2nd Annual Cemetery Walk

On September 7, 2003, the Crystal Lake Historical Society hosted its second annual Cemetery Walk at the Lake Avenue Cemetery in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Costumed interpreters presented first-person stories about the life and times of Crystal Lake’s earliest settlers.

Each of the following sub-headings includes text and a link to a YouTube video of the portrayal.  Our thanks to our tour guides and actors who helped make this event a great success.

Introduction - About the Cemetery 

The Lake Avenue Cemetery (originally known simply as the "Crystal Lake Cemetery") is the oldest public burying ground in Crystal Lake and Algonquin Township. The cemetery was laid out in 1840. According to the book, "The History of McHenry County, Illinois", which was first published in 1885, the first person buried here was Ella King, daughter of Isaac and Almina King.

The cemetery eventually became part of the large estate of Charles S. Dole. Mr. Dole traded the cemetery land to the village of Crystal Lake in exchange for allowing a road to be run down to the lake and his home. The new road changed the orientation of the cemetery. Today's front of the cemetery actually used to be the back!

Since 1840, nearly 1,200 people have been buried in this two-acre cemetery. Many of the early settlers of Crystal Lake are buried here.

The Lake Avenue Cemetery is owned and maintained by Algonquin Township. In 2000, the Lake Avenue Cemetery received the City of Crystal Lake's Landmark Designation.

Hannah Beardsley Wallace (1818 - 1894)

Hannah Beardsley Wallace is well known to Crystal Lake school children as the first teacher in Crystal Lake. Hannah Beardsley Middle School is named in her honor. She began teaching in 1838 in a one room log cabin that served as the schoolhouse. The school was located at the northwest corner of Virginia Street and McHenry Avenue.

The Wallace and Beardsley families came to the area in the late 1830’s. The Beardsley’s were the second family to arrive in Crystal Lake, the first being the family of Beman Crandall. Hannah’s brother, Ziba, is credited with naming Crystal Lake, when he exclaimed, “The water is as clear as crystal!”

Hannah married Franklin Wallace on March 10, 1840. This was the first recorded marriage in Algonquin Township. In 1842, Hannah gave birth to twin daughters, Mary and Sarah.

Franklin died in 1845 and Hannah married his brother Columbus Wallace in 1847. Hannah and Columbus had four children: Ada, Alice, Carrie, and William.

Columbus and Hannah lived in a cobblestone home which was built in 1851 and is still standing on Virginia Street.

Click here to view video

Mary Woodruff Pierson (ca1811 - 1884)

Lizza Pierson (ca1843 - 1862)

Together with her husband, James, Mary Woodruff Pierson came to Crystal Lake from New York State in the late 1830’s.

James Pierson was a large landowner and farmer. He also ran a mercantile store and served his community as Circuit Court Judge, Justice of the Peace, County Treasurer, and Representative to the State Legislature. The couple were charter members of the First Congregational Church, which organized in 1842.

In 1933, Park Street was renamed Pierson Street, in honor of James T. Pierson.

The Piersons had one child, Eliza (“Lizza”) (1843-1862). They also adopted and raised their nephew, Lawrence, as well as another girl named Mary. The Piersons lived in Crystal Lake for more than 30 years. They lived in a cobblestone house on Virginia Street. In 1872, they moved to Clinton, Iowa.

Mary Pierson died on May 19, 1884 in Clinton, Iowa. She is buried next to the couple’s daughter, Eliza, in the Lake Avenue Cemetery. James died two years later on July 22, 1886. He is buried in the Springdale Cemetery, Clinton County, Iowa.

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Walter B. Fitch (1847 - 1926)

Laura E. Fitch (ca1852 - 1936)

Walter and Laura Fitch were both born in Crystal Lake, the children of John H. and Caroline Marlow Fitch. Caroline died in 1854. Walter and his sister, Laura, were sent to live with their aunt and uncle, James and Sarah Marlow, who lived nearby.

When he was 18 years old, Walter volunteered for army duty and served about seven months during the Civil War. Walter was in the mercantile business, and was partner with his uncle, James Marlow, in the firm known as “Marlow and Fitch.” The business was located in a three-story brick building located at the corner of Florence and Virginia Street. The building was torn down in 1924.

Although neither were ever married, Walter and Laura remained close throughout their lives. For many years, Laura lived with her aunt and uncle. She was devoted to the needs of their home, caring for her aged grandfather, her uncle, her aunt, and her brother.

Laura had a sharp memory and a gracious personality. At the time of her death, she was one of the oldest native-born residents in Crystal Lake. It is said that she remembered Beman Crandall, the first settler of Crystal Lake, very well.

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James Crow (1818 - 1893)

Sarah A. Smith Crow (1830 - 1913)

James Crow was born in Baltimore, Maryland where he lived until 1830. After moving around a bit, he arrived in Chicago in 1847. Sarah Smith Crow was born in Cooperstown, New York, and came to Chicago with her father in 1839.

James and Sarah met and married in Chicago on August 8, 1850. The couple had five children: Sarah Louise, William, Carrie, Fannie, and Louis. In 1856, James Crow bought property in McHenry County and moved his family to Crystal Lake.

James was actively involved in county politics and was devoted to education issues in the community. He was one of the first to advocate the erection of a public school mid-way between Nunda and Crystal Lake. This school was known as the Union School.

The Crows were considered one of the most aristocratic families in McHenry County. They were members of the First Congregational Church. One of the church’s stained glass sanctuary windows bears the name CROW.

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Sylvia Day Gates (1811 - 1892)

Sylvia was the third wife of widower Simon S. Gates. They were married in 1844 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Simon and Sylvia had three children: Sumner, William, and Mary. Simon had two other daughters, Sarah and Abby, from his previous marriages.

Sylvia was a very well-educated young woman, having graduated with top honors. Her grandfather held a commission in the army as general under George Washington.

Simon Gates first traveled to McHenry County in 1838/39. At that time, Simon purchased property, but then returned to his home in Massachusetts. In 1852, the Gates family permanently located on the property bought in Crystal Lake.

The Gates’ home still stands today, and is located just behind St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on McHenry Avenue. The house was built by noted stone mason, Andrew Jackson Simons.

Sylvia and Simons’ son, William, founded the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company and Teco Potteries in 1881. The company first produced drain tile, then later went on to produce very fine terra cotta, known for its quality throughout the United States.

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John Brink (1811 - 1904)

John Brink was born in Phelps, Ontario County, New York. In his early years, John attended school only occasionally. However, at age 19, he attended an academy for nine months and learned the trade of surveying.

John headed west in 1831, reaching Detroit, where he found employment with a government surveying party. Later that same year, he left for Galena, passing through Chicago, which at that time was only a government fort. He arrived in Galena and helped run the fourth principal meridian, which passes through the city of Galena to the state line of Wisconsin.

John Brink is credited to be the first white man to look upon and then name Lake Geneva in southern Wisconsin.

John married Catherine Throop in 1840. In 1841, Catherine and John moved to McHenry County. They had two daughters, Celestia and Phoebe (Fay). John was elected McHenry County Surveyor in 1843 and held the post for nearly forty years.

Click here  to view video (Part 1)

Click here  to view video (Part 2)