Thomas Bryan: Graceland Cemetery, the World’s Fair, and HH Holmes

Connections between HH Holmes and the World’s Fair and Columbian Exposition of 1893 are mostly fictional – though he did claim he was adding a third floor to his building to serve as a hotel during the fair, the “hotel” was never open for business, and the notion that he was preying on fair patrons was just something a New York newspaper casually suggested, and which gradually got folded into the legend. The number of people who came to the fair, went missing, and can honestly be connected to him is exactly one – Nannie Williams, who came to join Holmes and her sister Minnie in Chicago that year.

But, while Holmes didn’t see the fair as a great opportunity to murder people, he DID see it as a great way to make money. Nearly everyone in town did. By claiming to start a hotel, he was able to swindle investors, supplies and insurers galore.

By 1893, though, he’d already completed his biggest connection to the fair: swindling Thomas B. Bryan, the vice president and “commissioner at large” of the exposition.

Bryan had come to Chicago in 1853, when it was still a young town of just 30,000 people – early enough that later articles called him a pioneer. Though he set up as a lawyer at first, he got involved in real estate investments that proved lucrative, and by the time he met Holmes, he had been a pillar of the Chicago community for decades. He was the founder of Bryan Hall (a popular meeting place and lecture hall in Civil War era Chicago) and the founder and first president of Graceland Cemetery (a newspaper note from 1861 notes that he was arranging for an omnibus connected to the North Chicago Horse Railway to make daily trips to the cemetery; the fare would be eight cents). An now-amusing note from the Cemetery that year bragged that it was “sufficiently remote from the city never to be encroached upon, no matter what may be the prosperity of Chicago.”  This was fairly silly to say even then; at the opening ceremonies a year or so before the Tribune noted that it would be part of suburbia “at no distant day.”

. In 1865, he introduced people like General Grant and General Sherman at the Great Northwestern Sanitary Fair. He later served as commissioner of the District of Columbus under President Hayes.

By 1891, he was working from an office in The Home Insurance Building (whose steel frame construction made it a landmark itself; the first modern skyscraper) and acting as Vice President and Commissioner at Large of the upcoming World’s Fair. In this capacity, he traveled the world, meeting with people like the pope to promote the interests of the fair.

Somewhere along the line, a fellow named Frederick Nind persuaded him (by sheer persistence and making a pest of himself) to become half owner in The ABC Copier Company, a company designed to sell a copy machine for which Nind had bought the patent in England. But Bryan seems to have almost immediately wanted out, as he had no real time to manage a copier machine business himself, and Nind began to look for a buyer. In late 1890 or early 1891, he met HH Holmes and told him all about the opportunity.

The connection to Bryan is what seems to have interested Holmes the most; H.W. Darrow, who ran a cigar shop in Holmes “Castle” building, later said that Holmes told him that this Bryan fellow seemed “like good fruit for a sucker.” Holmes offered to buy his half share of the business for around $7000. Bryan agreed, on the condition that his name not be used to establish credit or connections.  Holmes paid him with a promissory note, the proceeded, naturally, to use Bryan’s name to establish credit and connections all over town, eventually borrowing thousands of dollars that he had no intention of repaying.

Here’s an excerpt from a deposition Bryan gave as part of the endless lawsuits that came from these borrowings:

Q: Had the business which this company was organized to carry on been previously carried on by some other company, firm or person?

A (Bryan): No, but it has since February 1891 been improperly attempted to be carried on by a man by the name of Holmes.

Q: The same one who is now president of the company?

A: He has no office. He assumed some office, but he was never appointed.

Q: He assumed the office of manager?

A: I don’t know what he assumed, but he assumed something. He never was actually appointed. He was an assumed officer. 

The sheer amount of the promissory note, which Holmes (of course) never paid off, may qualify Bryan as Holmes’ single biggest swindling victim. His frequently given motto, “Take care of details, beware of cocktails,” indicates that he was what we’d now call a “detail oriented” man; in his notes to investors and his deposition, you can see how frustrating his light dealings with Holmes made him – it almost seems that it’s less about the money and more about Holmes’s exasperating tendency to obfuscate details!

Bryan died of heart trouble in Washington D.C. in 1906; he is buried there, far away from the cemetery he founded.

 

Was Rosehill Supposed to be Roe’s Hill?

The proper name of Rosehill Cemetery is up to some debate. Though most official paperwork gives it as a single word, Rosehill, it’s not uncommon to see it written as Rose Hill. And several popular stories claim that the name was supposed to be Roe’s Hill, and only a clerical error resulted in the name we know today. People ask me about it on tours all the time.

The oft-given story is that the land, seven miles north of downtown Chicago,  was once a farm (or tavern) owned by a stubborn old pioneer named Hiram Roe. When someone wanted to buy the land from the old man for a cemetery in 1859, stubborn old Mr. Roe only agreed when the buyer promised to name the cemetery after him – but a clerical error resulted in it being named Rosehill instead. I love to imagine Old Man Roe sitting there on opening day, gnashing his teeth and sipping his homemade whiskey from a brown bag while wealthy Chicagoans sat through the speeches and picked out their plots.

But, while there’s reason to believe Roe was a real person, the story of him wanting to have the cemetery named after him is certainly fiction. The land wasn’t bought from him, and wasn’t intended to be a cemetery when it was first purchased.

Lawsuit records recorded in The Northeastern Reporter in 1895, when a suit over payments was going on, elucidates the whole story of how the land changed hands: In 1857, Francis H. Benson bought the land where the cemetery now sits, then in the surburban town of Chittenden, for about $25,000 from the Illinois and Wisconsin Land Company. He intended to parcel it out into lots for houses, but the Panic of 1857 hit the economy hard, causing the land to lose about half its value and decimating the market for suburban real estate. The only money Benson made from the land in the first year came from selling off a bit of gravel he found on it.

But the dryness of the soil (it was a high elevation) made Benson think some of the land would make a good cemetery, so he partnered with James V.Z. Blaney, first president of Rosehill, to form the Rosehill Cemetery corporation.  The company was incorporated in February, 1859, and the cemetery opened for business that summer. Benson and Blaney’s names are both carved onto the gate. When the cemetery published a promotional book in 1913, they said that the name came from wild white roses that grew on the hill.

But the story that the name of the cemetery may have grown from a hill named for Mr. Roe may not be entirely fanciful; while the “stubborn farmer who owned the land” tales are of decidedly modern vintage (probably just the last couple of decades), stories that the land was once called Roe’s Hill appear in several 19th century sources.

The first mention  that I can find comes from just over 20 years after the cemetery was chartered, when the Chicago Tribune ran an article about onion farming on September 6, 1880. In the article, it said that in the early days of Chicago history, teamsters traveling in the woods seven miles north of town would often stop at the “Jug Tavern” owned by “old Man Roe,” who made a sort of whiskey that was popular enough for its fame to make them start referring to the area as Roe’s Hill.

A few years later, A.T. Andreas’ authoritative History of Cook County  mentioned this as well, stating that the area of Bowmanville was once known as Roe’s Hill for Hiram Roe, whose cabin and tavern were near the current residence of one J.A. Budlong.

The Tribune mentioned Roe again in 1900, when an article on the origins of the names of various suburbs said that Bowmanville was originaly known as Roe’s Hill after Hiram Roe, “the pioneer settler (who) sold whiskey there of no uncertain proof.”

However, census records say nothing about a Hiram Roe in the area. There was a farmer named Hiram Rowe up near McHenry in those days, but I couldn’t find any evidence that he ever lived closer to the city.  Furthermore, these mentions that the area was called “Roe’s Hill” in the old days (1830s-1850s) are all from a few decades later; no instance of anyone calling it Roe’s Hill in the actual “old days” has yet been found (though I’ve heard rumors about it being in some early Rosehill documents). Andreas and the Tribune may have just been repeating neighborhood gossip and urban legends.

Perhaps the tale that Rosehill was Roe’s Hill may have all been a misunderstanding; In 1856, Robert Ferguson wrote a book on Danish and Norse names in Scotland, and said that a Rose Hill in the U.K. was, he believed properly Roe’s Hill, from the Old Norse word for “King.”  Perhaps someone heard that bit and thought it applied to the Rosehill in Chicago.

Still, the fact that sources knew the full name and even the location of the tavern make it look as though there was a kernel of truth in the story someplace. So, Old Man Hiram Roe remains a bit of a mystery; I spoke to Larry, a fellow tour guide who works at Rose Hill, and he said he’d pored through all of the oldest books looking for any mention of Hiram Roe without finding a thing.  “He’s certainly not here now,” he told me.

But was he ever there? The world may never know…

 

The Lulu Fellows Statue at Rosehill – new info

When I run Rosehill tours, I mostly stick with the eastern sections. But at least one detour is always in order: you can’t leave out Lulu Fellows, the glass-encased statue of a young girl who died in 1883 at the age of 16. Her epitaph, “Many Hopes Lie Buried Here,” is not unique; it shows up on other 1880s graves in the cemetery as well, and, really, could be added to almost any tombstone. But next to the statue (carved by AE Gage, who also created the “Inez” statue at Graceland), it really brings home the fact that we’re looking at a young woman whose life was cut tragically short.

For the longest time, little was known about Lulu beyond what one could piece together from census forms and her death certificate, but the digitization of newspapers and books has made a few more tidbits available, shedding some light on the sort of “hopes and dreams” that died with Lulu.

Lulu was a rising elocutionist – a theatrical profession that doesn’t really exist anymore, and is largely erased from cultural memory. Though people still give dramatic readings of great literature, famous speeches, and comic bits at things like public speaking competitions, the practice of going to a theater and buying a ticket to see a famous elocutionist was regarded as old fashioned even a century ago. It was common in the 19th century, though, Lulu was noted for her talents. Notes from a magazine published by her professor indicate that she performed for Robert Todd Lincoln, and the magazine further published a January, 1882 letter by Mayor Carter H. Harrison, stating that he’d had the pleasure of hearing her “read” in 1880. “She will,” he wrote, “from all I caln learn, teake a high position as a reader in public. I take great pleasure in commending her to all who admire and enjoy elocution.”

A student at the Park Institute, at Ashland and Ogden at Union Park, Lulu studied under Professor Dickson, himself a noted elocutionist, and was a member of the C.E.G. society – which presumably was somehting to do with elocution, though I can’t for the life of me find out what it stood for! Sometimes listed as the “C.E.C. Society,” it seems to have existed at no other school. But the society gave performances at churches and homes around the city (particularly those near the school), and the press often mentioned the performances.

Lulu’s monument by AE Gage

Most of the time, the reviews only noted that Lulu performed a “recitation,” though a January, 1882 write-up of a performance at Third Presbyterian Church specifically mentions that she performed “The Brakeman at Church,” a comic piece in which a railroad man compares various religions to railroad lines. Like most Victorian comic pieces, it doesn’t seem very funny by modern standards (you can read it here), but the Tribune noted that she performed it “very acceptably and responded to a hearty encore.” The perfomance closed with the society (presumably including Lulu), giving a “tableux of statuary,” enacting poses of such scenes as “Columbia Mourning Over Garfield” (another style of performance that died out in the 20th century, remembered now almost entirely because of a satire in The Music Man).

Reading “The Brakeman at Church” today may not be thrilling, but to look on the statue of Lulu over her grave and imagine her reading it can be a moving experience, add a bit of life to the stone. Some reviews of the CEG Society performances note that crowds tossed things like bouqets at the stage; who knew that the people slipping money into the glass case around her statue were just carrying on the tradition?

Professor Dickson published a magazine, published in book form, called The Elocutionist, which gives an excellent idea of the course of study Lulu would have followed, what other pieces she might have performed in class or in recitals. It can now be read on Google Books.

The Pinkerton Detectives at Graceland Cemetery

Today, I’ve launched a new podcast, Cemetery Mixtape, which will feature cool stories about interesting graves, with original songs by musical guests. Check it out! It’s been a lot of fun doing research on stories that take me outside of Chicago a bit; upcoming episodes revolve around graves in places like Nashville, Washington DC, and New York.

But I just had to have an episode about Joseph Wicher, who is in the section of Graceland Cemetery put aside for employees of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency. Wicher, in a story I can’t believe isn’t better known, was murdered by the Jesse James gang in 1874.  (Much of the info here is also on the episode’s page at cemeterymixtape.com)

Allan Pinkerton was an abolitionist who started the first national detective agency – the first real private eyes. Nearby his own family plot, the Pinkerton Employee section essentially functioned as advertising for the detective agency (in addition to being a nice gesture for his employees). The trouble, from a tour guide’s perspective, is that the majority of the graves are too worn to be read:

 

Among the two more legible graves at the front is Kate Warn (alias Angie Warren, according to cemetery paperwork), who has become very popular lately. A few books have been written about her in just the last few years, though most are novels just imagining the kind of work she might do, as we don’t really know much of what she did. . Pinkerton used her as a character in a couple of novels he wrote that were said to be true stories, though enough names and dates are clearly changed that they can’t really be fact-checked; when I tried to verify stuff about a story Pinkerton wrote of her impersonating a fortune teller, nothing held up. They do give us some idea of what sort of work Kate probably did, though, and we do know for sure that she assumed the role of a sick man’s brother to help Lincoln sneak past assassins and into Washington D.C. in 1861.

Another female detective, Kate Bracket, is also in the plot in an unmarked grave, but I think even less is known for sure of her; most of what I’ve seen written about her and Kate Warn basically amounts to fanfic, as most of the records of their Chicago work was lost in the Great Fire.    (If you want to look up a better documented early Chicago woman detective, check out our posts on Mary E. Holland).

The only other really legible stone is for Timothy Webster, whose monument calls him “The Harvey Birch of the Rebellion” (a reference to James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy). Webster also helped with sneaking Lincoln into DC, then was eventually hanged by confederate soldiers who caught him spying behind enemy lines. He’s not buried in the plot, though, and never was! He was initially buried in Virginia, then moved to his family plot in a small town. The marker is just a monument.

Among the largely illegible graves around them, only Wicher seems to be well-documented; in 1874 he was sent to Liberty, MO, to look into the activities of the James gang. The sheriff there might have tipped the gang off, and they might have simply been able to tell he wasn’t a farmhand looking for work, as he claimed when he went to the James family farm – there’s no way to tell for sure at this point. Not long after he left for the farm, his murdered body was found by a farm, shot three times, and, in some versions (though I’m not sure any are reliable), with a note attached to his clothes reading something like “Let all detectives beware of Jesse James.”

Of the others, I could only find a tiny bit about Botella Olson, whom a newspaper once described as a “Norwegian spy.” Many of the stones look as though they may have once contained epitaphs with more data, like the larger stones for Warn and Webster, but the combination of age, limestone, and acid rain has made them impossible to read.

However, I do have this map that I made for Cemetery Mixtape:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re still working on this, of course. In the meantime, hear more about Joseph on the new podcast, and come along on a Graceland tour some time!

The Unmarked Grave of a Revolutionary War Widow

As a cemetery tour guide, on my favorite things is finding great stories that have escaped the history books – it’s often just a matter of finding an interesting headstone and looking up the name. But which stones to choose? The most obvious are the big and impressive ones, but sometimes it can also simply be a person with a strange name, or an interesting symbol.

One of these was Elizabeth Ely Gridley Butler, whose stone includes a “Real Daughter” plaque, signifying that her father was a Revolutionary War soldier. These are very rare in Chicago, where no verifiable Revolutionary War veterans are buried (we’ve covered the two supposed ones, William DuVol and David Kennison, a time or two before). But what struck me about Elizabeth was her birth date – 1826. I figured there had to be a story there, as the youngest Revolutionary Veterans in 1826 would have been comfortably past middle age.

As it turns out, her father, Theodore Gridley, of Clinton, NJ, served for seven months in the New York state militia during the war; family legend a century later said that he fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill (the war service is backed by records, though they indicate that the Bunker Hill part was probably not true). It wasn’t until around 1816 that he married Amy Ely, who was already 40 years of age – very old to be getting married in those days.  In 1825, according to an 1875 Tribune article, the two of them rode in a carriage to Boston to see the cornerstone laid for the Battle of Bunker Hill memoriale, and heard Daniel Webster speak.

Amy was nearly 50 years old when Elizabeth, her only child was born; Thomas died the next year, and Amy moved to Chicago in 1854, when her daughter married G.S. Butler there, and lived there for a rest of her life. The family hid in a cabbage patch outside of the city limits during the Great Chicago Fire, by which time Amy was close to 95 years old.

She survived the fire, though was a bit worse for wear. Her hearing began to suffer, and she stopped taking daily walks. By 1875, the Tribune said that her chief form of amusing was “rumpling handkerchiefs, from which she seems to derive considerable amusement.” It also noted that “unlike the conventional old lady, she does not smoke a pipe or require much attention.”

Amy Ely-Gridley died in her daughter’s home in 1876, and, at 99, was thought to be the oldest woman in Chicago. According to Graceland Cemetery records, she is buried in the unmarked spot directly next to her daughter’s. I’ve exchanged a few emails with the D.A.R. in hopes of getting a marker placed there, but nothing has come of it yet (possibly because Amy was Theodore’s third wife). Here’s hoping! Amy is a part of history who deserves a memorial of her own.

Kathryn Evans: Witness to History at Rosehill Cemetery

On a recent walk through Rosehill Cemetery, looking for new stories to tell on tours, I came upon the gravestone of Albert H. Dainty, whose epitaph read “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee.” This was a line from The Song of Solomon in the Bible. Translations vary, but the full line is something like “Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn to me, my beloved, and be like a wild elk among the rugged hills.” Go, Albert H. Dainty, go!

Some research showed that this epitaph would have certainly been chosen by his second wife; his first, Laura, left him to go on the stage, ignoring his pleas to come home for a decade before he finally obtained a divorce. She was a fairly well-known elocutionist in her day, and turned out to have connections to any number of other people in Rosehill (though she herself is in Forest Home). Later in life, she was very active in the Hull House theater, where she directed a performance of a play called Hazel Kirk in 1917 as benefit to raise money to get a retired actress named Kathryn Evans into the Episcopalian Home.

Kathryn M. Evans

I was delighted to find the connection to Evans, whose nondescript gravestone on the north side of the cemetery is one of Rosehill’s many little-known treasures.

Evans was an actress, and a fairly popular one in her day, though what earned her a place in history was her role as Mrs. Sharpe, a housekeeper, who had the first line in a comedy she later said “Wouldn’t be considered very funny today.” That comedy was Our American Cousin, and Ms. Evans appeared in it at Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was assassinated there in 1865.

The details in the story she told of that night – over and over for the rest of her life – seem to change a bit in the telling, but she gave a particularly vivid description to a Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean reporter in 1914. “I was in the green room,’ she recalled, “chatting with Maggie Gourlay, the ‘Skillet’ of the play, and waiting for my cue, when I heard the shot ring out…. I knew when I heard the shot that it couldn’t be a part of the play…. A moment before young Booth had leaped to the stage. I heard someone shout ‘Stop that man!'”… I looked up and saw Lincoln unconscious, his head drooping on his breast, his eyes closed, but with a smile still on his face.

“After the tragedy I ran upstairs to the dressing-room. The stage was filled with secret service men, who seemed to have gone crazy. They had arrested ‘Peanut Johnnie’ (the peanut vendor who held Booth’s horse) as an accomplice – poor ‘Peanut,’ who did nothing more than hold Booth’s horse. They were looking for Ned Spangler, our stage carpenter, who had innocently held the door open for the assassin. My husband was also under suspicion, as he had had a drink with Booth in George Harry’s cafe next door before the play began.”

Evans went to a dressing room, where she wiped the makeup off her face, certain that any second a detective would knock on the door to arrest her, too. Eventually the property manager assured her that she was safe, and she walked into the empty theatre, which wouldn’t see another audience in her lifetime. Her husband was arrested, but released. The property manager was held in the federal jail in the capitol building for a time, and his frantic wife lived with Evans for a bit. In the heady hours after the assassination and Booth’s seemingly easy escape, everyone in the theater was under suspicion.

She had worked with Booth a little bit before, and thought him the perfect gentleman. She had even seen him that day, and said that he betrayed no nervousness regarding what he was about to do. “My last glimpse of him,” she said, “was as he stood with his arms outstretched at the entrance to the theater, facing the stage. We all liked him.”

“It was an unhappy season for us,” she recalled. “The theater was closed, and we, who had been favorites a week before, were out of work. We were all more or less under suspicion because Booth was an actor… my husband died shortly after. It was a sad year for me.”

Years later, visiting Washington for the first time since 1865, she visited the federal prison and was appalled to see a guard prodding an elderly prisoner with a bayonet. She loudly protested, until the guard said the prisoner, was “Still a rebel at heart; he told me he was glad the blankety-blank old rail splitter had been killed. “Give him an extra prod for me, then,” Evans said.

Evans remained an actress for years, eventually retiring in Chicago. In 1920, a play about Lincoln was performed at the Blackstone Theatre (now the Merle Norman), and Evans viewed the play from a box, where she sat alongside Sgt. A.W. Boggs, who’d been in the audience at Ford’s Theatre that night, and W.J. Ferguson, who’d been in the cast with her that night. They hadn’t seen each other since, though Ferguson was still a working actor; he was currently appearing in the The Little Whopper at the Studebaker, and had recently played Lincoln in a silent film.

 

I’m indebted to Dave Taylor and Kate Ramirez, Booth family scholars who told me about Evans; we located her grave at Rosehill over the summer when they came through town on their “Boothie Road Trip.” Check out his site boothiebarn.com!

The Strange History of “Eternal Silence,” Graceland’s “Statue of Death”

No one who visits Graceland Cemetery in Chicago can fail to notice Lorado Taft’s “Eternal Silence,” the statue of a hooded figure that stands over the plot of Dexter Graves and his family. Even official documents from the US Department of the Interior describe it as “eerie.” So iconic is the image that in 1968, Claes Oldenburg even drew up a proposal for a  skyscraper on Michigan Avenue that would look just like it – imagine how eerie a one thousand foot version would be! (Oldenburg was probably just being fanciful with the design).  It would be a failure of the citizens of Chicago if there weren’t any strange legends about it, although, frankly, the ones we have leave a bit to be desired. Some say that you can’t take a focused photograph of it (which was probably a better legend before digital cameras made it easy to disprove), and others still say that if you look into its face, you will see your own death (a good legend that, again, is simply too easy to disprove).

Henry Graves in 1905.

Henry Graves in 1905.

Even most of the more factual information about it that has been published is a little inaccurate, and leaves out a lot of interesting stuff about the Graves family. For one thing, nearly every article about it says that it was commissioned by Henry Graves, Dexter’s son, in 1909, which is a little inaccurate, since Henry had been dead for two years by then (it was probably by Henry’s cousin, also named Henry Graves, who was one of two executors of the estate). And it’s seldom mentioned that Dexter (and a few of the other family members) died over a decade before the cemetery was even founded – they would originally have been buried in the City Cemetery where Lincoln Park is now. What sort of plot they were in there,  when they were moved, and whether anything marked current the lot before the statue is not currently known. Henry had no children of his own, and no more bodies were added to the plot after his death. Could it be that Dexter lay in an unmarked grave (or two of them) for seventy-five years before the statue was built?

There’s also some dispute as to the name. While sometimes called “The Statue of Death,” most sources say it’s officially called “Eternal Silence.” However, early catalog entries from art exhibitions where casts of it were displayed called it “The Eternal Silence.”  Since they likely got the information from Lorado Taft himself for the catalogs, the proper name is probably “The Eternal Silence.”

Dexter Graves was an early settler in Chicago, setting up a hotel known as The Mansion House in the loop; it’s a bit of a footnote in Chicago history for having been the site of the first professional theatrical performance in the city (by some measures). His son, Henry, was ten years old when they moved to town in the early 1830s (after a perilous journey with Captain Naper, the namesake of Naperville). His own early adventures are worthy of a post of their own.

Around the time Dexter died in 1844, young Henry built a cottage for himself on 31st street near Cottage Grove (it was he who gave “Cottage Grove” its name), at a time when that would have been little more than dunes on the beach. But times changed. I believe that every researcher who’s ever looked up a map of Camp Douglas, our Civil War prison camp, has seen the site marked “graves”  and assumed it was a camp cemetery, perhaps for cholera burials (I sure did). But it was really the Graves homestead – Henry refused to give up the land, so he and his family simply lived in a house with a POW camp bordering it on three sides.

By 1905, Henry was being advertised as the “oldest Chicagoan.” Though there were a few other contenders, it is quite likely that no one else still in the city had been in town longer than he had.

When he died in 1907, his will contained the provisions for the new plot at Graceland, but reading the will raises more questions than it answers. The will did not call for a statue, but a family mausoleum that would be built at a cost of $250,000. That’s several million in today’s money, so we’re talking about one serious mausoleum here. Elsewhere in the will – a portion that attracted far more press – he also set aside $50,000 for a monument to Ike Cook, a race horse that he may (or may not) have once owned, and who broke a record with a two minute, thirty second mile. The monument was to stand in Washington Park, and would feature a bronze statue of Ike Cook, plus a drinking fountain for horses.

Model for the "Ike Cook" statue Graves paid for in his will.

Model for the “Ike Cook” statue Graves paid for in his will.

The task of designing to horse monument fell to one Charles Mulligan, and the plan even survived a legal challenge over whether the gift to the city was taxable or not, and a photo of a model for it was published in newspapers. However, as near as I can tell, the statue never came about.

In the two years between Graves’ death and the actual construction of the Eternal Silence statue, plans obviously evolved somewhat. Even when the will was admitted to probate in 1907, newspaper articles now described the plot as a “monument” which would include a plaque reading “Donated and erected by Henry Graves. Born Aug 9, 1821; died Oct 8, 1907; son of Dexter, who brought the first colony to Chicago, consisting of thirteen families. Arrived July 15, 1831, on the schooner Telegraph.”

2007_Fountain_of_Time_father_time2_cropped

Front-view of the “Father Time” figure in Taft’s “Fountain of Time,” built roughly on the spot once reserved for Graves’ monument to his favorite race horse, and designed not long after Taft did “Eternal Silence.” From wikimedia commons.

Eventually, noted sculptor Lorado Taft was brought onboard to build the monument; plaque with roughly (though not exactly) that text is on the back. Taft’s work can be seen all over the country, including several  statues around Chicago – perhaps most notably the 1920 “Fountain of Time,” which features a similar hooded figure (more explicitly “Father Time” in this sculpture, whereas the identity of the figure in the Graves monument is a bit ambiguous). Interestingly, that “Fountain of Time” stands almost exactly in the spot where the statue of Ike Cook was supposed to be. The city first commissioned Taft for the fountain in 1913 – could the similarities in the figures be a result of the city having used some of the Graves money? No connection seems to have been noted at the time, but it sure seems like there’s a missing piece of the story here someplace. I’m assuming that Graves already owned the plot at Graceland, and that his family members from the old City Cemetery had been moved ages ago. Eternal Silence is a great work by a sculptor who was very famous, but I can’t imagine it cost $250,000. There must have been money left over.  This is one for my “learn more” files, and another story to tell on cemetery strolls. 

 

Full view of "Fountain of Time" from wikimedia commons. Did this evolve from plans for a drinking fountain for horses?

Full view of “Fountain of Time” from wikimedia commons. Did this evolve from plans for a drinking fountain for horses?

 

Some New Hull House Information

Charles Hull’s monument at Rose Hill. When the grounds were
dedicated in the late 1850s, many prominent citizens stayed after
the ceremonies to pick out their plots. Being so close to
the gate, I assume that Charles was one of them.

While I was the University of Chicago library today, I ran across an 1867 book (pamphlet) really that I’d never even heard of Sketch of the Life of Charles J. Hull.  I knew about Charles Hull, of course – the house he built in 1856 is a landmark of Chicago history for the work Jane Addams did there, and a regular stop on ghost tours. I’d his read Charles’ own book, Reflections from a Busy Life, a few years ago at the Newberry Library, and found it fascinating. Charles was a guy who owned a tavern when he was 12, and tore it down at 15. He found his way to Chicago, worked his way through both medical and law school, and became a real estate dealer, activist, and something along the lines of a motivational speaker.

Now, a lot of nonsense is told about Hull House, the house he built in 1856 at Halsted and Polk. Though there were already rumors that it was haunted when social work pioneer (and future Nobel laureate) Jane Addams moved in in 1889, there’s no evidence that the land was built on an Indian burial ground, that Addams had a well of aborted fetuses on the grounds, or that the devil baby was a real, supernatural creature that Addams buried alive  (and geez, it’s not so bad when people exaggerate, say, the crimes of H.H. Holmes, but when people talk crap about Jane Addams, that’s pretty low. These stories drive the people who work at the museum up the wall).  And for the stories that Potawatomie Indians did a ghost dance there in 1812 to curse the white man…I don’t even know where to begin saying what’s wrong with that.

And we don’t even NEED those stories to explain any ghost sightings there. We know that the place was a home for the elderly run by nuns in the 1870s. We know that Mrs. Mellicent Hull died there in 1860, and that her son Charley died there in 1866.  And when Addams moved in, there was an undertaking parlor next door. Charles himself was a spiritualist, at least on some level, so it’s not impossible that he held seances there.

A portrait of Charles I hadn’t seen before; the
drawings I’d seen always depicted him with the beard he has
in his statue at Rose Hill.

Though I’m no longer employed by a ghost tour company, I still feel that ghost enthusiasts deserve better than what they’re getting. All of these made-up stories, discouragement from checking sources and encouragement to jump right to supernatural explanations for things don’t help anyone, they just muddy the waters and jerk people around.

Anyway, from the new volume, I can clear up a little more: though previous sources didn’t say how Mrs. Hull died (Charles only said she died peacefully), Sketch of the Life specifies that she died of consumption (which we now call tuberculosis).  Charley died of cholera at the age of 19, after a very short illness.

Sketch also notes something I hadn’t heard, but wasn’t surprised at: Charles Hull was particularly incensed by the fugitive slave law of 1860, and there after helped “many a wandering stranger” who was escaping to freedom in Canada. It’s just one line, but it raises a strong possibility that Hull House was, at times, a sort of informal stop on the Underground Railroad!

My new company, Mysterious Chicago Tours, is not a ghost tour company, per se, but I’m still available to run ghost tours for private groups and schools. In the Spring, we’ll add historical cemetery walks, some of which feature the Hull plot pictured above. Get on our mailing list for dates!