Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park officially dedicated to those buried at Moffatt Cemetery

Moffatt Cemetery was closed in 1905 and was neglected in the years following, with some of the bodies removed.
Published: Jun. 14, 2023 at 7:37 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2023 at 7:45 PM CDT
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This is 25News’ Continuing Coverage of Peoria’s Ties to the original Juneteenth & Nance Legins’ Costley role in the Emancipation Movement

PEORIA (25News Now) - It took Robert “Bob” Hoffer eight years of research to finally see this day.

“Today [Wednesday] we officially name Freedom and Remembrance Park and we thereby highlight the memorial of that name to commemorate so many Peorians who were so long forgotten some over 170 years,” Hoffer begins.

Now with three markers to highlight the 2,725 people who are still buried underneath this concrete, a piece of Peoria’s South Side is officially marking a piece of history.

Moffatt Cemetery in south Peoria was closed in 1905 and was neglected in the years following, with some of the bodies removed.

Peoria Mayor Rita Ali even apologized for the neglect.

“in 1905, the Peoria City Council ordered the closure of Moffatt Cemetery, over time it became a trash dump, an eye sore, and ultimately a parking lot. As mayor of Peoria today, I want to publicly apologize for the city’s actions many years ago. I’m sorry for the disrespect and the dishonor that was shown to those individuals and their loved ones.”

She’s hoping now with this new park, their history, and that of Nance Legins-Costley and Peoria’s ties to the original Juneteenth day, will forever become a piece of Peoria’s story.

Ali says. ”it was important for me to publicly apologize because the Peoria City Council of 1905 closed Moffatt Cemetery knowing that people were buried underneath the ground. Their memories erased. For us today their memories are alive again.”

Juliana Stratton, Illinois’ Lt. Governor said, ”There is not a day that goes by that I don’t recollect that I am the descendant of enslaved people just four generations removed.”

Lt. Gov. Stratton says the people here need to be honored.

400 were immigrants. 300 moved to Peoria from out of state, while 50 were African-American and most were children.

When it comes to the veterans, Nathan Ashby was present at the original Juneteenth moment, in Galveston, Texas as part of the Union Soldiers. They were the ones who finally brought the word and the Order of Freedom.

Others fought in wars throughout history.

One solder is even the great-grandson of American pioneer, Daniel Boone.

Stratton concludes, ”They are not the forgotten citizens of Peoria. They were mothers, and fathers and grandfathers, and grandmothers, somebody’s sons and daughters, and they were veterans and they were fully human.”