Friday, April 10, 2015

THE FIRST BURIAL AT MEMORIAL PARK CEMETERY - Alexander Guneshoff

The winter of 2014-2015 was a difficult one for Chicagoland.  Some years when we have had a mild winter I could continue Find a Grave photography almost non-stop; this year was not one of them.  So when the weather forecast for Saturday April 4 was for clear and sunny skies, I grabbed my Find a Grave photo request list and took off.  My first stop was Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, and it was there I found an interesting tombstone.  I was searching in Section B for a grave that turned out to be unmarked, but as I was looking I saw this tombstone:



It's a little heard to read, but here's what it says:

ALEXANDER GUNESHOFF
May 1, 1914
Age 36 Years

1st Burial Memorial Park

What a great find for a graver!  I had written previously about Dr. Jacob W. Ludlam, who was the first burial at Rosehill Cemetery on July 12, 1859, and now I had stumbled on the first burial at Memorial Park.  Before we see what we can "dig up" about Alexander Guneshoff, let's take a look at the cemetery itself.

In 1914 when the cemetery that would become Memorial Park was being laid out, the major Catholic Cemetery for the North Shore was Calvary Cemetery in Evanston.  But Calvary had been in use since 1859 and was quickly filling up.  All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines would not be consecrated until 1923.  It had been said that the Catholic Bishop was looking for land for another cemetery in the northern suburbs so when a plot of land in Niles township was put up for sale, the local Catholic pastor quickly signed a purchase contract for the land in the name of the Catholic Bishop of Chicago.  There were other parties interested in the land, so time was of the essence and the pastor took a chance by committing the archdiocese without getting the bishop's permission first.  But the pastor felt that when all the facts were known, he would be praised for his quick thinking and resourcefulness.  That was not the case.  
 
The then archbishop of Chicago, George Mundelein was very upset that the priest had committed the archdiocese on his own initiative without clearing it first with the chancery.  We'll never know the whole story, but Mundelein said that under no circumstances would the Niles township land be developed as a Catholic cemetery, and would, in fact be resold as soon as possible.  There is a small item in the real estate section of the Chicago Daily Tribune from March 5, 1914 that reported that on February 16, 1914 the Catholic Bishop of Chicago sold the land to the Central Cemetery Company of Illinois.  According to the Secretary of State of Illinois, the Central Cemetery Company was organized April 17, 1913 with $150,000 of capital stock.  That is how the cemetery that is now Memorial Park went from a proposed Catholic cemetery to a non-sectarian cemetery which it remains, to this day.

Now, what about Alexander Guneshoff?  Unfortunately I was not able to find out much about him at all.  In fact, if it wasn't for his death record, there would be no proof that a man named Alexander Guneshoff had ever existed - in Cook County or anywhere else.

Here is his death record from the Cook County, Illinois, Deaths Index, 1878-1922:

Name:Alexander Guneshoff
Event Type:Death
Event Date:01 May 1914
Event Place:, Cook, Illinois, United States
Address:714 N. Clark St.
Gender:Male
Age:36
Marital Status:Married
Ethnicity:American
Race:White
Occupation:laborer
Birth Year (Estimated):1878
Birthplace:Russia
Burial Date:06 May 1914
Burial Place:Central Cemetery C.
Father's Name:A.Kcof Guneshoff
Father's Birthplace:Kygel Chocchoc
Mother's Name:Sandrews
Mother's Birthplace:Russia

Unfortunately this record brings up more questions than it answers.  The record points out that Alexander Guneshoff was married (although it does not give his wife's name), but it does list names for his parents.  The Death Index record though, having been transcribed from old hand-written records, could possibly be incorrect depending on the legibility of the handwriting on the original record.

Whatever the case, I was not able to find even one other record for Alexander Guneshoff, or his wife or his parents, or for anyone with the last name of Guneshoff.  I tried all sorts of alternate spelling for the last name.  The death record lists an addresss: 714 N. Clark Street.  I checked the 1910 US Census for that address - no Guneshoff family members listed.  No Guneshoff listed in the Chicago Directory for 1914 or any other year.  No Guneshoff in the Chicago Tribune archives.  No Guneshoff in jewishgen.com.  It's almost as if they never existed - except for that one tombstone.

So for now this will have to remain one of my "brick walls."  If any of you genealogy wizards out there dig up anything about the Guneshoff family, let me know.  But until then, it's a mystery to me.

Alexander Guneshoff - first burial at Memorial Park - may he rest in peace.


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