Winnebago County, Illinois
SOLEMN SERVICE OF DEDICATION FOR MAUSOLEUM
PROGRAM SUNDAY AFTERNOON WITH MAYOR W.W. BENNETT AS CHAIRMAN
MINISTERS GIVE ADDRESS
Dedication of the Rockford mausoleum, known as Forest View Abbey, will be an event of next Sunday, with Mayor W.W. Bennett as chairman. The location is at North Main street and Brown avenue. The dedication will be at 3 o'clock and the nature of the program is an assurance a large number of people will be present.
The program of dedication follows:
Quartest, Rock of Ages, Dudley Buck--Mrs. Ernest G. Atkins, Mrs. Oscar C. Keller, Mr. Myron Barnes, Mr. Sumner Miller; Mrs. Fred Moffett, accompanist.
Invocation--Rev. F.N. Lynch, pastor Court Street Methodist Episcopal church.
Christian Entombent, Rev. H.M. Bannen, pastor Trinity Lutheran church.
Baritone solo, The Lord Is My Light, Allison, Mr. Sumner Miller.
Dedicatory Address, Rev. John Gordon, pastor Second Congregational church.
Construction of Abbey, W.A. Merrifield, secretary and manager Rockford Mausoleum company.
Depositing in the altar of papers and documents to be opened and read after September 28, 2913, A.D.
Quartet, Crossing the Bar, Robyne.
Dedicatory Prayer and Benediction, Rev. R.B. Davidson, pastor First Baptist church.
Inspection of Forest View Abbey by the assembly.
Arouses New Interest
The people of Rockford and vicinity have watched with considerable interest for a year, past the construction of the Rockford mausoleum recently christened Forest View Abbey. No other building constructed in this city has aroused so great interest, doubtless due to the novel purpose for which it is to be used, carrying with it the thought of entombment at a cost no greater than burying in the ground and perpetuating the names down through the centuries. Now that the abbey is completed and is about to be dedicated, a new interest has been aroused--that of a personal nature--it is now our mausoleum, so called by many who have brought out of town friends to see it; a personal pride in claiming it to be the most beautiful building of its kind in this country and the most beautiful building in Rockford.
The building committee, composed of C.F. Henry, Roscoe S. Chapman, Roscoe S. Chapman, T.V. Engstrom, Wm. H. Zlock and W.A. Merrifield have given their time and best thought to the project. After visiting buildings of the kind in different parts of the country, they determined to outdo all others regardless of the cost. Some of these men had served with credit on a like committee of the Elk's club--a building to be proud of and a great credit to the city--fresh from this experience imbued with the same spirit to excel in the present understanding. Nothing was omitted that would add to the permanence of the structure by the use of enduring materials or in its architectural and artistic beauty. Its completion is a source of satisfaction to the committee and a justification of its faith in the new project.
Its completion marks a new epoch, a much needed reform in the care of the dead and safeguarding of the living. It arouses and finer sentiment in the minds and hearts of the people, a reverential regard for departed loved ones laid to rest in a dry, clean, enduring tomb, around which clusters a loving memory of duty to the one so dear in life, still loved in death.
Thousands of Rockford people will doubtless visit the building next Sunday and carry away a loftier sentiment and a happier thought of the future method of protecting their dead. [--Rockford Morning Star, September 24, 1913]
FOREST VIEW ABBEY--ROCKFORD MAUSOLEUM--OPEN DAILY--9 TO 12; 1 TO 5--North Main and Brown Ave.
There is a difference, a big difference today--over a year ago, then--people were content to bury their dead. Today they are not, because they know a better way--tomorrow we will wonder how we made earth burial tolerable. There was no other way, that's why--just one way then. There's only one right way today--entombment in Forest View Abbey. The beautiful, the human, the sanitary way. There will be a difference Nov. 1st of $50 per crypt in the cost; also in the choice of location. It's a legitimate expense--not an investment and you own it to yourself and family to make this needed preparation. $100 saved is better than $200 earned--that's just the difference in the two crypts you ought to have today.
Make your reservations now by phone or from any member of the company. Abbey Bell phone 489; Office, 610 Trust Building, Bell phone 4604-2.
C.F. HENRY, Pres. ROSCOE S. CHAPMAN, Vice President, T.V. ENGSTROM, Treas., A.W. WHEELOCK, D.R. MEAD, WM H. ZIOCK, Directors, W.A. MERRIFIELD, Sec'y and Manager.
--advertisement in the Rockford Morning Star, October 19, 1913
CITY COUNCIL SEEKS REPAIR - MAUSOLEUM FALLING APART
New efforts to clean up the deteriorating Forest View Abbey Mausoleum, 2123 N. Main St., were launched Monday by Rockford City Council. The unkempt condition of the mausoleum, where about 200 bodies are interred, has been a council headache for more than two years. Aldermen approved a resolution offered by 4th Ward Alberman George M. Wattle, in whose politcal bailiwick the abbey lies, calling on city officials to contact state authorities in an effort to enforce applicable statutes concerning the building's maintenance.
Wattles' resolution followed the advice of Corporation Counsel William E. Collins, who told the council no city action apparently was justified under city ordinances. City health laws allowing condemnation of buildings unsafe for human habitation do not apply to the mausoleum, said Collins. Building ordinances are concerned only with the structural soundness of a structure, and the abbey is "sound--probably too sound, as a matter of fact. If it were falling down, we could something about it," he added.
Collins said he thought state cemetery laws may allow a remedy for the vandalism-scarred structure. The city two years ago sought foreclosure of a special assessment lien levied in 1926. No payments had been made of the lien since 1930, and about $9,000 was owed by the mausoleum's owners, Rockford Mausoleum Co. [--Rockford Register-Republic, July 18, 1967]
VANDALS HERE FORCE CRYPT, OPEN CASKET
Vandals broke into a crypt at the Forest View Abbey Mausoleum, 2123 N. Main St., this week, and apparently took pictures of a body they had exposed. Police were called to the mausoleum about 8 p.m Tuesday and found a casket had been taken out of a crypt and pried open. A used flash bulb and film box were found near the crypt, they said. The vandals broke through a one-inch marble slab and four inches of concrete to reach the casket, police said. The casket was opened with a prying bar and was replaced in the crypt before the vandals left. Police said they check the mausolem and found so signs of vandalism. [--Rockford Register-Republic, August 2, 1967]
CRYPT CONTENTS PHOTOGRAPHED IN ILL. BY VANDALS
ROCKFORD, Ill. -- A strange picture-taking session apparently took place Tuesday night in a mausoleum in a Rockford cemetery Authorities said vandals broke into Forest View Abbey, a mausoleum in Greenwood Cemetery. They opened a crypt, removed a casket, pried it open and apparently photographed the contents A film box and used flash-bulbs were found near the crypt. There have been no burials in the abbey for about 20 years. Some 120 bodies are buried there. Cemetery officials declined to say who was buried in the cypt. They said the vandals reclosed it. [--Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA., August 3, 1967]
MYSTERY CLEARED UP
Some of the mystery about the vandalism at the Forest View Abbey earlier this week was cleared up Thursday when a woman told police she was the one who took pictures in the mausoleum--but not of a body. Police went to the mausoleum late Tuesday and found that a crypt had been broken into and a casket pried open. Used flash bulbs and an empty film box led officers to believe vandals took pictures of the body they exhumed. However, the woman told police she went to the mausoleum Tuesday afternoon to visit the crypts of relatives. Said she took pictures to show the run-down condition of the one-beautiful mausoleum. Police are stil investigating the vandalism. [--Rockford Register-Republic, August 4, 1967]
WHO OWNS FOREST VIEW ABBEY?
A decades-long search for owners of Forest View Abbey mausoleum, 2123 N. Main St., is continuing as relatives of some of the persons interred there battle to have the building repaired. Fronts of crypts have gaping, jagged holes. Water drips from the ceiling. Concrete rubble is everywhere. The place still houses 159 bodies from some of the most prominent families in Rockford. Mr. and Mrs. Fred DuFoe, 338 Grand Ave., have been trying for years to find the owner of the abbey. The bodies of Mrs. DuFoe's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Guy Black; her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. George Black, and an uncle are in crypts there. Monday afternoon they toured the dark mausoleum with State Rep. Timothy Simms, R-Rockford, in an attempt to get aid from Simms.
"I feel quite ill to see it like this," said Mrs. DuFoe.
The group made its way by flashlight through the abbey, not knowing what it would find. Simms at one point pulled the railing from a coffin out from the rubble of one crypt.
Fred DuFoe said some families had removed the remains of their loved ones from the abbey. Other cypts were vandalized, but the rubble remained.
The group moved past crypts of such famous Rockford families as the Haigts (remembered for Haight Park and Haight School), the Ropers (remembered for Roper ranges) and Barnes (remembered for Rockford machine tool company).
"This gives me sort of a haunting feeling," said Simms. "Some of Rockford's pioneer families are in here. There's a lot of Rockford history here."
Simms said he would contact Atty Gen. William Scott to see if the family could take legal action to uncover the owners and get them to fix it up. He said he will also contact other state agencies who license mausoleums and cemeteries. Jerry Strombeck, superintendent of Greenwood Cemetery, which adjoins the mausoleum property, said the cemetery association never owned the mausoleum, but has tried lock it up to secure it against vandals.
"There have been crypts broken into," said Strombeck. "We finally decided to secure it because vandals from the mausoleum were coming next door to the cemetery and doing damage. Each day we are losing money on it (cutting the grass around it) and it isn't even ours."
In 1967, vandals broke into the mausoleum, a crypt and even a coffin in the building.
Strombeck and Simms said the last owner they know of was the late Bernard Flinn, former president of Rockford Life Insurance Co.
However, Flinn's secretary for many years, Hazel Sandberg, 2015 Arizona St., said Flinn sold the place years before his death. She said attorney Milton Fischer was one of the attorneys in the case. Fischer said the mausoleum is now in a blind trust somewhere.
"I tried for two days to find out the owners and if money was left for maintaining the building in a bank account somewhere, but I could find nothing," said Fischer.
He said the only recourse the DuFoes have is through the state, which had the power to officially close the mausoleum and transfer the bodies.
Fred DuFoe said the only contact he has had from anyone connected with the mausoleum was an anonymous phone call.
"They said to take our family members out of there or the building would be torn down and the bodies cremated," siad DuFoe.
We estimated it would take $5,000 to remove our family members. We can't afford that and we don't want them cremated."
Simms said usually a mausoleum or cemetery sets up a perpetual trust fund for maintenance of a facility, but apparently there was none for the mausoleum.
"This is just a shame," said DuFoe. "There used to be carpeting in here. There were beautiful stained glass windows and it was well lighted." [--Rockford Morning Star, August 11, 1977]
VIEWS OF FOREST VIEW
To the Editor: The article in the Aug. 11 Morning Star concerning Forest View Abbey Mausoleum has prompted me to make some clarifications on this subject.
I was the caretaker of this mausoleum from 1923 to the mid-40's. It was considered a showpiece of Rockford, many coming from far and wide to view it. It was known for its beautiful interior of Colorado marble. It was concieved by a Mr. Merrifield of Batavia, Ill., who interested several prominent Rockford people in the venture. This was about 1912-1914.
I can attest that it never had a trust fund, barely being able to make current operating expenses.
In the mid-40's it became apparent that something should be done about repairs which were urgently needed.
William H. Ziock, one of the directors, took it upon himself to have roof repairs made, for which he personally paid $5,000.
It became apparent shortly thereafter that the Rockford Mausoleum company could not continue ownership.
At this time Ziock had contacted Bernard F. Flynn, who was the sole owner of Arlington Cemetery, to take over ownership of Forest View Abbey.
In the meantime the directors had made me secretary, and by unanimous vote of the directors we transferred the ownership over to Flynn as he had promised to continue its operation.
It didn't take long after this to notice further deterioration of the building. It soon became the object of vandalism. Damage to the building was estimated at $100,000.
When Flynn died, he willed his cemetery to Scandinavian Cemetery. But they didn't want it. Another company was formed to take it over. And now they are thinking of naming a junior high school in his honor, to which I am unalterably opposed. As to the future of Forest View Abbey, I see no hope of its ever being restored, which is so said when you think of the many nice families who have their loved ones interred there.
--Adolph G. Miller, Rockford
[--Rockford Morning Star, August 30, 1977]
Forest View Abbey, near Rockford's Greenwood Cemetery, is being torn down because of its deterioriating condition. About 100 bodies remain entombed here, unclaimed by kin --Rockford Register Star, September 5, 1984
FOREST VIEW ABBEY'S DEMISE
OLYMPIAN AMONG FORGOTTEN DEAD
In his time, Margaret Eldridge says, Francis Lane was something of a national hero. In 1896, he was one of 15 athletes sent to Athens to represent American in the revival of the Olympic Games. He won no medals, running fourth or fifth--the record is unclear--in the 100-meter dash. But it was significant that he was there, considering what the Olympics were to become. Today Francis Lane, a doctor who died in 1927, is one of Rockford's forgotten dead.
His body is one of more than 199 that remained unclaimed in the neglected ruins of Forest View Abbey, the bankrupt mausoleum that has been a thorn festering in Rockford's heritage for nearly 20 years.
"What we have here is a national hero--and no one knew it," says an astonished Eldridge, a genealogist attempting to unravel the enigma of Forest View Abbey. A member of the North Central Genealogical Society's Cemetery Committee, Eldridge and committee chairman Bertha Wallblom are researching the mausolem in hopes that descendants can become involved in moving the bodies to nearby Greenwood Cemetery. Lane's hidden past is but one of the shocks they have found.
"Many of Rockford's pioneer settlers and some of its leading citizens are buried in there. We fell they deserve better than this," said Eldridge.
In addition to Lane, the city's forgotten Olympian, Eldridge and Wallblom have discovered veterans of the Civil War and Worl War I, a once prominent physician, and two of Rockford's pioneer industrialists entombed in the dungeon-like mausoleum. Perhaps less dramatic, but no less poignant, was the discovery of James F. Wisner, a cement contractor who died in 1914.
His obituary saluted him as the man who built "miles and miles" of Rockford's first sidewalks--in essence lifting the community from the much and mud of pioneeer life.
Herman Belling, a German-born concert pianist known widely throughout Europe and America, also is here. At his death in 1916, he was said to own the largest Brahm's library in the country, Eldridge said. And there is a touch of irony in that the families of Willis A. Merrifield Sr. remains entombed in the mausoleum. A resident of Batavia, Merrifield was the key figure in promoting its construction.
The industrial pioneers were William Fletcher Barnes, a founder of the W.F. & John Barnes Co., and William Worth Burson, inventor in the 1870's of an automatic knitting machine that made "Rockford Socks" famous throughout the world. Barnes died in 1930, but the machine tool company he founded remained one of Rockford's landmark industries until it closed down last fall. Some of the early woodworking machines Barnes developed are on display in the Smithsonian Institute.
Lane, a student of Princeton when he ran the 100-meter dash in the 1896 Olympics, was Barne's son-in-law. Presumable he met and married Amy Barnes while serving as a captain in the medical corps at Camp Grant during Worl War I. At his death in 1927, he was chief of opthamology at Chicago's Rush Medical College.
Burson--from whose genius evolve the old Nelson Knitting Co.--held more than 50 patents at the time of his death in 1913. His inventions not only revolutionized the textiles industry, but also eased the burdens of farmers--he pioneered the development of automatic grain binders and corn harvesters.
Dr. Lemuel Tibbets, who died in 1922, had tended to the ailments of Rockford since 1878. Although a prominent figure in the Masonic Lodge, he was a members of the medical staff of the city's Catholic Hospital, St. Anthony.
Civil War veterans entombed in the mausoleum include David Sample, who died in 1916; William Winter, 1918; Isaac Graves, 1920; Edward Tripp, 1916; and two whose remains apparently were moved to the mausoleum from other cemeteries, Charles Rollins, who died in 1872 and George Haight, 1893. Haight was related to Daniel Haight, one of the city's earliest settlers.
World War I veterans include Lynn E. Knorr, who died at Camp Grant in 1918; Willis A. Merrifield Jr., 1938; Frederick W. Eggert, 1955; and Horace A. Cargill, 1958. Eldridge and Wallblom believe there also is much that should never have been forgotten about others entombed in the mausoleum. Built in 1913 at a cost of $81,000, Forest View Abbey obviously was intended as the ultimate, final status symbol. Although they have yet to discover an original price list, "You had to be a very wealthy person to be buried in the mausoleum." Wallblom surmises.
But something went wrong. "The Depression is what killed it." Eldridge believes.
Designed with 600 crypts, records indicate no more than half were ever sold, and by the late 1930s, the choice ones were being offered for only $225. Since the early 1960's, when its deteriorating condition and tangled financial affairs came into public eye, about 200 bodies have been moved privately. About 100 are left unclaimed.
Greenwood Cemetery--which has never had any connection to the mausoleum--recently took responsibility for reburying the bodies and planned to demolish the structure.
Greenwood stepped in, Edgridge said, because the mausoleum fronts on North Main Street next to the cemetery, and Greenwood's staff often has been criticized by those who assumed they were responsible for it. In truth, no one has claimed responsibility, for it nearly 15 years.
"The last caretaker decided he didn't want it anymore and signed it over to a blind trust at a bank," Eldridge said.
Today, conditions inside the somber grey structure are even more shocking than its external shabbiness, Eldridge says.
"There is no lighting, and no drainage--water stands two-inches deep on the floor."
Rainwater streaming through the collapsing roof has eaten away mortar, weakened support beams, and caused face plates to drop from some of the sealed crypts. There are signs that some of the crypts have been desecrated by vandals and--worse yet--by grave robbers in recent years, Eldgridge said. Such conditions infuriate Eldridge and Wallbloom. But they are equally dismayed that Rockford's ancestorys should suffer such a fate.
The accompanying list identifies most of the bodies remaining in the mausoleum. Anyone who recognizes an ancestor--even if the relationship is distant--should contact Greenwood Cemetery.
Eldridge's and Wallblom's mission is to offer any kin an opportunity to make other arrangements if they prefer, or at least make them aware that the bodies are being reinterred at no cost in a cestion of Greenwood Cemetery, Eldridge said.
"We also hope to raise interest in establishing some sort of monument to mark the graves. We feel they deserve better than what they have had."
DO YOU RECOGNIZE THESE NAMES?
In loving memory of the honored dead within this imperishable edifice and to the noble enterprise of its founders in establishing a sanitary and humane mode of caring for departed loved ones and to countless generations--Cornerstone at Forest View Abbey. Here are the names of those deceased persons who are still interred at Forest View Abbey: Forest View Abbey Interments
[--Rockford Register Star, September 5, 1984]
NOTICE is hereby given that the Town of Rockford has granted a request by Rockford Cemetery Association to remove all bodies from Forest View Abbey, a mausoleum, at N. Main Street at Auburn, Rockford, Illinois, and to place the bodies in Greenwood Cemeter, Rockford, Illinois. Greenwood Cemetery has agreed to provide a suitable grave site, permanent identification markers and to pay all expenses of removal and reinterment. Further notice is given that heirs or relatives objecting to the removal and reinterment may make other burial arrangements, at their own expense, and claim the bodies for reinterment at any other cemetery or legally qualified grave site prior to September 18, 1984. Unless notice by a qualified relative is recieved by William W. Peterson, Town Clerk, 418 Gas & Electric Bldg., 305 N. Main Street, Rockford, Illinois, on or before September 18, 1984, the transfer shall proceed as stated herein.
The following persons are located in Forest View Abbey: Forest View Abbey Interments
DATED at Rockford, Illinois this 31st day of August, 1984.
WILLIAM W. PETERSON, Town Clerk
[--Rockford Register Star, September 14, 1984]
DUST TO DUST: DEATH OF A MAUSOLEUM
After 73 years, the Forest View Abbey is no more.
The once-elegant mausoleum near Greenwood Cemetery on North Main Street was bulldozed to a pile of rubble this week. Over the years, it had deteriorated so much its owners said repairs would (be) too costly. But even putting an end to the landmark was expensive. Demolishing the abbey and relocating approximately 300 bodies it held have cost the Rockford Cemetery Association "a fortune," said Greenwood Cemetery Supervisor Jerry Strombeck. The Rockford Cemetery Association also owns Greenwood Cemetery.
At one time, the mausoleum housed the remains of many of Rockford's pioneer settlers and leading citizens. But it began decaying in the 1960s. It suffered from a leaky roof, vandalism and intrusions by small animals, among other problems. Though it didn't own the cumbling mausoleum, the cemetery association began taking care of it in the late 1970s, primarily because its poor appearance was giving Greenwood a bad name, Strombeck said. Strombeck said the association was "practically given" the property in a trust left by Barney Flinn, former president of Rockford Life Insurance Co who died in 1972. The association took title of the property last year, he said.
"(Flinn) didn't own it originally, Strombeck said. "He had the building in the '50s and '60s and had all those bodies there, but didn't know what to do with 'em.
"After 29 years of monkeying around with the trust, they said they would get rid of the building if we would get rid of the bodies, but we wouldn't take it until they got rid of the bodies. We were afraid to move the bodies at our own volition because we didn't have permission from the relatives."
In 1984, the association got permission from Rockford Township to tear down the building. About 200 families moved their relatives' bodies to other locations, but the association had to bury more than 100 in a section of Greenwood Cemetery after no relatives could be found. Among those interred in the mausoleum were Francis Lane, a doctor whose partiicpated in the 1896 Olympics; Williams Fletcher Barns, a founder of the W.F. & John Barnes Co.; and George P. Haight, who was related to Daniel Haight, one of the city's earliest settlers. The last of the bodies was removed by early 1985, Strombeck said, but the association ran into delays in hiring somebody to demolish the mausoleum at a price it could afford. Finally, the association hired Northern Illinois Demolition, which began the job Monday. Strombeck wouldn't say how much demolition or moving the bodies cost, but he said it was more than the property was worth. The association plans to landscape the property--which is now part of Greenwood Cemetery--and put up a fence along North Main Street, Strombeck said. Then he said, the association willl have to "look at the numbers" before deciding another use for the property.
BACK -- HOME
Copyright © Genealogy Trails