Friday, November 14, 2008

Gatewood Gardens Cemetery


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This is an adventure from the weekend before Halloween. Gatewood Gardens caught my eye because it reminded me of a passing mention in an Anita Blake book (by St Louis author Laurell K Hamilton) of a cemetery next to a nursing home, and how crappy that must be for the residents. This is in a different area of town, but it's next door to some senior living apartments.

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Gatewood Gardens is a cemetery that, like Old St Marcus, was taken over by the City of St Louis due to back taxes owed. It's not as sad as Old St Marcus, but there is still an air of neglect. Headstones face every which way and the ground is sunken in ways you'd rather not think about.

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The layout is confusing, as well. You'll notice from this sign that single graves were all lined up around the outside. Was this an original design, or did it get so out of hand when it was neglected that this was the only way they could put things back together, short of the memorial wall at Old St Marcus?

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A lot of the graves are suspiciously close together or oddly grouped. This is a "set" that made me think some of these are not in their original locations. They all have the same last name, but it just doesn't look like a family plot.

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Some of this could be because graves were moved here from the original Picker's Cemetery, which was one of the first cemeteries in St Louis and the final resting place of many of the victims of the 1849 cholera epidemic. Those graves were moved to this cemetery in 1916, making it New Picker's Cemetery. Then they purchased another plot of land across Gravois, and that became New Pickers and this one became Old Pickers.

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So the section of Gatewood Gardens you're looking at now is Old Picker's Cemetery, but not the original. The original was in the area of Kansas-Wyoming-Louisiana-Arsenal streets. One of these days I'll head back over there to take pictures of the other half of Gatewood Gardens, aka New Picker's. To make things even more confusing, in this next picture you can see a fence that divides this section from another section, and that other half is much neater and well-maintained, although every map I've seen identifies the entire parcel as Gatewood Gardens Cemetery.

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One of my favorite things about these old cemeteries is the really unusual monuments. It seems like a lot of headstones from the 1950s onward are just one slab of granite after another, but prior to that there were a lot of interesting carvings and statues.

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My favorite thing is finding a common thread in a cemetery, like how the cemetery behind my house has dozens of the ceramic pictures in excellent condition. Gatewood Gardens is the final resting place of a dozen or so Woodmen of the World.

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I have seen these monuments in other cemeteries, but never so many in one place. They were everywhere, and all the same design. Check out this fascinating article about a guy who travels all over photographing Woodmen of the World monuments.

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Over in the back corner, I saw this headstone (on the right) that almost looks like it was carved by hand. I stopped to get a closer look and realized I was in the baby section. It always sneaks up on me and before I know it I'm in tears.

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Somehow it's comforting to know that all the babies have their own section of the cemetery, like they keep each other company. I liked this little group under the tree.

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I also like to see graves for people that died 60 or 70 years ago that people still visit, particular in a cemetery that has seen some rough times and seems forgotten.

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I didn't think I would have enough to talk about for this entry, but it turns out I'm out of pictures. Sooooooo, join us next time, when we go ghost hunting in Alton, followed by a "Craves" visit to the Disneyland of buffets, Emperor's Palace.

5 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your entries.. and all the pictures! Thank you. I just took my mom here the other day to visit her mom and dad and my dads mom and dad too...

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  2. The monuments you talk about are called Woodmen of the World. It was a type of insurance. When the person died the organization provided the stone. It was quite common in the late 1800 early 1900. My grandfather, Theodore Wuthenow had one in this cememtery. I located it in the 1980s, however I am not sure if it is still there. There was a owner of this cemetery in late 80 early 90s that removed alot of burials

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  3. I grew up next to this cemetery and remember in the late 1960's-early 1970's, (I was between 11-17 years old at that time) the section along Hampton had all of these oval, toilet cover shaped stones along the hill. It looked like it was to keep the ground from eroding. I always thought it was funny looking, like a grave site for toilet lids. I wish I would have taken a picture of it, because now I realize they were probably grave stones which had been moved. That might account for your comment that some of the grave stones don't look like they are where they should be.

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  4. I grew up next to this cemetery and remember in the late 1960's-early 1970's, (I was between 11-17 years old at that time) the section along Hampton had all of these oval, toilet cover shaped stones along the hill. It looked like it was to keep the ground from eroding. I always thought it was funny looking, like a grave site for toilet lids. I wish I would have taken a picture of it, because now I realize they were probably grave stones which had been moved. That might account for your comment that some of the grave stones don't look like they are where they should be.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this informative content. I really enjoyed by reading this post.

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