Woodlawn Cemetery

Woodlawn Cemetery, located along the northern edge of Urbana, was established in 1907. The first documented burial on the land dates back to the burial of Isham Cook in 1830 [1]. The land and funding for Woodlawn Cemetery came from Colonel Samuel T. Busey who enlisted Dr. Lauren W. Judy, a landscape architect specializing in cemeteries, to lay out and maintain the original cemetery. Col. Busey and Dr. Judy sought to establish an affordable and beautiful cemetery where families could ride a streetcar out on Sundays and stay the day in a cemetery-park, visiting their loved ones, picnicking and walking the meticulously laid out grounds.

When the cemetery opened, Col. Busey extended the streetcar line to the cemetery with extra runs on the weekend. A special trolley car able to carry a casket was added to the line [2]. This was of particular importance because without the funeral trolley, most of the cities' residents would have been unable to attend funerals or visit the graves of their loved ones.

Dr. Judy, landscape architect of the cemetery, exhibited a strong connection to the cemetery where he was ultimately buried. After Woodlawn opened, parks and cemetery officials in the Eastern United States attempted to enlist his talent, but the Urbana Daily Courier reported his intention to stay in Champaign-Urbana until “Woodlawn [was] the fulfillment of his dreams” [3]. He is quoted in newspapers expressing his deep admiration for the natural beauty of Woodlawn: “Nature first drew the picture for me and I am only retouching it. I do not intend to cut one tree or move a hill. I want them just as they are, painted by the deft hand of nature” [4]. Dr. Judy lived in a house bordering the cemetery, and in May of 1910, spotted two men entering the cemetery grounds at dusk. Suspecting them to be flower thieves, he followed them with his automatic handgun. He discovered the thieves in the act of digging up a rare rhododendron and opened fire. Both men escaped, but Dr. Judy believed he hit one of the men. Following this incident, the cemetery closed at dark and a security guard patrolled the grounds at night [5].

Dr. Judy was not the only one that saw beauty in Woodlawn. Newspaper articles published at the time of the cemetery’s opening were thrilled with the beauty of the cemetery as well, touting it as “God's Own Cemetery is Beautiful Woodlawn” [6]. At the time of Woodlawn's opening, Mt. Hope Cemetery was facing financial difficulties that was reflected in the upkeep of the cemetery which made the pristine grounds of Woodlawn all the more valued.

The cemetery also had a practical appeal: its elevation and space. With the cemetery’s burial plots all 20-45 feet above surrounding water sources, such as the “Little Mississippi” in Crystal Lake Park, families could rest assure that drainage of the area would be adequate to prevent flooding of graves [7]. The space of the new cemetery allowed families to obtain large family plots. Several families had the graves of buried family members exhumed from the crowded Mt. Hope Cemetery and moved to the new cemetery, which the newspapers graphically described:

“One body, exhumed Friday, had been buried thirteen years, but was so well preserved that the hair was combed exactly as it was when the remains were laid away, and the comb marks were still plainly distinguishable” [8].

Col. Busey initially dedicated a total of twenty acres of his family's land to the cemetery in 1907. The cemetery has been expanded several times over the years with the additions of more land, the construction of new memorials, mausoleums and monuments as well as more gardens. It is now approximately forty two acres consisting of several mausoleums and memorials to soldiers. In the early days, Memorial Day services were held every year at Woodlawn Cemetery. There are sixty nine veterans of the Civil War and forty nine veterans of WWI buried here [9]. The Daughters of the American Revolution recorded the inscriptions on all gravestones in the cemetery in 1983 [10].

Both Col. Busey and Dr. Judy died several years after the cemetery was established and were buried in the cemetery of their own creation. Col. Busey drowned in 1909 and Dr. Judy passed away in 1911 [11]. For more information on the life of Col. Busey as well as some of the other people buried here, see the connected photographs.

Images

Entrance to Woodlawn Cemetery

Entrance to Woodlawn Cemetery

This postcard depicts the entrance for Woodlawn Cemetery. It is undated but likely from soon after Woodlawn opened in 1907. Image courtesy of Illinois Digital Archive. Lake County Discovery Museum. View File Details Page

Forrest Vance buried in Section 10, South of Road

Forrest Vance buried in Section 10, South of Road

If you've been to many sporting events, you have probably sat on something designed by Forrest Claude Vance (b. 1885- d. 1937). He is the inventor of the folding bleachers. He filed for the patent on the features of his bleacher design that made it movable in 1928. The drawings included here are a page from this patent. His company, American Bleachers, Co. constructed and installed bleacher seating. He was also a locally well-known band leader in his youth. | Source: Image from United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Full-Text Database View File Details Page

Michael Hart buried in Section 11, North of Road

Michael Hart buried in Section 11, North of Road

Michael Hart (b. 1947- d. 2011) was a prominent advocate for freedom of information, a prolific writer and the founder of Project Gutenberg, a digital library project that offers freely available e-books of over 42,000 books in the public domain. He is generally acknowledged as the inventor of the e-book. The story goes: on July 4th, 1971 he was given an account on the University of Illinois' mainframe. Wanting to do something worthwhile during his scheduled time, he decided to type a copy of the Declaration of Independence, taken from a Independence Day Celebration copy he had been given at the grocery store. He made this available to the 100 people on the the University's network. He went on to type 313 books, including Alice in Wonderland, the Bible and all of Shakespeare before enlisting the help of the U of I PC Club and eventually people world-wide with the establishment of Project Gutenberg. Image courtesy of gutenberg.org View File Details Page

Mattie Pritchard buried in Section 7, North of Road

Mattie Pritchard buried in Section 7, North of Road

Martha J. Mattie Pritchard Miles (b. 1870, d.1949) held the first Vacation Bible School in America in May of 1894 in Hopedale, Illinois that “was for all children of whatever church, or no church at all” (Marker). Martha Miles, wife of the Methodist preacher Reverend David Thomas Miles, was a school teacher and Sunday school teacher who felt that Sunday mornings were too short to teach the Bible to children. She held Vacation Bible School as an opportunity to offer intensive religious instruction to children during the summer public school vacation months. Image courtsey of findagrave.com user NashvilleTony View File Details Page

Col. Samuel Busey buried in Section 4, East of Road

Col. Samuel Busey buried in Section 4, East of Road

Col. Samuel Busey (b. 1835- d. 1909) was a second-generation member of the pioneer family Busey in Champaign County. Col. Busey served as an officer in the Civil War, leading a company of local men called the Urbana Zouaves. In civilian life, Col. Busey was a founding member of Busey Bank and politically active. He was elected mayor of Urbana from 1880-1889 and elected to Congress in 1891. He established Woodlawn Cemetery. He died in 1909, drowning with his niece in a boating accident. Image courtesy of Champaign County Historical Archives, Urbana Free Library, Urbana, IL View File Details Page

2nd Lieutenant Charles Bowen Busey Memorial

2nd Lieutenant Charles Bowen Busey Memorial

This is one of several monuments honoring veterans and soldiers in Woodlawn. Second Lieutenant Charles Bowen Busey (b. 1887-d. 1918) was killed in action while attempting to storm a machine gun nest near Grand Pre, France during World War I. He was the son of Col. And Mrs. S.T. Busey and married to Louise M. Carter with a three-year old son. The Busey family built this large monument in his memory. Before the war, Charles Busey was a cashier at Busey Bank. | Source: Champaign County Historical Archives, Urbana Free Library, Urbana, IL. View File Details Page

Thomas Dodsworth buried in Section 12, North of Road

Thomas Dodsworth buried in Section 12, North of Road

Respected police officer Thomas Dodsworth (b. 1862, d. 1913) was shot and killed by bootlegger “Duck” Williams on July 16, 1913. In 1913 Champaign County was by law a dry county though that was far from the reality. On the afternoon of July 16, Officer Dodsworth and Police Chief Keller entered 111 North Champaign St. with a warrant charging “Duck” with 7 accounts of liqueur violation. “Duck” opened fire on the chief and Dodsworth rushed to protect him and was fatally shot (Daily Illini 1913). Champaign-Urbana was deeply shocked by these events. Mayor Dobbins proclaimed his commitment to clean up Champaign saying “the bootlegger and the lawless element must go” (News-Gazette, July 2013). Image courtesy of Officer Down Memorial Page (http://www.odmp.org/officer/4149-patrolman-thomas-dodsworth) View File Details Page

Robert Downs buried in Section 17, West of Road

Robert Downs buried in Section 17, West of Road

Robert Bingham Downs (b. 1903, d. 1991) was a librarian widely interested in intellectual freedom, library administration and the sociology of literature. He was a prolific writer and influential scholar in library administration. Downs first came to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1943 as a professor of Library Science. In 1958 he became the Dean of Library Administration then in 1971 Dean Emeritus at the University of Illinois Library. Image courtesy the University of Illinois Archives. Found in RS: 39/1/11, Box DO, Folder Downs, Robert. The copyright holder of this image is unknown. If you can help to identify the copyright holder, please contact the University Library Archives. View File Details Page

Street Address:

1803 N Coler Ave, Urbana, IL 61801 [map]

Cite this Page:

Laura Miller, “Woodlawn Cemetery,” ExploreCU, accessed July 27, 2017, http://explorecu.org/items/show/254.

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