Moraine Township

Mooney - Winter Issue 2010

Township Cemeteries: Daggitt & Mooney
Do You Have a Plot Deed We Should Know About?

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.

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.

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.

Moraine Township welcomes assistance from the public who may have family deeds for Mooney, so we can update our records. Looking for deeds now will not only help us updated our records, but also help families in the future when burials are needed

There have been burials at Mooney in the last few years. These have gone smoothly when, happily, their deeds match our 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.

Many thanks 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 ["A Brief History of 'St. Mary's of the Woods'" source: Highland Park Public Library H363]. 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 at Deerfield and Greenbay Roads. 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.

Thus, in 1899, bodies had to be removed and relocated. James Mooney had died in the 1850s. His 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 [read 1891 bio] 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. We invite our readers to add their family reminiscences and records to ours. Then, check out our website 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!

(end of first article)

Mooney - Summer Issue 2010

Township Cemeteries
What Lies Beneath: Ponding, Unmarked Graves

Moraine Township operates two historic cemeteries, Daggitt (acquired in 1996) and Mooney (as of 1960), located and established by pioneers in Highland Park circa 1845 and 1899 respectively. In the last issue of Talk of the Township, we discussed the challenges of incomplete, confusing and outdated record keeping, and the effects of time on our cemeteries, particularly Mooney. We enlisted the public’s help in filling in privately held deed information. We did subsequently hear from people particularly interested in Mooney. This issue, we’re taking a looking at solving the problems of Mooney and a brief history of Daggitt.

Mooney Built Partly on “Swamp” Land
Original township platting (1840) shows that the Mooney property located in Township Sections 27 and 28 included wide swaths labeled by surveyors as “swamp.” (Indeed, original homesteader Jim Mooney’s property was described as being slough, and he reportedly died of illness blamed on “swamp dampness” at age 34.) Portions of this property became St. Mary’s Cemetery and Mooney Park as well as Mooney Cemetery. Flooding occurs in the neighborhood periodically, since the land is a natural flood plain. Open space like this actually benefits the region, when left to hold the water. There are low spots in the cemetery indicating that over the decades, burial areas have aged and sunk. When there is an unusual weather condition in mid-winter, such as the 60 degree weather we experienced last January, there is no place for melting snow to go, because the ground remains frozen. And while we do experience what experts call “ponding,” particularly in the spring, at other times of summer weather, the Township actually has to water the grass. So the Board faces a conundrum: attack the periodic ponding by draining the property at great expense–possibly moving it elsewhere, into the neighborhood–or live with what nature has provided.

A third and more likely scenario to be adopted has begun: survey the property to see where there are graves (since so many are no longer marked or never were), and put in landscaping designed to naturally compensate for the seasonal water accumulation. Planting water-loving bushes and trees like willows, and perhaps putting in water features for compensatory water storage, are beautifying alternatives to placing pipes underground to feed into drainage ditches–perhaps disrupting graves.

No matter what method is chosen, it is important first to find out what else besides water lies beneath, and where. To that end, the Township has engaged an expert consultant who will be surveying Mooney for us later this summer. He is Tim Horsley, PhD, an archaeological geophysicist and Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Michigan. [process begun Fall, 2010, see photos]

Possibly Resuming Plot Sales at Mooney
One anticipated result of the survey is the identification of vacant plots. A time-consuming, challenging next step is to confirm vacant plot ownership, updating records as best we can, given their condition. Supervisor Barnes placed a moratorium on plot sales until clarity could be achieved. We again urge those who hold deeds for Mooney plots to let us know. Cemetery records are now in the capable hands of our Records Manager Shannon Mosier. We have purchased a dedicated computer and special cemetery-organizing software to manage the known occupancy information at our cemeteries. We assume that Daggitt has no available plot spaces, but Mooney may. Genealogy enthusiasts and families owning plots alike will be able to access this information at the Township office. We’ll keep you informed of our progress, in Talk of the Township, at Board meetings and online.

(end of annotated article)

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