3rd Annual Cemetery Walk
On September 12, 2004, the Crystal Lake Historical Society hosted its third annual Cemetery Walk at the Union Cemetery in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Costumed interpreters presented first-person stories about the life and times of former Crystal Lake residents.
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 City of Crystal Lake traces its origins to two separate communities which were established in the 1800’s. Those communities were generally known as Nunda and Crystal Lake.
The two often-feuding villages found much to disagree upon. However, in a rare effort of cooperation, the two towns recognized the need to work together in order to purchase and provide a public burial ground for its citizens. The older Crystal Lake Cemetery (now known as Lake Avenue Cemetery) was filling up.
In June, 1888, each village board selected a committee to buy land for a cemetery. The cemetery committee met with property owner Elihu Hubbard, and purchased ten acres of land for $1,500. Each village contributed $750 toward the purchase. The central location of the property was ideal, as it was within the corporate boundaries of Crystal Lake, but in Nunda Township.
Shortly after the new cemetery was created, plans were underway to create a Civil War memorial statue which would hold a commanding position in the center of the main driveway.
The monument features a Union Soldier, standing in reverence to those who have put their lives on the line for this country. A plaque on the face of the monument reads “Erected by grateful citizens in honor of the brave defenders of our country, September 1889.”
Each side of the monument names four major Civil War battles: Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, and Shiloh. The names of all soldiers from Crystal Lake and Nunda are displayed, along with their military unit. Another tablet names those who died in the line of service, and those who died at the much-feared Andersonville prison.
Mary J. Rowley Pettibone (1843 - 1910)
Mary J. Rowley was born in Addison, New York, and was the youngest daughter in a family of ten children. At the age of two years she came west with her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Amos Rowley, and settled in Naperville, Illinois. In 1847, the family moved to McHenry County.
According to the 1872 McHenry County Atlas, the Amos Rowley farm was located in Nunda Township, directly east of Colonel Gustavus Palmer’s property (on today’s Route 176). Frederick Rowley, Mary J.’s older brother married Colonel Palmer’s daughter, Charlotte in 1853.
Mary J. Rowley married Cecil C. Pettibone on May 7, 1865 in Woodstock. Cecil was a veteran of the Civil War. Cecil enlisted in 1861, serving in Co. “F”, 15th IL Volunteers. The 15th Illinois was one of the first regiments from the State of Illinois sworn into service. Cecil’s Civil War pension papers indicate he was reported absent from his unit, ill and convalescing for months at a time. He received an honorable discharge in May, 1864, and was mustered out with a rank of Private.
After the war, Cecil took up farming. In his later years, he was the proprietor of a hotel. Cecil and Mary Pettibone had three children: Louis (born 1865), John (born 1869), and Mary “Mamie” (born 1873). All three children and their spouses are also buried in the Union Cemetery.
In 1891, Cecil Pettibone was awarded a pension from the United States Government. Cecil suffered from asthma, rheumatism, and disease of the stomach and throat. He was awarded an Invalid Pension of $12 per month. Soon after, Cecil and Mary moved to Chicago.
Cecil C. Pettibone died July 22, 1894 in Chicago. His widow, Mary applied for, and received a widow’s pension up until the time of her own death. Mary passed away on March 6, 1910 in Chicago.
Click here to view video
Mary Ethelene Cadwell Cox (1860 - 1939)
James Harvey Cox (1841 - 1926)
Born in McHenry County, Mary Cadwell was the youngest daughter in a family of ten children. In 1854, her parents, Barzilla and Polly Northrup Cadwell, had moved from Wisconsin to a farm in Algonquin Township, southeast of Crystal Lake. Barzilla served in the Civil War in Co. F. of the 15th Regiment, Illinois.
Mary was 27 years old when she married James Harvey Cox, a widower. J. Harvey’s first wife, also named Mary, had died one year earlier. J. Harvey was also a veteran of the Civil War, serving in Company G, 52nd Regiment Illinois Infantry. The names of both J. Harvey Cox and Barzilla Cadwell appear on the Civil War Monument in the cemetery.
Mary and J. Harvey’s Cox’s daughter, Emma was born November 3, 1888. The marriage between Mary and J. Harvey didn’t last very long, as Mary filed for divorce in May, 1890. The divorce records show that J. Harvey had been caught cheating on his wife with another woman, Tina Cash. After the divorce, J. Harvey and Tina married, and lived the rest of their lives happily together.
With nowhere else to go, Mary and her young daughter Emma moved back in with her parents. By this time, the Cadwell’s were living in a house near the lake (today’s Leonard Parkway). A minor settlement from her divorce allowed Mary to purchase a horse-and-buggy to start a taxi service. Mary would shuttle people between the train depot and the resort hotels on Crystal Lake. The Cadwell’s driveway was circular, allowing her to easily turn the buggy around for the next trip. Mary was known for her charming personality, as well as her reliable taxi service.
The scandal of divorce left an imprint on Mary. She never re-married; and often fluctuated between the names of “Cadwell” and “Cox.” Later census records indicate she was a widow, even though her ex-husband was still alive.
Emma Cadwell-Cox married John Anderson Marshall in 1908. John’s widowed mother, Margaret, also was an independent business woman. With her second husband, Royal Gracy, Margaret is credited with starting the first movie house in Crystal Lake, called the Gem Theatre.
James Harvey Cox died January 3, 1926. His obituary makes no mention of his second marriage to Mary Cadwell; nor does it mention his daughter Emma. Mary Cadwell-Cox died August 12, 1939. Buried near her are the people she loved most: her parents, her youngest brother Jesse, and her beloved daughter Emma.
Click here to view video (Cadwell)
Click here to view video (Cox)
George J. Ehlert (1881 - 1946)
Although he was born in Carpentersville, George J. Ehlert spent most of his life in McHenry County. When he was a young boy, his family moved from Carpentersville to a farm in Grafton Township, about four miles west of Crystal Lake. His parents, Christ and Minnie Ehlert had eight children.
On March 22, 1904, George married Annie Schmidt. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Chris Schmidt. Annie was born August 10, 1884 in Cary, Illinois. The couple was married at the German Lutheran Church (Immanuel Lutheran) in Crystal Lake.
In the early years, George earned his living as a dairy farmer. His farm was in Nunda Township, about two miles north of Crystal Lake. In 1911, George sold the farm, and moved into town. He also worked at the American Terra Cotta Factory for a while.
By 1915, George had found his true profession. He was hired as night police officer for the City of Crystal Lake. He worked the night shift for over 26 years. In 1941, City Alderman Charles Ormsby said that he thought “it was time we have a police officer on duty during the day here and that Mr. Ehlert should be appointed to this post.” George’s new day shift ran from 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM for a monthly salary of $150.
Shortly after his promotion to day police officer, George was appointed Chief of Police. He served in that position until his death in 1946. The community of Crystal Lake mourned the death of their Chief. Businesses shut down in order for workers to attend the funeral. He was well-respected and admired within the community.
George and Annie Ehlert had three children: a son, Arnold, and two daughters, Anna M. and Helen. The family had their share of difficulties. The daughter, Anna M. died at a young age. Annie Schmidt Ehlert had a history of mental illness. She was committed to Elgin State Hospital on several occasions, beginning in 1912. The couple’s son Arnold is buried near his parents. He was a star athlete in high school, and volunteered for the Crystal Lake Fire Department. Arnold died from a self-inflicted dose of cyanide poisoning.
Click here to view video (part 1)
Click here to view video (part 2)
George Skinner (1858 - 1949)
The story of George Skinner is one of a man overcoming adversity, beating the odds, and succeeding in life.
George was the ninth of eleven children born to Hiram D. and Mary Brown Skinner. He was born in a log cabin in Allen County, Indiana on February 12, on the birth date of the man who three years later was to become president of the United States.
Life in Indiana must have demanded a full measure of both physical and moral courage. Though hard working and industrious, Hiram could not earn enough money to adequately provide for his large family. In 1865, the Skinner family moved west and settled near the little town of Barreville. Sixteen years later, the family moved to a farm in Nunda.
On November 13, 1895, George married an English girl by the name of Clara Coxwell. Clara had immigrated to the United States with her family just three years earlier. The couple had two sons, William and Maurice.
George continued to be a farmer until 1908 when a tragic accident occurred. One day, George slipped while operating a shredder, and he fell into the machine, nearly severing his left arm. With an air of calm and control, George stepped down from the platform and shut off the machine. He walked to the house, told his family that he needed a doctor, and then sat down in a chair on the porch to wait. When the doctor arrived, George climbed unassisted onto the kitchen table for two operations—one cutting his arm off below the elbow and the second cutting it near the shoulder when it was found that the elbow was too mangled to be healed.
With only one arm now, George needed to find a new line of work to support his young family. He had always enjoyed watching the merry-go-round, and decided to try the amusement business. Skinner’s first merry-go-round featured the new type of horse which hung from above and would move up and down while the carousel circled. The new “jumping horse” merry-go-round was an instant hit with the crowds.
Skinner’s Amusement company grew. Eventually, George’s sons, Maurice and William, joined him in the family business. Maurice took over completely when George retired.
Click here to view video
Cathryne E. Hull Breytspraak (1895 - 1979)
Marie Hull Wagner (1899 - 1985)
The two beautiful and fun-loving daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Harry D. Hull were the social leaders of a generation of young Crystal Lakers.
Dr. Harry D. Hull came to Crystal Lake around the turn of the last century. He built the beautiful, white queen-anne styled house located at the northeast corner of Crystal Lake Avenue and Williams Street. The house served as the Hull family home as well as provided office space for Dr. Hull’s busy medical practice.
Respected and trusted for his strong medical skills, Dr. Hull was also well-known and loved by the entire community. While his charming ways provided a good bedside manner, his medical skills saved many a life in the early days of Crystal Lake. Dr. Hull was not only prominent in his profession, but in political, social and business circles as well. He served as president for the Village of North Crystal Lake for two terms. During World War I, he volunteered for the Medical Corps. After the war, he helped to establish the local American Legion Post, serving as its first commander.
The oldest of Dr. Hull’s daughters, Cathryne, nicknamed “Cac,” was known for her great beauty, and outgoing personality. A 1914 graduate of Crystal Lake High School, Cac was one of the most popular girls in the school. After high school she attended the Sears School of Music. In 1916 she married Victor C. Breytspraak. According to a front page article in the Crystal Lake Herald, the wedding was “the social event of more than ordinary interest and one which surpassed in impressiveness and elaboration of detail any wedding which ever occurred in Crystal Lake.” Two children were born of this union; but sadly, the marriage ended in divorce.
A hardworker for social causes, Cac was one of the founders of the South Shore Sewing Circle, which evolved into the Service League. Cac also was known for her hard work with the local chapter of the American Red Cross. She retired as director in February 1977, after dedicating many years to that cause. Cac is fondly remembered as a good golfer (Tuesday was Ladies Day at the Country Club) and as a woman who like to party and have fun.
Marie Hull, the younger sister, was just as beautiful, but perhaps a bit quieter than her outgoing sister Cac. Known as “Tootie,” she graduated high school as valedictorian in 1917. After high school, Tootie attended the Columbia School of Music in Chicago, and became a music teacher in the local school. She helped found the Choral Club in 1932, and served as its first director.
In 1923, Marie married Dr. Alphonso G. Wagner, a local dentist. The couple had one son, Douglas. Dr. Wagner practiced his profession in Crystal Lake for nearly 40 years before retiring.
Click here to view video
Michael W. Fitzgerald (1880 - 1937)
Born in 1880, in County Tipperary, Ireland, Mike Fitzgerald came a long way with his family when they moved to Crystal Lake.
Daniel and Elizabeth Ryan Fitzgerald had first come to this country in 1865, living for a couple of years in New York. They returned to their native Ireland and stayed until the 1880’s, when they came back to the States, settling in Crystal Lake. The Fitzgerald’s had six children: two boys and four girls. Their oldest son, William died in the Phillipine Islands during the Spanish-American War.
The youngest of the Fitzgerald children was Mike. One of Mike’s earliest jobs was working for C.S. Dole, on his large farm near the lake. For a short while, Mike tried to make a living as a farmer. Eventually, he discovered that his genial personality and general love of people made him better suited to be a shopkeeper.
In 1908, Mike married Martha Salzmann, who was the daughter of Casper and Amelia Krueger Salzmann. Casper was a wagonmaker and blacksmith. His shop was located on today’s Woodstock Street. The large, Salzmann family was well-known in town.
Mike and Martha successfully operated a general store on Virginia Street for several years. Today the building is a home medical supply store. Among other things, the Fitzgerald’s store was known for its delicious ice cream.
The couple had three children: William, Homer and Mary. While they owned the store, the Fitzgerald family lived in the house at the back of the store. The house is still there, and visible from the street. In later years, Mike and Martha lived on Park Street (known today as Pierson Street).
Mike’s love for people and Crystal Lake were melded when he began to work for the Crystal Lake Park District in 1924. The Park Commissioners appointed Mike as police officer and caretaker, and he was employed with the Park District until his death. In his final years, he was Park Superintendent. Mike became the “official” greeter at the beach. Everyone liked Mike; and so they’d stop and say hello as they arrived at the lake. Mike especially enjoyed watching out for the children, knowing each one by name.
At the young age of 57, Mike Fitzgerald died at his home on Park Street. It is said that St. Thomas Church was packed with hundreds of mourners, as Mike Fitzgerald was one of the best-known and well-loved people in Crystal Lake.
Click here to view video (part 1)
Click here to view video (part 2)