornamentation. In making a selection of this site the Common Council were governed by this consideration and also by reason of its proximity to the lake, the high and elevated character of much of the ground and its adaptation to the burial of the dead. Its accessibility to our citizens was also considered. In all these respects it is still believed to be at least equal if not superior to any site adapted to similar purposes which can be found in any Direction within five miles of the Chicago River. There is therefore every reason why this subject should receive immediate and earnest attention at your hands. In its present condition it reflects no credit upon our citizens. There is perhaps no other City in this Country in which the burial of the dead has received so little attention, - none in which the last resting place of its early settlers and founders has been so much neglected.

         In consequence of this long indifference and neglect much will have to be done to make this place what it should be and what it would have been if attention to the matter had been given at an earlier day. A plan or system should be devised by the aid of persons of competent skill and taste to be worked up to as means will hereafter allow.  And in this way we shall recover in time what has been lost by past neglect. It cannot be the work of a day or a year. Meanwhile, however, the main avenues should be graveled or otherwise improved and a permanent wall erected with gates of some appropriate design.

         We are authorised to assure your Honorable Body that individuals interested will cheerfully aid in carrying out any plan which may be adopted and also by the improvement of their own lots. We do not desire the extension of the present limits of the ground. Doubtless the greater portion of the remaining unsold land will have to be laid off into lots and public grounds, in developing the plan of improvement which may be adopted. Such lots can readily be sold and the moneys arising therefrom will materially aid in carrying forward this design. We appreciate the necessity which exists for other Cemeteries. Already others have been provided and others still will hereafter be found requisite for the future dead of the City.

         Nor is it our object to be more definite than we have been in suggesting what improvements should be undertaken without delay. We desire that the subject should be referred to a Committee of Your Honorable Body with a view to a more full consideration thereof, and with instructions to confer with the undersigned and report fully in reference thereto.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

George Manierre
William Jones
B.W. Raymond
Grant Goodrich
W.L. Newberry
Mark Skinner

Courtesy of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository.
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