Oak Woods Cemetery

Coordinates: 41°46′12″N 87°36′00″W / 41.77000°N 87.60000°W / 41.77000; -87.60000
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Oak Woods Cemetery
Cemetery monuments and chapel
Chapel and grounds at Oak Woods Cemetery
EstablishedFebruary 12, 1853 (1853-02-12)
CountryUnited States
Coordinates41°46′12″N 87°36′00″W / 41.77000°N 87.60000°W / 41.77000; -87.60000
Owned byDignity Memorial
No. of interments>60,000
WebsiteOak Woods Cemetery
Find a GraveOak 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 170 years ago on February 12, 1853, it covers 183 acres (74 ha).[1]

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.[2]


Oak Woods Cemetery was chartered on February 12, 1853.[1] 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. The first burials took place in 1860.[3][4]

After the American 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.[5][6] 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.[7] The bodies were exhumed and re-interred together in a mass grave, which came to be known as Confederate Mound, reputedly the largest documented mass grave in the Western Hemisphere.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

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, business and publishing magnate John H. Johnson, Gospel music pioneer Thomas A. Dorsey and Gospel music star Albertina Walker are also buried in the cemetery. [11]

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

Famous nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi has his final resting place here, as do several other faculty members of the University of Chicago. The cemetery also has a section for U.S. veterans of several wars, and a separately-maintained Jewish section.

Confederate Mound

Notable burials[edit]

In 2022, the Hyde Park Historical Society created an interactive directory application for monuments at the cemetery.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "History". Oak Woods Cemetery. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  2. ^ Chiat, Marilyn Joyce Segal (2004). The Spiritual Traveler – Chicago and Illinois: A Guide to Sacred Sites and Peaceful Places. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-1587680106.
  3. ^ "Oak Woods Cemetery | The Cultural Landscape Foundation". tclf.org. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Minutes of the 9th Annual Meeting of the Confederate Veterans. New Orleans: Hopkins Printing Office. 1900. pp. 109, 172–175.
  6. ^ 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. 605–606, 609. ISBN 978-1439148846. 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.
  7. ^ "Confederate Mound Oak Woods Cemetery--Civil War Era National Cemeteries: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary". Nps.gov. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  8. ^ Kogan, Rick. "Camp Douglas effort stirs ghosts of the Civil War". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  9. ^ "It Tells His Life Story: Abolitionist Shaft in Oakwoods Erected by T.D. Lowther". Chicago Tribune. June 9, 1896. p. 1.
  10. ^ Grossman, Ron (September 24, 2017). "Monument makes case for statue removal". Section 1. Chicago Tribune. p. 11.
  11. ^ Moreno, Nereida. "Confederate monument stands on Chicago's South Side as questions swirl around the country". Chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  12. ^ Pharo, Zoe. "Historical Society debuts Oak Woods Cemetery index and map". Hyde Park Herald. Retrieved 2022-10-26.

External links[edit]