Yesterday morning, I found myself taking the 7:30 a.m. train to Champaign so that I could get some research done for a project I committed myself to early in the year. It needs to be off my to-do list.
However, as with most of my trips to the Student Life and Culture Archives at the University of Illinois, I know there will be tangents to follow. One of yesterday’s tangents was a trip to the Mount Hope Cemetery to find the grave of a FarmHouse founder.
Laura Miller, on the Mount Hope Cemetery website, wrote about the cemetery’s history:
Mount Hope Cemetery, located on the southern edge of the University of Illinois campus on the Champaign/Urbana line, is the oldest operating cemetery in Champaign-Urbana. Mt. Hope began interment in 1856, twenty-three years after the official incorporation of Champaign County with Urbana as its county seat and eleven years before the Illinois Industrial College, later University of Illinois, opened its doors. Walking through this cemetery, you will see over 150 years of local history reflected in the names and designs on the grave markers and the organization and the architecture of the cemetery. In this cemetery are graves with names that can also be found connected to local streets and buildings named after pioneer families: Busey and Cunningham. The evolution of grave-marker styles from the early symbolic stones to the more recent flat stones can be traced. The cemetery is also reflective of the diversity of people and burial customs in Champaign-Urbana over the years with ethnic and veteran burial sections as well as a potters field. The cemetery has had many additions since its establishment in 1856. Mt. Hope currently consists of 52 acres between Florida and Pennsylvania Avenues.
On my last visit, I was on a quest in the same cemetery to find the grave of Gamma Phi Beta founder, Frances Haven Moss. In the process, I came upon the family plot of Lois Franklin Stoolman, a Pi Beta Phi Grand Council member whose husband, Almon Winfield, built, in the early 1900s, many of the fraternity and sorority houses on campus, some of which are still standing.
This was going to be a much easier search. I had been told that FarmHouse founder Henry Ruck’s gravestone was on the 45-yard line across from Memorial Stadium. Since I rode the train and I was without wheels, my trusty sneakers and I headed south from the Illini Union. I get sidetracked easily looking for new things and adventures and while heading south, I meandered a little too much to the east, so much so that I noticed the Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Nu houses to my left. Two of the Lexington Triad chapters built similar houses at about the same time on the east side of campus during the time when the President’s house was being built. I know these random facts because I’ve written several histories of the University of Illinois GLOs for the Society for the Preservation of Greek Housing. It’s totally useless information rattling around in my brain.
I then headed west to the stadium walking on the edge of the cemetery. There, as I glanced through the fence, I saw the name “Swannell” on a large headstone. Was it Dan Swannell, the University of Michigan Phi Kappa Psi who was considered the father of the Phi Psi chapter at the University of Illinois? He was also an influential figure in the history of Phi Psi, serving as National President and he was instrumental in the establishment of its endowment fund (now Foundation). I found an opening in the fence to backtrack and explore. It was the Swannell family plot!
I finally made my way to the stadium and then began searching for Henry Rusk’s plot. The first sweep through yielded nothing. So I started back this time moving about 10 feet off the street.
I then spied the gravestone of Dike Eddleman, overlooking the stadium where he spent many football Saturdays. His name has been familiar to me ever since I wrote a history of the Kappa Kappa Chapter of Sigma Chi in the early 2000s. Thomas Dwight “Dike” Eddleman was gifted with the moniker, “the greatest athlete” in U of I’s history of athletics. During his undergraduate years in the late 1940s, he earned 11 varsity letters in basketball, football, and track and field.
In his later years, he served as a fundraiser for the athletic department. After his death in 2001, a portion of Fourth Street on the east side of Memorial Stadium between Peabody Drive and Kirby Streets was designated Honorary Dike Eddleman Way.
I finally came across Henry Rusk’s gravestone, just where I was told it would be. Rusk was a professor in U of I’s Department of Animal Husbandry. He headed the department from 1922–1939 and also served for 13 years as the Dean of the College of Agriculture. As an student at the University of Missouri, he was one of the founders of FarmHouse Fraternity.