Monday, November 7, 2011

You Can't Stop Progress

St. Johannes Cemetery has been front and center in the battle over the 
O’Hare International Airport Expansion Project. This 160 year-old cemetery is home to 1,200 graves. [1]

German immigrants settled the lands of Du Page County just northwest of the City of Chicago. They were farmers. My great, great, great grandparents were part of this immigrant group.  As this small community grew so did the need for a place of worship. St. Johannes Church was built.  Soon the need for a cemetery presented itself and St. Johannes Cemetery was created.

You can’t stop progress! A small airport, Orchard Place, was in need of expansion. The church sold land to the City of Chicago for the airport expansion. In 1952 St. Johannes Church was picked up and moved to the community of Bensenville. Orchard Place Airport received a new name. O’Hare Airport had arrived! The cross in the cemetery marks the location of the original church.[2]

This is a very long and complicated story involving many court battles. The airport continued growing and eventually surrounded this tiny cemetery. Today O’Hare International Airport is in the final stages of its expansion project. On October 28, 2011 Chicago’s ABC News reported the exhumation of the 900 graves. [3]

Johann Carl Christian Duntemann passed away on 13 June 1863. His wife, Millizena Duntemann nee Erdmann,  passed away on 30 December 1896. It is likely their remains are not intact. Christian and Millizena Duntemann will be reinterred November 10, 2011. I wonder where my great, great, great grandparents graves are right now.

You just can’t stop progress!

[1] Johnson, Geoffrey, “Dead Reckoning,” Chicago, October 2009, 58-65.
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Report: 900 Graves exhumed for O’Hare Runway,” WLS-TV/DT, 28 October 2011; e-news
( : accessed 6 November 2011.)


  1. Linda, The Marth Ibbetson Chapter (Elmhurst, IL) of the Daughters of the American Revolution spent countless hours indexing St. Johannes Cemetery before the move. I went out myself one day to help, assisting in translating some of the German on the headstones.

    I admit at first I was appalled by the thought that this Cemetery was going to be moved, all for the sake of progress. But, while discussing this with a Genealogist from the East Coast, I realized that there are literally hundreds of cemeteries, big and small, that have been moved over time, or worse yet, BUILT OVER, all because we can't stop progress. The bad news is, the Cemetery had to be moved. The good news is, it was done at a time when it could be done properly, and with many, many eyes watching.

  2. Great story; loved the photos. Well written and documented. Sad that progress takes precedence over generations of the past. I agree with Laura that it is good the moving of the grave sites are being done properly

  3. Carol and Laura, Please see my November 8, 2011 post. I am very appreciative of your comments.