African American Civil War Burials and Mt. Hope Cemetery, Urbana
611 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Champaign, IL
Located west of Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mount Hope Cemetery 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. 📍
Many local African Americans who fought in the Civil War are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Champaign-Urbana 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.
Enlistees in the Illinois 29th include:
- John Clemens/Clements, Homer, Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois, Co. He was born in Tennessee, and died of disease on February 21, 1865, at sea.
- Payton Colwell, Champaign, Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois, Co. I. He died in New Orleans.
- Dennis Jackson, Champaign, 29th USCT Illinois. Enlisted February 15, 1865.
- David Johnson, Champaign, Wagoner, 29th USCT, Illinois. Enslaved on May 11, 1822, in Prince William County, Virginia, he was brought to Missouri by his owners, the Hose. He married Harriet Harbison in 1848 and had 13 children. David and Harriet later moved to Illinois, working on farms. In 1863, they arrived in Champaign where David appears to have joined the army as a wagoner. After the war, he worked as a laborer and married Anna Washington after his Harriet’s death. David died on November 9, 1908. Services were held at Second Baptist Church (Salem) and he was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- George W. Johnson, Champaign, Pvt. 29th USCT, Illinois. Enlisted February 15, 1865.
- William Kelly, Champaign, Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois
- Samuel Persons, Homer, Pvt./Cpl./Sgt. 29th USCT, Illinois, Co. F; buried in Homer G.A.R. Cemetery.
- Jerry Pinney/Penney/Penny, Champaign, Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois. Enlisted February 15, 1865.
- James Walker, Champaign, Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois, Enlisted February 15, 1865. He was born around 1842 in Maryland. After the war, he worked as a laborer. He died on May 1, 1894, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
Enlistees in Infantries outside of Illinois:
- Bryor Bell, Urbana, 26th USCT New York. Enlisted February 21, 1865.
- Thomas Benton, Champaign, 26th USCT New York. Enlisted February 21, 1865.
- Elijah Gibbs, Champaign, 55th USCT Massachusetts Vols., Co. H. Born around 1836 in Morgan County, Alabama, he came to Champaign County in 1861. After emancipation in 1863, he enlisted in the 55th After the war, he returned to Champaign and lived at the corner of 4th Street and University Avenue. He died on June 22, 1876, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
- James S. Keines, Champaign, 26th USCT New York. Enlisted February 8, 1865.
African American Civil War Veterans who came to Champaign County after the Civil War:
- Jordan Anderson, Indiana, Pvt. 28th USCT Indiana Vol.; Member of local G.A.R. and buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- James H. Bell, — , Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois, Co. D. Born on May 1, 1847 he came to Champaign around 1865–67. He was a minister from 1872–1902 and died of tuberculosis on May 1, 1911. Services were held at Salem Baptist Church and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- William G. Blackburn, — , Pvt. 50th USCT Louisiana, Co. I; He died on January 20, 1893, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- Isaac Beard, — , Pvt. 13th USCT Tennessee, Co. C; buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Sidney.
- J.C. Cone, — , Pvt. 54th USCT Massachusetts, Calvary; He was buried in Old Homer Cemetery.
- George W. Johnson, 118th USCT Maryland, Co. K; organized in Baltimore. He was born around 1831 in Missouri. While with the 118th, he participated in the siege of Petersburg and occupation of Richmond. After the war, he moved to Champaign and worked as a day laborer. He died on January 23, 1885, and he was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
- John C. Lewis/Louis, Indiana, Sgt. Indiana 28th USCT, Co. In 1832, John was born in Canada. He came to Champaign-Urbana after the Civil War in 1865 and first worked as a plasterer. He married and had four children. He died of dropsy on September 17, 1886, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- John R. Marrick, — , Pvt. 55th USCT Massachusetts Vols., Co. I. He was born around 1843 or 1844. After the war, he came to Urbana where he worked as a laborer. He was a member of the Black Eagle Post #129 of the GAR in Urbana. He died of pneumonia resulting from influenza on January 14, 1890, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- Martin McDermot, — , 1st Class, Navy, 293-ton side Wheeler US Gunboat Hasting that carried eight guns, US Ouachita and US Clara Dolson on the Mississippi River. He served with the 60th Iowa USCT, known as the first Iowa African Infantry, in Company F. He enlisted on August 24, 1863.
- John Morse/Moss, — , Pvt. 55th USCT Massachusetts Vols., Co. H. Enlisted June 15, 1863, in Boston, Massachusetts; discharged August 29, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina.
- Elijah Nelson, Tennessee, Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois; enlisted in Tennessee.
- Ruff Phillips, Missouri, Pvt. 48th USCT Missouri Vols., Co. C, and Drummer, 7th Illinois Calvary. After the war, he was employed for a time at John Moss’ barbershop. He died in Danville on February 16, 1879, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- Jess (James) Edward Riley, Sr, Mississippi, Pvt. 29th USCT Illinois, Co. K. He was born in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, on March 16, 1834, and enlisted in Tennessee. After relocating to Champaign after the war, he worked as a laborer. By 1884, James became a barber residing with his family on the north side of University Avenue, four doors east of 4th Street. He died on June 14, 1892, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana. He had at least two sons, George, who attended the University of Illinois, and James Edward Jr.
- Stephen Roey/Roy, Tennessee, Pvt.. 110th Colored Reg. Alabama, Co. C. The 110th was organized out of the 2nd Alabama USCT. He was born in approximately 1842–45 in Tennessee. After serving during the war doing garrison and guard duty in Tennessee and northern Alabama, he moved to Champaign around 1873 and worked as a laborer. He died on August 13, 1893. Services were held at the Second Baptist Church (Salem) and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- Al Robinson/Robinson, —, 23rd USCT Virginia. The 23rd is noted for being the first African American infantry to fight in direct combat with General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in 1864.
- Simon Ross, — , 49th USCT Louisiana, Co. K and I. While assigned to Co. I, he performed garrison duty at Vicksburg. He was born in South Carolina around 1830. After the war, he came to Champaign and worked as a laborer. He died on February 15, 1883, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- Joseph Stocks, Vicksburg, MS, Sgt. 50th USCT Louisiana, Co. H. He was born on February 1, 1841, in Tensas Parish, Louisiana, and he enlisted on December 2, 1863. Enlisting as a private in Vicksburg after its fall to Union troops, Stocks was able to attain the rank of 1st Duty Sergeant. He saw action at Bruinsburg, Snyder Bluff, Fort Blakely, and Mobile. He sustained an eye wound at Fort Blakey and was hospitalized in Vicksburg and in Jackson, Mississippi. Stocks described a hard march from Florida to Mobile where the troops were on the verge of starving with nothing to eat but half cooked meat and parched corn. On one occasion, they had to wade through neck-deep water for more than a mile. He was discharged on March 20, 1866. He came to Champaign in 1894 and worked as a laborer until about 1906.
- George W. Smith, Tennessee, Scout.
- William Summerville, — , 29th USCT Illinois, Co. G; He is listed as a laborer and resident at 52 Park Street, Champaign, in 1885. He was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- Larkin N/H. Walden, — , Pvt. 55th USCT Massachusetts Volunteers, Co. I. Born in Tennessee in 1830, he came to Champaign in 1865 as a laborer. He died on May 24, 1900, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- James Walker, Maryland, Pvt. 118th USCT Maryland, Co. K. He was born in Maryland. He may had participated in the occupation of Richmond and served on the Rio Grande in Texas after the announcement of emancipation in Texas on June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth). After the war, he came to Champaign and worked as a day laborer. He died on May 1, 1894, and was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
- Stephen Winston, — , 110th USCT Alabama, Co. C. He died on May 4, 1900, and he was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
Other African American Civil War Veterans Buried in Champaign County:
- William P. Winn, — , Cpl. 18th USCT Missouri, Co. D. Winn was born in Tennessee around 1846 and after the war lived in Monticello, Piatt County, Illinois. He was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Urbana.
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.
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Additional Champaign Trail Sites
Sports & Recreation
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 local 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. 📍
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.
Social and Religious Life
Located at 401 E. Park Street in Champaign, Bethel A.M.E. Church is the oldest African American led church in Champaign County. It was organized in 1863 and predates the establishment of the University of Illinois. During the early part of the century when segregation was a fact of life, Bethel established a library and had a church orchestra. The church served as a meeting place for Black students attending the University of Illinois, establishing monthly lyceum meetings where students and members of the congregation came together for lectures, discussions, debates, and musical performances. In 1915 it was the site of the founding of the Twin Cities Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Spiritual, community and educational development have continued to be a mission for the church. 📍
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. 📍
Edward A. Green, a freeman, became one of the first African Americans to settle in Champaign County in 1856. Born in North Carolina, he moved to West Urbana (now Champaign) from Union County, Ohio, with his first wife, Georgia Anne, and daughters, Anna A. and Florence E. Green. A carpenter by trade, in 1858 he began purchasing parcels of land throughout what would become Champaign and into northwestern Urbana, ending up with approximately 14 lots. Six lots were located in Urbana between Wright and Goodwin Streets, along Eads and Champaign (now Vine) Streets.
Frederick Douglass visited Champaign, Illinois, on February 15, 1869, at Barrett Hall, located on the third floor above what was Henry Swannell’s Drug Store, now One Main Plaza. His topic was Self-Made Men. “His wit was keen and sparkling, his humor dry and effective, and his logic and argument as clear as that of the most polished orator in the land.” — Champaign County Gazette, February 17, 1869 📍