If you’re interested in learning about St. Louis history, plan a stroll through Bellefontaine Cemetery. Here many famous St. Louis residents rest in eternal peace—Adolphus Busch, William Clark, James Eads, Albert Lambert and James S. McDonnell just to name a few. In honor of Halloween, you can also pay your respects to the entire Lemp family, who have the largest mausoleum in Bellefontaine.
Bellefontaine Cemetery was the first “rural cemetery” built west of the Mississippi. It was established in 1849 when prominent St. Louis citizens began to worry that St. Louis was growing faster than its tiny urban cemeteries could handle. Bellefontaine represented a new idea in burials—placing the dead far from the bustle of the city in a beautiful rural setting. This not only gave St. Louis families a peaceful place to say goodbye to their loved ones, but it also removed the dead from prime city real estate.
Bellefontaine Cemetery was also established as a non-denominational and all inclusive burial place. Before Bellefontaine was built, people would buried their loved ones in churchyards, on family property and vacant lots.
The cemetery started on 138 acres of farm land, which included the Hempstead family graveyard. These graves date back to 1816 and are the oldest in the cemetery. The first Bellefontaine burial was on April 27, 1850.
Bellefontaine has grown to 314 acres with over 87,000 graves. It is still a working cemetery and is open to visitors. In fact, the cemetery welcomes visitors to come stroll the grounds and admire the works of art that families have placed on the graves of their loved ones.
Visiting hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day of the year, including weekends and holidays. The cemetery office is open for inquiries from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They offer historical tours that focus on Civil War history or notable people in the cemetery. Contact Bellefontaine Cemetery to learn more, or just visit their website to see an interesting timeline of St. Louis residents in Bellefontaine.