Where Famous Dead People Hangout In St. Louis
A little gem that I venture to guess most St. Louisans have never visited is Bellefontaine Cemetery on West Florissant. Though I know a graveyard is probably not the first place you think of visiting but Bellefontaine is worth the trip.
Just a few blocks north of I-70 on West Florissant, this cemetery offers a wide variety of ornate mausoleums and tombstone sculptures. Spring is a particularly nice time visit when many of the flowering trees are in bloom. Though the cemetery promotes itself as the other Botanical Gardens, I think that is quite a stretch.
You can take a leisurely drive through the rolling hills and take in the gravesite art that is rampant throughout. But beyond the macabre beauty. there is quite a bit of history or historical figures buried in those hills.
Among its residents is Samuel Hawken the gunsmith who gave us the Hawken Rifle. At a time when musket ball guns had limited accuracy and range, the Hawken Rifle was introduced and quickly became a favorite of frontiersmen because of its power and accuracy. Kit Carson, General John Fremont, and Buffalo Bill were all fans of the Hawken Rifle and they would leave home without it.
And speaking of frontiersmen, the famous explorer William Clark’s final resting place is Bellefontaine. Yes, this is the famous Clark, who along with
Merriweather Lewis, departed from Hartford IL (about 20 miles north of St. Louis) and made their famous excursion up the Missouri River taking in Thomas Jefferson’s Louisana Purchase.
Missouri’s first U.S. Senator and noted statesmen Thomas Hart Benton is also buried at Bellefontaine. Benton was notated orator and was known for his fiery temper. Killing fellow lawyer Charles Lucas in a duel in 1817 at Bloody Island in the Mississippi River.
Another famous historical figure, whose grave can be found at Bellefontaine, is Dred Scott. Scott, an African American slave sued for his freedom in the famous Dred Scott v. Sanford. The case made its way all the way up to the U.S. Supreme court. Sadly the court ruled 7-2 than an enslaved man of “the negro African race” was not entitled to be a U.S. citizen even if his owners had taken him into free states and territories. This decision is often cited as on worst decisions the Supreme Court ever made.
One of the more ornate mausoleums at Bellefontaine is that of beer baron Adolphus Busch, founder of the Anheuser-Busch. But the Busch family is not the only family of beer moguls entombed in Bellefontaine. There is also the Lemp Famil Tomb. The Lemps were German immig
rants who had a vast beer empire before prohibition which caused the ruin of the business.
However, the great wealth of the Lemp family could not spare them from many tragedies such as suicides, illness, and insanity. Though have been shuttered long ago, the massive Lemp brewery still stands mostly intact and can be seen from I-55. Just south of brewery the Lemp Mansion remains as a restaurant and B&B. It is also supposed to be one of the most haunted houses in the U.S.
This is just a sampling of the many historical figures that buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery. There are many more industrialists like James Mc Donnell, Samuel Cupples, William Seward Burroughs and James Eads.
And let’s not forget the women. Author Sarah Teasdale and famous suffragette Virginia Minor also rest at Bellefontaine.
Though I know when you want to go on a nice Sunday drive that a graveyard is generally not your fisrt thought. However, I think you will be surprised by Bellefontaine Cemetery and just how eclectic and beautiful a cemetery can be.