A burial practice of early Christianity is shown inside the Fernwood Mausoleum, located in Roodhouse, IL. This 1914 building was to be the final resting place for some of the area’s most elite, but now due to long term deferred maintenance the building is in a state of manageable disrepair.
The name mausoleum itself comes from a grand tomb built for King Mausolus by his wife (and incidentally also his sister) Artemisia, around 353 B.C. Mausolus’ crypt was so elaborate every such building after it carried his name. It is listed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Fernwood Mausoleum, in contrast, is not a single dwelling for one or two people or for a specific family, it is a structure built in catacomb style where many people from many different families may be buried. There are wings on either side of the front chapel area that can hold up to 210 people total. The building was never full.
On July 1, 1914, the board of trustees of the Fernwood Cemetery sold the Greene County Mausoleum Company (GCMC) approximately 30,000 square feet or a little less than an acre of ground to erect a mausoleum. The ground that the Fernwood Mausoleum and most of the Fernwood Cemetery sits on was once part of John Roodhouse’s original 1854 farm. J J Wiseman, then the pastor of the Roodhouse Baptist Church was the representative and president of the GCMC. The GCMC is known to have built three nearly identical community mausoleums in Carrollton, Roodhouse, and Greenville. There are several suspect family mausoleums throughout the county that resemble their work.
The outside is made of brick veneer over a limestone base. All the doors and windows are copper covered and manufactured under Thorpe or Dahlstrom patents of design. They are made with 14-ounce cold rolled copper. All art or berel plate glass is set in copper. The roof is constructed on plans of concrete and tile according to the Kahn method of roof and floor construction. The tile is vitrified tile, possibly from White Hall, IL, laid in Gilsonite asphalt.
The inside is simple and peaceful, made of Vermont Dandy Marble, which was finished to a high gloss at a marble company in Springfield, IL. The marble is one inch in thickness and set with concealed fasteners. The flooring is Florence Marble tile from Vermont Marble Company’s quarries and flushed with white atlas cement. The plaster on the ceiling is Atlas White Portland Cement and white sand, floated to a smooth finish.
In 1914, being buried in the mausoleum was reserved for an elite class of people. The cost was $3.00 per crypt, compared to the average person working in Roodhouse making less then a dollar a day. Many people made installment payments on their crypt over many years. The people buried inside have such backgrounds as shopkeepers, veterans of the Civil War, Spanish American War, both World Wars, coal miner, lawyer, steamboat Captain, hotelier, construction worker, school teacher, and historian.
In June of 2006, as part of their preservation awareness program, the Illinois Valley Cultural Heritage Association (IVCHA) highlighted this structure to bring focus to its plight. Since this first meeting, the Greene County Board has formed a new committee, The Greene County Mausoleum Board, consisting of several local residents. Many of those buried here initially after their passing have been exhumed and reburied elsewhere in the cemetery. Since 2006 the Fernwood Mausoleum has had a new roof and the stained glass windows have been replaced/repaired. As funds become available the next step for the restoration will include the repair of the East brick wall.
List of people buried inside the Fernwood Mausoleum with biographies when available.