Voices from the Grave: Cedar Bluff holds plenty of Rockford history

By Kathi Kresolcedar bluff 3

Cedar Bluff Cemetery is located on the city’s east side at the intersection of Longwood and Rural Streets. It is one of Rockford’s oldest cemeteries, established in February of 1847.

Formerly known as the East Side Cemetery, it was renamed Cedar Bluff at the suggestion of Dr. Josiah Goodhue. This is the same Dr. Goodhue that was featured in a previous story about Big Thunder’s curse.

Cedar Bluff is tree lined and while the tombstones are not as ornate as those found in Greenwood Cemetery, the people here have just as rich histories. Some of Rockford’s founding families were laid to rest here. Isaac Wilson, one of Rockford’s first African-American businessmen, is buried there. The Spafford family is interred there, including Carrie Spafford Brett who was engaged to Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union Officer killed in the Civil War. Some claim that she can still be seen here, dressed in her black mourning clothing, sobbing over the graves of her family.

Emma Jones and her husband Frank have their graves here. Frank owned a transportation company and Emma kept house in their very unique home on First Street. The story of Emma and her sad decline is one of Rockford’s most enduring ghost stories.

There are soldiers here including George Whitmore, a veteran from the Spanish-American War and Azor Goodwin who lived through the Civil War and returned to Rockford to serve the community as a doctor. Grant Damon and Alexander Folz, two young soldiers killed in World War I are also here along with countless others.

There are also more infamous people buried in Cedar Bluff. For instance, Jacob Maher, who lured his estranged girlfriend, 16 year old Mary, out in the middle of a snowstorm, only to shoot her before turning the gun on himself. Leon Carlson, who also killed the woman he loved as she fixed her hair, was buried here in an unmarked grave.

Others less well known people but still important part of Rockford’s history also were laid to rest here. 14 year old Barbara Hamilton lies in a tomb built by her grieving father, H.H. Hamilton. There is a legend surrounding this little girl. It seems she loved horses and when her beloved horse passed away, rumor has it that the family buried it here in this hillside so that it could be close to Barbara. Psychics visiting the area in Cedar Bluff have been confused and startled to see a horse running through the cemetery.

Kathi Kresol, local historian and founder of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events has researched the people buried in this cemetery and will share all new stories at the Cedar Bluff Cemetery Walk on Saturday, May 16 at 7:00 p.m. Psychics Sara Bowker and Paul Smith will give their impressions of any who might linger. The price for this event is $20. This event will include walking so please wear appropriate footwear. Please visit the website at hauntedrockford.com for more information.

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