Calvary Cemetery

The entrance to Calvary Cemetery (SCHS)

The entrance to Calvary Cemetery (SCHS)

Calvary Cemetery, Springfield’s Catholic cemetery, operated for almost 70 years as almost two cemeteries – one for Germans and the other for everybody else.

Calvary was founded in 1857, when two of the city’s earliest local parishes bought 16 acres of land adjoining Oak Ridge Cemetery, the brand-new municipal burying ground. The first interment at Calvary took place in 1860.

Twelve of the 16 acres were set aside for members of Immaculate Conception Parish (not to be confused with today’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception), which was heavily Irish. The other four acres were used by Ss. Peter & Paul Parish, which was predominantly German. The churches’ pastors controlled their respective portions of the burial ground.

The two sections continued to be administered separately, although both were known generically as “Calvary Cemetery,” for almost 70 years.

That changed only a few months after the Rev. James Griffin was installed as bishop of the Springfield diocese in February 1924. According to the 1928 Diamond Jubilee history of the diocese:

In April, 1924, Right Reverend Bishop James A. Griffin, D.D., called upon the Board of the German Catholic Cemetery Association, to explain to them the feasibility of combining the two associations of St. Mary (editor: Immaculate Conception Church was known colloquially as “Old St. Mary’s”) and the German Catholic Society to form one association: “Calvary Cemetery.” The union was brought about by the unanimous vote of the two Boards on July 14, 1924.

Griffin became president of the new association. The original deal provided that the the vice president had to come from Ss. Peter and Paul; that provision was dropped before St. Pete’s closed in 2001.

Calvary Cemetery, 2001 N. First St., covers about 80 acres and, as of November 2017, held about 50,000 burials.

schs-logo-2Although Calvary and Oak Ridge cemeteries have separate entrances, no fence or other barrier separates Oak Ridge from Calvary. The only way to tell where one ends and the other begins is along First Street, where the exterior fence changes at the boundary between the two cemeteries.

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

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6 Responses to Calvary Cemetery

  1. Bonnie Cunningham says:

    Our family history has it that my great great grandfather, Patrick Cadagin, bought several plots to help get Calvary started. (Many of my relatives are buried there right behind Abe Lincoln’s tomb.) It is interesting that not all graves near my great great grandparents’ graves are my family members. Great great grandpa sold the extra plots to folks who needed them.

  2. Shirley Jack says:

    Where can I find information about the graves in SS Peter and Paul Cemetery? I believe my GGG Grandparents are buried there as well as 1 of their children. *Mary Annastasia (Schelble) Bruse died 11 May 1868, Fredrick Benedict Bruse died 6 Jul 1857, Frank Haverus Bruse died 27 Sep 1881, *Sophia Fredaline Bruse died 20 Sep 1868, and Friedrich Heinrich Bruse died 25 Mar 1906. The names with * are listed in the diocese records for SS Peter and Paul…

  3. Daniel Wolf says:

    My great, great grandpa Henry Wolf (born 6 Jun 1839 in Brunswick, Germany, death on 7 Jan 1931-in St. Agnes records) and his wife Mary Holin (or Holland?) Wolf (born 1 Sep 1838 in Ireland, Death on 13 Sep 1917-in St. Joseph’s records) are listed as buried in Calvary cemetery.

    I don’t know Henry’s parents names or if he had any siblings. And I don’t know Mary’s parents or if she had siblings. I only know they both supposedly came to Carlinville originally and they got married in Sangamon County on 26 Aug 1859 and they show up on the 1860 Census.

    Do you know their plot location in Calvary Cemetery or what their headstones might read?  Is it possible to get a copy of their marriage certificate? Any other suggestions for finding information on them prior to 1860?

    I would love to come visit some day. They lived over 30 years at 726 N 7th St.

    • editor says:

      Mr. Wolf: Unfortunately, I can’t help much other than to suggest a couple other sources of information (if you haven’t checked them already). If Mr. & Mrs. Wolf’s burial plots were recorded, the Calvary Cemetery office in Springfield (217-523-3726) should be able to give you the precise location(s). Meanwhile, the Sangamon County clerk’s office (217-753-6700) should have a record of their marriage. I did look at their obituaries in the online local newspapers, but both were very brief and had no information about siblings. There are more than 100 references to “Henry Wolf” in those papers; some involve other people with the same name, but many obviously relate to your great-great-grandfather. I’m not able to search through all of them, but you could search the newspaper records yourself via either of two databases: (free if your local library subscribes) or (there’s a fee for using this, but it’s small, $7-$8 a month). I didn’t see anything in a brief scan that answered your specific questions, but I might have missed something, and there might be other information of interest to you in those records.
      My last suggestion (actually, it might be smart to make this your first step) is that you contact the Sangamon Valley Collection, the local history collection, at Lincoln Library, Springfield’s municipal library (217-753-4900). They’re experts at tracing people’s ancestry.
      Sorry I can’t be more help. Good luck.
      Mike Kienzler

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