Missouri history is filled with colorful characters – explorers, settlers, soldiers, socialites and community leaders. Each fall, that history comes to life during tours at some of the oldest cemeteries in the state. The events, some featuring "friendly spirits" clad in period dress, feature the fascinating stories of people who once lived – and are now buried – in the Show-Me State.
Main Street Moberly Oakland Cemetery Walking Tour, Oct. 9, Moberly – Explore generations of burial traditions and the history of notable people buried in the Oakland Cemetery, which dates back to 1871. The tour will also focus on the cemetery's significant ties to the Civil War.
Voices of the Past, Oct. 14-15, St. Joseph – Experience St. Joseph's Golden Age through the eyes of the city's most influential residents at the historic Mount Mora Cemetery. The tour begins at the opulent Wyeth-Tootle Mansion where you'll meet the first living history character before traveling to the cemetery. With beautiful architecture as a backdrop, hear from the "residents" of Mount Mora as you walk along the torch-lit Mausoleum Row – known as the "prettiest city of the dead." Established in 1851, Mount Mora was once the most fashionable burial place for many of the city's wealthy and powerful citizens. It's also the final resting spot for Civil War soldiers, Missouri governors and Pony Express riders.
Déjà vu Spirit Reunion, Oct. 23, Ste. Genevieve – Learn what life was like centuries ago in Missouri's oldest town during a lantern tour at the Ste. Genevieve Memorial Cemetery. More than 20 "spirits" will tell tales from the region's earliest days. The cemetery, established in 1787, includes tombs and grave markers for many of the town's French pioneers and other European emigrants, African American slaves and freemen, and Native Americans. A mass grave entombs victims of a nearby steamboat explosion. Hear about a U.S. Senator who was buried three different times and a Civil War colonel who died during the Battle of Shiloh.
Haunted Cemetery Tour, Oct. 30, Lexington – Meet the ghosts of Lexington's past at the Machpelah Cemetery – one of the state's oldest corporations in continuous operation. Decorated with elaborate funeral monuments and ironwork, the cemetery was established in 1849 by a special act of the Missouri Legislature. Among those buried at the cemetery are victims of the 1852 Saluda steamboat explosion, one of the founders of the Pony Express and Civil War soldiers from Union and Confederate troops killed during the 1861 Battle of Lexington.
Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum, St. Louis – Take a driving or walking tour, held throughout the year, at the historic Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum, built in 1849. Noted for its architecture and "cemetery art," the cemetery is the final resting place for many famous people, including Adolphus Busch, co-founder of the famed Anheuser-Busch brewery; William Clark, explorer with the Lewis and Clark Expedition; Thomas Hart Benton, renowned artist; and James Eads, the architect who designed the St. Louis Eads Bridge.
Written by Liz Coleman