There’s a Hidden Cemetery in Rockford with a Chilling Backstory
Just when you thought you knew everything about Rockford, boom, in comes the history of a hidden cemetery. The story behind this cemetery will give some of us nightmares while others will never look at that stretch of road the same way ever again. By today's standards, this story takes a terrible turn almost immediately.
THE BACKSTORY of WINNEBAGO COUNTY POOR FARM
In the 1850s Winnebago County officials decided there needed to be "home" for those who couldn't support themselves as well as those deemed "insane." That latter being treated like animals. You can guess by the name, Winnebago Country Poor Farm, this place was surely not going to lead to happy thoughts. This "poor farm" was where River Bluff Nursing Home sits, right along North Main Street, just north of East Riverside Boulevard.
The history of this "farm" is really messed up. It's so messed up I'd watch a documentary about it.
The "residents" who were labeled as insane were not even treated they were "confined" and treated like animals, according to Rockford historian Kathi Kresol.
During warm weather, the completely insane were kept in a “stockade” that was open to the elements. During inclement weather and colder temperatures, they were penned in cells that were placed near the kitchen wall. When the temperatures rose, the stench that came from these inmates was “unhealthy and unbearable.”
There was also a cemetery on the property, "Potter's Field", which is the final resting place for about 600 men, women, and children, some being military veterans. Though there are cemetery records for some of the deceased, there are many who remain unidentified. Most of the grave markers were also removed with a memorial being in place instead. (You can see it here.)
Recently, River Bluff hosted a memorial service, which included The Loves Park VFW performing Taps. Even with that blip of softheartedness, it's hard not to think about how haunted that piece of land is.
You can read about Haunted Illinois' article on Winnebago County Poor Farm here.