By Tom Nall, RPWRHS Volunteer
On Saturday, May 18, 2019, I had the pleasure of accompanying a tour of the famous Rosehill Cemetery sponsored by the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society. This has proven to be a very popular tour and always fills to capacity and did so on that day. I had visited Rosehill several times in the past, but this time I was especially looking forward to my visit as the tour was to be led by knowledgeable neighborhood historian Glenna Eaves.
Approaching Rosehill by car from the east, the cemetery’s gatehouse delivered a most striking view. As Glenna would later state “The Rosehill Cemetery Gatehouse built of Joliet limestone block, reminiscent of a gothic castle, was built in 1864. It was designed by the architect of the Chicago Water Tower, William Boyington; it’s one of his few buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1871 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1975.” The exterior stands out for its three-story bell tower, turrets, battlements and Gothic lancet windows that combine to give the structure a castle-like appearance. Passing through the gate, the graveyard itself came into view. It spans 350 acres, more than 1/2 square mile and is the largest cemetery in the city of Chicago. Beautifully planned and laid out, it was originally landscaped by William Saunders.
Those of us attending the tour met up with Glenna in the cemetery’s parking lot where she explained to us that although Rosehill features spectacular art, architecture and sculpting, her presentation would focus on people, the people who helped build the Rogers Park/West Ridge Community. She then led to the Civil War Section where dozens of veterans of that conflict are buried. Moving forward a few hundred feet and looking left we saw one of the five man-made lakes that beautifully adorn the cemetery. We next turned right and began walking the winding roads of Rosehill. Passing the grave of Mary McVicker Booth, wife of Edwin Booth and sister-in-law of John Wilkes Booth, we arrived at the Farwell Family plot. At each of the stops on our tour Glenna said we should refer to our guides as she would relate to us “the stories of local residents whose vision, enterprise and dedication shaped the history of the community we live in today.”
The Founders and Developers Behind the Street Names
In the case of Charles Benjamin Farwell (1823-1903), he was active in the banking industry and amassed a fortune in the development of downtown Chicago before engaging in a successful political career. Charles’s wife was Mary Eveline Smith Farwell (1825-1905) and Glenna added that “perhaps she was also the motivating force behind Charles’s introduction while in the US. Senate of a Constitutional Amendment for women’s suffrage…30 years before it was granted.” Charles’s brother, John (1825-1908) was also successful in business and his name appears on the list of investors in the Rogers Park Land Company of 1872. He eventually retired to focus on philanthropic activities and is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery.
Leaving the Farwell plot we visited the gravesite of Orrington Lunt (1815-1897), a successful grain merchant who was a founding member of the Chicago Board of Trade. He later expanded into the railroad and real estate businesses, once again enjoying success. His half-brother, Stephen Purington Lunt (1831-1919), built a home in Rogers Park at 1902 Lunt where in 1872 he became an initial investor in the Rogers Park Land Company. He later left Chicago for San Francisco.
Our next stop was the plot of the Pratt brothers, Paul (1807-1896) and George (1800-1839), who were also initial investors in the Rogers Park Land Company. Glenna led us next to the grave site of John Calder Ure (1832-1905) who in 1857 purchased 17 acres near what is now Clark and Howard Streets. He became the general superintendent of the Chicago Parks and Public Grounds and as stated by Glenna, “achieved prominence as a leader in the Chicago Horticulture community and was director of the horticulture show at the Columbian Exposition in 1893.” She added, “that his son John A. donated land for an east-west street at the northern boundary of Rogers Park which was named for his son, Howard.”
The Marshalls and the Kyles: Farmers and Sea Captains
We now moved to one of our tour leader’s favorite stories, that of the Marshall family. Glenna especially expressed great esteem for Sarah Marshall (1790-1874) who she greatly admires for her independence and resourcefulness. As a widow, Sarah moved with her young children first from Albany, N.Y. to New York City and then finally in 1842 to the Illinois prairie and along the Green Bay Road in Rogers Park. Glenna told us “her first house was a log cabin replaced by a frame home on the east side of (now) Ridge Boulevard about a quarter mile north of present-day Touhy Avenue.” Sarah’s son Henry Marshall (1823-1893) continued to operate the farm that had been started by his mother. Glenna related that Henry’s son, “John W. (Jack) served as the police officer to the Ridge Avenue Park District which was the government entity that provided security and infrastructure services for the area until incorporation into the City of Chicago in 1893.” Adjoining the Marshall plot we viewed the grave sites of three sea captains who did most of their sailing on the Great Lakes; Capt. William Kyle (1796-1880) and his wife, Alice L. (1797-1884), Capt. William Ledbetter Kyle (1832-1924) and his wife, Helen M. (Fisher) Kyle (1840-1931), and Capt. Robert Kyle (1823-1897) and his wife, Ann Marshall Kyle (1826-1903), the daughter of Sarah Marshall.
The Pollard Family: Accomplishment Spanning Many Fields
Leaving the Marshall and Kyle grave sites and with rain clouds approaching, we rapidly moved to the plot of what Glenna identified as “The Exceptional Pollard Family.” The progenitor of this amazing family, John William Henry Pollard (1846-1932), was born in Virginia to free black parents. In 1862 at age 16 he was among the first black soldiers to join the Union Army. His wife, Amanda A. (1856-1937) was of African American, Sioux and French descent. Together they eventually landed in Rogers Park where they established a home at 1928 Lunt and John opened a barber shop at 7017 N. Ravenswood. In addition, they raised eight children at the Lunt address and Glenna shared information on seven of these extraordinary people.
First born was Ella Artemisia (Artie) Pollard (1875-1961) who is not interred at Rosehill. “She was privately educated by tutors and graduated from Brown University in 1902 with a Bachelors’ Degree in nursing and was the first black registered nurse in Illinois.”
Luther Pollard (1878-1977) was the second born of John and Amanda. He too attended Brown University and eventually launched a moving picture production company called Ebony Film Corporation. Willie Naomi Pollard (1883-?), the third child was one of the first women to graduate from Northwestern in 1908 and also attended the University of Chicago. She became a teacher and librarian. Leslie Lawrence Pollard (1886-1915) attended Dartmouth College where he had a superb football career and contributed to breaking down racial barriers in college football. He died tragically of asphyxiation from carbon monoxide. Ruth M. Pollard (1889-1941) worked as a stenographer while remaining home with her parents until her death.
Hughes Pollard (1891-1926) pursued a career as a musician and led his own Jazz group in Chicago, “The Melody Four”. He served with the French army on the Western Front in WWI where he was gassed and succumbed at an early age to complications from this gas attack. Franklin H. Pollard (1896-1950) starred in four of his brother’s action/adventure films but struggled with alcoholism and died at an early age.
Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard Sr., “replaced his brother Hughes to become a star halfback on the Lane Tech H.S. football team, was a member of the baseball team and three time Cook County track champion graduating in 1912.” Entering Brown University in 1915, Fritz, Sr. became a star halfback and was named to College Football’s All-American Team. He began his professional football career with Akron in 1919, led his team to the championship in 1920 and became pro football’s first African American head coach in 1921. After retirement from football, he engaged in many businesses in New York and Chicago. He is buried in Port Lincoln Cemetery, Maryland. Pollard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
His son Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, Jr., was born in Springfield, MA., but was raised with his grandparents in Rogers Park. Glenna stated, “He was an outstanding football and track star at Nicholas Senn High School and at the University of North Dakota. He qualified as a 110-meter hurdler for the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin and was a teammate of Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf.” As a U.S. Army Captain in Special Services in WWII, he served as a Foreign Services Officer and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery. We now understood why Glenna labeled the Pollard Family “Exceptional.”
As Glenna concluded her presentation at the Pollard site, those dark rain clouds had arrived accompanied by crashing thunder followed by a heavy rain. Although only a few more sites remained to be visited, the people scampered to their cars knowing that the tour was ended. Those remaining spirits would have to wait for their visitors, or were they just busy at that time and sent the thunderstorm to ward us away?