Hidden History Beneath the Naperville Cemetery

The Naperville Cemetery was established in 1842, just 11 years after the founding of the village itself.

It has seen most of the city’s history, and some of Naperville’s most prominent figures rest here now.

“A lot of places have huge monuments to founders of towns but you almost have to walk around and stumble into Joe here,” said local genealogist, Jeffrey Bockman. “Just behind him is Mr. Hobson, who had a settlement and another mill down by Hobson Road that’s named after him.”

While the recognizable names provide obvious connections to Naperville’s history, the cemetery has clues to details and personalities that have mostly been forgotten by the passage of time – like Norman Lent.

“He was a blacksmith from about 1833 in his shop at the corner of Webster and High Street which is now Aurora Avenue. So the city Hall parking lot is right where his shop used to be,” said Bockman.

And cemeteries are important for those who researching their family’s history.

“I’ve stood at the grave of my seventh great grandfather 300 years after he passed away. There’s something about it. Being there and being able to talk to him and thank him for leaving what records he did,” said Bockman.

If you want to get started on your family history, Bockman recommends starting with what you know, your parents, and grandparents, and go from there.

“Every tombstone has a birth and death date with a dash in-between. But we’d like to know what some of them did with the dash, and you’re the best one to record what you did with your dash as well,” said Bockman.

The Naperville Cemetery has burial records dating all the way back to the early 1800s, available for anyone looking to learn a little bit about local history.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.

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