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News of the Township
Public Asked to Help Fill in Gaps of Information About
Mooney Cemetery

For Immediate Release
date: January 24, 2010
Contact: Mari Barnes, Supervisor, 847-432-3240
Reprinted in part from the Winter 2010 issue of Talk of the Township

Calling All Genealogy Buffs & Residents With Mooney Cemetery Deeds

Moraine Township operates two historic cemeteries, Daggitt and Mooney. You may be surprised to learn that these were relatively recent acquisitions, and are not filled with paupers’ graves. In fact, they each have an interesting history associated with our earliest settlers. The Township would like to enlist history/genealogy buffs to help update our records, starting in the Spring.

Daggitt Cemetery (also called Grace, sometimes Braeside, or spelled Daggett), located on Lake Cook Road near the Braeside train station, was essentially abandoned until taken over by the Township in 1996. Mooney’s Cemetery, on Ridge near Deerfield Road, adjacent to St. Mary’s Cemetery, was acquired from the family in 1960. To our knowledge, no plots remain in Daggitt, and few are known with certainty to be available in Mooney.

“No plots have been sold since my tenure began in 2005,” says Supervisor Mari Barnes. “The inherited record-keeping for Mooney is chiefly on typed, undated index cards, sometimes overwritten with new notations (also undated) or contradicted by another index card (also undated) – and is simply unreliable. While previous administrations undertook surveys and made attempts to confirm grave locations and ownership, the historical development of these sites is such that it may be impossible to ever have certainty.”

Mooney’s deeds were recorded at the County seat in Waukegan for initial transactions in 1908 and thereafter, but if plots changed hands by being sold or given privately, that would not have made it into Township records. Our records do show that some lots sold in recent decades had to be reassigned when subsequent investigation revealed them to be already occupied.

“We would love to have the cooperation of the public who may have family deeds for Mooney, so we can update and modernize our records. We hope residents will search for and share their deeds with us – especially in advance of the need for burial someday,” urges Barnes.

There have been burials at Mooney in the last few years. These have gone smoothly when, happily, their deeds match Township files. However, the time has come to explore with modern instruments where plots are occupied and where they are not. Tombstones seem to have been placed randomly, at the head or foot of graves, and only approximately on the grave being marked – and possibly stolen or tampered with over the decades by vandals. Locating a plot without exact documentation caused some confusion as recently as last year.

The Township will be engaging in an exhaustive documentation project beginning this Spring. In the meantime, we have begun the fascinating exploration of the history of these cemeteries from their pioneer days, and will be posting on our website [http://morainetownship.org] as much documentation as can be made electronic.

What follows is a sketch about Mooney to whet your appetite. Many thanks for research assistance to Julia Johnas, Highland Park Public Library; Marc Brogan, Lake County Recorder of Deeds Chief Deputy; and Sheila Platt, a Moraine Township Deputy Assessor. Appreciation to the late Marvyn Wittelle whose 1958 Pioneer to Commuter: The Story of Highland Park, published by Rotary, set the stage, along with IC Church’s 1946 Centennial Program, and an undated (circa 1899) oral history account transcribed by Jesse Lowe Smith. Another source is John Halsey’s History of Lake County (1912).

A Brief History of Mooney’s Cemetery
The Mooney’s Cemetery story begins in about 1846, when early Catholic pioneer settlers, including Irish immigrant James Mooney, built a little log church along Military – now Greenbay – Road in Highland Park. By 1853, they had vacated that land to the new railroad right-of-way, and moved their St. Mary’s of the Woods church to a 4-acre donated property near what is now Lincoln Avenue at Greenbay Road. (For reference purposes, our township was established in 1850.) That property gradually added a cemetery in the churchyard. About 1872, the church moved again, eventually becoming Immaculate Conception Church at its present location. The abandoned former log church and cemetery grounds fell into disrepair, and by 1899, the property reverted to its original owners, who sold it for development. Bodies had to be removed, and Jim Mooney’s son, John, took his family’s remains and allowed others to remove theirs to a section of his land on Ridge Road. One account describes a confusing disarray in the old churchyard: “tumble-down marble slabs; some with wooden crosses; many unmarked; many more untenanted; all neglected....” Not surprisingly, the removal process was “incomplete” – since graves were reportedly found during subsequent development excavations on Greenbay Road in 1909. Some accounts say that John Mooney allowed those graves to also be moved to his property.

On record with the Lake County Recorder of Deeds is a 1904 Quit Claim document showing John Mooney’s transfer of cemetery property to the Catholic Bishop of Chicago. A 1907 plat on file was officially surveyed as Mooney’s Cemetery. A St. Mary’s Cemetery plat obtained from the Chicago Archdiocese office is dated 1908: John Mooney donated a portion of his property to St. Mary’s and the remainder was reserved as a private cemetery.

More evidence of the inexact record-keeping appears in a later account. An August 9, 1951 article about Mooney’s Cemetery by Evelyn Lauter published in the Highland Park News reports an array of “old tomb stones [which had] come along with the original bodies and all along the west side of the place today may be found the moldering markers.”

Even the spelling of names varies in the historical record. In her article, Lauter goes on to update the contemporaneous local Mooney family history by identifying John as the “father of the present Mooney family whose homestead was on the site of today’s Sunset Park Golf club. A son, Thomas, died last February [1951] at the age of 82 in his home on...N Ridge Road, near the cemetery. Mrs. Mooney, who today acts as sexton for the burial ground, is the former Cecelia [sic] Zahnle....”

Nine years later, in 1960, an elderly Cecilia Mooney deeded Mooney’s Cemetery to the care of Deerfield Township, now called Moraine.

An article by Sandi Wisenberg published in the Highland Park News on October 25, 1979 contains revealing observations from Bob Hinkey, identified as a local funeral director and then-sexton for St. Mary’s and Mooney’s.

Wisenberg wrote: “No complete map exists locating each grave, so a special rod is used to determine if a vault is below the intended gravesite. In winter it takes all day to locate a grave. ‘It’s really a problem,’ Hinkey said [in 1979]. ‘People are buried in here and we don’t know who they are.’”

Each generation, it is said, “discovers” anew their own history. Moraine Township would like to record that history as accurately and completely as possible. The Township invites readers and residents to add their family reminiscences and records to ours. Then, check out our website [http://morainetownship.org] for the complete story – such as is known and as it develops – of Mooney/Mooney’s and Daggitt/Daggett/Grace/Braeside Cemetery. Add your knowledge to ours, for the record!

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