Location of the Tavern, Church and Cemetery
By Cathy Spencer; July 19, 2007
“The most influential of the five stage stops in Lake County was the one operated by William and Mary Dwyer, who had both been born in Ireland in 1800. It was located on the west side of Green Bay Road about one-third mile north of the present West Scranton Avenue just north of where Lake Bluff Central School now stands.” (Page 7, Vliet)
“The location of the first church in the town on the Dwyer property, a few rods from the Dwyer house, added to the importance of this spot as a neighborhood rendezvous, and the competent matron and her brilliant brother made it a center of intellectual and social influence for thirty years or more”. (Page 467, Halsey)
“It was at the house of Mrs. William Dwyer on the Green Bay Road he [father Guegnin] was found on that Sunday in the spring of 1842, by William Whitnal, ready to give real estate advice equally with religious instruction. At that spot on the Green Bay Road, the first church building was put up for him in 1844” (Page 666, Halsey)
“In the small “God’s Acre” about it lie buried in unmarked graves the McCormicks and Lavins and other early settlers. This church stood a little south of the residence of Mrs. Dwyer, and the site may be found today about one hundred and twenty rods north of the electric line from Lake Bluff to Rondout.” (P. 675, Halsey)
This distance was calculated with the help of the Village Engineer using an old 1939 aerial photo. The spot was measured and marked 250 feet south of the old pipe marking the northern boundary of the school property. When Field Museum archeologists Dr. Scott Demel and Dr. Ryan Williams came out, a limited ground penetrating radar study picked up what they thought was possibly a foundation very near (38 feet south) of the first spot and set back from the chain link fence by Green Bay Road about 54 feet. This is about same distance as the historic structure just over the property line on the next property to the north.
Lake County Illinois in 1841 (P 28, Halsey) shows a structure along what is now Green Bay Road (called Chicago-Milwaukee road on this map)
Meads identifies the structure shown on the Halsey map in his book “How it all Began,” as “Dwyer’s Tavern and Stage Relay Station, established in 1837 by William Dwyer and his wife, Mary and her brother Dr. Richard Murphy” (P. 26, Meads).
Plat Map of 1861—Shows a structure on Mary Dwyer’s Green Bay Road property, which could be either the tavern or the church. There is also a church symbol farther south on the right hand side of Green Bay Road. Many have asked why the marker on this seems out of place. The best answer we can find is that many old maps are full of these kinds of errors.
Plat Map of 1873---Shows a structure again on Mary Dwyer’s property where the road curves to the north. There is no church symbol on this map.
Plat Map of 1885---The property has changed owners to Ellen (Dwyer) Strong, daughter of William and Mary Dwyer. There is still a rectangle present. The southern portion of the property at this time had been sold off to Condell. There is no church symbol on this map.
Plat Map of 1907---Shows Robert Dady owning the property that was owned by Condell on the 1885 plat map. Above that, the property that once owned by Ellen Strong now belongs to Young. There is no rectangular symbol, but instead in its place is a church symbol on the Young property (the Northern half of the former Dwyer property).
1844—This deed from the Lake County Courthouse shows the land that William and Mary Dwyer and Dr. Richard Murphy settled on in 1837 and purchased from the United States of America. It is the property the tavern was on, and includes the land donated to the Catholic Church for the church and graveyard. Document # 76258; Grantees—William Dwyer; Grantor—United States of Am.; Kind of Instrument—patent; Description of property—SW ¼ ; Sec. Or Lot—17; Twp or block 44 R’ge 12 Date of Instrument—July 4, 1844 Date of filing 11-15-1899
Recorded Book—122 ; Page 456
1916---The Catholic Bishop of Chicago sold the piece of property that the Dwyers and Dr. Murphy gave to the Church to Dady. Located in Grantors Book C, Document # 167502; Grantor Catholic Bishop of Chicago; Grantees; Robert Dady; Kind of instrument –Q.C.D.; Consideration—1 Description of property—part SW1/4; Sec or lot 17; twp or block 44; R’ge 12; October 9 1916 Recorded Book 211 page 78.
The handwritten document No.167502 filed October 9th 1916 was also obtained from the courthouse and further describes the property as
“That portion of the southwest quarter of Section seventeen (17) Township forty four (44) North Range twelve (12) East of the Third Principal Meridian, described as follows: Beginning at a stake northeast of the Catholic Church and running thence westerly eleven (11) rods by an old burned tree, thence southerly by a lge oak tree thirteen rods, thence easterly to a stake near the road, seventeen rods and thence along said road fourteen (14) rods to the place of beginning and containing one and one half (1 ½) acres more or less”.
The measurements on the above archaic deed description were drawn out. The distance of 11 rods west was measured from the old pipe on the property line between the School property and the adjacent property to the north. Eleven rods west goes slightly into the beginning of the woods. This is the farthest west the church property seemed to be. Because of the curve in the road, if 11 rods is measured beginning further south, the edge pulls farther east.
The Skeleton Story
During construction of Central School, there was a story of a skeleton being dug up. The following interview was done by Dr. Michael Peters September 17, 2003 over the telephone.
John Sackerson was born in 1954 and grew up in Lake Bluff. He was interviewed regarding his father’s recollection of bones uncovered during the construction of Central School. Because of advanced age, his father no longer recalls many of the details of the story. John Sackerson described the story as it was told to him by his father at the time it occurred.
Gilbert Sackerson was born July 4, 1917 in Iron Mountain, Michigan and came to Lake Forest in 1947 where he ran a restaurant from 1947-1951. He then worked for the Lake Bluff School District as Chief Custodian until he retired in 1979. He currently resides in Iron Mountain Michigan. John Sackerson recalls his father telling him the story of bones uncovered during construction of Central School. He recalls that his father first told him the story around the time it occurred, but that they have discussed it since then.
“I don’t remember what phase of excavation, but it was a couple of weeks into the project after they dug for the footings of the basement. A “Cat” operator (bulldozer) uncovered some bones, turned pale, and left.” He never returned to the work site. John Sackerson was told this story by his father around the same time it occurred possibly in the fall of 1966. It was his father’s impression that they were human bones. “I talked to my dad about this after the first time you called (about 2 months ago), and he remembered the contractor called Howard West (the architect) right away.” They were concerned there might be more bones, but they never saw any more. “That’s all my dad remembered.” John Sackerson did not know what happened to the bones or whether the event was pursued by the police or any outside agency. He thinks the bones were uncovered in the area of the ball field as it was being made level.
John Sackerson described the area before Central School was built. “We used to hunt rabbits there. It was mostly swampy and boggy my dad thought it would be a problem (building the school there). I know they brought in a lot of fill.” I lived on the east side but we used to ride our bikes there and watch what they were doing.
The Location of the Graves
Early 1900’s, “Leopold Grost who was born in 1896 and grew up in Lake Bluff recalled seeing several gravestones in the area during his boyhood. All of these have disappeared except for a small flat limestone marker recently found face down in a swampy area nearby”. (Page 17, Vleit)
Leopold Grost’s grandson, Stephen Grost was interviewed over the telephone on September 17, 2003 by Dr. Michael Peters. The following is what Dr. Peters writes:
Stephen Grost is a 42 year old firefighter/paramedic for the City of Lake Forest who was born in Lake Bluff and grew up at 108 W. Center Ave. He was interviewed regarding his grandfather Leopold Grost who is cited by Elmer Vliet as having seen gravestones north of Central School.
Leopold Grost was born in 1895 and died in 1981. He lived at 230 North Ave. His parents immigrated separately from Germany and net in Waukegan or Lake Bluff. His father worked for the Cloes brickyard while his mother worked in one of the Lake Bluff hotels. Leopold Grost started work as an electrician and had a small shop on Center or Scranton but then started work for the Village of Lake Bluff around the time of the late depression. “I think he was superintendent of public works. He was also the fire chief for a good number of years. My grandfather took over (as fire chief) from Charles Helming and Tom Evert took over from him. He was retired when I was growing up. I think he retired around 1957.“ My parents were divorced and my dad lived with my grandparents so “we were always going between both houses.”
Soon after Central School was built, around 1969, I was driving with my grandfather on Greenbay Road to Waukegan. He pointed to the woods near the softball field and said, ‘There was a graveyard there.’ He used to walk all over the place as a child and remembered it. “He also mentioned something about tombstones.”
Steve Grost does not think his grandfather ever saw Elmer Vliet’s book nor does he recall his grandfather being interviewed for the book.
Another Witness to Tombstones
1905 (April) “History of the Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest, Illinois” by the Pastor James G.K. McClure was published. In it is written: “…that so many persons from Ireland, adherents of the Roman Catholic faith, settled in this region. To the north they formed a community sufficiently large to have a log church, in the vicinity of Lake Bluff station, on the Green Bay road, as early as 1837, Father O’Mara being the first priest. Some graves may still be seen on the Wm. Dwyer place, indicating the location of the dismantled building. This church was one of a series of churches built between Chicago and Milwaukee to accommodate the Irish Roman Catholics.” P. 8
Tombstones in the Woods
Barbara (Splix) D’Hulst was interviewed June 24, 2003 by Mike Peters and Cathy Spencer.
Barbara Splix was born in Chicago. She was the last of four children born to Irene and Michael Splix. She had two older brothers who were born first, then a while later her sister Blanche (she had blond hair) and then herself, with brown hair.
She was born in Chicago. Her family at some point moved to Lake Bluff to the Quigley Estate, where her father was the gardener. The Quigley Estate was the property located directly north of what is now the Central School property, and formerly the Dwyer’s and churches properties. They lived in a house on the property. There was a porch on front. She attended school in Lake Bluff, and was in the first class of Lake Forest High School. She walked to school always under the protection of boys. The days were taken up with school and chores. Her brothers shared a bedroom that had heat, but her sister and she shared a bedroom that had no heat.
The Quigley’s had dogs and a horse, which they kept in the barn. The barn faced the “extra lot” next door. The vacant lot was just a wild natural place. They were always in there in the summer. She recalls making a rock garden with her dad in there until she came upon a snake.
She recalls a pond that had water in it all year in the woods area of the lot next door [This is the area that is now a swamp, with a drain having been installed and is only wet part of the year]. She skated with her brothers and sister on this pond. There may have been others that skated, as all of them had friends, including one by the name of Helen Jorgeson.
There were trees around the pond. It was a lovely place to play. There was a shack in the back of the empty property, which they took over and played in.
There were three gravestones right next to the fence, old, well worn, rounded at the tops, quite close to the fence. One was a child’s gravestone, and two were grown ups. The child’s was smaller and flat. It was also cockeyed. She was always very respectful of the stones, and careful not to step where she thought the grave was. She admired the care that seemed to have been given to the markers. She believed they marked graves.
As you went through the gate into the empty property, on the right side of the gate [west of the gate] were the stones. The fence ran east-west on the property line. The gate was away from the pond. The stones were along the property line against the fence.
The cottage where she lived was set back off the road. The porch faced Green Bay Road. To get to the pond, she would go south and west.
She said there was a big oak tree south of the markers away from the tombstones about 15 feet.
Lost Tombstone Found
1975-1980---Sometime prior to 1985 (according to Elmer Vliet) a tombstone was found in the swampy area of the woods. Another story places the finding of the stone on the property just to the north not far over the border. Both stories it was reported to have been dug up with a shovel. This stone is now located in the Vliet Museum.
Possible Grave Marker Found
1985-1990 (probably 1987) Kathy O’Hara, local school teacher at the time (now principal of LB Middle School and co founder of the Vliet Center for local history) found a poured cement block with a cross, which may have marked the location of a grave. She found it at the edge of the woods, located at the edge of the softball field. This artifact is now located in the Vliet Museum.
List of Sources Cited
These are the sources used for the “Dwyer Settlement Research Summary” , some of which are referred to in this paper. I have added further documentation on the historic maps. All of these Plat Maps are available in the Lake County Museum, Lake County History Archives.
Dady's Affidavit. Document No. 167505, Lake County Courthouse, October 9, 1916
Deed Record No. 211 No. 167502. Lake County Courthouse, October 9, 1916
Doyle, Patrick. Meehan's Settlement. November 25, 1897 (Located in Waukegan Historical Society).
Harlow, George H. (Secretary of State). Illinois Legislative Directory. Springfield, Ill, H.W. Rokker, 1881
Haines, Elijah M. Historical and Statistical Sketches of Lake County.Waukegan: E.G. Howe. 1852
Halsey, John J., LL. C.A. A History of Lake County Illinois. Chicago: Harmegnies & Howell, 1912
A History of St. Patrick. St. Patrick's Church in Lake Forest
McClure, Pastor James G.K. History of the Presbyterian Church Lake Forest Illinois. April 1905
Meads, Joe. How It All Began. Indianna: Unigraphic Inc., 1976
Ogle, George A., A Standard Atlas of Lake Couny, Illinois. Chicago: George A. Ogle, 1907
The Past and Present of Lake County Illinois. Chicago, Wm. Le Baron & Co. 1877
Peters, Dr. Michael. Oral History from John Sackerson. September 17, 2003
Peters, Dr. Michael. Oral History from Steven Grost. September 17, 2003
Peters, Dr. Michael and Spencer, Cathy. Oral History from Barbara (Splix) D'Hulst. June 24, 2003
Hale, George & J.N. Truesdell. Map of Lake County Illinois 1861. Waukegan Courthouse
Portraits and Biographical Albumof Lake County Illinois. Chicago: Lake City Publishing Co.,1891
Rinehart, Geoge. "Robert Dady --- The Leader County Sheep Farming Once Big". Waukegan News-Sun Saturday, Dec.2, 1967
Van de Velde, Bishop. Diary. (located in the Archdiocese of Chicago)
Vliet, Elmer. Lake Bluff the First 100 Years. Chicago: R.R. Donelley and Sons & Co., 1985
1861 L. Gast Bro. & Co. Lith., St Louis, MO
1873 Frost & McLennan, Chicago, IL
1885 H.R. Page & Co., Chicago, IL
1907 Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, IL