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Forest Hill Cemetery a window into Glen Ellyn's past

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 11:19 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
The history of Glen Ellyn's Forest Hill Cemetery dates back to 1835, just one year after the area that would eventually become Glen Ellyn was settled. Many members of the village's founding families make up the about 3,000 people who are buried there.

GLEN ELLYN – Forest Hill Cemetery in Glen Ellyn has a long history.

It has seen the village through its pioneer days to the present, witnessing shifting leaders, changing demographics and the opening and closing of businesses and schools.

Because the cemetery provides an important link to Glen Ellyn’s past, the Glen Ellyn Historical Society and Forest Hill Cemetery Association recently nominated it to be landmarked by the village.

“I don’t know why we didn’t do it years ago,” said Bob Chambers, historical society historian and chair of the Forest Hill Cemetery Association Board.

The area at Riford and St. Charles roads first became a burial site in 1835, just one year after Glen Ellyn was settled. The land had been owned by David Christian, but since there were too many trees there to make it suitable for farming, he allowed others to use it to bury their dead.

“It’s important because of how old it is,” Chambers said. “It is considered one of the oldest cemeteries in this area.”

The first two people buried at Forest Hill were Amanda Churchill and Almira Dodge, young women who had been put to rest on their families’ properties before being moved to the cemetery.

However, the burial site was not formally named as a cemetery until 1845, when Christian officially bequeathed the land to Moses Stacy to be used for that purpose.

About 3,000 bodies are buried at Forest Hill, Chambers said. Many members of the village’s founding families are there, including the Ackermans, Churchills, McChesneys, Newtons and Stacys.

The Churchill and Ackerman families traveled together from the East Coast to settle as some of the first families in Glen Elyn.

Lewey Newton founded downtown Glen Ellyn, Chambers said. When Newton learned the railroad would be coming through the area, he built a station so that it would stop in town.

The Stacy’s Corners had been the center of life in the community, but with the railroad, residents and businesses began the gradual move south to be near the tracks.

The passing years have seen other changes as well, including to the cemetery itself.

The cemetery continues to expand for new burials; a parcel of land was purchased just this year, although it is not yet being used as a burial site, Chambers said.

In the nomination form for the Forest Hill Cemetery to be named a landmark, its value as part of the heritage of the village and its identification with significant people from Glen Ellyn’s past are cited.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission discussed the nomination Oct. 24 and came to the unanimous decision to move forward with the landmarking process, said Commission Chairman Lee Marks.

The village will notify neighbors of the cemetery of a public hearing that will likely be held by the commission in January.

Because many Glen Ellyn residents understand the historical significance of the cemetery, Marks doesn’t foresee any opposition to the landmarking.

“With all the history connected to it, it’s a wonderful site to landmark,” Marks said.

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