A Brief History of Christ Church Churchyard (1836 – Today)
by E. Smith
Evidence suggests that, what is today Christ Church Churchyard, has been used as a burial ground for close to 200 years. The first known burials which occurred on this site were those of Erastus and Lucia Patterson, father and daughter, who, along with Erastus’ wife, Zeruah, were the first white inhabitants of the area in 1836 (just 18 years after Illinois received statehood). Mrs. Zeruah Patterson chose this location on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan to bury her late husband and daughter who both passed shortly after arriving. She, too, was interred there after she passed around 1850. Another early settler in Winnetka, Mrs. Stanbury, was also interred in the burial ground.
In 1845, Mrs. Patterson, who had been the first woman to run a (quite successful) business in the area, the Patterson Tavern, sold the land which eventually was purchased by Mr. John Garland. John and Susannah Garland were also early settlers to Winnetka and were also quite wealthy, owning large tracts of land that would be added into the village’s territory over the course of the 19th century.
Mrs. Susannah Garland passed in 1855 and was interred in the burial ground. In 1869, John Garland built the first church on the site, dedicating it to Susannah’s memory. Seven years later, Mr. Garland, along with his fourth wife, Juliette, bequeathed the church (which became Christ Church) and the burial ground to the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago; the cemetery being consecrated on September 21, 1876. When the Garlands transferred land ownership, though, Mr. Garland made certain to retain burial rights for his family and their descendants for the next 1,400 years. Though Mr. Garland passed in January 1890, the Garland Family plot is the only portion of the churchyard to contain traditional grave markers.
The church itself went through numerous rebuilds since it was received by the Diocese; including a dedication of the new entryway in 1905 by Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt in memory of their daughter, Mrs. Emilie Hoyt Fox, and 3 grandchildren who all perished in the tragic Iroquois Theater Fire in 1903.
In 1922, a friendly suit was brought against the late Mr. Garland’s provision of familial burial rights by Bishop George Craig Stewart. The purpose of the suit was to obtain permission for a portion of the land to be used for interring urns containing cremated remains of non-Garland family. The provision was revoked by Circuit Judge Joseph Burke with the consent of the Garland family. The columbarium was designed by Ralph Root (who also designed the columbarium at Winnetka Congregational Church) with the intent of preserving the original design of the open space the churchyard now occupies. That space, north of Christ Church, had been designed by renowned “landscape designer,” Ossian Cole Simonds (who also designed the landscaping for Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, IL). With O.C. Simonds' original layout maintained and interwoven with Root's design, the columbarium was started and completed in 1922.
Since that time, many members of the congregation and community have had their ashes interred here. The descendants of the Garland family also continue to use their family plot. For a period of time in the 19th century there appears to have been a community burial ground on the site. This was further evidenced after a 1991 construction project on Sheridan Road, to the west of the known burial locations, exposed two older graves. Just how many interments and who they were will likely never be known; however, this place is sacred to the memory of all those interred here, whether we remember their names or not.
Undated news clippings (circa 1922) held in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago Archives
“Church on the Hill, Winnetka Illinois: The Story of 100 Years, 1905 – 2005” by Robert Bradner (Winnetka: Christ Church, 2005)
The Winnetka Historical Society Archives (accessed in person and online)
“Impressive Rites Mark Dedication at Christ Church” found in Winnetka Talk (Sept. 24, 1934), pp. 62
Village of Winnetka section maps (1854 – 1960)
GPS Coordinates: 42.11306, -87.73083
- Added: 1 Sep 2001
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #735202
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