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Volunteers Restore Family Cemetery on City Parkland

December 16, 2021

 

The St. Peters area is full of rich history, but not many realize how much of the past still lingers today. Many of us don’t stop to think about who lived here, what their lives were like, or if there’s anything that remains of their legacy. Thanks to a group of volunteers from the St. Charles Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a piece of St. Peters’ past will not be forgotten.

 

The Ehrhart Cemetery is a small gravesite just off the side of Laurel Trail on City parkland. Up until 2021, you could walk right past the site and never notice it. For many years, the Ehrhart Cemetery hid behind thick sheets of honeysuckle, weeds and dense brush, in complete disrepair, only known by those who descended from the Ehrhart family. When one of the DAR members stumbled upon this forgotten piece of the family’s history, they shared it with the rest of the chapter.

 

Wanting to preserve the history on this plot, several local residents signed up as volunteers for the City of St. Peters and cleared the area of brush with the help of our Parks Department. As they worked on restoring the cemetery, the volunteers shared their findings during the Aug. 12 Board of Aldermen meeting and with the St. Peters Parks, Recreation & Arts Advisory Board’s Historical Focus Committee.

 

Now, the site is clear, and these volunteers are still working tirelessly to bring this historic cemetery back to life. They’ve currently discovered at least nine graves belonging to the Ehrhart family, replaced the original iron fencing which fell in disrepair, and worked with the Franklin County Cemetery Society to restore a major part of the obelisk, which was vandalized in 1990. The message on the obelisk (“In memory of the Ehrhart, Klein, and Hunn Family”) gave the volunteers a starting point on the family that was buried here. As they sought more information about the Ehrhart, Klein and Hunn family, the volunteers became attached to this small gravesite and the family’s ancestors.

 

“As we started clearing the weeds and we started learning who was buried here, it [became] family for all of us volunteers,” said Bernadette Hall, one of the volunteers and a DAR member. “Who are these people? Where did they go? What are their stories?”

 

When the volunteers weren’t busy restoring the Ehrhart Family Cemetery, they were searching for information about the Ehrhart family. They collected records and documents of these people’s lives with the assistance of Amy Haake, archivist and chief administrative officer for the St. Charles County Historical Society.

 

Amy described the archives as “a non-lending library featuring or focusing on documents and images, maps, some books, and things like that.” With Amy’s help, the volunteers found record plats, letters, and other records detailing the history of the surrounding land. Their investigation took them from 1835 when Peter Ehrhart purchased the land to 1911 when Peter’s granddaughter Felicita Klein-Hunn died. The volunteers believe that Felicita was the last person buried in the cemetery.

 

“We started with Peter Ehrhart, and we went through his family and through extended family to determine who the nine people were that we had found buried here,” said Sarah Stratton, volunteer and DAR member. “As we found all these documents on the family … the people have become real to us, and we plan on keeping the cemetery clean going forward.”

 

Amy Haake, the St. Charles County Historical Society archivist, has a personal connection to the cemetery’s restoration: she is a descendant of the Ehrhart family.

 

“I’ve known about this cemetery since I was a child, because my mother would tell me stories about this piece of land,” said Amy. “It’s hard to express the feeling [that] people want to work and save something that is of my family, when my own family … they’re dispersed, and there are few of us.”

 

“It’s just become personal,” said Sarah. “Now we know the family, we have many of their documents…”

 

“We just don’t want this family forgotten.”

 

Alderman Patrick Barclay (Historical Focus Committee representative), Ehrhart descendant and historical archivist Amy Haake, and volunteers Sarah Stratton, Bernadette Hall, Joan Koechig, and Karen Daugherty. 

Pictured l-r: Alderman Patrick Barclay (Historical Focus Committee representative), Ehrhart descendant and historical archivist Amy Haake, and volunteers Sarah Stratton, Bernadette Hall, Joan Koechig, and Karen Daugherty.