For years legend has surrounded the gravestone that until recently was hidden under bushes in the parking lot of the apartment building at 7889 Archer Ave in west suburban Justice.
I became interested in researching the gravesite about six years ago. I had heard of the gravestone and had to see it for myself. I crawled under the bushes that used to be in the parking lot of the property and found a small obelisk with the following inscription:
15 OCT 1888
26 MARZ 1915
I have to admit that at first I thought it was a joke because the last name looked like “BONES” initially until I got a closer look with my flashlight and could see it was actually “Boness”.
Of course my curiosity was in overdrive and I set off to find out if this was an actual gravesite or a hoax. I contacted the management company that owned the building, Inland Realty, and asked them if they knew anything about the gravestone that was under the bushes in the parking lot. They told me that they were unaware of any grave or stone in the parking lot, thought it was an interesting story but couldn’t shed any light on that fact if it was true or not.
My second stop was actually directly across 79th Street from the apartment building, Bethania Cemetery. I mean it seemed quite a coincidence that there was a cemetery right across the street from the gravestone. Could someone have stolen a marker and stashed it under the bushes? Sounded plausible at first until a couple feet from the obelisk was a large heavy stone base that would not have been as easy to move.
I visited the cemetery office and spoke to a woman who introduced me to the supervisor at the time. I asked him about a burial of an August Boness and after looking in their card system he stated that they had no August Boness but did have a number of other Boness burials including a Frederick, Louise, Theresa, Ernest, Lena, Clarence, Roy, and a Liliana Boness. I asked point-blank about the gravestone across the street and he suddenly became very animated. He said, “That is all a hoax! They put that stone there sometime in the 1980s when they were filming a television series called Sightings which was doing a story on the hauntings at the apartment building that supposedly were linked to the grave!”
I asked him if he was working at the cemetery at the time and he said that he was not but that the information was passed down to him.
When I left there I didn’t know what to think. Was there a grave or wasn’t there? A search of deaths in Cook County turned up no deaths of an August Boness in or around 1915 which didn’t really prove anything since registration of deaths didn’t seriously become mandatory until the Illinois Department of Public Health was established in 1917.
My next option was land records and that is where things start to get interesting. The Property Identification Number for 7889 Archer Ave is 18-27-412-006-0000 and with that or the legal description of the property you can do a search on documents filed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. I took a trip to 118 N. Clark Street and proceeded to the basement where the document books are stored. After a little digging I found out something very interesting. The triangular parcel of land where the gravestone in question is located was at one point in time owned by none other than The Bethania Cemetery Association. If one believes the gravestone, Mr. Boness died on March 23, 1915. At that point in time Bethania was still the owner of the property. The interesting part is that the Bethania Cemetery Association sold that property to a person by the name of August Zuelke on February 23, 1916 only 11 months after the death of August Boness!
I did locate an August Boness who was born in Willow Springs, IL on March 24, 1884 which would have made him a contemporary of our August Boness in question and only a hop, skip and jump from Justice. There is only one problem. That particular August Boness left the area as a child and ended up in Butternut, Ashland County Wisconsin where he married a Margarethe Sprauger in 1907. They ended up having at least six kids; Rufus, Arno, Edwin, Elsie, Alvin and Eugene. That August Boness died in 1956 and is buried next to his wife at Union Cemetery in Butternut, Wisconsin.
Back in 2011 I received an email from a Cheri Boness who stated that she believed that the August Boness buried in the parking lot could be her great uncle and she would check with relatives to confirm but I have not heard back from her.
Just recently I was contacted by a volunteer who thought it was high time to create a memorial on the website Find-A-Grave even if there was no proof as of yet that an actual grave exists. He also made me aware that the buildings on the lot are being demolished and that the Village of Justice does not believe that an actual grave exists.
So what is to become of August Boness if there is indeed more than just an orphan gravestone on the plot. I know that according to Illinois State Law if a human burial exists outside of an established cemetery and is over 100 years old then the remains become property of the Illinois State Archives and from what I understand they do store the bones for historical purposes
I am wondering if any archaeological groups at local universities would be interested in doing a seismic analysis of the area surrounding the stone to determine if there are any voids that could indicate the existence of an old grave site.
Will a family member see this posting and come forward with information that could help us relocate the body to be with existing family gravesites?
Or is this really a hoax that was dreamed up by a documentary-style television show in the 1980s?
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