Sunday, August 14, 2005

Early Springfield Life Wasn't Easy

While Oak Ridge Cemetery is the second most visited Cemetery in the United States I doubt that most residents of Springfield, Illinois have spent much time there - while living that is.

This weekend while I visited Oak Ridge Cemetery I witnessed dozens of friends, and family members paying their love, and respect to their beloveds. With their words, and their flowers they came alone, or in groups. It was a touching scene. Some visitors simply stopped in their automobiles by the side of a grave heads bowed in silence for a time. Others came in groups. Parents, and grandparents bringing children to the grave of a family member. In their deeds they are saying, "This place is important, and this person is important to our family, we do not forget."

From these displays of respect, and love I know that the people of Springfield have not forgotten those they have put to rest in our nationally known cemetery. However there's a great deal of Illinois, and Springfield history just behind the tree lined hills that surround Lincoln's Tomb. Most of Springfield's founding families are resting peacefully in the older sections of Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Wandering the tombstone covered hills of Oak Ridge Cemetery is not only a chance to step away from the hustle, and bustle of modern day Springfield, it is also an opportunity to step into Springfield's past.

I visited, and photographed several family plots, and gravestones. I'll share these photos over the coming days, and weeks.

I thought I'd start off with the McConnell family.

I do not have any historic background information on the McConnell family of Springield (circa. 1840-1855), but I did spend a few moments at their family plot. It was both a sad, and beautiful sight. While I sympathized with the sense of loss this family must have experienced, I also believe that the McConnells must have held onto their faith, and hopes to carry the through. I suspect that the McConnells believed they would be together again in the afterlife - just as they were buried together.

Their pioneer determination is both beautiful, and profound, and acts as a lesson to future generations. I walked gingerly near the gravestones to take the following photos.

Image hosted by

The McConnell family would have resided in Springfield, Illinois during the same time Abraham Lincoln did. After reading each stone I realized that this family lost five children under the age of five.

I'm not sure what this child's name is (photo below).

Image hosted by

The stone below marks the resting place of two McConnell children.
The names of two infants, Edward, and Ann appear on the same stone. I found this stone to be the most telling, and tragic.

Image hosted by

Infant Charles McConnell's burial stone appears in the photo below. Charles died in November of 1842.

Image hosted by

Mary Ann appears to have been the eldest of the McConnell children buried in this family plot. Mary Ann wasn't quite five when she died. Note the use of the middle name Ann. Ann was the given name of an earlier departed McConnell child.

Image hosted by

One can only wonder how the McConnell family manged to carry on despite suffering from such continued loss, and heartache.

For Mother, and Father to bring each child into the world must have been an act of faith, and hope. Hope that their dreams for the future of their children would be realized eventually, and faith that despite all the broken dreams, and broken hearts that it was still worth it.

For the McConnells to witness their young, and innocent infants being struck down time, and again, must have been nearly unbearable for them. Let's hope some of their children lived into adulthood.

In any detailed discussion of Abraham, and Mary Todd Lincoln, inevitably there is mention of the suffering which each endured in the loss of their three young sons. Only one of the Lincoln's sons reached adulthood. We shouldn't forget that their experience was all too typical of American life just one hundred and fifty years ago.


ExNewfie said...

I, too, find old cemeteries fascinating. I love to go through the ones in New Orleans and Boston's burying grounds and old English country churches. They are so peaceful but so sad, especially when you see the children's markers. Another peaceful one is in Frankfort, KY which is where Daniel Boone is buried and a lot of Civil War soldiers, North and South. It overlooks a deep ravine and on the opposite slope is the state capital.
These rainy days are good times for reflection and quiet walks, rain and all.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Good stuff Jerome. You deserve a wider audience for your efforts. Your blog could certainly be a resource for local history teachers.

Marie said...

Yes, I agree with Dan. This is really interesting subject matter and excellent and provocative writing, JP.

You might be interested to read a report on Oak Ridge my daughter did in high school:

email jp






Wired News: Top Stories