Kane County History: Secret Symbolism in Elgin's Bluff City Cemetery

Kane County History: Secret Symbolism in Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Elgin Historian Margaret Rowe. Photos were submitted by Elizabeth Marston of the Elgin History Museum.

Bluff City Cemetery, located at 945 Bluff City Boulevard, is the third municipal cemetery in Elgin’s history, dedicated on Sept. 8, 1889.

The land was purchased in 1888 at a cost of $11,000, with an additional $3,000 spent on improvements.

The book ‘Silent City’ is available online at www.elginhistory.org in the Museum Store.

Today, Bluff City Cemetery, which is 108 acres, contains more than 72,000 burials. A stroll through the cemetery reveals many families rich in history and wealth, such as our community’s forefathers, including James T. Gifford of Elgin and Julius Angelo Carpenter of Carpentersville.

The land was at one time owned by the Gifford family and then the Whitcomb Family. Albert Marckhofff, was the first sextant and laid out the first 12 sections, planted the trees and improved the land.

The video above gives a short tour of just a few of the beautiful and unusual monuments, as well as small and simple ones.

One will also note dates of deaths prior to 1889. These are graves that were moved from Elgin’s second cemetery, Channing Cemetery, and you might find a few that took a longer journey from the first “burial” grounds, then to Channing Cemetery and finally to Bluff City.

(CREDIT: city of Elgin)

Each year, Elgin holds its community observance of Memorial Day. Every military grave is adorned with a small American flag, and for the week prior to Memorial Day, more than 500 oversized American flags grace the roads, purchased by families of military servicemen and women.

The Grand Army of the Republic section, specifically for military burials, also includes cannons from the Rock Island Arsenal, a World War I caisson, and a ship’s anchor from World War II.

The central Spire monument, is inscribed with the names of Civil War casualties and was moved from the Channing Street Cemetery.

A visitor will also find an abundance of wildlife and the Bluff Spring Fen, a 160-acre nature preserve with wetland habitats, prairie, and hiking trails. Come take a walk and learn more about a community’s history.

Look for epitaphs, art and architecture, funerary symbolism — and enjoy nature’s beauty.

About The Elgin History Museum

The Elgin History Museum is housed in an 1856 landmark building known as Old Main that was once part of the Elgin Academy campus. The building was designed in the Greek Revival style. The museum has a staff that helps welcome visitors to the museum, educates the public about Elgin history and assists with research inquiries.

The Elgin Area Historical Society, which was founded in 1961, is a thriving organization that operates within the museum. The society has a board of directors with a mission that is driven to preserve and educate the community about Elgin history.

Through permanent and changing exhibits, the museum brings to life Elgin’s rich heritage. Permanent exhibits include Elgin National Watch Company, Elgin Manufacturing, and Elgin Road Race memorabilia.

Our newest temporary exhibit “Education for All: Elgin High School 150 Year Anniversary” will be up until 2020. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Read The Kane County History Series!

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