Mooney Cemetery, Highland Park
About Mooney Cemetery, Highland Park
The Mooney’s Cemetery story begins in about 1846, when early Catholic pioneer settlers, including Irish immigrant James Mooney, built a little log church with Military – now Greenbay – Road in Highland Park. By 1853, they had vacated that land to the new railroad right-of-way and moved their St. Mary’s of the Woods church to a 4-acre donated property near what is now Lincoln Avenue at Greenbay Road. (For reference purposes, our township was established in 1850.) That property gradually added a cemetery in the churchyard. About 1872, the church moved again, eventually becoming Immaculate Conception Church at its present location at Deerfield and Greenbay Roads. The abandoned former log church and cemetery grounds fell into disrepair, and by 1899, the property reverted to its original owners, who sold it for development.
Thus, in 1899, bodies had to be removed and relocated. James Mooney had died in the 1850s. His son, John, took his family’s remains and allowed others to remove theirs to a section of his land on Ridge Road. One account describes confusing disarray in the old churchyard: “tumble-down marble slabs; some with wooden crosses; many unmarked; many more untenanted; all neglected….” Not surprisingly, the removal process was “incomplete” – since graves were reportedly found during subsequent development excavations on Greenbay Road in 1909. Some accounts say that John Mooney [read 1891 bio] allowed those graves to also be moved to his property.
On the record with the Lake County Recorder of Deeds is a 1904 Quit Claim document showing John Mooney’s transfer of cemetery property to the Catholic Bishop of Chicago. A 1907 plat on file was officially surveyed as Mooney’s Cemetery. A St. Mary’s Cemetery plat obtained from the Chicago Archdiocese office is dated 1908: John Mooney donated a portion of his property to St. Mary’s and the remainder was reserved as a private cemetery.
More evidence of the inexact record-keeping appears in a later account. An August 9, 1951 article about Mooney’s Cemetery by Evelyn Lauter published in the Highland Park News reports an array of “old tombstones [which had] come along with the original bodies and all along the west side of the place today may be found the moldering markers.”
Even the spelling of names varies in the historical record. In her article, Lauter goes on to update the contemporaneous local Mooney family history by identifying John as the “father of the present Mooney family whose homestead was on the site of today’s Sunset Park Golf club. A son, Thomas, died last February  at the age of 82 in his home on…N Ridge Road, near the cemetery. Mrs. Mooney, who today acts as sexton for the burial ground, is the former Cecelia [sic] Zahnle….”
Nine years later, in 1960, an elderly Cecilia Mooney deeded Mooney’s Cemetery to the care of Deerfield Township, now called Moraine.
An article by Sandi Wisenberg published in the Highland Park News on October 25, 1979, contains revealing observations from Bob Hinkey, identified as a local funeral director and then-sexton for St. Mary’s and Mooney’s. Wisenberg wrote: “No complete map exists locating each grave, so a special rod is used to determine if a vault is below the intended gravesite. In winter it takes all day to locate a grave.
‘It’s really a problem,’ Hinkey said [in 1979]. ‘People are buried in here and we don’t know who they are.’”
Each generation, it is said, “discovers” anew their own history. Moraine Township would like to record that history as accurately and completely as possible. We invite our readers to add their family reminiscences and records to ours. Then, check out our website for the complete story – such as is known and as it develops – of Mooney/Mooney’s and Daggitt/Daggett/Grace/Braeside Cemetery. Add your knowledge to ours, for the record!