Mt. Forest Cemetery
You’ve probably driven past it hundreds of times, the neglected cemetery located on the east side of Chicago Road at approximately 175th Street. Maybe you’ve even caught a glimpse of a tombstone through the fencing and overgrown brush. All that’s left of the stone pillars that once stood on each side of the entrance are their bases. This is Mount Forest, a primarily African-American cemetery. The Mount Forest Cemetery Association was incorporated December 11, 1909 and ceased on May 22, 1939. The story goes that part of the cemetery is a potter’s field where many early 1900s influenza victims are buried.
In 1987, lifelong Thornton resident Walter Diekelman had this to say about Mount Forest during a talk he gave for AARP:
WALTER DIEKELMAN: “The cemetery up here, that's Mount Forest. And the people used to load the bodies on the baggage car of the train that came here at quarter to 3:00 in the afternoon, and the people would ride the train. One time when one minister died, there were 3,000 people came out here for that funeral, and they walked from the depot to the cemetery up here, and then back to the Village Hall to wait for the 5:30 train to take them back to Chicago. The cars were shunted in a siding down by the quarry and then the train would hook onto it at 5:30 and take them back to Chicago…And about 1920, the Forest Preserve tried to contact everybody from the cemetery over here and offered them a grave at Mount Glenwood if they would take it. Because they wanted to take this here for forest preserve, which they have.”
Since all owners of the cemetery are deceased, the property reverted back to the County in 1977. The Cook County Forest Preserve has allotted 2.51 acres to the Mount Forest. I recently took a walk through the cemetery, and found that although many of the stones are missing or have been vandalized, some markers and cement family plot borders still remain, with most of those being located on the south side. The entire floor of the forest is filled with fragrant lily-of-the-valley, no doubt first planted on the grave sites some 90 years ago…a fitting tribute to the forgotten deceased of Mount Forest.