Friday, July 11, 2014


The office where I work closed early on July 3rd to allow everyone to start enjoying the 4th of July holiday early.  So, I used this opportunity to drive out to the South Side of Chicago to Oakwoods Cemetery to photograph some graves for a Find a Grave friend.  It was a beautiful Chicago summer day and Oakwoods is such an interesting and historic cemetery.  I only wish it was a little closer to where I live and frankly in a better neighborhood.  I have never had any problems in the cemetery, but the neighborhood that surrounds it is rough, to put it kindly.  

Anyway, I found the graves I wanted to photograph in Ravinia Section B4 and snapped the photos. I photographed the individual stones as I usually do, and then I stepped back for a shot of the gravesite in the area where it sits, to give the requestor some idea of what that section of the cemetery looks like.  Here's the photo I snapped:

After taking the photos that were requested I stopped to take a look around.  Oakwoods is similar to Rosehill in that every where you look you see history.  What caught my eye here was a zinc monument directly behind the stones I had photographed:

The front of the monument said:

only son of
Wm. R and Bessie C.
September 11, 1887.
3 Years, 5 Mos.
What Hopes Lie Buried Here

Let's see what we can "dig up" about the short life of Willie Omohundro.

William Nathanial Omohundro was born April 20, 1884 in Chicago to William Rainey Omohundro (1861-1900) and Bessie nee Hurdle (1865-1927).

William Rainey Omohundro was born July 8, 1861 in Richmond, Virginia to Silas Omohundro (1807-1864) and Corinna, nee Clark (1820-????). The origin of the name Omohundro has been lost in the mists of time. There are several Omohundro websites that put forth numerous conjectures about the origin of the name, but they all agree that the Omohundro line started in England in the Middle Ages.  The Omohundro family in the United States was said to be descended from original settlers who left England to escape religious persecution. William Rainey Omohundro (and his son William) are direct descendants of Richard Omohundro who fought in the American Revolution in the Virginia Militia.

William Rainey Omohundro's father Silas was a "trader" according to what he told the census taker.  As was the case with many in Virginia at that time, Silas owned slaves.  In the 1850 US Federal Census Slave Schedule, Silas Omohundro listed forty-six different slaves that he owned.  William Omohundro was a lawyer by trade.

Interestingly, in 1776 William Omohundro was one of the signers of the famous "Ten Thousand Name Petition" wherein ten thousand Virginians petitioned for the dis-establishment of the Church of England and the freedom to choose one's own religion.  

In 1882, twenty one year old William Omohundro married seventeen year old Miss Bessie C. Hurdle of the District of Columbia.  She was the daughter of Samuel Vincent Hurdle (1828-1880), also of Washington, DC and his wife Grace Minerva, nee Calvert (????-1897).  Samuel Hurdle was a bricklayer by trade (or as he put it a "brick mason.")

After their marriage, the newlyweds moved to Chicago where William began practicing law.  The Chicago City Directories for the late 1800s show that William R. Omohundro was a patent attorney with his offices at 225 Dearborn Street in Chicago.

On the home front, their first child, a son, named William Nathanial Omohundro was born April 20, 1884 in Chicago. 

Name:William Nathanial Omohundro
Birth Date:20 Apr 1884
Birth Place:Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Father Name:William Rainey Omohundro
Mother Name:Bessie Hurdle
FHL Film Number:1287838

Tragically, little Willie Omohundro died on September 11, 1887 of capillary bronchitis.  He was three years and four months old.  He had only been ill for three weeks.

At the time of Willie's death, the Omohundro family was renting a house at 4400 Lake Avenue in Hyde Park (under the old address system). Living on the south side, a natural choice for a cemetery was Oakwoods, and after little Willie's funeral, they erected the beautiful zinc monument that caught my attention 127 years later:

(I know alot of people don't like zinc monuments but I love them - and they hold up surprisingly well in Chicago's harsh and ever-changing climate.)

Death came again to the Omoundro family again in 1900 when William Rainey Omohundro died suddenly from an attack of appendicitis.  Here is his obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 15, 1900:

William Omohundro's widow Bessie went on to remarry.  On December 30, 1909, she married Willliam M. Hopkins (1868-1919), who was also an attorney.  Bessie Hurdle Omohundro Hopkins died in Chicago on June 3, 1927 at the age of sixty-two.  

It was not all sorrow for the Omohundro family - they had a daughter, Bessie (later called Betty), born on February 16, 1889 in Chicago. Bessie Omohundro went on to marry Van Vechten Lain in 1909 and died in Chicago in 1977.  Van V. Lain was chairman of the Lain Funeral Homes - at one time, one of the largest undertakers in Chicagoland.

One more item of note:  Bessie Omohundro Lain and her husband Van had a son in 1912.  They named him (you guessed it) William. 

Little Willie Omohundro - may he rest in peace. 

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