at Dunning,
Chicago, Illinois


The most unique story of all Chicago area cemeteries.

With over 38,000 burials spanning some seventy years, it served as an institutional cemetery for the Cook County institutions. These consisted of the County Poor house and farm opened 1854, the Insane Asylum opened 1869, the infirmary opened 1882, and the Consumptive hospital (TB), opened 1899 and was the official Cook County potters field serving the poor and indigent of the county. The cemetery rapidly grew in size. It served as an institutional cemetery and more imortantly, it served as the official county Potters Field for the unclaimed and unwanted dead of Chicago and Cook County. The cemetery received bodies from the Cook County Hospital, the city morgue, many Chicago area hospitals, and many city social institutions.

Dunning Cemetery Entrance

Land set aside for pauper burials is so very vulnerable in our changing world. Living relatives are often difficult or impossible to locate, and neither the public or private sector readily accept the responsibility to care for old forgotten cemeteries.

We who believe that every life is sacred, must continue to remind ourselves and society that in this world and after death, God cares for us. Our fellow human beings have gone before us to face the realities of eternity. We make no judgments, but commend them to the mercy of our loving Creator. We may not have known them personally, but they were someone's Mother, Father, Grandparent, or neighbor. It has been written: To live and die alone is a human tragedy, but not to be remembered and mourned…after earthly life…is an ugly blemish on human dignity. These persons, though their earthly lives ended in loneliness and poverty, in unique ways unknown to us, they did share in the divine creation and eternal destiny that is common to our humanity.

Preserving Cook County Cemetery and continuing research will help to insure that those persons who were homeless in life will not be homeless in death.