There are so many profound and fascinating parts of the history of Forest Park. And this town gets great credit for respecting, appreciating and increasingly celebrating our history.
For us, though, the apex of our local history has always been the Haymarket Martyrs Monument at Forest Home Cemetery. Here is the coming together of complex and compelling 19th-century Chicago and American history. The rise of labor in the age of industrialism. The bitter fight to suppress those workers. And then the spasm of violence at Haymarket Square and the utter failing of our values of justice in responding to the violence.
And out of that chaos and failure, the erecting in 1893 of this stunning monument by so many groups and individuals as a declaration that the moment would not ever be forgotten, that the martyrs of Haymarket would never be forgotten.
Now, after 123 summers and winters along Desplaines Avenue, on a fall weekend of continuous drenching rain, that history was reverently revealed as a team of historians, archeologists, library researchers, laborers, locals, the mayor and the cemetery’s general manager joined in to extract the time capsule left to us by those fervent advocates of that painful era.
As our John Rice reports in today’s Review, the weekend’s work was the culmination of two years of planning, the gathering up of a team of experts and enthusiastic supporters. The careful digging, the mud and the camaraderie, unearthed two containers. The first was an urn believed to contain the ashes of Oscar Neebe, one of the Haymarket martyrs. Neebe was pardoned and went on to live until 1916, a century ago.
Just below that urn was the capsule itself, believed, based on a newspaper account of the time, to contain a plethora of historical documents and contemporary accounts of the participants. The capsule appeared to be made from stone with a white marble top. One of the team of archeologists said the container clearly was crafted to endure. “The people who placed this capsule were thinking of us,” she said.
As we go to press, the contents of the time capsule remain unknown. It has now been moved to the nearby shop of Bartosz Dajnowski whose Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio is also on Desplaines Avenue. Dajnowski, who has a great affinity for preservation, returned to Chicago from a project in India to help in this historic moment.
Certainly, the Review will continue to report on just what is inside this time capsule. But for today we just stand in admiration of all those — some local, some not — who have collaborated in respect and curiosity to uncover this communication from our complicated past.