Oak Woods Cemetery

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Oak Woods Cemetery
Cemetery monuments and chapel
Chapel and grounds at Oak Woods Cemetery
Oak Woods Cemetery is located in the United States
Oak Woods Cemetery
Oak Woods Cemetery is located in Illinois
Oak Woods Cemetery
Oak Woods Cemetery is located in Chicago metropolitan area
Oak Woods Cemetery
EstablishedFebruary 12, 1853 (1853-02-12)
CountryUnited States
Coordinates41°46′N 87°36′W / 41.77°N 87.6°W / 41.77; -87.6[1]Coordinates: 41°46′N 87°36′W / 41.77°N 87.6°W / 41.77; -87.6[1]
WebsiteOak Woods Cemetery

Oak Woods Cemetery is a large lawn cemetery in Chicago, Illinois. Located at 1035 E. 67th Street, in the Greater Grand Crossing area of Chicago's South Side. Established 167 years ago on February 12, 1853, it covers 183 acres (74 ha).[2]

Oak Woods is the final resting place of several famous Americans including Harold Washington, Ida B. Wells, Jesse Owens, and Enrico Fermi. It is also the setting for a mass grave and memorial for Confederate prisoners of war from Camp Douglas, called the Confederate Mound.[3]


Oak Woods Cemetery was chartered on February 12, 1853.[2] It was designed by landscape architect Adolph Strauch who created a ‘landscape-lawn cemetery’ on the 183 acres emphasizing grade changes with curving streets and well-planned drainage creating a uniform composition which was free of fences.[4][5]

The first burials took place in 1860. After the Civil War (1861–1865), several thousand Confederate soldiers, prisoners who died at Camp Douglas, were reburied here. According to a plaque on the site, soldiers were buried in “concentric trenches.” A monument and marker, which former Kentucky Lieutenant Governor John C. Underwood helped construct, probably inflates the number of soldiers buried as 6,000, but lists the names of more than 4,000.[6][7] Another, smaller memorial commemorates the Union soldiers who died at Camp Douglas, often from contagious diseases. The bodies from Camp Douglas had originally been buried at Camp Douglas and the City Cemetery, which was closed and removed during expansion of Lincoln Park and urban renewal following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.[8] They were exhumed and reinterred together in a mass grave, which came to be known as Confederate Mound, reputedly the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere.[9] In response to the establishment of the Confederate memorial, in 1896, Thomas D. Lowther, a pre-war resident of the South, erected near it an abolitionist monument.[10] The abolition monument is a large black marble cenotaph to pre-war southerners, "unknown heroric men", "martyrs" who had opposed slavery and disunion. Near the beginning of the war, Lowther had been forced to flee his home in Florida because of his anti-slavery and pro-Union stance.[11] The Confederate memorial is No. 6 on the Make It Right Project's 2018 list of the 10 Confederate monuments it most wants removed.[12]

The cemetery contains the graves of many prominent African Americans, including Chicago's first African-American mayor, Harold Washington. Journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, Olympic sports hero Jesse Owens, and gospel music pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey are buried in the cemetery.[13]

The cemetery is also the final resting place of 45 victims of the Iroquois Theatre fire, in which more than 600 people died.[14]

Famous nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi has his final resting place here. The cemetery also has a section for U.S. veterans of several wars, and a separately-maintained Jewish section.

Confederate Mound

Notable burials[edit]

Roland Burris tomb[edit]

Roland Burris tomb in 2008

Roland Burris, the U.S. Senator appointed by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, constructed a family tomb at 41°46′16″N 87°36′08″W / 41.77122°N 87.60215°W / 41.77122; -87.60215 (Roland Burris tomb) in the Oak Woods Cemetery, in preparation for his and his wife's eventual interment. The tomb recites Burris accomplishments and received considerable publicity (often negative) after Burris' appointment.[15][16][17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Oak Woods Cemetery". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  2. ^ a b "History". Oak Woods Cemetery. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  3. ^ Chiat, Marilyn Joyce Segal (2004). The Spiritual Traveler-- Chicago and Illinois: A Guide to Sacred Sites and Peaceful Places. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-1-58768-010-6.
  4. ^ "Oak Woods Cemetery | The Cultural Landscape Foundation". tclf.org. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  5. ^ Simon, Andreas (1893). Chicago, the Garden City: Its Magnificent Parks, Boulevards and Cemeteries. Together with Other Descriptive Views and Sketches. F. Gindele printing Company. p. 148.
  6. ^ Minutes of the 9th Annual Meeting of the Confederate Veterans. New Orleans: Hopkins Printing Office. 1900. pp. 109, 172–175.
  7. ^ Wagner, Margaret E.; Gallagher, Gary W & Finkelman Paul, eds. (2009). The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference. New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, Inc. pp. 605–06, 609. ISBN 978-1-4391-4884-6. Retrieved 2017-08-17. Although the memorial, erected in the late 1880s, claims 6,000 dead, this is unlikely to be true as significantly fewer (4,454) Confederate prisoners were known to have died at Camp Douglas.
  8. ^ "Confederate Mound Oak Woods Cemetery--Civil War Era National Cemeteries: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  9. ^ Kogan, Rick. "Camp Douglas effort stirs ghosts of the Civil War". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  10. ^ "It Tells His Life Story: Abolitionist Shaft in Oakwoods Erected by T.D. Lowther". Chicago Tribune. June 9, 1896. p. 1.
  11. ^ Grossman, Ron (September 24, 2017). "Monument makes case for statue removal". Section 1. Chicago Tribune. p. 11.
  12. ^ Holloway, Kali (June 3, 2018). "Announcing the Launch of the Make It Right Project". Independent Media Institute. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  13. ^ http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-confederate-statue-chicago-met-0817-20170816-story.html
  14. ^ Find A Grave. "Victims of the Iroquois Theatre Fire". Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  15. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (2008-12-30). "Roland Burris's Monument to Me". Politico. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  16. ^ [1] Archived April 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Roland Burris' Monument to Himself". The Weekly Standard. December 31, 2008. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  18. ^ Reynolds, Dean (November 5, 2010). "Bill Brady Concedes to Pat Quinn Illinois Governor's Race". CBS News. Retrieved 2017-08-17.

External links[edit]