Friday, December 13, 2013


I was in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois back in October looking for a grave a friend had asked me to photograph in Section S.  I never did find the grave I was supposed to photograph but instead I found a wonderful white bronze monument to the William Wood Family:

What can we learn about the William Wood Family of Chicago, and who is the "Minnie" buried under the white bronze lamb?

William Wood was born in England July 18, 1843.  He first shows up in the United States in the 1870 Census.  He is twenty-seven years old and an iron moulder by trade.  Toward the end of 1870 he married a woman named Catherine (but sometimes called "Kate") who had been born in Canada November 13, 1832. 

Their first child, a daughter, was born July 18, 1871 in Chicago.  They named her Mary Ann, but in the 1880 Census she was called "Minnie".  

Their second child, also a daughter, was born February 12, 1876 in Chicago.  Her name was Jennie M. Wood.  Unfortunately Jennie died July 16, 1877. She was seventeen months and four days old.  Her family decided to bury her at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Evanston. Then they erected a beautiful white bronze monument from the American Bronze Company in Chicago:


Sometime before the 1880 Census, the Wood family moved into 136 W. Sigel Street in Chicago.  There was William, Kate and eight year-old Minnie.  William listed his occupation as "Iron Moulder."

William Wood died at home, 136 Sigel Street in Chicago on January 11, 1887 at 9:00 in the morning.  He was forty-three.  The cause of death was listed as "Typhoid Aneumonia" which he had for one week. His death certificate erroneously lists his Place of Burial as Rosehill:

He was buried in the plot he had purchased at Calvary when Jennie died in 1877:

Tragedy struck the Wood family again when seventeen year-old Mary Ann Wood died on August 29, 1888 of "Bronchial Catarrh (Chronic)". According to her death certificate she suffered with this for twelve of her seventeen years:

She, too was buried in the family plot at Calvary:

Added to Mary's side of the monument is an inscription/epitaph:

"Will You Come To My Grave When My Spirit Has Fled,
And Beneath the Green Sod I Am Laid With the Dead,
When the Heart That Loved You Is Turning To Clay,
And In Calvary's Cold Dews I Am Passing Away!"

The 1890 US Census for Chicago is lost, but Catherine Wood is listed in the 1888 Chicago City Directory as the widow of William, living at 136 Sigel Street.  She is all alone now, and will remain that way until her death.

The 1900 US Census shows Catherine by herself at 136 Sigel Street. She does say that she has given birth to two children, but neither is still alive.

Catherine Wood surprisingly shows up in the Chicago Daily Tribune of July 21, 1901.  Apparently she was "cured" of blindness by Dr. Oren Oneal. According to the ad: "Mrs. Wood Was Blind - Dr. Oneal Restored Her Sight.  Mrs. C. Wood of 136 Sigel street, Chicago, is among the number who has recently been cured by Dr. Oren Oneal's Dissolvent Method.  Mrs. Wood has been gradually losing her eyesight for a number of years, and at the time she consulted Dr. Oneal she was so nearly blind that she had to feel her way around the house. Cataracts had formed on both her eyes, and her condition was truly a pitiable one. Her sight was completely restored in one month by the Oneal Dissolvent Method."

The Chicago street numbering system changed in 1909, so the 1910 US Census shows seventy-eight year old Catherine Wood living at 223 W. Sigel Street.  She owned the house on Sigel but it did have a mortgage.

Just about the time of the 1910 Census, the City of Chicago applied "Eminent Domain" and condemned all the buildings in that block of Sigel Street to build an elementary school.  In 1936 the name of Sigel Street was changed to Evergreen Avenue, and where the Wood house once stood is now the Franklin Fine Arts Academy, part of the Chicago Public School System.     

Catherine Wood died on December 13, 1918 at the age of eighty-six of heart disease. (No further mention of Dr. Oneal):

She was laid to rest in the Wood family plot at Calvary, but the American Bronze Company had gone out of business around 1909, so Catherine lies in an unmarked grave to this day.

What about the mysterious "Minnie" buried under the white bronze lamb? 

Mary Ann Wood was called "Minnie" but she was seventeen when she died.  Lambs are usually used to mark the grave of a child. According to the Calvary Cemetery records, along with the Wood family, a "Mercy Agnes Stuart (or Stewart)" is buried in their plot.  She died on April 24, 1888 at the age of 3 years and 6 months of scarlet fever:

It is likely that Minnie the lamb marks the grave of Mercy Agnes Stuart. Who she was, or if she was related to the Wood family is unknown, but it was not uncommon in those days for a family to donate a single grave to friends or relatives if a baby died suddenly. 

So that's the story of the Wood Family and their American Bronze tombstone.  I know that many people don't like the "zinkers" as they call these kinds of tombstones, but I do.  This one is not particularly top heavy, so it does not suffer from the "bottom spread" that many of these do.  Also, these tombstones held up very well in the extreme heat and cold of Chicago and still look great after over 100 years - and no fading of the lettering or inscriptions - they are just as crisp and sharp as the day they were installed.

William, Catherine, Jennie and Mary Ann Wood, and little Mercy Agnes Stewart - May they rest in peace.

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