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


North First Street Corridor, Champaign

North First Street Corridor is the oldest business district in Champaign, dating to the 1850s. A triangular area that originally included East Main Street, University Avenue, and the first two blocks of North First Street, it bordered an integrated working-class neighborhood called Germantown.


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.


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.


Civil Rights, Social Justice, & Politics


The J.C. Penney Boycott and Picketing Campaign

During the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans fought for equal opportunity in employment across the nation. In Champaign-Urbana, the Champaign-Urbana Improvement Association (CUIA) was founded to demand greater job opportunities for African Americans, resulting in one of the most influential local civil rights victories known as the J.C. Penney Boycott.


Edward A. Green

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.


Cecil Dewey Nelson, Sr.

Cecil D. Nelson was the most decorated World War I soldier in the county. A sergeant in both the Mexican Expedition of 1916 and World War I, he increased his age so he could enlist in the Illinois 8th Regiment, known as the “Old 8th,” in Danville, Illinois. With the U.S. involvement in World War I, his unit become part of the all-Black 370th Infantry where he met and became friends with William Frank Earnest, whom he saw die. On October 18, 1918, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre by French General Vincendon for bravery under fire, and several other decorations later for his service during World War I. The son of Joseph and Estella Nelson (née Anderson), he, like his mother, was born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, and was a member of Bethel AME. He returned home where he met and married William Franks’ niece, Carrie Mae Earnest, and became an active and respected member of both the Black and white communities. He lived at 1002 N. 5th Street in Champaign, and he is one of the founders of the William F. Earnest American Legion Post #559.