African American Civil War Burials and Mt. Hope Cemetery

African American Civil War Burials and Mt. Hope Cemetery

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Mt. Hope Cemetery War Memorial

611 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Champaign, IL

Located west of Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mount Hope Cemetery (611 E. Pennsylvania Ave., Champaign, IL) was plotted and internment began in 1856. Sitting on the dividing line between the two cities, it’s the oldest operating cemetery in Champaign-Urbana. Throughout its 150 years, it has been the final resting place for many local African Americans and their families, including most of those who fought in the Civil War. The majority of these veterans were buried in what was the Grand Army of the Republic’s (G.A.R.) section, now known as the “old” veteran's section, found as you enter the cemetery. It is represented by the Civil War Memorial and a 32-pound canon built in 1851. However, many of the original markers no longer exist for many of these and other Civil War veterans, or they were moved to other locations in the cemetery.

African Americans veterans from various wars including World War I and II are also buried in this section. 📍

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Many local African Americans who fought in the Civil War are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Champaign-Urbana (611 E. Pennsylvania Ave.) as well as in other cemeteries around the county. Although many individual markers do not exist or have not been relocated, our understanding of which Civil War veterans buried at Mount Hope and other cemeteries are based on available records. The list of veterans below, though extensively researched, may not be complete.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Urbana

Jordan Anderson, Pvt, 28th U.S. Volunteers (28th USCT)

James H. Bell, Pvt, Co D, 29th USCT

William. G. Blackburn, Pvt, Co I, 50th USCT, died 20 January 1893

Elijah Gibbs, Cpl, Co H, 55th MA Vols

George. W. Johnson, Pvt, Co K, 118th US Inf (118th USCT)

David Johnson, Wagoner, 29th USCT

John C. Louis (Lewis), Sgt, Co D, 28th USCT

Martin McDermot, Pvt, US gunboat Hastings

John R. Merrick, Pvt, Co I, 55th MA Vols

John Moss, Pvt, Co H, 55th MA Inf

Ruff Phillips, Pvt, Co C, 48th MO Vol, and Drummer, 7th IL Cav

James (Jess) E. Riley, Pvt, Co K, 29th USCT

Stephen Roey, Pvt, Co C, 1l0th USCT

Simon Ross, Pvt, Co K, 49th USCT and Co I, II the USCT

William Summerville, Pvt, Co G, 29th USCT

Larkin. H. Walden, Pvt, Co I, MA Vols

James Walker; Pvt, Co K, 118th USCT

William. P. Winn, Cpl, Co. D, 18th USCT

Stephen Winston, Co C, 1l0th USCT, died 4 May 1900

Homer GAR Cemetery, Homer IL

Samuel Persons, Sgt, 29th USCT, Co. F

Old Homer Cemetery, Homer, IL

C. Cone, 54th US Cav (54th USCT)

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Sidney, IL

Isaac Beard, Pvt, Co C, 13th USCT



From Salt Fork to Chickamaunga: Champaign County Soldiers in the Civil War, Chapter 22 “Black Soldiers in the Civil War,” by Robert H. Behrens [Urbana, IL: Urbana Free Library, 1988] pps. 371-381.




  • Champaign, Illinois
  • Urbana, Illinois

Additional Champaign Trail Sites


Social and Religious Life

St. Luke Christian Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.) Church

Located at 809 N. Fifth Street in Champaign, St. Luke C.M.E. Church was established in 1901, making it the third-oldest historically African American congregation in Champaign County. Originally located on Eads Street in Urbana and called St. Luke Tabernacle Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, it was renamed in 1954 to Christian Methodist Episcopal. The church moved to its current location in 1914. 📍


Sports & Recreation

Douglass Park and Douglass Center

The Park and Center are named for the great African American orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. In 1941, the Douglass Community Service Committee began an effort to raise funds for a new complex, to be built on two empty lots. Ground broke in 1944 and the Center was completed in 1946. The Center held classes in art, music, and sewing, among other activities. Athletics included adult softball, baseball, basketball, track, and tennis. The Center hosted many social events. One of the groups that brought national recognition to the Center was its Drum and Bugle Corps and Drill Team. In 1975, 200 residents protested the decision by the Park Board to demolish the old Douglass Center and replace it with a new gym. The group advocated for the old Center to be replaced with a new, full-service, comprehensive Center. After much discussion between the community and the Park Board, the “old” Center was torn down and a new Center was constructed. It opened on December 12, 1976. In March 1978, the Douglass Annex opened with a focus on senior citizens, and in 1997 the Douglass Branch Library moved into its current site. 📍


Sergeant Allen A. Rivers, Sr.

Allen A. Rivers, Sr. was hired as the first and, at the time, only African American in the Champaign Police Department on August 1, 1935. He worked for 33 years as a policeman rising from a “beat cop” to a motorcycle cop, and then to Sergeant before retiring. He was known as never having to fire his gun in pursuit of a criminal or during an arrest.


Civil Rights, Social Justice, & Politics


African Americans and the Illinois Central Railroad

Chartered in 1851, the Illinois Central Railroad was lobbied for by both Steven A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Completed by 1856, it was considered the longest railroad in the world. From 1857 through the Civil War, the Illinois Central Railroad (IC) was said to carry fugitives from slavery, along with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, and the Chicago and Rock Island Railroads. Fugitives travelled by box cars and passenger cars, by day and by night. With the assistance of railroad porters, sympathetic conductors, laborers, freedmen, and abolitionists, they managed to travel mostly without arrest. 📍


Dr. Martin Luther King Subdivision

The Dr. Martin Luther King Subdivision, located between North Fourth Street and the Canadian National railroad tracks in Champaign, Illinois, was a part of urban renewal that took place in the late 1960s, eventually replacing the old Oak-Ash neighborhood. It began in the 1980s and was the only urban renewal project that was not replaced with public or subsidized housing. The names of the streets in the subdivision were chosen to recognize African Americans who were historically significant for the community and submitted to the city council by J. W. Pirtle. 📍


Carver Park

In 1951, African American civic leader Charles Phillips saw a need for quality single-family housing in the Black Community. So, he put together a “grass roots” coalition of friends and acquaintances to buy ten acres of farmland and hired developer Ozier-Weller Homes. Each family put up $350.00 to develop the 70-home subdivision named after African American scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. It was Champaign-Urbana’s first subdivision financed and built by African Americans. 📍