Bellefontaine encourages educators to use the grounds for inspiration, and welcomes members of the public seeking information about those buried here.
Published in 2008 by the Missouri History Museum, Movers and Shakers, Scalawags and Suffragettes: Tales from Bellefontaine Cemetery, by Carol Ferring Shepley, tells the stories of some of the 87,000 people who are buried at BC.
Shepley’s book is a guide to St. Louis’ notable residents who are buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery. The book is organized into sections, such as artists, fur traders, and Civil War generals, and features biographies of William Clark, James Buchanan Eads, Susan Blow, and Adolphus Busch, not to mention some more notorious backgrounds. Cemetery records and interviews with such insiders as the cemetery’s superintendent and gatekeeper inform the research.
The book was a gold medal winner of the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Award for best regional non-fiction, and contains 40 illustrations and an 8-page color photo insert. The book is available for purchase at our cemetery office, the St. Louis History Museum and local bookstores such as Left Bank Books, Borders, and Barnes & Noble.
For years, teachers and students – from John Burroughs School, Parkway South, Belleville West, and the Hazelwood School District, among others – have come to Bellefontaine to learn about their city, their heritage, and their surroundings. See below for a list of activities suitable for students of all ages.
Also, you might consider using the cemetery itself as a classroom. For example, ask students to present a biography at the site of a person’s grave, or to read their written work aloud while gathered at the Lakeside Garden. Contact us to arrange your visit.
Art & Architecture
- Have the students draw their favorite monument and explain its architectural style.
- Have the students design a mausoleum. Which style of architecture appeals to them most? What symbols will they use?
- “Chicken Soup for the Soul (6th Bowl)” There are 13 stories on death and dying — Middle School
- Zindel’s “Begonia for Miss Applebaum” — Middle School
- Edgar Lee Master’s “Spoon River Anthology” — High School
- Kevin Amsler’s “Final Resting Place” — Famous St. Louisans
- Write their own obituary – one for this year – one if they died 25 years from now or 50 years from now
- Write fun obituaries for cartoon characters
- Select a famous person buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery and write a paper or report about that person — this could become an interesting field trip, having students present their material on the grave site at the cemetery.
- Write epitaphs: an inscription on a tombstone in memory of the one buried there. Here is an example:
Beneath this stone
a lump of clay
lies Arabella Young
who on the 11th day of May
began to hold her tongue
- Have students research and write a paper on one of them. Speakers are available at the cemetery or for your classroom. Here are just a few individuals they could choose from:
- William Clark
- Thomas Hart Benton
- Joseph Charless
- William Pettus
- James Eads
- Sterling Price
- William Sublette
- David Francis
- Stephen Kearny
- George Vest
- Make a family tree of relatives buried in the cemetery. Using inscriptions on stones, try to determine relationships, occupations, religious beliefs, circumstances of death, and more.
- Discover individuals of foreign origin. Gather evidence as to reasons for their immigration to St. Louis.
- Discover evidence of wars, local catastrophes, and epidemics. Research local and national history for reasons and details about these events.
St. Louis, the Civil War and a Cemetery
– A unit exploring the hometown heros of Bellefontaine Cemetery for grades 8-12th
Created By: Lauren Schoellhorn with an introduction from Carol Ferring Shepley.
Lesson #1: Heroism Must Haves-A Class Discussion of What Defines a Hero
Lesson #2: Edward Bates 1793-1869-Brother-in-Law, Brother in War
Lesson # 3: James Buchanan Eads-From Boats to Bridges
Lesson #4: In Love and War-Exploring the Experiences of Soldier James P. Love
Lesson #5: Major Acts from a “Minor Citizen”-Exploring the Actions of Francis Minor, War Claims Agent
Lesson #6: Salvation Through Sanitation-The Amazing Actions of James Yeatman and William Greenleaf Eliot
Lesson #7: The Western Women of War-Analyzing the Actions of Adaline Couzins
Lesson #8: Monuments by the Math-Evaluating the Service of the Cemetery to Civil War Soldiers
Lesson #9: A St. Louis Civil War Socratic Seminar-An analytical Assessment of the Heroism Shown by St. Louis Citizens During the Civil War
Lesson #10: Measuring up the Monuments-Seeing the Civil War Through a Trip to the Cemetery
- Who lived to be the oldest in this section? How old?
- Who was the youngest? How young?
- If they had not died who would be the oldest?
- Can you find someone who died before the age of 10? Between 10 and 20? Between 20 and 30, etc.?
- Can you find anyone who lived to be over 100?
- What was the average age of the people buried in your section?
- The average age of females?
- The average age of males?
- What was the average age of those who died in the 1800s, 1900s, etc.?
- List the person’s name if you see any of the following shapes in their design:
- What other shapes do you see?
- Which monument is the tallest? For classes studying trigonometry, Bellefontaine offers many monuments between 15 and 50 feet high that a class could try to measure exactly using instruments and tables. (Please share your results with the office).
Do you love art, architecture, history, and horticulture? Would you enjoy sharing your excitement and enthusiasm with cemetery visitors of all ages? If so, you should consider joining the Bellefontaine Cemetery Guides.
Guides are trained volunteers who introduce visitors to the spectacular history of Bellefontaine Cemetery through tours, talks, and programs. Candidates should, be dependable and enthusiastic, possess good communication skills, be able to lead tours of the grounds, be willing to work with visitors of all ages, provide accurate information, and treat visitors with courtesy and respect.
For many, the people who assist them during their visit provide the most important impression of Bellefontaine Cemetery. Becoming a guide is an opportunity to enrich the lives of others as well as your own. Fill out a volunteer application here.