Research Tip – Understand Old and New Pickers Cemeteries
Many St. Louis families have ancestors who were buried in the “Pickers Cemetery.” Finding the exact burial place of these family members, however, can often be a challenge. The confusion is compounded by the fact that there were two “Pickers” cemeteries and their names changed over time. One cemetery was on Gravois Road at Compton Avenue and the other on Gravois Road at Hampton Avenue. Also, the one near Hampton had an older section on the south side of Gravois and a newer section on the north side. One set of records was kept for these two sections.
These two cemeteries were developed, owned and operated by two different religious congregations. Other than the fact that the Rev. Frederick Picker had a hand in starting both they had nothing in common. To understand the cemeteries, you need to first understand the two churches.
History of the Churches
The German Evangelical Church of the Holy Ghost started with meetings in a school room at Fourth and Washington Avenues around 1834. Subsequently the congregation built a church at Seventh and Clark Streets. In 1843 Frederick Picker was named pastor. The church was run by a committee, not by the pastor. Their constitution specifically excluded the pastor from executive meetings. In 1855 the committee replaced Rev. Picker with his assistant, the Reverend Dr. Hugo Krebs. The departure of Rev. Picker resulted in a rift in the congregation; seventy families left with him.
By 1884 Holy Ghost owned a church at Eighth and Walnut. In August 1895 they sold that church and used the proceeds to build a new church and school at Grand Avenue and Page Boulevard. In 1927 they moved to a new church that was built at its present location, 4916 Mardel Avenue just west of Kingshighway.
The Independent Evangelical Protestant Church
After the Reverend Picker left Holy Ghost in 1855, he and his followers founded a new church at Eighth and Mound Streets and adopted the above name. In 1856, immediately after starting this new congregation they opened a cemetery on the south side of Gravois at Hampton, just east of the River Des Peres. It appears that they wanted no part of Holy Ghost Cemetery. Rev. Picker became ill in July 1859 and died shortly thereafter.
In 1936 the name of the church was changed to the Independent Congregational Church. In 1957, it became affiliated with the United Church of Christ. On 31 May 1998 its name was officially changed to Christ the King United Church of Christ. The church moved several times:
1856–1869: Eighth and Mound Streets
1869–1917: Thirteenth and Tyler Streets
1917–1959: Fair and Margaretta Avenues
1959–1960: Newby Street and Theobold Avenue
1960–present: 11370 Old Halls Ferry Road
History of the Cemeteries
Holy Ghost Cemetery
The Holy Ghost congregation and their cemetery committee purchased property at Susquehanna Street (renamed Arsenal Avenue) near Kansas Street (renamed Compton Avenue) on 2 November 1846. Additional property was purchased on 25 April 1853.
After the turn of the twentieth century the cemetery was not being maintained. The last burial took place on 13 May 1903. Some individual lot owners had relocated remains to other cemeteries. It appears that Holy Ghost had decided to get out of the cemetery business. When they bought these four city blocks in 1846, it was farmland, With the city moving west, it was now valuable real estate. Money was probably needed to pay off mortgages for their new church and school on Grand Avenue.
Sale of the four square block cemetery property was authorized by the church board on 12 October 1910. The cemetery property was sold to a realty company, with the congregation assuming the cost of removing the human remains still in the cemetery and placing them elsewhere. The north half of the cemetery was transferred first. Sale of the south half was delayed by a lawsuit until 1917 when Holy Ghost paid the management of Zion UCC Cemetery for the conveyance to Holy Ghost of a parcel of ground in that cemetery for the re-interment of remains and the relocation of monuments and stones. Thus, Holy Ghost Cemetery ceased to exist in 1917.
Independent Evangelical Protestant Cemetery
The first section of this cemetery was developed by the Independent Protestant congregation on a 12½ -acre plot on the south side of Gravois Road at Hampton Avenue. It opened on 25 April 1856. It was named the Independent Evangelical Protestant Cemetery. After Rev. Picker’s death, the congregation bought eighteen acres on the north side of Gravois opposite the first section. In 1901 an additional 28 acres were added to the north section.
In 1981 the cemetery was sold and the name changed to Memorial Gardens. A subsequent sale changed the name to Gatewood Gardens Cemetery. In 1996, the city of St. Louis seized the property when the owner fell behind in property taxes. The city then took over management of the cemetery.
Counting Pickers Cemeteries
This discussion has documented only two Pickers cemeteries. Often, including in the Society’s own booklet (see below), it may be mentioned that there are three Pickers cemeteries. The discrepancy comes about by whether you count the two later parcels on the north and south sides of Gravois Road as one cemetery or two. They are, of course, two distinct parcels of land, separated by a major street. Because the interment records for both parcels are co-mingled, we treat them as one cemetery here.
TO LEARN MORE…
A society volunteer has written a booklet giving a much fuller description of these Pickers cemeteries and their background. If you are a member of StLGS, this booklet is a free PDF download. Click here for a copy of Pastor Frederick Picker’s St. Louis Churches and Cemeteries by Michael McDermott.
Last modified: 11-Dec-2018 10:18