Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

There’s a saying that what happens today is tomorrow’s history. But we always think of history as things that happened a long time ago. That’s the history we find so interesting. We have questions about things that happened in the past and the detective work that’s involved in finding those answers is what makes some of us history junkies.

This past summer I received an e-mail from a Hoffman Estates resident about a very old tombstone she found amongst many things in her mother’s home. She was trying to take care of her mothers’ estate and didn’t have any idea as to what should be done with the headstone. It was a very unusual item to uncover amongst her antiquing mom’s collection. She wanted to know how she could find information about a tombstone that simply said “Wilson, December 20, 1856, 7 Yrs. 8 Mos.” This was a tombstone of a young child and she needed to find where this child was buried so the stone could be returned to the child’s grave.

The first person I turned to for help was Jane Rozek, local history librarian at the Schaumburg Township District Library. She is a wonderful research librarian and I knew she’d be interested in helping solve the mystery of our resident’s tombstone.

With the research tools available to her at the library, she began searching through census records for Schaumburg Township and finding nothing for a young Wilson, she went farther afield to seek help from Marilyn Pedersen, historian with the Palatine Historical Society. Marilyn said that the Wilsons were a prominent Palatine family. She suggested two books that might help in her search. The library has a great local history collection and the two books Pioneer Cemeteries of Palatine Township and Hillside Cemetery were on the shelf. Jane discovered that the tombstone belonged on the grave of Mary Emily Wilson who was buried in the Cady Cemetery of Palatine Township.

Our Hoffman Estates resident was amazed that the young child’s resting place was found. She never knew how her mother acquired the stone she just knew she had to get it back to little Mary Emily’s grave. She called Terry Kelly, chairman of the Cemetery Committee in Palatine and they came out and picked it up with a promise that the Stonehuggers, a group that volunteers their services to repair and replace headstones in the old cemeteries of our area, would get it back to the child’s grave.

It wasn’t until November 27th that she got word that Mary Emily’s headstone was put back in place. She went out to the cemetery. It was a very emotional visit for her. The peace and quiet of the old Cady Cemetery has inspired her to perhaps volunteer to plant some flowers or help in some way to maintain the cemetery. Her only sadness was that Mary Emily Wilson does not have her first name on the 1856 stone.

This amazing story and the happy ending are due to good records kept by the Wilson family and the preservation of these records of the cemetery by the Palatine Historical Society. A missing piece of history was put back in place. It’s incredible that an 1856 headstone can be replaced in 2017. Mary Emily will have a few more visitors to her grave. She now rests in peace.

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian

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