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Small but Significant: A One-Acre Cemetery and Remnant Prairie Preserved for Life in Woodstock

Published on
29 April 2024

Land conservation projects come in all shapes and sizes, and even small properties can be very important – and very complicated!

That was the case with a cemetery prairie, a one-acre parcel on Queen Anne Road, north of Woodstock.

Jacob Eckert (from

In the 1850s, many German immigrant families settled in Greenwood Township. On Nov. 4, 1852, one couple, Henry and Catherine Eckert, donated an acre of their farm to Jacob Eckert, Peter Frey, Michael Herdklotz, Peter Senger, Peter Herdklotz, Adam Schneider, George Sondericker (and others) for use as their cemetery.


The first burial was for Henrietta Sondericker who died on April 19, 1853 at the age of one month, 13 days. All told, more than 60 people (and one dog) were buried there. Milford Herdklotz was the last burial in 1949, with his dog Putsie.

As often happens in the United States, people move away and forget about their family’s original cemetery. The site falls into disrepair – tombstones fall down, weeds grow atop the burial plots, and brush and trees spring up wherever they can.

A copy of a portion of the original deed to the property.

But not everyone moved away or forgot. In 2022, Jane and Pam Gerloff, descendants of one of the original families, reached out to The Land Conservancy of McHenry County to see if we were interested in helping them preserve the cemetery. In addition to the cemetery’s usual inhabitants, it is also home to a remnant of Illinois’ original prairie. Just 1/100th of one-percent of the original prairie that covered 21 million acres of Illinois still remains – much of it in cemeteries and along railroad rights of way.

Over the years, the Eckert Cemetery also became known as the Queen Anne Prairie, and various groups worked to preserve the prairie:

  • The McHenry County Conservation District managed it through a lease agreement with the person who claimed to be the owner for many years, but the lease expired, and the owner moved away, leaving the site in limbo.
  • In the 1990s, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission worked with descendants to recognize the site as a Natural Heritage Landmark. The sign is still there.
  • Several local volunteers have tried to burn the property every couple of years to keep the prairie open, but today it is very overgrown with sumac.
An April 2024 photo of Quuen Anne Cemetery.

The meeting with Jane and Pam Gerloff led TLC on a journey to find a way that the organization could either gain title to the property or establish a permanent management agreement. When we ran a title search to see the ownership history of the land, the only deed that was recognized as legitimate was the original hand-written deed from 1852.

In March 2024, TLC recorded Quit Claim deeds from two descendants of the original families who are buried in the cemetery. TLC will continue to record deeds from descendants it has found to demonstrate that anyone who may have a claim of ownership has consented to TLC taking care of the property in perpetuity.

“The cemetery was important to our grandfather, Herbert Eckert, who burned the cemetery every year to preserve the native prairie plants,” said Jane and Pam Gerloff. They added, “When our mother was a child, she used to spend time reading the gravestones, sometimes on her way to or from school. She loved the often flowery language and the sense of history it gave her.”

The Queen Anne Cemetery sign that was damaged by a previous ecological burn.

“Herb Eckert shared the same values that The Land Conservancy of McHenry County has so beautifully embodied: care for nature, the land and community. We are very grateful to The Land Conservancy — and to our friend Paul Soderholm, the prairie restoration enthusiast who facilitated our connection with TLC,” said the Gerloffs.

If you are interested in either prairie or cemetery restoration, please reach out to Megan Oropeza, TLC’s restoration ecologist, at [email protected], and we will get you involved!

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