Most people know there are military burial areas within Springdale Cemetery. Not so many are aware that there are other special burial areas.
Burial By Choice
Most recently, the Islamic Center of Peoria has been negotiating for a section of Springdale Cemetery for those of their faith. This is far from being a unique practice.
Historically, there have always been special locations within Springdale Cemetery. One reason they remain somewhat of a mystery is that they bear no signage or explanation.
The Anshai-Emeth section is the most visible. This section is for burials of those of the Jewish faith. This section is well worth a stroll. Many of the grave markers are engraved in Hebrew and, in Jewish tradition, visitors leave tiny stones atop the gravestones. Leaving flowers is not a Jewish tradition.
Atop Spring Point is the historic Apostolic Christian Church section. It consists of many dozens of graves, many of which have been used twice. The denomination built a cemetery elsewhere and many of the original residents of those graves are no longer in Springdale Cemetery. But the section is owned by the ACC still and the emptied graves were then sold to other members of the church.
Another section is owned by the Greek church. I have yet to research this beyond the plat maps, but I assume that is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. It is a fairly small section and also bears no signage.
Saint Mary’s Hill is set aside for Catholics. It is a small section and there are catholics buried throughout the cemetery.
The Proctor Retirement Home and the Christian Buehler Retirement Home have their own sections. So does Local #30 of the Typographical Union.
Throughout the cemetery, there are sections purchased in large blocks of graves and resold to members of a group. There are graves where the Wilson Circle Ladies are buried and other groups.
Burial By Bigotry
For nearly a century, those who were buried in Springdale Cemetery have had the option of choosing their final burial location. Some have chosen by religious affiliation. Some chose by other affiliations. Most have chosen their final resting place based on the view and the price of the few feet of ground where their bones would remain.
But, prior to World War I, a large number of burials were segregated—by the cemetery. The cemetery staff, prior to that time, took great care to identify whether, in their opinion, the deceased was “colored” or not.
And, it mattered. It mattered a whole lot.
There was a time when there were only 11 locations within Springdale Cemetery where a person of color could be buried, regardless of the view or how much money there was to spend. Nearly 80 sections were open to whites. But, a person of color could only be buried within those 11 sections.
Knowing that greatly simplifies researching those who were “colored.” If they died prior to World War I, they could only have been buried within one of those 11 locations.
The cemetery was meticulous about restricting people of color to burials within those sections. It was just the opposite of what the Islamic Center has asked for. The Islamic Center is requested the option for their believers to be buried together, just like the Jewish section or the Apostolic Christian or Greek sections.
They were going to pay for the land. They were just asking for a block of adjacent graves, just like the other sections.
Sale of these sections is a financial boon for the cemetery–one that the cemetery would be foolish to pass on. The land is sold to a given group when then sells the graves to their members. That’s what makes the land affiliated with a group. The group pre-buys the block of graves and then it is up to them to resell the individual plots.
Why wouldn’t Springdale want to pre-sell 650 graves? The cemetery has said that the Islamic Center doesn’t expect the section to be developed all at once. All Springdale has to do is make one sale and eventually develop the graves.
It seems odd, looking at half a century of records carefully marked “C” or “Colored” so that the gravediggers didn’t bury a person of color elsewhere in the cemetery. Now when a group asks to be buried together, there is controversy.
Ah, history. Always interesting. Sometimes history makes us better people. Sometimes….not so much.