Friday, March 15, 2013


As I have mentioned in previous entries, Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago is a beautiful place.  No matter the season, you can walk the curving roads and see magnificent works of funerary art, many over 100 years old.  If you wandered through Section D, one of the oldest sections of the cemetery, you would come across a beautiful old family mausoleum of yellow stone,

resembling in may ways the entrance of Rosehill itself. 

You would never guess from looking on this peaceful spot just how controversial this family mausoleum was when it was built, and how hard the Rosehill Cemetery Company fought to keep it from being completed.  This is the story which the Chicago Tribune called "Widow Hopkinson Defeats a Cemetery Company."

Charles Hopkinson was born c1826 in Lancashire, England.  On May 10, 1849 when he was twenty-three he came to the United States and settled in Wisconsin.  It was there that he met Mary Hughes, also from England, and they were married on November 4, 1857, in La Salle County, Illinois. 

Charles Hopkinson was a real estate agent.  Before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, his office was at 128 W. Washington, after the fire, his offices were at 119 Dearborn.  The Hopkinson home was at 451 W. Washington.  By 1876, Hopkinson had made his fortune and retired to enjoy his home and family which consisted of Charles, Mary and their daughter Lillia (b. c1861 in Wisconsin).   

Charles and Mary had heard good things about the "new" Rosehill Cemetery (dedicated July, 1859) and had probably attended funerals there themselves.  To ensure that they would get a choice spot, Charles decided to purchase a lot ahead of need, so on September 5, 1863 Charles purchased Lots 135 and 136 in Section D.   The deed Charles received from Rosehill contained standard language to the effect that no above ground vault or monument could be erected without the prior approval of the Rosehill Cemetery Company. 

Charles Hopkinson died on January 7, 1883.  He was 57 years old.  Shortly after his funeral, his widow Mary appeared at the downtown Chicago office of Rosehill for the purpose of presenting her plans for a family mausoleum for approval.  The secretary referred her to Van H. Higgins as the appropriate officer.  He was, at that time, treasurer and owner of a majority of stock of the company.  After several interviews a time was agreed upon to go to the cemetery.  Higgins, one or two members of the board,  and a landscape gardener for the cemetery, a Mr. Cleveland, met Mrs. Hopkinson at the cemetery.  It was understood and agreed that the plans would be submitted to Mr. Cleveland and that his decision would be final and conclusive.  An examination was made, and Cleveland decided that the erection of a vault on the premises as proposed was unobjectionable.  Then Van H. Higgins, in the presence of several witnesses, told Mrs. Hopkinson that the matter was ended, and Mrs. Hopkinson immediately made arrangements to have construction of the mausoleum started.  The mausoleum itself was said to cost $5,000.00.  After construction had begun, Rosehill ordered it stopped immediately.  Rosehill now objected to the construction of the mausoleum not because of its design, but because of its location.  According to Rosehill, the lot on which Mrs. Hopkinson was proposing to construct the mausoleum was "almost directly opposite, and in sight of the gate (of the cemetery), and that (it) would obstruct the view from said entrance, and disfigure the grounds of said Cemetery." 

Now I am not an attorney, but a quick look at the map of Rosehill will show that it is a stretch to say that the Hopkinson plot was in sight of the gate, and in no way is directly opposite the gate. 

I suppose in 1883 you might have been able to make an argument that the mausoleum could be seen from the front gate, but all these years later, with mature landscaping and scores of monuments in the sightline, it does not stand out at all.

Here is a current view, standing at the Rosehill gate and looking toward the Hopkinson mausoleum:

If you look in the middle of the photo there are three red Xs that mark the Hopkinson mausoleum.  You can barely see it - and this is in winter, with all the leaves off the trees.  In the summer I'm sure you can't see the mausoleum at all.

According to Mrs. Hopkinson's suit, the cemetery's decision was arbitrary, and that there were, in fact, six other vaults near her lot, two of which were owned by Directors of the Rosehill Cemetery Company, and all six, in Mrs. Hopkinson's opinion, were inferior to hers.

Since construction of the mausoleum had been stopped, and in fact, Mrs. Hopkinson herself was barred from the cemetery, she felt her only recourse was in the Courts.  On May 31, 1883, Mrs. Hopkinson's attorney filed suit to force Rosehill to allow the construction of the mausoleum to be completed.  The case was decided in favor of Mrs. Hopkinson.  Rosehill appealed, and the Appellate Court ruled in favor of Mrs. Hopkinson.  Finally Rosehill appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, who, through a decision rendered by Justice Alfred Craig (no relation) upheld the ruling in favor of Mrs. Hopkinson. 

Here is the article from the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 6, 1884:

Widow Hopkinson Defeats a Cemetery Company

Judge Shepard yesterday decided the case of Mary Hopkinson, executrix of the estate of Charles Hopkinson, deceased, against the Rosehill Cemetery Company.  This was a bill to restrain the company from interfering with her in creating a handsome mausoleum to the memory of her late husband.  The latter died in January, 1883, leaving $2,500 to be devoted to erecting a family vault on his lot in Rosehill, and to this the widow added an equal amount.  He bought the lot in 1863, subject to the restrictions and provisions of the company's charter and all rules and regulations printed on the back of the deed to him.  One of these regulations provided that no vault should be built above ground without the consent of the Company; another that if any lot-owner should erect any structure on any lot which should be decided by a majority of the trustees to be offensive, or improper, or inconsistent with the surrounding lots they should have a right to remove it.

The Judge said the last edition of the rules and regulations was dated Dec, 20, 1880, and it was to be presumed that they were the ones now in force.  they contained, however, a provision requiring that the plan of the mausoleum should be submitted to the trustees, but omitted to forbid, in the case of a failure to submit the plans, the erection of the structure.  Mrs. Hopkinson had been given to understand that her plans were satisfactory, but the committee appointed to examine them reported to the trustees against them after she had commenced work.  It was a question whether a corporation of such ample powers should be allowed to exercise such an arbitrary discrimination in a case of this kind.  No other application had ever been refused, and it appeared the trustees had acted arbitrarily and exercised an unjust discrimination.  A decree, would, therefore, be rendered in Mrs. Hopkinson's favor granting her the injunction asked.

The mausoleum was completed, and Mr. Hopkinson was interred in 1885.

Mary Hopkinson joined her husband in the mausoleum in February of 1904.

But that was not the end of the story.  From the Chicago Daily Tribune of  March 7, 1905:

Relatives of Mrs. Mary Hopkinson Make Charges Against Mrs. Lilla Johnson.

The will of Mrs. Mary Hopkinson, disposing of an estate of $100,000 was attacked in a petition filed yesterday by eight claimants.  Those who signed the petition are Leslie Highes, John Hughes, Elizabeth Smith, Etta Cann, Thomas Hughes, Jane Swering, Sophia June, and Laura Evans, none of whom was mentioned in the will.

Mrs. Lilla Johnson, they say, was with Mrs. Hopkinson a great deal of the time, and a strong influence over her.

Several days after the execution of the will, it is alleged, Mrs. Johnson took the paper from Mrs. Hopkinson, and although Mrs. Hopkinson begged for its return that she might destroy it, and offered a reward for its recovery, she was refused.

The will mentioned Hannah Nims and Ann Jenkins for small amounts, and gave $1,000 to Charles Hess, leaving the remainder of the estate to Mrs. Johnson, in a codicil.

What the article does not mention, of course, is that Lilla Johnson was the daughter of Mary Hopkinson.

Interred in the Hopkinson mausoleum, along with Charles and Mary Hopkinson are two of Mary's siblings, R.E. Hughes and Sarah J. Hughes.  R(ichard) E. Hughes died September 3, 1864 at the age of twenty-one.  He served in the 88th Illinois Regiment.

Sarah J. Hughes, Mary's sister died August 22, 1900.

Also in the mausoleum are Charles and Mary's grandson Charles A. Johnson, Sr. (1892-1965) and his wife Gladys Anita Atkinson Johnson (1902-????).

Lastly, the Hopkinson mausoleum is said to be haunted.  The story is, that because of all the rigamarole over his mausoleum, that Charles Hopkinson, every year on the anniversary of his death, (January 7th) makes his displeasure known by a low moaning and the rattling of chains.  I have never been to the Hopkinson mausoleum on January 7th, but all the times I have been there, Charles, and all the rest of the family, are resting comfortably (and quietly).

This is a story of a woman who had the will (and the money) to fight a major corporation to see that her husband's final wishes were carried out.  I am glad she prevailed.

May Mary Hughes Hopkinson, her husband Charles, and those interred with them, rest in peace. 

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