Bachelors Grove is known as a place where many visitors take enigmatic photographs. These are some of the best we have seen. Have you taken any curious photos at the Grove?
The Bachelors Grove Pond is really a water-filled quarry, which was first created in 1909 by a man named Christian Boehm. The Quarry gets its bright green surface in summer from not algae but duckweed. Visit FPDCC for more info on the Forest Preserves!
THOSE WHO VISIT TO THE CEMETERY OR ANY OTHER PUBLIC PRESERVE THROUGHOUT THE CHICAGOLAND AREA, OR ILLINOIS FOR THAT MATTER SHOULD BE AWARE OF THE LAWS REGARDING THE REMOVAL OF PREHISTORIC AND HISTORIC ARTIFACTS AND THE DISTURBANCE OF HUMAN REMAINS, GRAVES, AND CEMETERIES. IT IS AGAINST STATE AND FEDERAL LAW TO REMOVE ANY MATERIAL CULTURE (ARTIFACTS), OR DISTURB GRAVES AND HUMAN REMAINS ON STATE OR FEDERALLY OWNED LANDS. BELOW IS A BRIEF OUTLINE OF SEVERAL LAWS:
STATE LEVEL LAWS THROUGH THE ILLINOIS HISTORIC PRESERVATION AGENCY:
THESE ARE SEVERAL OUTTAKES FROM THE ILLINOIS HUMAN SKELETAL REMAINS PROTECTION ACT.
(20 ILCS 3440/4) (FROM CH. 127, PAR. 2664) SEC. 4. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR ANY PERSON, EITHER BY HIMSELF OR THROUGH AN AGENT, TO KNOWINGLY DISTURB HUMAN SKELETAL REMAINS AND GRAVE ARTIFACTS IN UNREGISTERED GRAVES PROTECTED BY THIS ACT UNLESS SUCH PERSON OBTAINS A PERMIT ISSUED BY THE HISTORIC PRESERVATION AGENCY. (SOURCE: P.A. 86-151.)
(20 ILCS 3440/5) (FROM CH. 127, PAR. 2665) SEC. 5. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR ANY PERSON, EITHER BY HIMSELF OR THROUGH AN AGENT, TO KNOWINGLY DISTURB A GRAVE MARKER PROTECTED BY THIS ACT UNLESS SUCH PERSON OBTAINS A PERMIT ISSUED BY THE HISTORIC PRESERVATION AGENCY. (SOURCE: P.A. 86-151.)
(20 ILCS 3440/10) (FROM CH. 127, PAR. 2670) SEC. 10. ANY VIOLATION OF SECTIONS 4, 6 OR 7 OF THIS ACT IS A CLASS A MISDEMEANOR AND THE VIOLATOR SHALL BE SUBJECT TO IMPRISONMENT FOR NOT MORE THAN 1 YEAR AND A FINE NOT IN EXCESS OF $10,000; ANY SUBSEQUENT VIOLATION IS A CLASS 4 FELONY. EACH DISTURBANCE OF AN UNREGISTERED GRAVE CONSTITUTES A SEPARATE OFFENSE. (SOURCE: P.A. 86-151.)
These are several outtakes from the Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act.
(20 ILCS 3435/3) (from Ch. 127, par. 133c3) Sec. 3. (a) It is unlawful for any person, either by himself or through an agent, to explore, excavate or collect any of the archaeological or paleontological resources protected by this Act, unless such person obtains a permit issued by the Historic Preservation Agency. (b) It is unlawful for any person, either by himself or through an agent, to knowingly disturb any archaeological or paleontological resource protected under this Act. (c) It is unlawful for any person, either by himself or through an agent, to offer any object for sale or exchange with the knowledge that it has been previously collected or excavated in violation of this Act. (Source: P.A. 86-459; 86-707.)
(20 ILCS 3435/5) (from Ch. 127, par. 133c5)Sec. 5. Any violation of Section 3 not involving the disturbance of human skeletal remains is a Class A misdemeanor and the violator shall be subject to imprisonment and a fine not in excess of $5,000; any subsequent violation is a Class 4 felony. Any violation of Section 3 involving disturbance of human skeletal remains is a Class 4 felony. Each disturbance of an archaeological site or a paleontological site shall constitute a single offense. Persons convicted of a violation of Section 3 shall also be liable for civil damages to be assessed by the land managing agency and the Historic Preservation Agency. Civil damages may include: (a) forfeiture of any and all equipment used in acquiring the protected material; (b) any and all costs incurred in cleaning, restoring, analyzing, accessioning and curating the recovered materials; (c) any and all costs associated with restoring the land to its original contour; (d) any and all costs associated with recovery of data and analyzing, publishing, accessioning and curating materials when the prohibited activity is so extensive as to preclude the restoration of the archaeological or paleontological site; (e) any and all costs associated with the determination and collection of the civil damages. When civil damages are recovered through the Attorney General, the proceeds shall be deposited into the Historic Sites Fund; when civil damages are recovered through the State's Attorney, the proceeds shall be deposited into the county fund designated by the county board.
(Source: P.A. 86-459; 86-707.)
Please visit these links for further information:
The Illinois Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=376
Illinois Archaeological and Paleontological Resources Protection Act:
National Park Service Archaeology Laws and Ethics: https://www.nps.gov/archeology/public/publicLaw.htm
Society For American Archaeology: http://www.saa.org/ForthePublic/Resources/ArchaeologicalLawEthics/tabid/88/Default.aspx
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Plat map lists owner of lot No. 66 as Lester Frundle. Lester is buried in Homewood, Illinois. His mother and brothers are buried in Bachelors Grove Cemetery; see also lot No. 7.
Unknown burials. Plat map lists owner of lot No. 67 as Richard Kropeck, who died in 1985 in Cook County. Burial place unknown at this time.
Multiple unknown burials. Marked as unsold.
Jane Eleanor Fullerton (nee Whitehead) (September 14, 1875–April 25, 1925)
William Rick (March 22, 1871–January 15, 1926)
Mary Rick (nee Cague) (October 28, 1875–June 7, 1899)
Charles Hageman (June 4, 1841–March 15, 1924)
Minna Hageman (December 24, 1847–November 10, 1894)'
Alvah Orlando Foskett (February 11, 1871–March 9, 1960)
Caroline Sophia Foskett (nee Lund) (August 14, 1880–April 29, 1934)
Frederick Earl Gray (died March 22, 1940, seven weeks old)
Edward F. Gray (March 2, 1935–March 4, 1935)
John Rick (January 18, 1870–July 9, 1941)
Mary Ellen Rick (nee Hopkins) (June 3, 1883–?)
Theodore Post (1861–Novemer 8, 1924)
Sophie Post (nee Flassig) (October 16, 1864–December 31, 1939)
Daniel Newman (April 19, 1871–December 12, 1947)
Dora Newman (nee Flassig) (July 25, 1870–October 8, 1948)
Frank Flassig (1828–October 10, 1910)
Dora Flassig (nee Mohr) (December 27, 1827–November 16, 1903)
Multiple unknown burials. Plat map notations list owner of lot No. 80 as R. Krueger.
Multiple unknown burials. Plat map notations list owner of lot No. 81 as F. Gray.
Hattie Julie Strutzenburg (Adams) (February 2, 1909–February 3, 1909)
Esther Adams (January 19, 1912–July 30, 1913)
Hattie Therese Adams (nee Strutzenberg) (July 13, 1888–December 21, 1913)
Unknown lot numbers hold:
Eliza B. Scott (nee Denny) (December 23, 1808–November 1844)
Leonard Scott (1844–1844 or 1845)
Members of the Stokes family, stones missing after 1935. No burial records found at this time.
Emmeline Dykeman (April 1860–August 5, 1860)
Nels Hermansen (?–1869)
F O R E V E R
A PLACE FOR FANS & FRIENDS of
BACHELORS GROVE CEMETERY & EVERDEN WOODS
Now Available from History Press:
"Haunted Bachelors Grove"
by Ursula Bielski
Click Judy Huff's famous photo for information
on their whole Haunted America series!
Please note that the cemetery is located west of the marker on this map, where the red "x" is. Follow the Midlothian Turnpike west and park in the Rubio Woods Parking Lot North of the tunrpike. Then carefully walk south across the Turnpike, following the old road through the woods, down the road with the roped off entrance marked "Closed" to vehicle traffic. You can see the ceemtery on this map as a small patch of green east of the creek. NOTE: Bachelors Grove Cemetery is NOT located in Bachelor Grove Woods.
Well done amateur horror movie shot at Bachelors Grove in 1991....
PLEASE BE NICE TO OUR LAND!
Care to chat about Bachelors Grove? Find chatty friends at Bachelors Grove Forums by clicking here! Or write me at email@example.com
John Crandall, one of the bachelors of the Grove.
Discover the Tinley Creek Division of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Click on the mushroom hunter to see the whole Tinley Creek Trail System
Cemetery panorama at one of the most beautiful times of year: September. By Wendy Moxley Roe of thePath to Bachelors Grove
Read about how the Midlothian Country Club changed the Bachelors Grove area by clicking on the "Tally -Ho" wagon at left!
Bachelors Grove is Off Limits after Sunset! Be Cool. Be Kind.
Enjoy by Day! Take Nothing but Memories!
Map of Bachelors Grove Cemetery showing remaining stones, drawn by John Cachel c. 1998. One additional stone has been returned since this map was drawn.
FOR MORE History CLICK HERE!
The Path into History
IN the northern section of Everden Woods a nondescript trail leads toward historic Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery. Situated directly south of 143rd Street the simple path looks like every other well tamed woodland thoroughfare, complete with small overgrown side trails extending like tributaries of a river in every conceivable direction, and disappearing into the thick underbrush. However, unlike most trails within the 69,000-acres of forest preserves in Cook County, this one was an extension of the Midlothian Turnpike. From horse and cart, to motorized vehicles, people traveled upon this road for one purpose or another over the past century and a half. They continued to do so until the road was eventually closed off sometime between 1948 and 1950, after the new turnpike was built just to the north, thus becoming a simple path leading into the woods.
Today, when one wanders down this trail into the woodland interior, they are focused on the cemetery deep within, and most are unaware of the physical history surrounding them. They are unaware of the fact that the trees surrounding them are not original growth, but instead a secondary growth planted long after the land was heavily farmed, and now laden with invasive species. Over a century ago the landscape would be unrecognizable. Instead of hiking down the path within a woodland preserve, in a southern suburb of Chicago, one would be strolling past open farm fields, farm houses, barns, and outbuildings in very rural country. This landscape is steeped in the history of the early settlers, of the farmers and their families, and finally, in the history of the old road beneath their feet.
But this is not where the story of our present day landscape should begin. It does not unfold with the arrival of European explorers in Illinois 1673, or with the traditional tales of influential German, Irish, and English settlers over the course of 186 years; beginning in the 1830s in and around what would become Bachelor’s Grove. People have occupied Illinois for approximately 12,000 years (figure 1) (this number fluctuates; however, it is a safe starting point), and physical evidence for each distinct cultural period and sub-period can be found throughout the Chicagoland area. Periods are identified by environmental, cultural, social, and technological distinctions, as observed by archaeologists through significant changes in cultural materials, social systems, and the environment. Due to the age of the location, the story rightfully begins thousands of years ago, on a landscape constantly being altered and reshaped by succeeding human and natural forces. Though (as mentioned above) nothing about the present day landscape is original, having been modified countless times, it remains the same singular landscape upon which countless millennia of human history has occurred.
The prehistoric populations were forceful geomorphic agents , heavily impacting landscapes and ecosystems, as they developed their settlement and transportation systems in and around what would become Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery and surrounding forest preserves. In essence, the landscape is a human made artifact, an inherited tradition of culture, collective memories, beliefs and myth, carved into the natural landscape. Unfortunately, we will never know what these memories and beliefs were because prehistoric people did not possess a written language. We can only read and interpret the landscape and surviving material culture (artifacts) to understand how these people lived and how they utilized and modified the landscape, and were influenced by their surroundings.
We do not have to look far to find the geographical features that attracted people to create habitation sites and exploit local resources here. Prehistoric hunting, foraging, and farming communities would have settled on high, well drained landforms, and in and around the waterways and springs of the Tinley Creek Watershed. No matter what part of prehistory we are talking about, people would have utilized natural materials such as stone, plants, and animals for tools and food sources. For example, chert rocks were used to create tools and hunting equipment, clay (depending on the period) for cooking and water vessels, bone and fur for tools, jewelry, and clothing. Of course, this is only a brief example of what they used. It was more involved than that and too much to accurately describe here. The physical evidence of their existence and survival can still be found on the current Rubio Woods/Bachelor’s Grove landscape. To stand in Bachelor’s Grove, and walk the path to the cemetery, is to have one foot in the present and the other in the distant past. -Dan Melone (from "Haunted Bachelors Grove")
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The first known written mention of Bachelors Grove was by the Methodist Church, who sent Rev. Stephen R. Beggs to preach at Bachelors Grove in 1832. For more local history resources, click on Rev. Beggs!
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FOR MORE Mystery CLICK HERE!
Generations of historians have sought to uncover the origins of the naming of "Bachelors Grove." Actually, the cemetery and the settlement have been known by a dizzying array of names: Berzel’s Grove and Petzel’s Grove; Old Smith’s and Old Schmidt’s; Old Bachelors and English Bachelors; and Bachelder’s, Batchelors, Batchellor’s or Bacheldes Grove. It’s even been called Crestwood Grove in some genealogical resources. The favorite I’ve found is “Everdense”—fitting, I think, for such a genealogically confounding site.
Bachelors Grove, however, is the name that has endured, and Stephen Rexford would always claim that the land was named for he and the other single men who settled the area in the early 1830s, coming first to Fort Dearborn and then on to the prairies beyond.
In fact, other settlements of single men known as “Bachelors Grove” existed in the United States by the nineteenth century, as well as buildings and organizations known as “Bachelors Hall.” “To keep bachelor’s hall” was an old phrase in common usage by at least the 1790s, when the first known version of the English folk song “Batchelors Hall” (with the “t” in the spelling) was composed. To “keep bachelor’s hall” meant to maintain the life of a single man, and in various parts of the English-speaking world, the naming of settlements or gatherings of bachelors was already seen by colonial American times. Today, a Bachelors Grove still exists in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Footville, Wisconsin, was originally called Bachelor’s Grove (as was its cemetery). An item in the Grand Forks local paper in mid-nineteenth-century North Dakota suggested that the name of their Bachelor’s Grove was given purposely, to try to attract unwed women to meet the lonely single men of the area. The reporter observed that in South Dakota, “marriageable females are as rare as male angels in Washington. There have been several efforts to induce the migration of some of the female surplus in other sections, but the results…have been entirely inadequate.”
In a history of Blue Island commemorating the city’s first century, John H. Volp writes:
Some of the names given to sections of this early settlement were neither as pleasantly descriptive nor, fortunately, as lasting as that of Blue Island. For instance, there were Bachelors’ Grove, the “black” or “Robbers Woods” and, worst of all, Horse Thief Hollow. Much to the disgust of the eligible young ladies, many of the young men coming to the settlement in the early days preferred to take up quarters in a section somewhat removed from the Hill, hence the name “Bachelors’ Grove.”
Support of the idea that these bachelors deliberately distanced themselves from women had come upon the death of Stephen Rexford’s daughter, when the author of her obituary claimed that the men of our Bachelors Grove had actually “taken a vow to remain single”—which most of them abandoned. No other mention of such a vow has been found, however.
What we do know is that Bachelors Grove was already known as such when Rexford came, before he even arrived in Chicago in June 1833. That name, though, came at the time with many alternate spellings, suggesting that the place may have been christened with a surname and not named for a gathering of single men. At the Methodist conference held in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1832, a Reverend Stephen Beggs of Walker’s Grove was put in charge of the Des Plaines Mission—for the area around the Des Plaines River, presumably, which included a place called “Batchelor Grove.” An 1834 Gazetteer of Illinois reported that “Bachelder’s Grove, in Cook County, eighteen miles southwest of Chicago, contains about two sections of timber and a large settlement,” demonstrating yet another variation of the name attached to the Grove—and supporting the idea that the Grove was named for a person and not for a single man or group of them. It must be noted that by the spring of 1833, Stephen Rexford, Thomas McClintock, Alva Crandall and Samuel Everden were recorded by the United States Agricultural Survey as having planted a grove of peach and other fruit trees at “Batchellor’s Grove”; mysterious, since Rexford did not arrive until that summer. Again, this spelling suggests a surname rather than a gathering of bachelors.
But if this was the case, who was this mysterious “Batchelor,” “Batchellor” or “Batchelder,” and where did he go? No Batchelders or Bachelors or Batchelors show up on the earliest property or settlement records of the area. Some Batchelors and Batchelders from New England did settle in Illinois, but in LaSalle County, Macon County and Winnebago Country. Batchelders found in Cook County’s Rich Township in the latter half of the century were from another, later migration line. Some Batchelders and Foots who came to the Illinois lands went on to found Batchelors Grove (today called Footville) over the Wisconsin border—which also had a Bachelors Grove Cemetery, now Footville Cemetery. Other Bachelors went famously to the Dakotas, where that Bachelors Grove still exists today in Grand Forks, where those unfortunate men couldn’t catch a break.
I thought I’d hit pay dirt when I found a man named Edward Batchelder, a Vermont teenager who went to Boston to apprentice to a jeweler but ended up going on “to the wilds of Illinois” with his wife and infant daughter. He settled about thirty miles south of Chicago in Thorn Grove, an area about ten miles from Bachelors Grove Cemetery. Working off a timber stand, the family only stayed four years before going to Chicago to live. Batchelder lost everything, including his home, wife and three of his four children, in the Great Fire of 1871. Born in 1811, I figured that, if he left Boston at eighteen and stayed in Thorn Grove for four years, this would have put him in the Bachelors Grove area in 1828 or 1829 and leaving for Chicago by 1832. Batchelder would have moved into Chicago by the time Stephen Rexford arrived at Fort Dearborn. They likely would have met in one of the taverns of the day. Surely this had to be the Batchelder I’d been looking for. Alas, upon further research I discovered that Batchelder hadn’t left New England until after 1835, at least two years after Rexford had already gotten to Bachelors Grove, and more than three years after the famed Reverend Beggs was sent to the Illinois settlement of “Batchelors Grove” as a missionary.
But it is Beggs who takes us down another road to look for our mysterious namesake.
Other timber stands, both in Illinois and around the nation, bore the names of preachers of the time, such as Walker’s Grove, present-day Plainfield, a bit farther south of Bachelors Grove. Reverend Jesse Walker, “The Daniel Boone of Methodism,” was a circuit rider who traveled throughout Missouri and Illinois on horseback, spreading the gospel message. As a missionary to the Indians, Reverend Walker followed the Illinois River on horseback. In 1829, his son James Walker and ten settlers formed the first Methodist Class in “Walker’s Grove,” now Plainfield.
Beggs, who was sent to convert the Indians and settlers at Bachelors Grove in 1832 and ended up in a battle of the Black Hawk War, was an associate of one of the more active preachers of the early northwest wilderness, a man named Wesley Batchelor. Batchelor went on to be the first pastor of the church at Ottawa, in LaSalle County. These two men, along with numerous other preachers, would have been well known and well traveled between Chicago and LaSalle Country. But was Batchelor already working in 1830 or 1831, before Beggs was sent to the settlement that bore the Batchelor name? Quite possibly, as he was listed as one of the “superannuated or worn out preachers” in the minutes of the meetings of the Methodist Conference of 1852–1855. -URSULA BIELSKI (from "Haunted Bachelors Grove")
Who lies under
For all the latest information on Bachelors Grove burials, visit
The Path to Bachelors Grove by clicking the photo!
NOTES ON BACHELORS GROVE CEMETERY & ENVIRONS
Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery (BG) is a small cemetery located within the Rubio/Everden Woods preserves in southwestern Cook County. The majority of the woodlands south of 143rd Street is second growth, having been logged and farmed long ago. Invasive shrubs and pole trees (tall, skinny trees stunted by a dense canopy) dominate the landscape. There are few mature native trees, though the cemetery itself was spared of some of its large hardwood trees such as oaks, as those were considered visually pleasing to cemetery visitors and provided shade on hot days. Prominent invasive plant species include common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), wild grape (Vitis spp.), and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), as well as a host of others.
The overabundance of invasive woody shrubs and trees results in a very closed-in, claustrophobic experience. Visitors who decide to veer off the path that leads to BG from 143rd Street may find themselves pushing their way through a nearly impenetrable wall of thorny, woody invasive plants. Large, native trees such as oaks take long to grow and mature, and invasive species can easily rush in and populate an open area much quicker, eventually killing oak saplings as they suffocate in the invasive understory. Within BG, much restoration has taken place recently, which would allow for the successful reproduction of native hardwood trees. However, the cemetery succumbs to large groups of visitors, many of whom have carelessly damaged or destroyed much of the native plant life there. A professionally-planned restoration plan and regular volunteer-driven workdays would, over time, transform the surrounding woodlands into a healthier ecosystem that would more accurately resemble a pre-settlement landscape as well as attract native wildlife and improve the overall balance of the preserve. Restorative activities would include the removal of buckthorn, garlic mustard, and other invasive species, the application of herbicide to stumps, prescribed burns, and supporting young or stunted native trees such as oaks and hickories by caging them from deer. A restored woodland surrounding BG could boast beautiful ephemeral wildflowers such as bloodroot and Trillium, and potentially many others.
Additional notes on buckthorn: Common buckthorn is native to Eurasia. It was first introduced to the United States during the late 18th or early 19th century for its use as an ornamental plant. Its specific name, cathartica, is a reference to its fruit – small, deep red or black berries that are very cathartic (http://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/rhamnus-cath.html). The berries ripen during the fall and are eaten by many types of birds. As the birds pass the seeds in their droppings, they land on the ground – along with a convenient supply of fertilizer – and quickly re-colonize elsewhere. The plant itself – leaves, stems, etc. – are toxic, therefore, most deer will avoid eating it unless they are desperate. Common buckthorn grows in dense stands and out-competes native trees and plants. It allows little to no light to reach the woodland floor, eliminating the possibility of native grasses and wildflowers in most cases. In addition, it alters the chemical makeup of the underlying soil through an allelopathic chemical in its roots and has been known to negatively impact the development of larval amphibians (http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1670/12-066). All of these symptoms of the spread of common buckthorn are evident in the woods surrounding BG. Buckthorn can be identified by its scraggly stems, which grow singly or often in multiple “clumps”. Where there is one, there are usually many more, as they grow in thickets and create monocultures. They are easiest to identify in early spring and late fall, since they are one of the first plants to produce leaves, and one of the last to drop those leaves (http://www.ecolandscaping.org/12/invasive-plants/common-buckthorn-an-exotic-invasive-plant-fact-sheet/), ( http://removebadplants.com/buckthorn/).
Perhaps more relevant at BG/Rubio Woods than at other preserves, is the idea that buckthorn has the potential
to increase incidents of crime (http://removebadplants.com/buckthorn/). Buckthorn creates barriers beyond which little to nothing can be seen. Illegal activities are nothing new to BG, and the abundance of buckthorn might facilitate fly dumping, vandalism, gang activity (including spray-painting), or ritualistic activities than can cause harm to both humans and nature. Buckthorn is most evident along the path that leads to BG from 143rd Street.
A persistent ground cover plant that many regret ever planting in the first place is lesser periwinkle (Vina minor). Extremely common in gardens and graveyards, this plant consists of green, waxy-looking, oval-shaped leaves and small, beautiful lavender flowers that bloom spring to mid- or late-summer. Though attractive, this species grows in clonal colonies (interlinked through roots) to create dense mats, in which little else can grow. Despite recent restoration in the cemetery which resulted in the destruction of many other plants, lesser periwinkle lives on and probably will for a very long time.
A few notes on other species seen either in person or through YouTube video tours/older photos: goldenrod (Solidago altissima/canadensis) is a native and sometimes invasive wildflower common in the open parts of both BG and the path that leads to it; it attracts all sorts of butterflies and insects. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is another common native, famous for hosting the larval form of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Queen Anne’s Lace, or wild carrot (Daucus carota) is an invasive tall plant with tiny white flowers, and it can be seen along the path where it savors the sun. Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a commonly-occurring invasive that is often seen in old fields or roadsides. It was encountered along the path to BG. It is of some importance due to its toxic nature; if the plant’s juices somehow end up on your skin (from breakage, etc), and it’s sunny, the sun activates chemicals that cause phytophotodermititis, a condition that includes red sores and blisters on the skin. The sensation has been likened to the rash caused by poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), but the resulting redness/discoloration can remain on the skin for up to two years ( Brenneman, William L. (2010). 50 Wild Plants Everyone Should Know. AuthorHouse. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-4520-4637-2.). It’s important to learn how to identify the flowers and leaves of wild parsnip before you veer off the path. Poison ivy has also been seen, in large amounts, growing as vines on trees along the path that leads to BG. In short – it is NOT recommended veering off the path.
The trees within the perimeter of BG tell a great story of how the cemetery was planned and considered long ago. In it are both trees that are native and non-native/cultivated by man – trees that were maintained as aesthetic components, sources of shade, etc. Examples of native trees include oak, hickory, black walnut, and black cherry. Mulberry and white cedar constitute two of the more prominent non-native tree species.
Oaks (Quercus spp.) are among the most coveted and mighty trees on the Illinois landscape. Long appreciated for their valuable timber, oaks have experienced a decline since European settlers arrived and exploited them for their benefit. Oak wood is very versatile and was/is used in frame home construction, furniture, barrels, and many other items. Ecologically, oaks are considered keystone species (Paine, R.T. (1995). "A Conversation on Refining the Concept of Keystone Species". Conservation Biology 9(4): 962–964. doi:10.1046/j.1523-). They have a profound influence on the shaping of their respective biomes. Often associated with wisdom and strength, oaks are one of the more symbolic organisms one might find in a woodland ecosystem. They are hardy, long-lived, and highly resistant to the fires that helped shape their habitat before fires were suppressed by man long ago (restorationists now consider fire one of the most useful tools in bringing damaged habitat back to life). It is likely that the oaks in BG either pre-date the cemetery or were planted early in the life of the cemetery.
Along with oaks, hickories (Carya spp.) are one of the more defining hardwood trees in the area’s woodlands. And like oaks, their wood is used for the construction of a multitude of items. Hickory trees produce fruits that contain nuts, some of which are edible (http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph8.htm). These nuts can be found littering the cemetery, sometimes embedded in the ground after being stepped on. Squirrels and chipmunks love them. There are large examples of hickory in BG (exact species unknown), and they, like the oaks, have persisted for a long time through, and sometimes despite, all of the tragedies inflicted upon the cemetery by vandals.
Black cherry (Prunus serotina) and black walnut (Juglans nigra) are two other native species found in BG. Both black cherry and black walnut are considered pioneer species – species that are first to colonize previously disrupted ecosystems (Duram, Leslie A. (2010). Encyclopedia of Organic, Sustainable, and Local Food. ABC-CLIO. p. 48.ISBN 9780313359637.). It is likely that these two species prosper here due to the open, biologically-disturbed nature of the cemetery. They may have developed naturally here or they may have been transplanted/cultivated at one time. They love sunlight, and they both produce fruit that attracts wildlife, cherries and walnuts, respectively.
As far as I can tell, the mulberry trees present in BG are white mulberry (Morus alba), but could possibly be another related species. They are native to Asia and are considered naturalized in the US (naturalized differs from invasive in that a naturalized species cannot reproduce independently and spread unabated. It only exists where it is due to continued influx from somewhere else [ Warren L. Wagner, Derral R. Herbst, and Sy H. Sohmer. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai`i, Revised Edition, 1999. Bishop Museum Press: Hololulu]). Mulberry trees are relatively short-lived and are widely cultivated, often in cemeteries (I have personally seen examples in other older cemeteries such as Union Ridge Cemetery in Chicago). They produce edible, sweet berries in summer. Oftentimes, the fallen fruit ferments on the ground, and in the heat of the day, attracts flies and bees.
Perhaps the most identifiable trees in BG are the large white cedars (Thuja occidentalis) just past the front gate of BG. White cedars are sometimes known as the eastern arborvitae, meaning “tree of life” in Latin (http://www.conifers.org/cu/Thuja_occidentalis.php). In reality, these are not cedars at all, but rather in the Cypress family. As an evergreen conifer, it is green year-round. The white cedars really stick out at BG during the winter months, as they are the only evergreens in the area (view the cemetery on Google maps – you’ll see what I mean). Though the white cedar’s range extends south to the Chicago area from its core range in Canada, the specimens at BG are almost certainly cultivated, probably in the early 20th century. They are an extremely popular choice for cemeteries, parks, and yards (http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/trees/plants/white_cedar.html). These are long-lived trees, and assuming the ones in BG are “only” about a century old, they could live another seven to eight hundred years, if conditions are favorable. Interestingly enough, the two large white cedars near the front gate of the cemetery are clearly discernable in a 1939 aerial photo on http://www.historicaerials.com/ - the only two trees that can be identified with a great deal of certainty!
In and around BG, there are numerous ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) that have been ravaged by the invasive emerald ash borer (Agrilis planipennis), a green beetle native to eastern Asia. The beetle’s larvae lives and feeds within the phloem, cambium, and outer xylem layers of a tree – thin layers between the bark and the heartwood. This disrupts the transfer of water and nutrients, and in most cases, an afflicted ash tree dies within a few years. Green ash trees (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) alone make up 5.5% of the Chicago region’s 157,142,000 trees (https://www.itreetools.org/resources/reports/Chicago_Region_rb_nrs84.pdf). Afflicted ash trees are typically removed by the respective county, but relatively little attention has been given to those in the Rubio Woods preserves. Therefore, an increased number of dead and dying trees around BG has resulted in yet another “haunted” aspect of the area.
One of the very few upsides to the emerald ash borer explosion has been the accompanying increase in various woodpecker species. Woodpeckers, which search for insect larvae in dead wood, have enjoyed a bounty of food over the last decade in the Chicago region. Woodpeckers can be heard rapping on trees throughout Rubio Woods, doing their part to both help eliminate the larvae and create an uneasy, spooky sound to those unfamiliar with the habits of such birds, particularly city-dwellers.
Of course, many other species of birds are found in Rubio Woods. A few of the birds I have personally observed have been European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), American robins (Turdus migratorius), various sparrows (family Passeridae), northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), American goldfinches (Spinus tristis), Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperii), red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), various ducks (family Anatidea), owls (Order Strigiformes), and American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) (the latter two of which, again, can contribute to the eeriness of the woods at the right times). A more thorough bird survey of BG and Rubio Woods would undoubtedly result in a longer list.
Herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) of BG and the surrounding woods is limited in variety, though a few species are common to abundant locally. Bullfrogs (Lithobates catebeianus) are the frogs often seen and heard in the quarry pond adjacent to the cemetery. Bullfrogs are the largest species of frog native to the Chicago region and one of the largest, if not the largest, in the United States. They are extremely adaptable and are highly tolerant of a relatively high degree of pollution and disturbance. They are known to be aggressive feeders, eagerly consuming prey ranging from small insects and fish to other bullfrogs, small rodents, and even birds that come to the water for a drink. Bullfrogs in the region typically breed during late spring to mid-summer, during which time the males’ distinctive “rum…rum…rum” bellows can be heard. I have found juvenile bullfrogs along Tinley Creek, which flows alongside BG and through Rubio Woods. American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) are the common toad species found in and around BG. Toads are much less reliant upon water than the bullfrogs; they head to ponds in the spring to breed and lay their eggs, but once done, they head back into the woods, where they live a secretive lifestyle. They spend most of their time hiding under logs and leaf litter, emerging at night or during rain events to hunt insects. The toad tadpoles metamorphose during the summer, leaving the water and remaining hidden as best as possible. I presume that the resident bullfrogs eat a significant amount of young toads during the summer, while the toadlets are exposed and vulnerable.
Notes on toads: Contrary to old wives tales, American toads will not give you warts if you pick them up – not even BG toads! They will, however, urinate on your hands in the hopes that they will be released.
I am uncertain whether or not there are salamanders living near BG, though they are found in surrounding preserves, including some areas north of 143rd Street. A more thorough survey of the area is needed.
Snakes can be found in and around BG – mostly Chicago garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis semifasciatus). The Chicago garter snake is a subspecies of the common garter snake, and it differs from many other common garter snakes by possessing a slightly different pattern. Averaging between one to two feet in length, Chicago garter snakes are abundant and extremely adaptable, though they prefer open woodlands, woodland edges, savannahs, and sometimes open fields or prairies. Much of Rubio Woods is closed canopy, which creates challenges for the garter snakes, since a shaded woodland offers little to no sunlight for the snakes to bask in. BG is an exception, as it features a more open canopy. BG’s proximity to the quarry pond is also advantageous for the garter snakes, as they will hunt and eat small bullfrogs, bullfrog tadpoles, leeches, worms, and other organisms associated with a wet or watery environment. The Chicago garter snake, like all garter snakes, is completely innocuous to humans and poses no threat to the hiker or cemetery visitor. When approached, they will either remain still to avoid detection, or slither away very quickly. Only when cornered or handled might the garter snake defend itself by writhing wildly, squirting an acrid-smelling musk, or biting. A bite from a garter snake causes more harm to the garter snake than it does to the handler – a reason these animals should be viewed from a distance and allowed to go on their way without harassment.
A close second in abundance is probably the midland brown snake (Storeria dekayi wrightorum). Also known as the Dekay’s brown snake or just Dekay’s snake, this tiny snake, which rarely grows longer than twelve inches in length, can be found throughout Rubio Woods and in and around BG. The midland brown snake is mostly fossorial, which means underground-dwelling, though it can often be seen crawling about along the forest floor, particularly during the spring and fall. It is a light brown to grey snake that has an interesting diet – slugs and snails, mainly, along with the occasional small worm. Like the garter snake with which it shares its range, it is a harmless, non-venomous, and shy snake that tries all it can to avoid people. When handled, it is much less likely to bite than the garter snakes but it nevertheless will not hesitate to coat your hands in a very offensive-smelling musk meant to deter predators.
An interesting variety of mammals inhabit Rubio Woods and BG. They range from tiny mice, voles, and shrews to bats, and from the all-too-familiar opossums, skunks, and raccoons, to deer and coyotes. Mice, voles, and shrews, all members of the rodent family, are important members of the ecological balance of the woods, and are readily stalked by hawks, owls, and coyotes. Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are North America’s sole representative of the marsupial family. They are extremely unspecialized and can be found anywhere from pristine nature to alley dumpsters in downtown Chicago. Though often regarded as a pest, they actually play an important role as an omnivore, eating both plant and animal material. They are solitary as adults, and mostly nocturnal. They have an interesting strategy for protecting themselves from predators, which is “playing possum”. When approached by a dog or other predator, they will collapse and lie on the ground with their mouths open. This deters a lot of predators, who prefer not to eat something already dead. Shortly after the predator leaves the scene, the opossum will revive itself and go on its way. Unfortunately, opossums haven’t grasped the concept of automobiles, and playing dead in front of an approaching vehicle most often does not end well. It is not uncommon to see road-killed opossums along 143rd Street at BG, or any road for that matter.
The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is similar to the opossum in that it is an unspecialized, cat-sized, omnivorous, nocturnal mammal. But the raccoon does engage in social behavior to a somewhat higher degree than the opossums do. The raccoon is a faster runner and as a result, is seen more alive than dead alongside roads. It is a more efficient hunter than the opossum and probably better utilizes the pond and creek for hunting for food. If it can catch a frog, toad, or crayfish, it will eat it.
Skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are very common around BG. Best known for their infamous odor, they lumber about in woods and urban areas with a certain cockiness that can only be attributed to their mode of defense. A skunk’s spray can be smelled for several square miles under the right conditions, much to the disgust of humankind. Like opossums and raccoons, skunks are nocturnal and omnivorous.
The prevalence of bats in and around BG can only bode well for those who expect a haunted experience. Though it is unclear which species of bats are found near BG (a survey would help), there are seven species of bats in the Chicago area. The largest of the seven, the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), usually weighs about three-quarters of an ounce. This tells you that any bat seen is going to be small. Small, but extremely efficient as a natural form of pest control. Bats eat mosquitoes among other insects, reducing the likelihood that you will be bitten by the potentially disease-spreading bugs. Still, most people have a fear of bats, and those fears usually stem from two misconceptions – that bats will fly into your hair, and that bats will give you rabies. First, bats are extraordinarily good flyers. Watch as a colony of bats skillfully flies about without contacting each other. This is due to their use of echolocation – “bio-sonar” that aids them in their hunting and communication as well. Flying into someone’s hair does not benefit a bat in any way, shape, or form, so people shouldn’t worry about that happening. The second fear people have isn’t completely unwarranted. In the United States, between 1997-2006, there were a reported nineteen cases of naturally-acquired rabies - seventeen were associated with bats. However, rabies overall is extremely rare in the US, with only one or two cases per year on average (http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/education/). Almost all instances of bat-related rabies were the result of intentional human-bat interactions (such as someone removing a bat from a home). Suffice it to say, it is completely safe to be in the presence of bats, as long as they are respected. Since bats are nocturnal and mostly seen around dusk, most visitors will probably not witness them at BG, but pay attention to the sky later in the afternoon or early evening before dark, and you may witness the flight of one or more of these amazing mammals. The quarry pond is a mosquito factory, so perhaps focusing in that direction could yield a sighting.
Additional note on bats: The phrase “blind as a bat” is a misnomer. It isn’t fully clear how that phrase came to be, as bats can see quite well. It could be, perhaps, because a bat’s echolocation and hearing are better-developed than its vision, but that shouldn’t negate the fact that they can in fact see well enough to get by (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/02/bats-are-not-blind/).
Aside from squirrels, probably the most commonly seen mammal in and around BG is the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). White-tailed deer are one of the most widespread large mammals in the Western Hemisphere, ranging from northern Alaska south to South America. They can be found in both wooded and open landscapes. In high densities, deer can cause serious damage to the ecosystem (http://wwx.inhs.illinois.edu/resources/inhsreports/may-jun99/deer/). Such a problem exists in the Chicago suburbs, including Midlothian and Rubio Woods. As human development steadily replaces deer habitat, the deer become concentrated in smaller preserves with well-defined boundaries. The deer eat copious amounts of plant matter (but again, usually not buckthorn) and can ravage an ecosystem of its biomass in short order. Over time, their actions can completely reshape the forest structure, leaving the forest floor bare and vulnerable to succession by invasive pioneer plant species. A large deer population can quickly eliminate an entire season’s worth of acorns, allowing no chance for the mighty oaks to witness their progeny take hold and begin the next generation. Plans to manage the deer populations in the Chicago area have been met with stern opposition by many citizens (http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/pets/ct-pets-deer-0123-20150123-story.html). Though deer are beautiful and graceful animals, culling is the only way to maintain healthy populations, and it reduces the likelihood of ecological destruction, inbreeding, and vehicular-related deer strike.
A summary of the mammals of BG/Rubio Woods would not be complete without the inclusion of the coyote (Canis latrans). The region’s premier land predator, the coyote is much like a ghost itself around BG – elusive and enchanting. The coyote is enjoying a resurgence in the Chicago area after being extirpated long ago. At one time, it was joined by other large land predators in the region – bobcats, wolves, and black bears. It is now the sole representative of a group of often-maligned animals that actually perform priceless ecological services to humans. Coyotes in and around BG are primarily hunters of small game – rodents and other small mammals, birds, snakes, frogs, and even young or sick deer constitute its natural diet. However, as opportunistic feeders, they will even ransack human garbage for food scraps and occasionally make off with an outdoor cat or even a small dog. They are often heard more than they are seen in some areas, their classic whines, yelps, and howls carrying across the landscape like disembodied voices from afar. Coyotes are not usually a threat to humans, though it would be wise to avoid approaching one if one is seen.
- JOE CAVATAIO (from Haunted Bachelors Grove)