6th Annual Cemetery Walk

On September 16,2007 the Crystal Lake Historical Society hosted its sixth annual Cemetery Walk at the Union Cemetery in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Costumed interpreters presented first-person stories about the life and times of former Crystal Lake residents.

Each of the following sub-headings includes text and a link to a YouTube video of the portrayal.  Our thanks to our tour guides and actors who helped make this event a great success.

Introduction - About the Cemetery

The City of Crystal Lake traces its origins to two separate communities which were established in the 1800’s. Those communities were generally known as Nunda and Crystal Lake.

The two often-feuding villages found much to disagree upon. However, in a rare effort of cooperation, the two towns recognized the need to work together in order to purchase and provide a public burial ground for its citizens. The older Crystal Lake Cemetery (now known as Lake Avenue Cemetery) was filling up.

In June, 1888, each village board selected a committee to buy land for a cemetery. The cemetery committee met with property owner Elihu Hubbard, and purchased ten acres of land for $1,500. Each village contributed $750 toward the purchase. The central location of the property was ideal, as it was within the corporate boundaries of Crystal Lake, but in Nunda Township.

Shortly after the new cemetery was created, plans were underway to create a Civil War memorial statue which would hold a commanding position in the center of the main driveway.
The monument features a Union Soldier, standing in reverence to those who have put their lives on the line for this country. A plaque on the face of the monument reads “Erected by grateful citizens in honor of the brave defenders of our country, September 1889.”

Each side of the monument names four major Civil War battles: Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, and Shiloh. The names of all soldiers from Crystal Lake and Nunda are displayed, along with their military unit. Another tablet names those who died in the line of service, and those who died at the much-feared Andersonville prison.

Crystal Lake / Nunda "Public Officials"

Each of this year's featured "residents" of Union Cemetery were early public officials in the community.  You will discover a wide variety of individuals represented, from businessmen to laborers, who were influential citizens as Crystal Lake was settled and grew into a vibrant community.

Herman G. Doerk (1838 - 1921)

Herman Doerk was born in Germany (Prussia) and emigrated to the United States in 1865 at age 27.  He became a naturalized citizen in 1871.  Little is known about Herman's early life, but he and his wife Minnie were the parents of thirteen children.  Minnie was also born in Germany.  She was 11 years younger than Herman and was not yet 20 years old when they married.  Their first two children, Emelia and William died in infancy.  Their third child, Emma, died at age 16 and is buried in Lake Avenue Cemetery in Crystal Lake.  Herman and Minnie moved from Chicago to Crystal Lake in the late 1800's.

Herman was one of th first lamp lighters for what was then the Village of Crystal Lake.  Eight street lamps were purchased by the Village in 1887.  At that time, the Village of Crystal Lake was located along Virginia Street, in the general vicinity of today's McCormick Park.  The lights were oil burning lamps, holding about two quarts of kerosene with a burner having a flat wick that was operated by a small wheel on the side.  The wick could be raised or lowered as needed.  The globes were large and set on posts about 6' in height.  Although the first street lamps shed very little light, residents appreciated the sense of security the light provided.  Perhaps because of this, lamp lighters were also considered the night watchmen of their towns.  In his job of night watchman and lamp lighter, Herman Doerk can be considered one of the first police officers in the Village of Crystal Lake.  He was paid $120 per year, until one additional street light was added, at which time his salary was raised $0.35 per month.

Lamp lighters and night watchmen were resposnible for the care and cleaning of the lights, as well.  Each day, the fountains had to be filled and globes cleaned.  To light the lamps, the lamp lighter carried a short ladder with the top step rounded out to fit the post.  He traveled from post to post lighting them with a match.  Lights were extinguished at 10:30 PM.

Herman and Minnie's other children were Lizzie, Clara, George, Edward (Edward died of diphtheria at age 21 and is buried in Union Cemetery), Violet, Hattie, Edith and Harry.

Herman died in Chicago in 1921 and was brought to Crystal Lake for burial.  Minnie lived on until 1934.  She died in Woodstock and was buried in the Doerk family lot in Union Cemetery.

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William Pinnow (1857 - 1934)

Wilhelm Carl John (William) Pinnow was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States in November of 1873.  He worked on farms in the Huntley area for five years before marrying Friederika Reddersdorf on March 14, 1878.  William and Friederika had no children.

They lived for a year after their marriage with Friederika's relatives on McHenry Avenue, during which time William worked for the ice houses of Charles S. Dole, earning $1 per day.  Following that, they farmed for 14 years.  In 1895 William formed theThroop and Pinnow Store.  He sold his stock in the store in 1904 to Mr. Throop and purchased a 96 acre farm.  William and Friederika never lived on that farm, but lived on Crystal Lake Avenue for 18 years before building a brick bungalow on Walkup Avenue.

William was considered an astute businessman and was the first president of Home State Bank, an office he held until his death.  William was also in the insurance business and served as a justice of the peace, earning himself his nickname "Judge" Pinnow.

William served as the first Mayor of Crystal Lake when the towns of North Crystal Lake (Nunda) and Crystal Lake combined in 1914.  He was re-elected for two terms. 

Friederika was also born in Germany and was known for her charming personality and many friends.  Both William and Friederika loved flowers and were members of the Immanuel Lutheran church, where William served as treasurer of the congregation for 33 years.

William was the eldest of eight children of Carl and Friederike Engel Pinnow.  They emigrated during a decade in which nearly 3/4 million Germans came to the United States.  Many German immigrants had an agricultural background and during ths time period, German was the second most spoken language, next to English, in America.  The Pinnow Family made their home in Algonquin Township working as farmers, then moved to the Village of Crystal Lake.

William died after a year long illness at his home.  Friederika, known as Rieka to her friends, also died at home in 1947.

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John C. Flotow (1883 - 1977)

Johann Charles (John) Flotow was born in Germany and was the son of John and Fredericka Sternberg Flotow.  He came to the United States with his parents and grandparents aboard the SS Taormina in 1893 and became a naturalized citizen in 1898. 

John was appointed the first City Clerk when Crystal Lake became a city on September 23, 1914.  He continued as City Clerk until 1928.  John was also one of the first commissioners for the Crystal Lake Park District which was founded by a vote of the citizens in 1921. 

The Crystal Lake Park District was formed when citizens became concerned that public access to Crystal Lake was going to soon be gone.  By forming a park district, a public body could now own lakefront property, keeping it open for citizen use.  Shortly after its formation, the first park board began condemnation proceedings for approximately 1,500 linear feet of lake front in the area that is now known as Main Beach.  The Main Beach Recreation Building was constructed in 1926.

In addition to his civic duties, John was the owner of an ice cream and cigar store in Crystal Lake for many years and was also a local insurance agent.  He was  a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church and was the secretary of the Crystal Lake Union Cemetery Association for 42 years.

He married Emma Schroeder Ortman on October 19, 1904 in Crystal Lake.  John and Emma Flotow had two children.  John William was born on March 21, 1912.  he married Phillis Raddatz in 1946 in Broward County, Florida.  John W. died on December 22, 1974 in Broward County.

Esther Flotow Blank wa born on May 30, 1919.  She is still living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

John and Emma lived on Paddock Street where they later purchased the property of Emma's parents, Carl and Maria Ortman, just a few doors from their home.  They later moved to Ellsworth Street.

In 1962 John and Emma moved to Florida to be near their children.  Emma died on March 18, 1974 in Lake County, Florida.  John died several years later in Fort Lauderdale.  He was 94 years old.

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Henry Bruedigam (1856 - 1927)

Both born in Germany, Henry and his wife Augusta, came to the United States in 1882, arriving in Crystal Lake on May 17, just one month after their marriage.  Henry had been a blacksmith for eight years in Germany and opened a shop on Railroad Street, moving later to Woodstock Street.

Henry served as a trustee on the village board of old Crystal Lake and then as alderman of Crystal Lake after the two villages had united.  He later became the assessor of Algonquin Township where he served for eleven years.  He was also treasurer of the cemetery board and member of the Crystal Lake school board.  Henry was a devoted public official.

Local residents were stunned when Henry died suddenly in church of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 71. Augusta had also died suddenly at home in 1916 after complaining of a severe headache.

Henry and Augusta had four children.  Oldest was William who took over his father's blacksmith shop in 1910.  William also followed in his father's civic footsteps, serving as alderman for the second ward in Crystal Lake.  William died suddenly in 1941 at his home on Walkup Avenue after shoveling snow.  He was 57.

Paul was a structural engineer for Burrell Engineering Construction Company of Chicago for forty years before dying at age 68 in 1958.

Daughters Emma and Meta never married.  Emma was a lifelong resident of Crystal Lake and was a devoted home maker and member of Immanuel Lutheran Church.  She died in 1961 at age 73.  Meta worked 37 years as a cashier for Public Service Company.  She died in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, in 1977 at age 84.  Emma and Meta are also buried in Union Cemetery.

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Henry L. Cowlin (1898 - 1958)

Henry Cowlin was a life long resident of Crystal Lake.  His ancestors emigrated from England and changed their name from Cowling to Cowlin.  It is not known if this was a mistake or intentional.  Henry was the son of William and Sarah Leadley Cowlin.

Henry was born in the family home, now located at 22 South Walkup Avenue.  Henry's father built the home at 30 North Walkup.  That home remained in the Cowlin family until 1986.  It is now an accountant's office.

Henry Cowlin was a graduate of the University of Michigan and was admitted to the bar to practice law in 1922.  He became a judge of McHenry County in 1936, holding this position until his death.  He was a member of the University of Michigan Club of Chicago, the Lawyer's Club of the University, and the McHenry County Bar Association, where he was past president when he died.  Judge Cowlin served as attorney for several cities and villages in the county and for the Crystal Lake park board.

Henry married Emily M. Gillooley on June 30, 1923.  They were married at the home of Emily's parents in Chicago.  Their wedding announcement in the Crystal Lake Herald described Henry as "one fo Crystal  Lake's most ambitious and popular young men."  Henry and Emily had four children: Henry L., William J., John L., and Emily.

Henry died in 1958 after a short illness.  Emily died in 1968.

Henry Cowlin Jr. was born in 1924.  After service in the Pacific in the U.S. Navy during WWII, Henry attended the University of Michigan and obtained his juris doctorate from Wayne State University Law School.  Following his father's footsteps, he practiced law for more than 25 years and was elected as a circuit court judge in 1978.  He retired in 1996 and died in 2007.

Emily was born in 1927.  She married Richard Visin in 1947 and died in 1986.

William was born in 1931 and also attended the University of Michigan.  He graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1956 then served two years in the U.S. Army.  William practiced law in McHenry County from 1958 until his death in 2004.  He was elected state's attorney of McHenry County in 1968, 1972 and 1976.

John L. Cowlin is an attorney with Cowlin, Curran, Naughton and Coppedge, the firm started by his brother William in 1984.  John is the City Attorney for the City of Crystal Lake and represents numerous other municipalities.

The Cowlins have a long history of civic service in Crystal Lake and McHenry County.  Three generations of Cowlins have become attorneys.

Today, Judge Henry L. Cowlin is being portrayed by his grandson, Jim Cowlin, an attorney.

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Lorenzo D. Lowell (1867 - 1938)

Mary Philp Lowell (1875 - 1951)

Lorenzo Lowell was raised on a farm on the south side of Crystal Lake where he helped tend to the farm animals.  He was valedictorian of the second graduating class of Crystal Lake High School in 1887.  He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio.  His family moved to Oberlin while Lorenzo attended college to be near him.

He was admitted to the bar in 1893 and served two terms as McHenry County State's Attorney from 1900-1908.  Lorenzo served 35 years as attorney for the City of Crystal Lake and was on the Crystal Lake Board of Education for 10 years.  Other affiliations included the American and Illinois Bar Associations, the Cary Lodge of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, the Modern Woodmen of America, and the Order of Knights of Maccabees.

In private practice Lorenzo did the legal work for Dean's Dairy, directed litigation in the famous "lake case" where citizens sought to prevent an ice company from cutting ice and represented farmers in bringing TB testing to their cows.  He received great notoriety for solving the famous Ellsworth murder case where Earl Ellsworth killed his parents and another man.

Lorenzo and Mary Philp were married on November 9, 1893.  They had two children, Beatrice Marie who was born in 1894 and Gordon Lorenzo, born in 1900.  In 1902, he built a grand Victorian home oat the northwest corner of Crystal Lake Avenue and Walkup Avenue, currently the location of the Waggoner Law Firm.

Outside the law, Lorenzo had a passion for agriculture and owned several farms over the years.  One of the farms was north of Greenwood and another was in Ringwood.  Mary tended a large vegetable garden on the Greenwood farm.  Mary was also an accomplished painter and loved to bake cookies for her children and grandchildren in a big, black coal oven.

Lorenzo Lowell bought the building at 83 E. Woodstock Street shortly after it was built in 1908.  His law offices were housed upstairs, with a variety of businesses below, including the Crystal Lake Herald, Ben Throop's General Store and Heisler's Harness Shop.  Today, the Judith Svalander School of Ballet occupies the Lowell Building.

Interestingly, Lorenzo never learned how to drive a car.  Much of Mary's time was spent driving him where he needed to go.  His eyesight was always poor and he often enlisted family members to read him legal and farm related papers.

Lorenzo protected his real estate and financial holdings during the Great Depression by wisely forecasting the demise of the United State Bank in Crystal Lake which he felt had faulty business practices.  He is remembered by his grandchildren as being loving and attentive, and a great lawyer, politician, businessman and farmer.

Click here to view video.