Calvary Cemetery is located on West Florissant Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. It is a Roman Catholic cemetery that has been around since 1854. Spread across over 470 acres of land, Calvary Cemetery is the second oldest cemetery in the Archdiocese.
History of Calvary Cemetery
Calvary Cemetery was initially opened in 1854 by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick, the first Catholic archbishop west of the Mississippi River. Kenrick was born in Dublin in 1806 before coming to the St.Louis area, where he passed away in 1896.
In 1849, the city of St. Louis suffered a severe cholera epidemic, killing many of its residents. In total, the cholera epidemic took the lives of over 4,000 people. Concerned about what to do regarding the disastrous disease, city officials decided to ban creating any new cemeteries within St. Louis. They aimed to set this ban may prevent more residents from dying due to the cholera epidemic. Unfortunately, their thinking was flawed, and the disease continued to spread.
Seeing that almost all cemeteries in the St. Louis area were full will no room for expansion, Archbishop Kenrick decided to take matters into his own hands to create a new Catholic cemetery. Purchasing land from Senator Henry Clay in 1853, Archbishop Kenrick decided half of the 323-acre land to the cemetery and the other half to his own home in the former Clay Mansion. The land purchased was Clay’s “Old Orchard Farm,” which had served as a burial ground for some Native Americans and soldiers in some parts of the land. Soldiers buried in Old Orchard Farm were from the nearby Fort Bellefontaine. When the Calvary Cemetery opened in 1854 with Archbishop Kenrick as its president, the remains of both the Native Americans and soldiers scattered throughout the property were all placed into one mass grave under a large crucifix. Some other graves throughout St. Louis were also dug up and transported to the mass grave in Calvary Cemetery.
Growth of Calvary Cemetery
Over the years, Calvary Cemetery continued to grow and expand. Currently, it reaches over 470 acres of land, roughly 150 more acres than the original property purchased by Archbishop Kenrick. Today, over 300,000 casketed graves are buried within Calvary Cemetery, as well as two public mausoleums, columbaria, and a few private family mausoleums and sarcophagi.
In 2013, Calvary Cemetery was awarded a grant from the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial that allowed them to construct a monument in honor of four Nez Perce men who journeyed to St. Louis in 1831. Two of these four men remembered by the monument, Black Eagle and Speaking Eagle, are buried within Calvary Cemetery.
Over the years, many famous and notable people have been buried within Calvary Cemetery. Among these people are:
- Lewis V. Bogy (1813–1877)
- Mickey Carroll (1919–2009)
- Alfonso J. Cervantes (1920-1983)
- François Chouteau (1797–1838)
- René Auguste Chouteau (1740–1829)
- Powhatan Henry Clarke (1862-1893)
- Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801-1873)
- Charles Gratiot (1786-1855)
- Robert E. Hannegan (1903–1949)
- Martin Wilkes Heron (1850-1920)
- Ted Kennedy (1865-1907)
- Peter Richard Kenrick (1806-1896)
- John Baptiste Charles Lucas (1758–1842)
- Alexander McNair (1775-1826)
- Virginia Sarpy Peugnet (1827-1917)
- James T. Rapier (1837-1883)
- Tennessee Williams (1911–1983)