Illinois Saving Graves by Foxie Hagerty

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I also wanted to call your attention to the Hillside Cemetery in Elgin IL (Kane County). It is the home of the patients of the Elgin Mental Health Center from 1933-1986, I believe, whose bodies were unclaimed. I've transcribed over 100 at find-a-grave, but I believe there to be closer to 600-1000 buried there.

The cemetery was sold with a section of land from the facility to the city of Elgin. They removed the cemetery sign, and just mow the area, but do not maintain the stones. The later stones, including the veteran stones with plaques from the govt, are sinking or are gone altogether because they have not had the proper care. Other stones are being eaten into the forest perimeter.

Given proper cemetery care, those stones would have been supported and more dirt brought in, I imagine, with care to support the stones upward. Instead, they mow over and push them further down.

In the few years I have been visiting, the number of stones visible has declined dramatically. I suspect Elgin wishes to reclaim the land for parkland,like Channing Street Pioneer Cemetery. (Read about that for a horror story.)


Well huh.
They aren't threatening to build anything on Hillside -- but CHANNING --

Here is THAT story -- I'm doing it from memory, so the dates, etc might be a little off but here is the gist of it --

Channing Cemetery is Elgin's oldest cemetery, containing an estimated 3500 burials I read somewhere. The pioneer burials are there. If you visit Channing Street Cemetery today ? No cemetery.

In 1891 (or so) Elgin built Bluff City as the city cemetery. Burials continued in Channing even as bodies were moved over. The object was to MOVE Channing burials to Bluff City.

As you can imagine, with early 1900s technology, that was impossible. The early Elgin Mental hospital burials were put in Channing, maybe with no markers. There were many older burials with disintegrated markers. But by 1943 (??) Elgin declared that all bodies (and their markers) had been moved from Channing to Bluff City.

As part of the agreement with the Gifford Trust (overseeing this land) Elgin got to build a school on part of the land in the 1960s, disrupting a chaos of bodies in the building of it. An expansion of the building in the early 2000s unearthed another 13 bodies.

Elgin land traded with the Gifford Trust to reclaim all the land recently -- it was supposed to be an undeveloped park in perpetuity -- and Elgin's latest plan is to at least put in a tennis court.

They moved about 1000 bodies, leaving about 2500 behind? Elgin will not do a land survey with the equipment to determine how many remain. Their estimate when they expanded the gym was finding 8 bodies and found 13.

Channing is a shame. But it gives me a hint of what Elgin's plan's for Hillside are.
We're snowed in. I have both kids home -- and my seven-year-old has severe autism. I've had enough of snow.

I'll send photos of both cemeteries. We live nearby but not IN Elgin. I plan to join the Elgin historical society to determine what their position is. They do cemetery walks every year and it seems odd that Elgin's ugly secret goes unmentioned.

Tracy St. Claire

On Feb 6, 2008, at 8:37 AM, Foxie Hagerty wrote:

good morning
I will add this am finishing uploading some things right now and it won't take a minute to put this online and will make this in Kane Co., IL at Elgin too.
Would you happen to have photos of this cemetery or any of the stones.
A Police person found a stone a while back and then asked me what it was she didn't know someone has stolen it and it came from this place. I don't have the info on that now or even the photo with the decline of my other computer wish I did. It was kind of strange a police woman emailing me and asking me what I thought it was she had a photo of and I told her and what it probably came from
I didn't have time at the time to make a page for it. Wish I would of.
they can't do this on account of the Human Skelton Act in the state of Il they can't build or do anything over a cemetery it's against the law to do it. They would have to remove it. someone in the area should take an interest in this cemetery and try & get something done before it disappears and things go on like what Cathy is doing in Lake co., IL
will post on the list I think you are on what I just posted on my mailing list so then you can see for yourself and thanks bunches for all t his information. I am having a good day even though it is snowing a blizzard outside.
Hope you are warmer but if you are in Chicago area or farther north you will be getting more of this than I am.


But below are the meeting minutes of the Gifford Park Association, which administered (and gave away...) this cemetery. It shows the recent activity of the land and is scary. They refer to the Channing "Park" and Channing "School" but it is all on the Channing cemetery property filled with bodies, keep in mind.


March 2000


There was brief update and sharing of information regrading pre-referendum publicity that Channing Park would be the site of not only an expansion of the existing Channing School but also the location of a second building. Pat Miller had recalled that when the city transferred the land that Channing School sits on to U-46 back in the 1960s certain covenants were included. One of these is that only one principal building would occupy the site and that the area was largely intended to remain an open public space for recreational use. Pat had obtained a copy of the deed and of various city council minutes reflecting these agreements. She noted that the people she spoke to at city hall were unaware of this, as apparently the U-46 planners. Bill Briska reported that he spoke with Ernest Marquez, U-46 Board member and will provide him with copies of the deed and minutes. (Follow-up: Dr Marquez said he will pass the information on to the appropriate people.)

May 2000

Channing School expansion
There have been conflicting reports over the proposed construction of a
second school on the Channing School site.  When the city deeded the
property to U-46 there was a covenant that only one principle building could be erected on the site.  This now little know fact was not in the minds of U-46 officials and planners.  GPA has brought the information to their attention and certain statements have been made that plans for a second schools have been dropped.   However, other reports indicate that the planners are still working on the concept.  Bill Briska will contact a U-46 board member for clarification.

June 2000
Channing Development


James Feuerborn - Area "A" Superintendent (former principal of Ellis) reported on rumors regarding Channing School development.  There is a projection of 1800 new students to be enrolled this year at U-46 schools. Most of the children will be grade level - Kindergarten through fourth grades.  Additional space is needed to house these children in school.  6 elementary schools, 18 additions to current schools and 2 high school are needed now.  Mr. Feuerborn explained that the tax money that has been approved for expansion will be made available over time - so the greatest needs will be taken care of first.  With 32 mobiles at elementary schools
now and a projection of 50 by next year this seems to be the area that has the greatest need.  The time line for building an elementary school runs from
1 -
1½ years.  Architects are in the process of evaluating projects on the east central side.  The west side of Elgin seems to be ok now.  This area (Channing) is an area where a lot of students are being bussed out to other area schools.  Clinton has Channing and Sheridan students housed there.There is an intention to speak with area people - find sites to put in new schools.  The problems seems to be that there is not enough vacant land available for building.  Most areas that have been available only have 1-1½ acres and current schools are in need of 9-11 acres of land.  Schools built on 9-11 acres of land will be able to handle approximately 650 students and provide adequate space for bus loading and unloading, parking and play/recreational areas.


Some of the areas reviewed included former site of Casa De Linda - It is a flood area and there are no homes in the area.  It has become an industrialized area.  Illinois Avenue was looked into but this area has a lot of homes and not enough vacant land - homeowners would be displaced.  These sites are unacceptable for obvious reasons.  Sites need to be available once federal funds have been applied for due to the timeline of December 1st for applying for funds.


Channing is being looked into as a possible site since there is land available.  All legal ramifications are being looked into before any final decisions are made.  Dan Miller asked that GPA members and home owners in the
area be notified of any meetings regarding this issue so they may be involved.  Inquiries into using the park north of Channing have also been made.  Mr. Feuerborn explained that he is here at the meeting filling in for the area superintendent covering this area.  He can be notified and will pass on any correspondence to the appropriate person.


Pat Miller asked about the Channing YMCA site.  That area has been looked into but there is again, only an acre and a half available.  Realtors in the area are looking for possible land as it becomes available and Gordon Schultz
is in charge of the project at the present time.  So far only the administrative level is involved in this process.


It was further explained that special needs classrooms are included in the planning of the schools in order to handle children with special needs such as mentally and or developmentally disabled children, and early childhood
classes.  Schools will be built with  3-4 section grade level classrooms. This means that there will be at least two classrooms for each school level. The state now requires that schools have early childhood classes and the
early childhood population is growing rapidly in this area.  Each of the 6 new schools being planned will have classrooms to accommodate these children.

 Channing's early childhood classes have been moved to Lowery School in order to have bi-lingual classes held at Channing.  This will eliminate the need to bus these students out next year.


Meetings with city officials are held on an ongoing as needed basis. General topics are discussed.  The most recent meeting was held within the last month.  A meeting with Eric Stuckey, Corporate Council on legal issues was
held at the last meeting.  Bridgett Nobs asked about the plan regarding Grant and other vacant schools.  Structural  problems at grant prevent it from being used, it is also considered too small, it would be too costly to renovate and the lost is too small to consider rebuilding upon it.  The city has been approached to see if they have any suggestions for the use of it. Questions or comments/information can be sent to Mr. Feuerborn at

Jan 2001

Channing School Update

Mark Billings commented that he received a call from Lalo Ponce at U-46 stating that a site has been selected at the SW corner of Bode and Rohrssen roads. Expansion at Channing school has not been completely ruled out, but nothing-wide scale can be expected. Jean Bednar asked Mark if he could keep in touch with U-46 so that any future plans would be known in advance. Mark agreed.

June 2001

Channing Park and School

Paul Bednar has a meeting tentatively scheduled for 4PM on Monday June 25th with Lalo Ponce and Monica Bates to discuss the future of Channing Park. The objectives will be to clearly agree on ownership, maintenance, and future development. For instance, can a partnership be reached between all to get new playground equipment, tennis courts, landscaping, gazebo, and etc. Paul would like to keep the meeting small with just a few GPA representatives. If anyone has any ideas, or would like to be involved, please contact Paul. Pat Miller reported that in preparing for this meeting, she found out that U46 is not bound by City rules. U46 follows the guidelines of the State of Illinois and the Board of Education. Pat believes that for future questions or concerns, one of these two groups will need to be contacted. Elgin code should not be contacted because, except for isolated areas such as new building construction, they do not have the power to enforce anything. Rork Coon then brought up the two new mobile classrooms at Channing. Mark Billings asked Kevin Sosnowski for the history on these units. Kevin replied that the mobiles were going to be placed next to the existing mobiles. However, this would involve moving a tennis court. U46 and the City did not wish to make this change, and therefore the mobiles were placed in the only other available location. Kevin believes that the mobiles will be in place until the addition to Channing School is complete. He does not believe that the new school will be sufficient to alleviate the pressure. Joe Becerra commented that it sounds like GPA can not do anything because U46 is not bound by code. Dan Miller commented that it is beyond his comprehension why the mobiles are needed if a new school is being built. Why not just add 2 more rooms to the new construction. A discussion then took place regarding who to contact regarding the Board of Education and School District rules. Joe Becerra recommended contacting Rep. Doug Hoeft, who used to be superintendent. It was also recommended to call Mr. Mejia at the Kane County Regional Office of Education.

Sept 2001

Proposal for Channing Park Improvements
Paul Bednar stated that he would like to spend some time discussing the proposed plan for improvements to Channing Park.  Paul displayed a photo of the current layout of the park.  Paul then put up a drawing outlining the proposed changes.  These updates include:  small ball fields, a shelter, and additional landscaping.  Paul asked the group for input.  He would like to send a letter to Lalo stating that this is what could happen with the land should U46 trade / donate some of the land to the City.  Glenna Preradovic commented that the teachers have always wanted an outdoor type of amphitheater built into the slope to give lectures in.  Joe Becerra stated that he would like to voice the same opinion as previously.  Joe could see adding landscaping, but leaving the park open by not adding the ball fields or shelter. Dan Miller replied that he does not feel that the fields would be a detriment.  John Gately commented that the reason for having the development plan is as an enticement to get the School District to turn the land over to the City.  Paul Bednar reiterated that the Park would not be used in a different manner.  Glenna added that she has a neighbor that is part of the Laotian tennis club.  They would like to help out towards the maintenance and improvement of the tennis courts.  Paul Durrenberger stated that he is one of the few people in the area that remembers what the Park looked like before the school was built.  He would like to see it returned to a neighborhood park as it was then.  Angela Coon asked if we could send the plan over to Lalo with the letter now, but not commit to a formal plan yet.  Paul Bednar replied yes, but he does not want to do this until he gets consensus from GPA that this is what is wanted.  Laura Becerra commented that she likes the idea of the amphitheater.  Paul Bednar added that the school district might not be willing to give up the whole area, but just a portion of it. 


Dan Miller stated that he wrote a letter to Stuart Wasilowski regarding the Grandview Property.  Stuart has since called Dan and stated that he is willing to lobby the City to try and get this purchase on the budget.  The idea would be to have this area be converted to a passive park with minimal parking. 


Paul Bednar asked for any additional comments.  Dan Miller replied that he likes the idea.  Pat Miller stated that the only thing that she does not like is the fence for the backstop.  Laura Becerra commented that she thought that the whole idea of working with Lalo to keep the addition form occurring was to keep the park natural.  What is wrong with just adding a shelter and an amphitheater for the teachers.  Pat Miller asked about adding parking at the end of Henry Court.  Glenna Preradovic asked if some parking could be added on the side of the tennis courts.  Jean Bednar proposed putting the backstop up between the asphalt tennis courts, and leaving the rest of the area open for natural landscaping.  Pat Miller added that the real advantage is to have Parks take over the maintenance of the tennis courts, as the City is in a better position to handle it at this time.  Jean Bednar added that a positive for U46 is more and a better parking area.  Pat replied that she would think that U46 would want to keep the parking area under their control.  Paul Bednar then asked for a show of hands of those that would like to see the letter and design, as it is now, submitted to Lalo.  A majority of those present raised their hands.  John Gately concluded the discussion by stating that the most attractive design should be submitted now because compromises may need to be reached later.

November 2001
Channing Park
Paul Bednar reported that a meeting has been set up between the school district, the Parks Department, and Paul Bednar for GPA, to discuss the future of Channing Park.  The school district has contacted Paul and is seriously considering swapping or donating land from Channing Park to the City.  The meeting will take place Tuesday, November 20th.

June 2002
Channing Park
Paul reported that the land trade of Channing Park between U46 and the City of Elgin has failed.

September 2002
Channing Park
Paul Bednar reported that the school district and parks department agreed that 7 acres of the park would be turned over to the city, as part of some other trades.  Just recently, U46 also wanted the city to take possession of the parking lot and fix it.  It was also noted that there is some expansion construction occurring at Channing School, and nobody at GPA was informed.


March 2004

(Per Mayor) 

Channing Park is moving forward.  Money will be needed to be budgeted for its redevelopment.

March 2005
Channing Park
Dave Segel reported that the transfer of Channing Park from the school district to the city is imminent.  This could be an important opportunity for improved park space in the neighborhood.


March 2006

Channing School Park - The next meeting is on April 4 at the Centre at 7 pm.  Pat Miller expressed her angst over the land swap on this parcel of land.  The portion that will be city-owned parkland seems to have very little access.  U-46 land surrounds it and the possibility of easements was discussed.  Three-fourths of the property will belong to U-46.  The history of Channing was discussed for those not familiar with the covenant.  So gather ‘round kiddies to hear a charming fairytale about the Channing School property:  Originally, this land was a cemetery.  The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew most of the graves to a new location.  Then the fairy godmother waved her magic wand and gave the land to U-46 with the stipulation that only one building would be on the property, the tennis courts would be maintained and that the remaining land would be for public enjoyment and that everyone would live happily ever after under this covenant.  The End.  Concerns remain about the terms of the covenant being upheld.===What does this mean????

From Dawn Cobb

I found some information on the cemetery finally.  The school got a burial permit to move the few graves they uncovered in 1998/1999 and the remains were removed by professional archaeologists.  There were a couple of other graves that were left in place and the school covered them back up.  I will have to find the report to see if I have any other information.  I did find Tracy ’s comments about the cemetery on-line so that helped me some.   

What would really help me now is if Tracy could confirm whether or not there are current plans to expand the school again.  Then I could approach the case with a fresh set of data and could remind them of their responsibilities under the burial law to avoid the cemetery. 

Dawn Cobb 

Dawn E. CobbHuman Skeletal Remains Protection

 Act Coordinator Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

1 Old State Capitol Plaza

Springfield, Illinois 62701-1512


Phone: 217.558.8973     Fax: 217.782.8161



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