I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
If one is an avid fan of visiting cemeteries, my mother and I discovered a great and historic one called Chippiannock located at Rock Island, Illinois. We got to view this beauty during the fall of the year. The address is 2901 Twelfth Street, and the zip code is 61201. Be sure and put this one on your list of things to enjoy if you find yourself in that part of the country.
We were visiting my aunt and uncle, who live in the quad cities, and this site was just across the Mississippi River from them. I had read about this attraction in a Reader's Digest book that I like to consult before traveling to other areas of our country. It is titled: America From the Road. A Motorist's Guide to Our Country's Natural Wonders and Most Interesting Places. Many of our successful vacation trips have come from recommendations found in this book published in 1982 (Second printing, March of 1984).
My aunt and uncle had never visited this site. It happened to be my mother's birthday, and when they inquired what she might like to do that day, we had this suggestion planned and ready to execute. Chippiannock is an Indian word that translates to "Village of the Dead."
This part of the country had a substantial Native American population dating back to the 1730s. About 7500 Indians from the Sauk and Mesquakie nations called this area home.
The cemetery's actual site is on the summit of Manitou Ridge, which overlooks the Mississippi River and the Rock River. It covers about 95 acres of land and has 4 miles of paved roads that meander through the grounds.
Many early settlers left a legacy of accomplishments. Their monuments range from simple to elaborate. There is an abundance of unique and artistic headstones paired with the rolling hills and gorgeous plantings. It invites numerous visitors and has become quite an area attraction.
Chippiannock is an excellent example of an early rural cemetery dating back to the early 1800s. It became listed on the National Register of Historic Places in May of 1994. The early settlers' history can be traced here by reading the inscriptions on these imaginative and beautiful grave tombstones. Some private mausoleums are also in the mix of various internment forms that people have chosen for their final resting spot.
The landscaping was by an engineer named Hotchkiss in 1855, who had the Greenwood Cemetery on Long Island, New York, to his credit. Hotchkiss was also working on the St. Louis cemetery called Bellefontaine.
A professional gardener named Patrick O'Shaughnessy was the first hired superintendent responsible for the many plantings and maintenance of these grounds. According to a brochure, the cemetery has over 150 species and varieties of trees and shrubs planted here.
Since it was in October when we were visiting, we got to see the glorious fall display of colored leaves. What a fabulous time to be enjoying these gorgeous grounds! Some photos I took that day can give one an idea of just how beautiful and serene is the setting for this historic cemetery. I'll now share some descriptions of some of the monuments in this cemetery.
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument
When one first enters the gates into Chippiannock Cemetery, this monument greets one's eyes. It is a striking memorial erected in 1915 and commemorates all the military people who have fought in wars representing American interests.
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School children from Rock Island who collected their pennies and dollars from veteran organizations paid for this striking monument with their contributions. Amazing what collections of pennies can accomplish!
This touching Eddie and Josie Dimick double monument with their faithful dog combination relates to a brother and sister who died of diphtheria the same day at the tender ages of 5 and 9.
Each day when the grieving family visited the gravesite, their dog accompanied them. Then the dog started taking up a vigil from early dawn to dusk by the grave. When the dog died, the family decided to place a statue of him by their children's graves. In perpetuity now, that story is carved into stone for all to see.
The Mansill Monument
Originally from England, Richard Mansill was only 20 years of age when he arrived in America with his parents. He accomplished many things, which ultimately included owning a lumber yard and coal mines.
He was best known for being an author of The Almanac of Planetary Meteorology and numerous other books related to science and the universe.
The Celtic Cross Monument
The photo above is one of a Celtic Cross. Sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder who just happened to be the father of modern artist Alexander Calder created it.
The Celtic Cross monument honors naval officer William Harte who lost his life during a Civil War battle when Confederate guns blew up his steamboat. He died when attempting to swim to shore. His family never recovered his body. His father commissioned the cross, which embodies several religious plus nautical symbols.
The cemetery entrance is where to see the Celtic Cross, and it is one of the points of interest on any tour.
The Cable Monument
This massive bronze tribute was created in Brussels by sculptor Paul De Vigne and commissioned by Ben Cable, a local congressman.
In the family plot is Philander Cable, Ben Cable's father, who was president of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Philander Cable donated the waterworks pumping station at 24th street to the city of Rock Island.
Also found in this family plot is Ransom R. Cable, president of the Rock Island - Peoria Railroad.
Annual Epitaphs Brought to Life Tour
In 1914 they created an Annual Epitaphs Brought to Life tour. Actors, dressed in era-appropriate clothing, lead one on a walking tour and bring stories of the memorable persons buried here in Chippiannock cemetery to life.
We were not there at the right time to participate in this fascinating-sounding tour. However, armed with a brochure, we found and read about many people who now have their final resting spots here.
As of 2022, I could not find any information that this epitaphs walking tour still exists. However, a book co-published by the Rock Island Preservation Commission and the Chippiannock Cemetery Heritage Foundation features 150 Years of Epitaphs at Chippiannock Cemetery. It is available in some of the Quad cities' schools and libraries. I could not find it available online.
Victorian cemetery monuments including some from Chippiannock
The fall foliage was also of prime interest and beauty that day. We do not have the spectacular fall colors in Houston as we did growing up in the Midwest. That was one reason why my mother and I planned our trip to coincide with the turning of the leaves. We were well rewarded that year!
Below see a photo of this beautiful cemetery in Spring.
In the Chippiannock Cemetery brochure describing many of the monuments and other information, there is a quote from the Indian Sauk Chief, Black Hawk. It reads:
"With us it is a custom to visit the graves of our friends and keep them in repair for many years. The mother will go alone to weep over the grave of her child. After he has been successful in war, the brave, with pleasure, visits the grave of his father and repaints the post that marks where he lies. There is no place like that where the bones of our forefathers lie to go to when in grief. Here, prostrate by the tombs of our forefathers, will the Great Spirit take pity on us." --Memoirs
Every man should keep a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends.
— Henry Ward Beecher
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Peggy Woods