Retelling the stories of those who passed before us brings a cemetery to life. Each October, Ste. Genevieve Memorial Cemetery in southeast Missouri and Mount Mora Cemetery in northwest Missouri share their tales. Voiced by reenactors, these living history events serve as fundraisers for preservation and restoration of these historic sites.
Though spanning just 20 acres, Mount Mora has a robust history dating to 1851. The final resting place of up to 18,000 souls, the cemetery holds three Missouri governors, Pony Express riders, and two attending physicians at Jesse James’ autopsy. Its signature feature, Mausoleum Row, contains a collection of 21 mausoleums that became the fashionable last address of St. Joseph’s elite.
The section serves as the main thoroughfare during the cemetery’s annual Voices of the Past. At this year’s event, planned for October 14–15, a cast of interpreters presents intimate encounters with the cemetery’s colorful residents.
Another historical encounter, the Déjà vu Spirit Reunion, will take place this year on October 23 (most years, it occurs on the last Saturday in October) at Ste. Genevieve Memorial Cemetery. Tours begin at dusk, and lanterns or flashlights are provided to visitors who roam the two-block cemetery to talk to reenactors who impersonate the spirits of the deceased.
“The burial ground was given as a land grant from the king of Spain in 1787 to Ste. Genevieve’s Catholics, but everyone in town was buried there: Protestants, Native Americans, slaves, and free men of color,” said Mickey Koetting, a former president of the Foundation for the Restoration of Ste. Genevieve.
After it closed in 1882, the cemetery fell into disrepair, and pigs were later reported to be wallowing on the graves. In response, the Works Progress Administration erected a fence around the site in 1935. Today, proceeds from reenactments help preserve the fence and monuments.
“We add people (spirits) yearly and continue to find new stories to tell,” Koetting said. “People who come often come back. Some even want to return and become a spirit.”