Wednesday, August 16, 1871
Written for the Urbana Union
“Cursed Be He Who Disturbs My Bones.”
(Transcribed by Linda Jean Limes Ellis – May 13, 2014
(Typed as written with minor corrections)
The grave-yard to be plowed up. The bones of our citizens and the soldiers of 1812 to be desecrated. Shakspeare’s [sic] anathama [sic] “cursed be he who disturbs my bones,” has lost its terror with our City Dads.
Shade of Frederic Gump (sp)! Rise in your revolutionary habilliments [sic] and shake your gory locks, whitened by the frosts of 107 winters, in the face of him who first dares attempt the cursed deed.
If the tax payers of this city will supinely submit to be plucked to the sum of nearly $50,000 a year, in support of a city government, it is no reason why all the old inhabitants, who carved it out of a wilderness, should be shocked and outraged by the acts of those who now claim to be the City Council.
Some few weeks ago a petition signed by a few citizens living on Ward street, and who are greatly mistaken as to its ultimate benefit to them, or the effect of the measure upon the value of their property, presented it to the Council asking the running of said street through the old town grave-yard, upon which appropriate action was had, and reference made to the City Board of Public Improvements. The Board after advising themselves of the merits of the proposition, very sensibly determined to report adversely. The ring watching the Movement suddenly discovered danger, and changed their tactics, and procured and presented a new petition against the remonstrance on file with the city Clerk, of all the land owners east of Sycamore Street, and some in other localities, asking the extension to East Lawn Avenue, and manipulated the Council into the belief that their former reference was not lawful, and that the Council itself must act directly in premises.
This new phase of the proposition was promptly met by the presentation of a remonstrance, signed by about 225 of our best citizens, obtained without any general canvass, which no doubt would more than have doubled it. Instead of treating it with that due respect which our City Government owes to its constituency. The people who signed it were insulted by a prominent member, by the gross and burly remark that such an expression amounted to nothing, that signatures to such papers were mere commonplace things, that as many or more could be obtained favoring the petition, and it was consigned without action as is usual with the Council, to a pigeon-hole in the City Clerk’s office, where I hope it will remain without mutilation as a memento for the use of the Centennial meeting to be held by an adjournment on the 15th of March, 1916, as dodge number ONE.
The opponents to the measure of running the street through the grave-yard, after having been thus foiled and repulsed, obtained signatures of nearly all the old settlers of the town to a memorial respectfully addressed to the Council, asking it to submit the whole question to the people of all the Wards after 20 days notice, and suspend further action until the people settled it by their votes, which was also carefully read and shared the fate of it predecessor, after refusing to even second the motion of one member to accept the reasonable proposition, it was 4 to 1 ordered on FILE, to be used it is hoped, March 15th, 1916, as dodge number TWO.
On the next meeting of the Council the member who was not present at the previous meeting having the fear of the people before him, voluntarily called up the memorial from its perch in the pigeon hole, and obtaining a second he elaborately urged the reasonableness of the proposition and insisted upon a direct vote of Ayes and Nays, which seemed to be waxing too hot to be any longer skulked by some of them, and it became convenient to move an adjournment, which is always convenient and in order, and of course the body dissolved into thin air as a City Council. This was dodge number THREE, which is also handed over to March 15th, 1916, to be reviewed by the great grand-children of this redoubtable City Council, who no doubt will stare at each other and wonder if they sprung from such *****, such an ancestry.
During the progress of these interventions of the people to save the old time honored grave-yard, an ordinance was dragging its slimy serpentine length through the regular weekly sessions of the City Council to its third reading, which occurred on the 31st of July 1871, and culminated in the hellish and damnable act of passing the ordinance to decimate the old venerated grave-yard without promoting any public benefit as to travel, transit or drainage.
Well might Shakspeare [sic] be supposed to have had a prophetic vision of the scenes enacted in our City Council Chamber on the memorable night of July 31st, 1871, when applying his words to other scenes he broke forth substantially in the language “clothed with a little brief authority, they cut such high phantastic tricks before high Heaven, as made angels weep!” If departed spirits really take cognizance of the acts of men, it would not require any great draw on the imagination to suppose that, that portion of the angelic hosts, whose earthly tabernacles were reposing in the old Urbana grave-yard, would have good reason to indulge in the weeping mood, in view of the bull-headed stubbornness with which they resisted popular appeals of the people, both in the City and the surrounding country. Can this monstrosity be submitted to by the great masses of our population? Time will tell.
But there is another phase to this uncalled for proceedings, besides the burkeing [sic] of the bones of the dead by municipal hyenas. It destroys a munificent grant entered of record, to the PEOPLE from the original proprietor of the town which was intended to remain intact for generation after generation, the whole of which as now inclosed, measures in a square with avenues around it, not less than one and five eight [sic] acres of land now near the center of the City, and which in the times to come, will be worth as I have said elsewhere, not less than $20,000 and may at small expense be made a beautiful place of resort and promenade for our people of the present day. Shall this all be sacrificed to gratify the senseless whims of a few persons owning property on Ward street? They invested their money in it with a full knowledge of all the facts, they knew it abutted a grave-yard, dating back a full half century. Have they any right to complain and ask such a public sacrifice(?)? Certainly not.
I will conclude by saying to the Urbana public, that I expect at another time to lift the vail, and expose enormity of the measure upon them as tax payers, and point out that element in the Council that should be held responsible for it. I have taken notes “and faith I’ll print ‘em.”