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450 S Michigan Ave, AUD 1851
Chicago IL 60605
United States


Illinois Labor History Society

The Book & The Cemetery

The Book & the Cemetery

Citizen Historians

A collective effort

The Haymarket Martyrs Tour was updated with the input of numerous people. Joe and I referred to ourselves as "seat-of -the-pants historians" or "citizen historians." What this shows is that if one has true passion for a project and persistence--one can make a contribution to history.

Putting this booklet together was frustrating and fun--it was Pandora's Box for progressives! We made many dramatic discoveries, some inadvertently, and then there are even more stories untold that were just a few steps away from where our search ended.

The first edition

Day Will Come First Edition.jpg

Joe Powers and I authored the first edition of The Day Will Come in 1994. For many years, we had taken friends to nearby Forest Home Cemetery to tour the Haymarket Monument and nearby gravestones. We would tell stories of the Haymarket Affair, the frame up of the activists, the fight for the eight-hour work day and of all the progressive people that are buried or who have their ashes scattered alongside the monument. They were communists and socialists, trade unionists, anarchists, and unaffiliated activists and humanists – some of whom clashed on the issues of their day but all of whom regarded the cause for which the Haymarket Martyrs died as a unifying force.

One day, Joe stopped by my house and said, "Let's update the Bill Adelman book on the history of the Haymarket – Haymarket Revisited and gather additional biographies on the radicals buried near the Monument." So began our two-year journey through decades of working-class movements.

The second edition

I knew the booklet, The Day Will Come, needed to be updated for the 125th Anniversary of May Day. Only this time, the booklet and tour are dedicated to Joe Powers who died in 2001.  In this updated version, you will find additional biographies, a more detailed map and updated information about the cemetery. We have complied brief biographies of each activist buried, interred or whose ashes were scattered near the monument. Much more could have been told about each person. Family members provided invaluable information, as did volunteer researchers, librarians specializing in history and organizations, to make this edition even more detailed and historically accurate. This edition is available for purchase at the cemetery, and can also be found at the ILHS bookstore.

Forest Home Cemetery

Unlocking the secrets of the Cemetery

While much of the research was done in the cemetery office, an equal amount was done outdoors, in the area surrounding the Martyr's monument. There were periods of time when snow covered many of the gravestones and the temperature was way below freezing.

The gravestones

Most monuments or gravestones are made of either marble or granite. The marble surface gets easily warn or "pilled" by pollutants. Other damage to monuments happens with general cemetery upkeep by lawn mowers and weed whackers chipping the bases of the monuments. There are some gravestones, like that of Meta Neebe, wife of martyr Oscar Neebe, where one can barely or rarely make out the raised letters on that extremely worn white marble gravestone. Only when a strong light hits the letters from the side can you sometimes make out the name.

The cemetery consists of many sections that divide the area from the Eisenhower Expressway south to Roosevelt Road and from First Avenue east to DesPlanes Avenue. Each section is divided into a vast number of "lots" which are sold to individuals or organizations. The sale of each lot is recorded in a deed, and the deed records remain the possession of the cemetery management. Lots can be subdivided and sold to another "party." While the sections we studied were N and M, deed records sometimes disclose the location of additional interred ashes or burials. In addition to identifying the name of the deed holder, they also provide the names of individuals buried or ashes interred, date(s) of burials, age of person as well as a "map" of the lot and lot dimensions. This information led to discoveries of additional activists present at Forest Home.

There are instances when the lot has one or more gravestones. Some lots may hold a single gravestone with one name listed while other deeds reveal additional unmarked burials or interments of ashes.

Can you help us? Please drop us a note if you can fill in the gaps. Please email your corrections and comments to

We encourage you to contact the Illinois Labor History Society if you know of someone not included in this document. Please provide biographical information and your contact information. As additional burials and ashes scattered are identified, updates will appear in the online version.

The Cemetery's history

This is a cemetery lush with greenery, wildlife and rich history. There is much to see and much to discover. This area was once the burial grounds of the Native Americans of the Potawatomi tribe, and the high ground of this cemetery was once a Native American trail running along the DesPlaines River.

Originally two cemeteries, the German Waldheim cemetery was incorporated in 1873, and Forest Home cemetery was incorporated in 1876. With the building of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago Railroad the area became accessible as a cemetery for thousands of immigrants living in Chicago whose deceased were not welcome in Chicago cemeteries. With the building of a streetcar line on DesPlaines Avenue, each Saturday and Sunday thousands of people could come out to the cemetery by train, transfer to streetcar and buy flowers to place on the graves of their loved ones.

Over 2,500 graves had to be moved from German Waldheim when the Eisenhower Expressway was built in the 1950's. The law required permission of all known descendants who were notified by registered letter or public notice in the newspaper. This delayed completion of this part of the Eisenhower for several years. In 1969 the two cemeteries officially merged, and it was named Forest Home, simply the English translation of the German word "Waldheim".

At the cemetery office you can obtain a free list and map titled "Some of the Historic Points of Interest You May Wish to View". Among many point of interest are the Haymarket Martyrs Monument, the grave sites of members of the Cigar Makers International Union #14 (main bronze missing) and International Alliance of Bill Posters and Billers of America #1; the graves of the parents of Ernst Hemingway, and Dr. Bernard Fantus, who established at Cook Country Hospital the first blood bank in the United States. Also included is the grave of Doris Humphrey Woodard, a pioneer of modern dance, as well as the Indian Hill Marker (photo) designating the center of the original Native American burial ground. At the main entrance and on the other side of the river, there are a large number of unique Roma (Gypsy) graves.