On September 18, 2005, the Crystal Lake Historical Society hosted its fourth 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.
Our thanks to our tour guides and actors who helped make this event a great success.
The following is a video of the entire 2005 Cemetery Walk:
Our Immigrant Ancestors
Each of this year’s featured “residents” of Union Cemetery were living in Crystal Lake in 1920. They represent six different countries of origin: Germany, Greece, Hungary, Scotland, Sweden, and the United States.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 613 households with 2,249 individuals living in Crystal Lake in 1920. The following summary of data represents the place of birth of each head of household in Crystal Lake in 1920: United States (379), Germany (137), Sweden (51), England (10), Canada (7), and the remainder (representing 16 countries) (46).
Many members of the large German population attended the German Lutheran Church (Immanuel) and school on McHenry Avenue.
The Swedish families of Crystal Lake lived near the vicinity of Union Cemetery and was known as “Swedenberg.” Many attended the Swedish Mission Church, which was located at the corner of Lincoln Parkway and Crystal Lake Avenue.
The diversity of Crystal Lake has been celebrated and enjoyed for many generations.
John Heisler (1888 -1968)
John Heisler was born in Libling, Hungary and immigrated to the United States at age 18. He arrived in Baltimore on the “Bremen” on January 16, 1908 and followed his brother to Crystal Lake who had arrived here several years earlier. John’s first job was harvesting ice on Crystal Lake for the Knickerbocker Ice Company. The ice melted after a few short weeks, leaving John out of work.
Having been an apprentice shoe maker in Hungary, John took work at Martin Jaster’s shoe repair shop. A short time later, John opened his own shoe and harness repair shop. Although he spoke German, Romanian, Hungarian and Bohemian, he had to rely on a group of boys who used the back of his shop as a gymnasium to teach him English.
His business grew quickly and he moved from his shop on Woodstock Street to across the tracks to the Wilcox building on Main Street. In 1914 John received his citizenship papers and became a member of Crystal Lake’s first fire department later than same year. He was an early member of St. Paul’s Church and was one of the first members of the Crystal Lake Chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
John married a Hebron farm girl, Lillian Simes on April 14, 1915. A newspaper article announcing their nuptials described Lillian as “a young lady of a most pleasing personality and sunny disposition.” John was described as “a young man of remarkable strength of character and splendid habits of industry, and has many friends in Crystal Lake, who wish him and his bride the highest happiness that can come to them in their matrimonial ventures.”
Their son Leonard was born in 1916 and daughter Lorraine was born in 1928. Sadly, a daughter, Bernice, died at birth in 1918.
In 1925, John purchased the building on Woodstock Street where he operated his shoe store and lived with his family. He worked hard during the Depression and was able to keep his building. During World War II, John’s skills as a harness maker were in high demand and he received a priority rating from the government enabling him to obtain just about any materials he needed.
John was always a strong supporter of Crystal Lake. The town population was 700 when he first arrived and grew to 12,500 during his lifetime. After John’s death, son Leonard ran Heisler’s Bootery until 1999. John’s grandson, Jim who portrays him today, now runs the store which is the oldest family-run business in Crystal Lake.
Benno (Ben) Raue, Sr. (1866 – 1961), Lucile Raue (1904 – 1994)
Benno (Ben) Raue, Sr. was born in Germany. Ben learned the watchmaking trade in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1883. After arriving in America, he first worked in New Jersey, then Connecticut, and in 1889 came to the Elgin area to work for the Elgin National Watch Co.
In 1892, he married Dora Brown of Cary Station. Their first child, Ethel, was born in Elgin in 1893. Soon after Ethel’s birth, the family moved north to the Village of Nunda (now Downtown Crystal Lake).
In 1893, Ben opened a jewelry business in the front of Freye and Senne’s Hardware Store, located on the west side of Williams Street. In later years, his business evolved into a hardware store.
The Raue family lived on Brink Street in downtown Nunda until they build their new home in 1901 on Crystal Lake Avenue. Ben and Dora Raue had three more children after they moved to Nunda: Benno, Jr. (1895), Leone “Tone” (1898) and Lucile (1904). Sadly, Dora Brown Raue died in 1914. A year later, Ben married Dora’s niece, Mabelle Osgood. None of the Raue children married; today there are no living direct descendants of Ben Raue.
In addition to running his hardware store, Ben Raue was active in the community. He coached his children’s sporting teams, played in the local orchestra, and served as a Director of Home State Bank. Ben worked to help form the Crystal Lake Park District in 1921 out of community concern that public access to the lake and beach would be lost to private ownership. He served on the Park District Board of Directors. Ben was also elected mayor of Crystal Lake (1923 – 1927).
Ben’s youngest daughter, Lucile also played a prominent role in Crystal Lake history. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1926, Lucile returned to Crystal Lake to work in the family hardware store. The store remained open until Lucile’s death in 1994. Ben’s civic-minded attitude carried through to his children, as Lucile generously donated the sizable Raue estate to the community of Crystal Lake.
Money from the estate was donated to numerous organizations such as the Colonel Palmer House restoration, First Congregational Church, and Easter Seals. Funds from the Raue estate were used to purchase the old El Tovar Theatre on Williams Street and helped to pay for its restoration and transformation to the Raue Center for the Arts. The Raue family home on Crystal Lake Avenue was donated to the Downtown Crystal Lake/Main Street program.
Margaret Strachen Marshall Gracy (1868 – 1946)
Margaret Strachen was born in Peterhead Scotland, on the northeast coast. Her parents both died of smallpox when Margaret was only a few years old. Young Margaret was then raised by relatives in Scotland. At the age of 16, she immigrated to the United States and settled in McHenry County to live with other relatives.
Margaret’s first husband was John Anderson Marshall. Mr. Marshall was a widower, and also 30 years older than Margaret. The couple had four children who lived to adulthood: John Jr. (1887), Walkinshaw “Walkie” (1889), Elsie (1893), and Elizabeth (1898). John Marshall owned a successful hardware store at the corner of Woodstock and Williams Streets. In 1900, the Marshall’s built a beautiful Queen-Anne styled home at the corner of Walkup and Paddock Streets. The proud and stately home still stands today.
Sadly, in 1903 John Marshall died, leaving Margaret with four children to raise and very little cash. With the help of her sons John and Walkie, she continued to operate the hardware store. In 1906, Margaret married Royal Gracy, a man who was 16 years younger than her. They had one daughter, Margaret.
Perhaps way ahead of her time, Mrs. Gracy was a successful and innovative business woman. In 1909, she and Royal founded the Gem Theatre. This was the first moving picture house in Crystal Lake. The Gem Theatre was located on the second floor of the Gracy building on the west side of Williams Street. In 1913, the Gracy’s moved the theatre across Williams Street to a much larger facility ( the building is now Lloyd’s Paint & Paper).
Royal Gracy died in 1920 in a bizarre mining accident out West. Once again, Margaret was left alone with a young child to raise. She continued operation of the Gem Theatre until 1929 when she became manager of the brand new El Tovar Theatre (now Raue Center for the Arts).
Margaret Strachen Marshall Gracy has been an inspiration to generations of Crystal Lake residents. Those that knew her admired her strong character and can-do attitude. Despite the hardships and heartbreaks of her life, she moved forward through faith and determination, making a positive impact and leaving a lasting impression on the community of Crystal Lake.
Emma Simonson Pierson (1869 – 1924)
Emma Simonsdotter was born on Ven, an island in the Strait of Oresund; the Strait separates Sweden and Denmark. Ven belongs to the Swedish city of Landskrona, a large city in Skane, the southernmost province of Sweden. Her father pulled himself out of life as a farmhand working under contract each year to a landowner by learning bricklaying; he rose in his profession to be superintendent of a brick factory. Emma’s mother was a midwife as well as mother to eight children.
Opportunities for young people in Sweden were few. In March of 1887, Emma and her brother Edward sailed from Copenhagen to America. Her brother Charles immigrated two years later.
Emma came to Crystal Lake immediately to live with her uncle, Charles Lindecrona. She worked as a ladies maid for Mrs. Charles Dole. Andrew Pierson, who immigrated from Skane in 1884, worked for the Dole’s as a coachman. In 1896, Andrew purchased the house on the corner of King and Park Streets (Park Street was renamed Pierson Street in the 1930’s after another Pierson family). Emma and Andrew were married in the house; their four children were born in the house. In 1900Andrew’s newly-widowed mother immigrated from Sweden and lived with them. When Uncle Lindecrona could no longer work and take care of his own property, he also came to live with the family The Pierson family lived in the house until 1960.
The Pierson’s belonged to the close-knit Swedish community known as Swedenburg. Like so many immigrants, ties to people from the old country sustained the Pierson’s even as they embraced their new country.
The Pierson’s had a cow, chickens, and a huge garden. Emma kept her allegiance to the Lutheran Church of her Swedish upbringing, belonging to the Swedish Mission Church in Crystal Lake. Andrew affiliated with the Congregational Church. She played the organ at her church and took in laundry to help with family finances. She taught Mrs. Henry Riehl how to speak English. Her brothers’ children spent many summers in Crystal Lake–Chicago kids enjoying the country.
In 1918, Emma suffered a stroke, which paralyzed her. Six years later on Armistice Day, Emma died; she was 55. She laid in state for three days in the living room of the home she was married in. Andrew survived her for 32 years, working at Terra Cotta until he was 75, serving as Alderman for the city, voting in every election, planting the huge vegetable garden until he was 88, riding a ferris wheel every chance he got, and sustaining membership in the Congregational Church, the Vikings, and Odd Fellows.
William G. Metropulos (1892 – 1980)
Born in Greece, William “Bill” Metropulos came to the United States as a young man, becoming a citizen in 1913, and settling in Crystal Lake.
For several years, Bill and his brother Peter ran an ice cream shop at the corner of Woodstock and Williams Street. The site is currently occupied by the Cafe Olympic, and is commonly referred to by locals as “The Greeks.”
Bill eventually decided to open up his own business. In 1921, he purchased the Prickett & Paine building at 67 N. Williams Street (currently Wickham Interiors). The new business was called “The Crystal Pocket Billiard and Bowling Alleys.” Four bowling alleys were installed in the basement. Billiard tables and a bar occupied the main floor of the building. The second floor served as living quarters.
On September 3, 1922, Bill married Mary Kledones in Chicago. Mary was also a native of Greece. The couple lived in the apartment on the second floor of their building on Williams Street. They had four children: Betsy (1923), Chris (1924), Bette (1926), and Dan (1928).
An avid bowler himself, Bill organized bowling leagues and tournaments. Women were also encouraged and welcomed to enjoy a game of bowling at his alleys. The popularity of The Crystal Pocket Billiard and Bowling Alleys was due largely to the popularity of Bill himself. He was a friendly man who loved to laugh and share a good story or joke with his patrons.
By 1939, Bill and Mary decided to move their family out of the upstairs apartment and around the corner into a house on Brink Street. This gave the family much more living space and the business an opportunity to expand. Bill remodeled the second floor and added four more bowling alleys.
The neighborhood of homes on Brink Street started to change over to businesses in the early 1950’s. Bill and Mary decided to move their house over to South Williams Street, and build a brand new, modern bowling alley on Brink Street. Bill Metropulos’ Metro Bowl was completed in August 1956. This modern beauty featured 10 bowling lanes, automatic pinsetters, dining facilities, pool tables, bar, and even air-conditioning.
By this time, the business was owned by a family corporation. In addition to his own two sons, two son-in-laws John Contos (married to Bette and know as “Big John”) and John Mozak (married to Betsy and known as “Little John”) were helping to run the family business. The Metropulos family worked together as a team and created a gathering place that is still enjoyed by many people in Crystal Lake.
Ludwig Robert Lippold (1861 – 1942)
Born May 2, 1861, in Oswego, Kendall County, Illinois, Ludwig Robert Lippold is the only American-born citizen featured in this year’s Cemetery Walk. Ludwig was the son of German immigrants, who had come to Illinois in order to provide a good life for their family.
Ludwig’s father had a blacksmith shop near Yorkville. Ludwig learned his father’s trade but also acquired a love for the land. He became a farmer and stayed a farmer for the remainder of his life.
In 1890 he married Belinda Henker in Joliet. Shortly after being married, the young couple moved to Nebraska and farmed there for a number of years. Their first three sons Ralph, Everett, and Hallie were all born in Nebraska. By 1903, the family moved back to the Yorkville area where their youngest son Robert was born.
The Lippold family moved to Crystal Lake in 1917. They eventually acquired three large tracts of land totaling 570 acres. The Lippold’s large dairy farm was one of the most successful farms in the area.
In addition to farming, the Lippolds were very involved in their church, the Ridgefield Presbyterian Church as well as numerous community organizations. Ludwig was an early member of the Board of Education when the Community High School district was formed, serving from 1920 to 1938. The high school was an institution dear to his heart. He was often quoted as saying, “We can’t do too much for the public schools.”
Three generations of the Lippold family farmed the land near Crystal Lake. Eventually, large tracts of the property were sold off, until the final 109 acres was sold to the Crystal Lake Park District in 1968 for $1,250 per acre. The park district eventually purchased the adjoining 200 acres and developed Lippold Park into one of the finest sports complexes and natural resource conservation sites in the state.
According to his obituary, Ludwig Robert Lippold was “one of the most successful farmers in the vicinity. He had an unusually fine character and his reputation for honesty and fair dealing was above reproach. He always took time for the social, civic and religious life of the community.”