History of Woodlawn Cemetery

Woodlawn Cemetery Memorial Day Celebration

The first memorial service in Illinois, one of the first in the nation to honor those who had died in the Civil War, took place at Woodlawn Cemetery on April 29, 1866. On the previous Sunday, three returning veterans of the Civil War were waiting for church services to begin at the Crab Orchard Christian Church, located southwest of Carbondale. They saw a young woman with two infants approach a small, unmarked grave in the church yard cemetery, place flowers on the grave and kneel in prayer next to it. The veterans then collected wild flowers from fields around the church and placed them on the graves of all the dead soldiers in the cemetery. It occurred to them that the graves of the war dead in Carbondale’s Woodlawn Cemetery should also be decorated with flowers, so they arranged with community leaders to have a parade of veterans and a memorial service on the following Sunday, April 29, 1866. When the day of remembrance came, a group of more than 200 veterans gathered at the old “Blue Church” on what is now East Jackson Street. Methodist Minister J.W. Lane stood on the steps to greet them. The Marshall of the Day, Colonel E. J. Ingersoll, and the speaker, General John A. Logan of the Union Army, led a procession to Woodlawn Cemetery. When the parade came into view of the crowd assembled at the Cemetery, silence fell. Reverend Lane led the assemblage in prayer. General Logan spoke to his neighbors, saying among other things, “Every man’s life belongs to his country, and no man has a right to refuse when his country calls for it.” These words and other notes of the day were recorded in a book owned by James Green, sexton of Woodlawn Cemetery and Logan’s first cousin. Following the Civil War, General Logan became commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Impressed by the memorial observance at Woodlawn Cemetery, he signed General Order No. 11, setting May 30, 1868, as Memorial Day. Logan hoped the observance would be “kept up from year to year.” By 1888, Memorial Day became a legal holiday in twelve northern states. Later, it became a legal holiday throughout the country. Woodlawn Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 19, 1985, and was designated a Carbondale Historic Landmark on March 8, 1994.


Noteable Grave Sites:

1.  Daniel Harmon Brush was born in Vergennes, Vermont, on April 15, 1813. In 1829, Brush’s older sister Mary and her husband, Alexander M. Jenkins, came to Brownsville in Jackson County, and he came with them. Brush held the offices of county clerk, circuit clerk, recorder, and probate judge between 1837 and 1847. In 1852, Brush learned that the Illinois Central Railroad would build a line through Jackson County. He purchased land in the middle of two stations planned for DeSoto and Makanda with the hope that he could persuade the railroad to build another station. He named the new town Carbondale. After persuading his partners to reserve four town lots for churches, Brush began to build a town. He opened the town’s first general store, sawmill, and grist mill and secured the contract for the Illinois Central freight house and woodshed. To shape the image of the new town, Brush and his partners inserted in the deeds of the town lots a provision that the lot was not to be used as a place for the sale of alcoholic beverages. Should such a use be made on the land, it was to revert to the City, then be sold, and the proceeds given to the schools. Carbondale was to be a nonalcoholic town. On April 23, 1861, eleven days after Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter, Brush carried an American flag to the Union House in Carbondale and summoned “all lovers of their country” to a public meeting to show support for the Union. When friends urged Brush to cancel the meeting to avoid violence, he replied that he would attend even if nobody else did and “would carry the flag or die in the effort.” The next day, Brush enlisted as a private along with thirty others, which soon formed the nucleus of what became Company K of the 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Brush was elected as their captain. Prior to the Civil War, Brush constructed a mansion which occupied the land where the Public Library currently stands. Adjoining the family mansion stood the Brush School on ground which he donated to the town. On February 10, 1890, Brush went out to supervise some improvements to the school ground. A tree was being sawed down and to direct its fall a rope had been attached to it. Brush wound the rope around his body to assist, but unexpectedly the tree fell in the opposite direction hurling Brush into the air. The fall to earth killed him instantly. Brush died at the age of 77.

2. John Asgill Conner was born in Pomona Township in 1824 and later married Margaret Harreld. Conner joined Daniel Brush and Dr. William Richart in promoting the new town of Carbondale. He and his wife’s family held a considerable number of the town’s lots. Conner built the second residence of Carbondale on land which is now part of the property of the First United Methodist Church. He served on the board of trustees from 1856, the year in which the town charter was granted, until 1862. In 1862, he enlisted for service in the Union Army and served as a Captain in Company K of the 18th Illinois Infantry. Upon his return to Carbondale, he served as president of the town’s trustee board and was also an executive committee member of Carbondale College. Conner served as U.S. Deputy Marshall for several years as well. He was a farmer and introduced red corn, red sweet potatoes, several new varieties of grapes, cotton and rice into southern Illinois. He died on April 2, 1875, leaving his wife; two sons, Benjamin E. and James Harreld Conner; and a daughter Frances.

3. Dr. William Richart was born in Pennsylvania in 1818 and came to southern Illinois with his family in 1839. Richart became a doctor like his father and was also a land surveyor. He married Elizabeth Worthen, whose grandfathers were Conrad Will and James Worthen, early Jackson County pioneers. Dr. Richart, one of the three founders of Carbondale, surveyed the area and joined Daniel Brush and Asgill Conner in laying out the new town. Richart owned a considerable amount of property in Carbondale and built a two-story building on the northeast corner of Main and Washington where he lived on the second floor. The first floor was a drugstore. Richart died in 1868, and although he and his wife Elizabeth are buried at Snider Hill Cemetery, a marker was placed in his memory in Woodlawn Cemetery.

4. Edmund Newsome was born in England on December 21, 1826. He came to America with his uncle while he wa a young man. In June of 1856 he married Mary Phifer, and they had two children, Mary and Benjamin. Their daughter Mary was born in1859 and lived less than a year. She is bured in Woodlawn Cemetery. In 1860, Newsome became a school teacher in Carbondale. He also did much of the surveying of Carbondale property. Newsome enlisted in the Civil war as a private in Company B of the 81st Illinois Infantry and was promoted to sergeant, first lieutenant and captain of the unit. He wrote an account of his war experiences under the title: Experience in the War of the Great Rebellion by a Soldier of the 81st Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infatnry, from Augutst 1862 to August 1865. Newsome also published Historical Sketches of Jackson County, Illinois in 1882. He died on May 26, 1895.

5. Alexander M. Jenkins was born in 1802 and came to the area with his sister in 1817. He married Mary Brush, Daniel Harmon Brush’s older sister. His sister, Elizabeth Jenkins, married Dr. John Logan, and they were the parents of the famous General John A. Logan. Jenkins was a successful attorney and had a keen interest in political affairs. In 1834, he was elected as Lieutenant-Governor of Illinois. The Governor, at that time, was Joseph Duncan who also resided in Jackson County. It was during the Duncan-Jenkins administration that the state capitol was moved from Vandalia to Springfield. Jenkins was also the first president of the Illinois Central Railroad Company. He died in 1864.

6. James W. Killgore was born on May 20, 1825. To this date, no record of Killgore’s supposed military service in the Civil War has been uncovered, however, the epitaph on his grave marker reads “A refugee - author of the Spirit of Succession and Its Bitter Fruits.” Killgore died during the Civil War years on March 12, 1865.

7. James Monroe Campbell was born May 22, 1817 near Nashville, Tennessee, and came to Williamson County with his parents. He married Lavinia Sowell Spiller and they had seven children. After discussing business opportunities with Daniel Brush in 1854, Campbell moved to Carbondale and became one of Brush’s most valued assistants in the town’s development. Campbell was active in the administration of the town, serving on the board of trustees from 1856 to 1863, and was president of the board during the years of 1861 and 1862. He also built a large hotel at the southeast corner of Main and Washington Streets. In 1870, Campbell contracted to build the structure for Southern Illinois Normal College (now Southern Illinois University at Carbondale). On April 23, 1871, Campbell was supervising the building when a timber fell, striking him upon the head. He died the following day.

8. George W Tiffany died in Carbondale but not much is known of Tiffany. A marker erected in his memory reads, “One of General Grant’s Scouts. In the early part of the war he contracted smallpox while in service and died at Carbondale, IL of the disease, 3/8/1862. Erected to his memory by his friend D.H. Brush who on his way home after the battle of Donolson, wounded and sick, was kindly assisted and cared for by the deceased, may he rest in peace.”

9. Lewis Chambers is the only African American identified by name known to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. His marker does not reveal much about his life, not even the date of his death is noted. It is known that Chambers was born in Kent County, Maryland in 1839 and enlisted in the Union Army on September 20, 1864. He fought in a segregated African American regiment from Illinois during the Civil War, with the belief that the country could not be truly united until all men and women were considered equals.

Mystery of the Sarcophagus

One of the most intriguing objects in Woodlawn Cemetery is the stone coffin, or the sarcophagus, which sits above ground near the center of the cemetery. According to an article by Frank Weller, published in 1950 in the Southern Illinoisian, a headstone next to the sarcophagus reads, “JW Landrum, Died July 4, 187.., Aged 47 years.” There are a couple of different versions of who is buried there and the story behind it. The first story is that a young woman from Vicksburg, Mississippi, the wife of JW Landrum, was buried in the above ground coffin. She was placed there because she did not want to be buried in Yankee soil. Her husband was a Carbondale native and was said to have sprinkled soil from Vicksburg inside her coffin before the lid was closed. The second story is that Lt. Colonel John Mills of the Union Army was supposedly buried there. His family found out that a Confederate soldier was to be buried at Woodlawn, and they had his body removed so that the two soldiers would not occupy the same land. 

Carbondale and the Civil War
Although no great Civil War battles were ever fought in Carbondale, the town played a pivotal role in determining if the southern part of the state would ultimately align itself with the Union or Confederate Army. When the Civil War began, Carbondale was not immune to the pro-Southern sentiment that erupted in Egypt-- The tip of Illinois settled by Southerners whose origins were reflected in staunch Democratic loyalties and Negrophobic sentiments. The region’s most prominent political leader, John A. Logan, wavered between support of North and South. Anti-Negro feelings had grown in Illinois in the 1840's. The law of greatest interest to southern Illinois in 1848 was the Negro exclusion bill, supported by John A. Logan. This bill moved to end Negro immigration into the state. When the vote was tallied, the bill passed 45 to 23. The Senate passed the bill by a four-vote majority. In the 1850's northern Illinois abolitionists began to demand increased rights for Negroes. Until 1853, the Negro exclusion law was largely ignored, but remained in effect until 1863, when it was repealed, two years into the Civil War. By April of 1862, Logan moved from a bitter abolition foe to open advocacy of freedom for the slaves.


Memorial to the Freed Slaves

There are a number or commemorative monuments in Woodlawn Cemetery including one in the southeast corner to honor the memory of 30 freed slaves who are buried in an unmarked area of the cemetery. Their names are unknown. They died of smallpox in 1864 soon after coming from the South to Carbondale. The monument was dedicated at a Memorial Day service in 1983.


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