Tucked in between a Nicor gas pipeline, Arlington Heights Road and the Northwest Tollway in Elk Grove Village sits a cemetery of some 200 graves.
Few people may know about the historic cemetery -- which dates to the 1830s -- and fewer still may know about the role played by two of its inhabitants in the fight for American independence.
To donateThe Illinois Sons of the American Revolution is accepting donations for its historical marker program, which is an effort to install marker signs at every cemetery in the state where at least one Revolutionary War veteran is buried. To donate, write a check to: Illinois Sons of the American Revolution, c/o Treasurer Don Hyland, 304 Felmley Drive, Normal, IL 61761. For more information, visit Illinois-sar.org.
That's why the Illinois Sons of the American Revolution organization plans to install a historical marker to recognize the two Revolutionary War figures buried there -- a project the group's members plans to expand to every cemetery in the state where Revolutionary War veterans are buried.
The Salt Creek chapter of the group, whose membership traces their lineage to those who contributed to the Revolutionary War effort, has secured funding for a 2-foot by 3-foot sign and post for Elk Grove Cemetery, where veterans Eli Skinner and Aaron Miner are buried.
"It's what we do as an organization: to perpetuate the memory of our ancestors," said Franz Herder, past president of the Illinois Sons of the American Revolution and current Salt Creek chapter president. "It's being part of our legacy and part of our history. It's trying to live up to the standards these men lived up to and made our country what it is."
The Elk Grove marker will likely be installed during a ceremony in April after the ground has softened from the winter freeze. It will be the first installation in what Herder says will be a massive undertaking by 15 chapters of the group throughout Illinois, where an estimated 1,000 Revolutionary War figures are buried.
The Salt Creek chapter has some 30 members primarily in the western and southwestern suburbs.
Illinois Sons of the American Revolution members want to install a sign at every cemetery that serves as the final resting place for their ancestors. Some cemeteries have one Revolutionary War veteran, while others, particularly downstate, have up to 60, Herder said.
Herder said the goal at each cemetery is for Americans to learn about Revolutionary War veterans and their role in American history.
"When you walk into a cemetery and don't know there's patriots buried there, you wouldn't necessarily look for anything, but if you walk past a historical marker and know there's patriots there and it talks about what cause they fought for in the Revolution, what it does is provides, we think, a much improved educational outreach vehicle," Herder said.
Herder, who is spearheading the cemetery marker program in Illinois, is modeling his efforts on a similar program undertaken by the group's chapters in Wisconsin. After attending a dedication ceremony there two years ago, Herder was impressed.
"It reminded us how much this is an educational boost for children and adults alike," he said.
The group is kicking off its marker program at Elk Grove Cemetery because members have verifiable records about the two Revolutionary War veterans buried there.
Herder's Salk Creek chapter was able to get funds from the group's national headquarters in Louisville to help pay for the first sign. One sign costs about $2,000.
The group is fundraising now for historical marker installations around the state.
Already at the grave sites of Eli Skinner and Aaron Miner are small copper plates depicting a soldier holding a musket, and the year "1775," likely placed there during previous dedication ceremonies. Herder's records indicate rededication of Skinner's gravesite took place in 1991 and 2008, and a ceremony was held in honor of both Skinner and Miner on Flag Day in 2005. Often, Daughters of the American Revolution and Children of the American Revolution chapters were involved.
Skinner has two gravestones: a marker with fading letters that reads "Fifer Eli Skinner" and says he died in 1851 at the age of 91, and another marker with an attached copper tablet installed by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
According to records from the Sons of the American Revolution and at the Elk Grove Historical Museum, Skinner enlisted in the Massachusetts militia at 14, and because of his young age, was given the task of playing the flutelike fife instrument as soldiers marched into battle. He married twice, raised a total of 10 children in Massachusetts and Vermont, later moved to New York, then came to Elk Grove at 88 where good farmland was available.
His homestead, located near what is now the intersection of Algonquin and Arlington Heights roads, was built in the 1840s, and was torn down in the 1930s, according to Michael Stachnik, the program manager of the Elk Grove Historical Museum.
Miner also has two gravestones, the second of which was dedicated by the Daughters of the American Revolution and lists his military accomplishments: He served with the Connecticut militia and distinguished himself during battles at Lake George, Lake Champlain, St. John's and Montreal.
Stachnik said some records also indicate Miner's unit was under the command of George Washington at Long Island and White Plaines.
Miner moved to Elk Grove with his son in 1833, and died in 1849 at 92.
"A lot of these guys fought in the Revolutionary War -- mostly in the east, raised families, then following the availability of land ... came to good soil and a new life in the Midwest," Herder said.
"The purpose of the markers is to alert people to the fact there's patriots buried there and tell them a little bit about where those men came from. It's a way of remembering them and highlighting what our legacy is."