Friday, December 14, 2012


One day a while back I was chatting with one of the groundskeepers at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.  I mentioned to him how interested I was in all the history of the cemetery and its occupants and he asked me "Have you ever seen the grave of the first person to be buried at Rosehill?"  Not only had I never seen the grave, I had no idea who had been the first person buried there.  He told me to follow him, and we stopped at Section F, one of the oldest sections at Rosehill and the same section where Major Edward Harris Mulford was buried (see previous post).  He led me through the tombstones and we stopped at a tall, white column:

The incised letters had almost worn off, but at the bottom I could see "LUDLAM".  The Rosehill worker explained to me that this was the final resting place of Dr. Jacob Watson Ludlam and his family.  He told me that Dr. Ludlam had been a noted physician in Evanston, and that when he was buried on Tuesday July 12, 1859 he became the first person to take up permanent residence at Rosehill.  As a matter of fact, Rosehill Cemetery had not even been officially dedicated yet - the dedication was set for Thursday July 28, 1859, two weeks after Dr. Ludlam's interment.

After seeing the grave and hearing the story, I decided to find out what I could about the subject of Rosehill's first burial.

Jacob Watson Ludlam was born November 28, 1807 in Camden, New Jersey to Reuben Ludlam (1788-1832) and Hannah (nee Watson).  At a young age Jacob decided that medicine was to be his chosen profession and he received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania circa 1831.  At that time, the University of Pennsylvania medical school was the oldest and most renowned medical school in the entire country.  After graduation the new Dr. Ludlam returned to his native Camden, New Jersey to begin his practice.  Sometime during the time he lived in New Jersey, Jacob Ludlam met Edward Harris Mulford, another New Jersey native who was born in 1794.  Jacob Ludlam and Edward Mulford became fast friends - a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives and would change Ludlam's life dramatically. 

On June 3, 1830 Jacob Ludlam married Mary Dennis who had been born in Philadelphia in 1808.  During his time at the University he met, courted and married Mary, and after graduation she returned with him to Camden.  

Eight children were born to this union:  Reuben in 1831, James Dennis in 1833, Jacob Watson Jr. in 1835, Elizabeth Dennis in 1837, Edward Mulford in 1839, Hannah Watson in 1841, Mary Newkirk in 1842, and John Lawson in 1844. 

In those days the doctor came to the patient, not the other way around. At first Dr. Ludlam made his rounds alone, but as soon as young Reuben expressed an interest, he began to accompany his father.  In later years after Reuben graduated from the same medical school as his father, he said he could not remember a time when he had not wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. 

In 1835 Jacob Ludlam's friend Edward Mulford left New Jersey to settle in Chicago.  In 1839 Major Mulford moved to his 160 acre estate in Evanston called "Oakton".  From the first, Mulford tried to convince Ludlam to relocate to Evanston as well.  Finally in 1845 Dr. Ludlam made the trip to Evanston and within a short time he was hooked. Without wasting a moment, Ludlam returned to gather up his family and relocated them all to beautiful Evanston, Illinois which would remain Jacob Ludlam's home for the rest of his life.  

Frances Willard, in her book "A Classic Town: The Story of Evanston" (1891) said that Ludlam and Mulford "were of similar character and presence: Tall, portly and dignified in form and bearing, with dark eyes, handsome and expressive countenances, strong intellects, sturdy common sense and great geniality of tone and manner.  These two friends and comrades were among the best specimens of what she was wont to call "Gentlemen of the old school" and were of character and conduct models worthy of study by those who aspire to the fine distinction of becoming gentlemen of the new".
After practicing medicine in Evanston for a little over ten years, Dr. Jacob Watson Ludlam died early in the morning of Monday July 11, 1859 from typhoid.  His body was brought by train from the Village of Evanston to Rosehill later that same day.  Services were held on Tuesday July 12, 1859 at 10 o'clock in the morning.  Dr. Ludlam was 51 years, 7 months and 14 days old when he died.

At the dedication of Rosehill Cemetery two weeks later, Dr. Blaney, the president of the Rosehill Cemetery Company said the following: "Rosehill has already one tenant.  On the eleventh day of the current month, the first funeral train entered its gates.  A single mound, in all the future city of the dead, marks the last resting place of  J.W. Ludlam, M.D.  Treat with respect that first memorial, for beneath that sod lies all the remains of earth of a most noble and exemplary man.  Though unprepared for interments, circumstances demanded that the body of Dr. Ludlam should be received.  But a few weeks since, previous to his leaving his home in the adjacent Village of Evanston, for a journey eastward, the lot of land upon which his mortal remains now repose was purchased of him by the Cemetery Company.  In accordance with his own request, he was interred upon the lot so recently his own while in life, and purchased by him for a far different purpose.  Truly, in the midst of life we are in death.  Though a man of high professional endowment, and universally respected and esteemed, he was simple in his tastes and unobtrusive in deportment.  His request to be buried there was doubtless prompted by feelings akin to those expressed in these beautiful lines:

"Oh!  Lay me not within the grave
Which bricks and stones enclose,
O'er which no shadowy branches wave
To guard my last repose.
Oh!  Lay me 'neath some ancient tree
That spreads its shade afar;
Where my lone grave may smiled on be
By many a silent star.
Where flow'rets deck the emerald sod
And with their fragrant breath
Whisper sweet tales of peace and God,
And life and love and death."

Dr. Jacob Watson Ludlam, eminent physician, father of another eminent physician, friend of Edward Mulford, transplant to Evanston, and first burial at Rosehill Cemetery - may he rest in peace.

Nov 28, 1807
July 11, 1859

MARY, His Wife
Dec 16, 1808
Mar 24, 1896

1 comment:

  1. Wow --- how interesting! Rosehill is on my list of places to visit, so I will look for this one. :)
    Really nice to learn about this man (and actually, the mention of a 160-acre estate in Evanstone also made me think-- can't imagine that now!)