Babies resting place still cared for

Published 7:50 pm Friday, August 10, 2007

By By Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery
There is perhaps no more tragic human experience than that of the death of a child.
Little lives lost leave big holes in the hearts of family, friends and strangers alike.
A century and more ago, the infant mortality rate was much higher than it is today. Larger families were the norm. Often more children increased a family's ability to prosper and to work the land when family farms and businesses were the norm.
The first burial of an infant, in the plots designed to conserve space, was recorded Dec. 1, 1926. In 1955 the original baby plot was closed after it received its final burial in January of 1953.
The original baby burial section is located through the main entrance to the right, just before the creek. Across the creek in the Garden of Memory are two more baby plots to the left of Hamilton Boulevard. Maps are now available at the Silverbrook Cemetery offices just inside the main entrance, supplied by the Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery.
Sue (Hulett) Cramer has a special place in her heart for the baby plot. In November 1946, her mother gave birth to a baby boy, Robert Lynn Hulett. The child lived only two days, and yet the loss of that tiny life left an undeniable mark on the lives of his family members.
Cramer and her sister-in-law, Edith Hulett have completed 100 volunteer hours caring for the baby plots within Silverbrook Cemetery. Each Wednesday morning the women can be seen cleaning stones, planting flowers and otherwise caring for the small plots.
Many of the gravestones have some depiction of a lamb to symbolize children and a belief of their now resting in the arms of Jesus, often referred to as "the good shepherd."
Glenn Earl Warburton was born Sept. 15, 1948. Four months later his parents laid him to rest, marking the spot with a white marble stone which simply states: "OUR LITTLE BOY."
"Child deaths, although still a problem today, were an incredible scourge of the 19th century. In 1870, with 4,000 deaths in the 0-4 age group, a Chicago child had a 50 percent chance of reaching the age 5. Accurate statistics are not available for earlier years, but conditions were probably worse. By 1900 there were over 8,000 annual deaths of 0-4 year-olds, but the odds of surviving to the age 5 had increased to 75 percent. Today the odds are better than 98 percent. The infant death rate (0-365 days) has fallen dramatically, but even more pronounced is the decline in the death rates for 1-4 year-olds," according to a website on statistics on infant deaths in Chicago.
"Children in the 19th century were subject to cholera, smallpox, measles and all of the other adult diseases, but childhood diarrhea diseases were the most terrifying. Infants would become diarrhea, then dehydrated, and die. These deaths were directly related to poor sanitary conditions. Deaths were much higher in summer, after rainfalls and in low lying areas, all of which were related to contamination from the sewage filled Chicago River," the report says.
One can only assume that in more rural areas such problems were even more prevalent.
"A variety of public health, medical, sewage and water supply improvements had dramatically cut the infant death rate by the turn of the century. The Chicago Health Department became an acknowledged leader in infant health with such measures as mandatory milk pasteurization (1909). Massive education programs, well baby clinics and comprehensive vaccinations were some of the many initiatives under the direction of legendary longtime leader Dr. Herman Bundesen. Chicago Lying-in-Hospital became a world leader in reducing infant deaths," the article concludes.
Friends meets monthly at the Law Enforcement Complex at 1500 Silverbrook St. in Niles at 7 p.m., the third Thursday of each month. Work sessions are the first and third Saturday from May to September from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, check the website: