A centuries-old cemetery is more than meets the eye.


ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - If you travel Interstate 64 near Chesterfield Parkway, you're passing by a piece of history. Just off the road, sits the tiny First Baptist Church of Chesterfield Memorial Cemetery. It dates back nearly 170 years.

Don Kelly, 80, said slave owners gave this land to slaves, who built a church in 1846. When those slaves died, many ended up here as did their descendants. Kelly says, "I have a mother, father and an aunt buried here in the cemetery."

In spite of the numerous headstones, Kelly says what you actually see only scratches the surface. The green-space can be misleading because throughout the decades a lot of the markers have either been destroyed, deteriorated or were never there in the first place.

Carol Lee, 70, says, ""Everywhere you step you're stepping on a body."

Lee says nearly every inch of underground space is full. Her grandmother, Clementine, is buried at the cemetery, in an unmarked grave. Lee says there's a reason so many graves are missing stones, "All the records were lost during the flood, in 1993, when they had the big flood here."

Church leader Niwar Davis says regardless of the physical presence of a stone – the significance of the cemetery is profound, "To know that slaves worshiped here yet they were not free...it's powerful, it's moving."

There is some bridge work going on near the site of the cemetery, just a few hundred yards away. However, church leaders say the construction will not affect the plot of land, which will remain intact.

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