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Bellefontaine Cemetery: People Who Made St. Louis Great

April 6, 2009

During assembly on Monday, April 7, author, professor and historian Carol Shepley spoke to assembly about some of the greats buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery. What began as a commissioned oral history of Bellefontaine by Shepley became a book published by the Missouri Historical Society: Movers and Shakers, Scalawags and Suffragettes: Tales from Bellefontaine Cemetery

She was invited to campus by Bob Henningsen (English) who includes a writing assignment about Bellefontaine in his ninth grade curriculum in which students research and write a report about someone buried in the cemetery. These reports, which go through three drafts, are delivered during a field trip to Bellefontaine. While the information in the reports is fact-based, the delivery is decided by each student—a first person account, a poem, a eulogy, an exchange of letters—and delivered at the grave site. Shepley’s book has become a primary resource for these students.

BellefontaineCemetery.jpegShepley said she spent five years researching and writing the history and was fortunate to have two 30-year employees, a gatekeeper and superintendent, share their collective memories. The 314-acre cemetery, always open to all religions and races, is a final home for more than 87,000. The book features 140 people, including “the very good and the very bad” of St. Louis. Shepley shared the stories of 14 citizens of Bellefontaine:

•    James Yeatman (1818-1901), founder of the cemetery and one of the founders of Washington University, the St. Louis Mercantile Library amd the Missouri Botanical Garden.
•    William Clark (1770-1838), the first person buried in Bellefontaine, known for the treaties he negotiated with Native Americans and as the territorial governor of Missouri.
•    John Berry Meachum (1789-1854), a slave who bought his own freedom and became a successful businessman, preacher and educator.
•    James Buchanan Eads (1820-1887), who designed, built and financed the Eads Bridge.
•    Edward Bates (1793-1869), a trained attorney who helped form the Missouri constitution and was part of the Lincoln cabinet.
•    Frank Blair Jr. (1821-1875), a politician, Union general and newspaper founder.
•    Eliza Haycraft (1820-1871), a St. Louis madam.
•    William Beaumont (1785-1853), the first great medical researcher in the United States.
•    George Engelmann (1809-1884), a plant science botanist and researcher who collaborated with Henry Shaw in establishing the Missouri Botanical Garden.
•    William Greenleaf Eliot (1811-1887), a founder of Washington University and Mary Institute (now Mary Institute Country Day School).
•    Isidor Bush (1822-1898), a merchant, banker and benefactor.
•    Edna Gelhorn (1878-1970), a suffragette and leader with the League of Women Voters and founder of JBS.
•    Irma Starkloff Rombauer (1877-1962), who wrote the Joy of Cooking.
•    William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), a JBS alum non-grad who became a controversial author.