The Heritage of Oakland Cemetery
Oakland Cemetery was founded in 1901, just three years after the city was incorporated. At that time, the city contained only a small city cemetery located near downtown, the river, and the railroad tracks. Some of the more affluent families in Freeport desired a more picturesque setting for their family estates than what the City Cemetery offered. So Matt Marvin’s ancestors designated a portion of their property for the cemetery on the west side of town, just past Krape Park. That property came to be known as Oakland Cemetery.
Oakland Cemetery’s original design called for two garden burial sections known as Oak Knoll and Sunny Side Gardens. About 400 sets of remains were disinterred from the City Cemetery and reinterred into these gardens. The W. T. Rawleigh Company was founded in Freeport and their family estate is the centerpiece of the cemetery. The estate runs along the Pearl City road frontage and features an Italian white marble monument. The monument is approximately 20 feet wide by 8 feet tall and features a copper female and other ornate copper highlights. Some of the earliest gardens in the cemetery also contain 30’ high obelisks and pinnacles. And some of the family estates feature blocks of granite that are larger than 15 passenger vans as well as many intricately detailed hand carvings.
The cemetery was very successful and held in high regard by the community for many, many years. However, the cemetery fell into disarray in the mid to late 1990s. As a result, it was acquired by Saber Management. Mr. David Sullivan, President and CEO of Saber Management, created an initial 5 year plan that included repaving roads, restoring drainage, replacing broken and missing equipment, constructing a new office, restoring the cemetery to its original beauty, and regaining the community’s confidence. In addition, Saber Management further enhanced the cemetery’s offerings by adding a public mausoleum to the property. It is called the Chapel of Peace and it contains 868 crypts and over 1000 cremation niches. It has been said that Oakland Cemetery is now one of the most beautiful cemeteries anywhere with its 55 acres of rolling hills and thousands of trees.
The most notable person interred at Oakland Cemetery is William Avery “Bill” Rockefeller, an American con artist who went by the alias of Dr. William Levingston. Dr. Levingston worked as a lumberman and then a traveling salesman who identified himself as a “botanic physician” and sold elixirs. Eventually, Mr. Levingston abandoned his family, a wife and three teenage children, and moved to Freeport to seek privacy for himself and his new wife. Unknown to many, Dr. Levingston is the father of John Davison Rockefeller and William Avery Rockefeller, the co-founders of Standard Oil.