Oak Ridge Cemetery

The first official cemetery established for Springfield residents was the City Graveyard, four acres of land donated by Elijah Iles in the 1820s. Around 1830 John Hutchinson laid out a tract of six more acres adjoining the City Graveyard to the west. For many years, Hutchinson’s Cemetery was the primary burial ground for Springfield, located five blocks west of the State Capitol.

In June 1855, Charles H. Lanphier, a member of the Springfield City Council, advocated for the purchase of seventeen additional acres of land north of Springfield to establish a new municipal cemetery outside of the city. The city’s growth, sanitation issues, noise pollution, and need for more burial space all contributed to this demand.… Read More

The Great Chicago Fire

The Chicago Fire of 1871, commonly referred to as the Great Chicago Fire, caused immense devastation over the course of two days. The fire started on the night of October 8, and by the time the blaze had dispersed on the morning of October 10, huge portions of the city had burned down. The fire destroyed thousands of buildings, left nearly 100,000 people homeless, and caused about $200 million in damage.

In 1871 Chicago was a thriving city as railroads developed and canals opened to connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. After the Civil War Chicago had grown into a transportation hub and the population and industry expanded.… Read More

The Knight Family Correspondence: Sisters on the Prairie

The Knight Family Correspondence are a collection of letters that document the lives of the Knight and Mack families, connected by sisters Martha and Isabella Gill, who settled in Illinois in the second half of the 19th century. Martha and Isabella Gill were born in Ireland; the sisters were orphaned but later moved to the United States with aunts and uncles. Isabella married Harvey J. Knight in 1853 and the couple gave birth to a daughter, Martha “Mattie” Knight, the following year. They had another daughter, Anna Knight, in 1856. Most of the letters in the first half of the collection are from Martha and Isabella as they each settle into their lives in Illinois.… Read More

Working On the Railroad: The Bailey Family Letters

The Bailey Family Letters, 1855-1889 (MS 445) contain 52 letters written to Josiah Bailey by members of his family in Illinois. Most of the letters written to Josiah are from his brother, Isaac Bailey, who worked for Illinois railroad companies throughout his life. Isaac wrote to Josiah, who was still in Maine, telling him about his family life, health, and general accounts of political issues of the time. Isaac also described his experiences working in different roles for railroad companies, which offers a unique look at a career with the railroad in the 19th century.

Isaac Bailey was born in Cumberland County, Maine, in 1829.… Read More