Visitors Guide to
5239 West Florissant Road
St. Louis, MO
St. Louis was affected by the cholera epidemic of
1832-1833 that spread across America from Europe with several hundred
people dying. Subsequent visitations were less virulent, killing mostly
children, the elderly, and the sick. By the year 1849 Saint Louis had
become a boomtown with a rush of gold seekers heading to California. At
the same time a large numbers of German immigrant, refugees of the
recent revolution in that country, began arriving in St. Louis. It is
believed that these immigrants carried the disease from their homeland
to New Orleans and then upriver to St. Louis. Early in 1849, St. Louis
reported the beginnings of the plague with conditions reaching an
epidemic in May. The epidemic reached its peak in July, when 145 persons
died in one grisly day and 722 in one week. By the end of that month
over 4,500 cholera victims had been buried in the city since the first
of the year, or over ten percent of the city's population.
Because of the large number of deaths most of the city's cemeteries,
including all of its Catholic cemeteries, had been filled to capacity
due to the epidemic. Following the outbreak the city passed an ordinance
that required all new cemeteries to be located beyond the city limits
hoping that this measure might prevent another epidemic. In 1853,
Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick purchased the 323-acre "Old Orchard
Farm" northwest of the city from Kentucky politician Henry Clay. Kenrick
established his own farm on half of this acreage and dedicated the other
half to the development of a new cemetery. As the cemetery grew, more
acreage was added to its site. Part of this property had once been used
as an ancient burial ground by Native Americans and soldiers from nearby
Fort Bellefontaine were also interred there. After its purchase, these
remains were collected and buried in a mass grave under a large
crucifix. It is located at one of the highest points of the cemetery.
Graves from many of the Catholic cemeteries in the city were reinterred
in Calvary. The cemetery now contains over 315,000 graves in its 477
acres and is one of St. Louis’ largest cemeteries. The graves of many
noteworthy St. Louisans, including Civil War General William Tecumseh
Sherman; Dred Scott, the slave who gained a place in American history
when he sued for his freedom, and playwright Tennessee Williams, are
here. The cemetery also contains many architecturally significant tombs
cemetery gates are open daily 8 am - 5 pm
office is open weekdays, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm; Saturday, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm;
closed Sunday, holy days and holidays.
There is no charge to visit Calvary Cemetery.
A tour guide listing the gravesites can be picked up at the
is located in north St. Louis.
the downtown area, take I-70 west to the W. Florissant exit (Exit 245B).
Merge onto W. Florissant and proceed .9 miles to the entrance of the
Learn more about the
St. Louis area.