After 17 years founders’ cemetery finally gets deserved recognition
Northbrook Historical Society president Judy Hughes reads the inscription of the Aux Plain Cemetery's marker to Deerfield and Northbrook Area Historical Society members. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:08PM
NORTHBROOK — The Aux Plain Cemetery, the resting place of as many as 150 Northbrook and Deerfield pioneers, finally has a marker recognizing its existence.
Seventeen years have passed since Helen Sclair, a cemetery preservationist, and Marolyn Allsbrow of Deerfield, both of whom have since died, worked together to save what was left of the Aux Plain Cemetery.
Sclair was able to get the abandoned plot registered with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which legally re-established its existence, the first step toward preservation. But it was only during the last several months that the final details fell into place to mark the land where pioneers lay.
Now, through the efforts of Northbrook Historical Society president Judy Hughes, Northbrook’s Economic Development Coordinator David Schoon, Superintendent of Public Works Paul Risinger, and the developer of the Chase Bank site that the plan finally came together.
And now the monument stands on the northwest corner of Dundee and Saunders Roads declaring:
“In the late 1830s, American and European pioneers came to this area to settle on the fertile land nestled between the Des Plaines and Skokie rivers. Here, on this small plot of land, those pioneers laid to rest the men, women and children who were among the founders of our community. Placed by the Village of Northbrook 2012.”
The Historical Society developed the design and inscription of the monument, and the village paid for it. The site’s developer also has agreed to contribute to the costs, Schoon said.
This may be the final chapter in the lost cemetery’s history, since over the years it became abandoned and sold for unpaid taxes, only to be purchased for redevelopment. Most of it now lays under the paved parking lot of the Chase Bank, with about 15 graves covered by Dundee Road, said local historians.
The 165-year-old cemetery, which was only about “15 rods” or 82.5 square feet, was established after the Native Americans of the Illinois and Potawatomi tribes signed a treaty to leave the Lake Michigan area for five million acres west of the Mississippi River.
Land-poor German immigrants claimed acre after acre, building log cabins along the Indian trail now known as Sanders Road, said Hughes. Many of Northbrook’s pioneer families worshipped in the little church at Dundee and Sanders, which was then the hub of the area.
Martin Luther, considered the first European settler in Deerfield, built a cabin in 1835 at the north end of Sanders Road where it curved northwest, later to become Riverwoods Road.
“There was a rumor that a cemetery was there long after the markers were gone. Oral history also indicated that people’s ancestors were buried there – and they were right,” Hughes said.
A few years ago, the property’s owner called in an archeological firm that took off about 18 inches of the topsoil with a bobcat, uncovering the outlines of the graves in the virgin prairie that had never been tilled, she added.
“It was like opening a window to the past. It was one of the most awe inspiring things I’ve ever seen,” Hughes said.
She and Ronald Schinleber, a retired Northbrook Fire Department deputy chief who has ancestors buried in the cemetery, watched the process.
“This cemetery is pretty important, because the pioneers who created this community are there. My great, great grandfather is there, and his wife and two infant children.”
Donna and Bruce Stupple, board members of the Deerfield Historical Society, noted that many founding Deerfield families such as Rockenbachs, Luthers, Kempers and Plagges, as well as others, also were buried there.
“I would have liked to have seen it kept green, with a fence around it,” said Tom Roth, former president of the Deerfield Historical Society, who also worked for its preservation.
“But at least this acknowledges where many of the founders are and their importance.”