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Parks & Recreation
Historical Old Lorimier Cemetery
Old Lorimier Cemetery was established in 1808
by Louis Lorimier. The location of the cemetery is 500 North Fountain Street. There is believed to be more than 6,500 burials in the cemetery, most being unmarked.
A sidewalk serves as a north - south dividing line in the cemetery.
It is said that Catholics are buried on the south and Protestants are buried on the north.
The east slope is believed
to be the burial grounds of African-American persons. It has been recorded that as many as 1,200 soldiers from the Civil War were buried there.
Old Lorimier Cemetery was established in 1808 on
a five acre
plot of land atop a hill that
was set aside
by Louis Lorimier as the first public cemetery, upon the death of his wife Charlotte. This area was just outside what was at the time the north city boundary of Cape Girardeau. The cemetery is actually 5.47 acres measuring 661 feet east west by 316 feet north south.
There are many early settlers and persons who built and shaped the community interred within the grounds of the cemetery. Persons of many nationalities are buried in the cemetery besides those born in the United States, some being born in Germany, Canada, England, Wales, France, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and the West Indies. Inscriptions on the monuments are in English, Latin, German and French. There are no Spanish inscriptions.
There are about 1250 gravestones marking burials at the cemetery. It is thought that there are more than 6500 burials in the cemetery. A grave space occupies up to 24 square feet of ground and there is over 208,000 square feet in the cemetery grounds. There appears to be no real order to the burials, meaning no rows were set or pattern to follow for burial, it is believed that all available space was used and thus the actual number of persons interred there can never be known.
The cemetery was originally sectioned by religious affiliation and race. Protestants were interred in the east area while Catholics were interred in the west area. The concrete arch with a cross atop is the marker showing the divide. It is believed blacks were interred on the eastern slope of the cemetery, though it has been found through records available that persons of color were buried on the eastern and southern edges of the cemetery grounds. This was done by comparing burial records with monuments in place on the grounds.
Any known burial records for the cemetery were destroyed in a fire at the Common Pleas Courthouse years ago. Many attempts have and are still being made to find and list the names of persons buried in the cemetery, but information is very difficult to find and location of any of these will not be possible. The information we do have was gathered by the Cape County Genealogy Society and through the Historic Preservation Department at Southeast Missouri State University.
It is believed that there were 1200 soldiers from the Civil War buried in the cemetery. Along with these are persons who died during epidemics of cholera, black plaque, small pocks, influenza and yellow fever through the years of its use. It is a common thought that during the Civil War many soldiers were buried in graves containing more than one body as this was done at night so persons who sympathized with the Confederates did not know how many Union soldiers were dying.
There are a number of graves believed to have been used as mass burial sites due to deaths during epidemics as well as accidents. One such site is marked by a stone cylinder, which is located on the southeastern edge of the cemetery.
There have been a lot of stories and folklore that are told concerning Old Lorimier Cemetery which need to be to put to rest. There has never been any trace of a tunnel found into or through the cemetery. There are no bodies in the above ground crypts, they are just monuments nor a special brick in any monument to push to open to a hidden passageway.
Over the years there have been many repeated acts of vandalism in which the monuments were overturned and damaged. Repairs were made to the markers when possible but to no avail, as they would be damaged again in an act of vandalism in the future. After time and continued vandalism many of the markers were damaged to a point that they were no longer repairable and they were carried off by persons. There are instances in which persons living in the area of the cemetery made walkways with the broken markers. When found the pieces would be brought back to the cemetery and placed in a location that was chosen by a person in charge at that time. Or they would be placed in a pile or some protected location until they would be repaired or discarded if it was not possible to find any distinguishing marks or information on them. Many methods have been used in attempts to repair the damaged markers, but to date there have not been any that has been determined to be a permanent fix.
The pagoda covering the burial location of Louis and Charlotte Lorimier was erected and dedicated on August 5, 1917 by the women of the Cemetery Association and was refurbished in 1952. The stone entryways and steps on the south were built and dedicated on May 31, 1952 by the Thomas Sanford Chapter of the Daughters of the American Colonists. The concrete wall along the west side was added and dedicated in 1953. Originally the only entryway into the cemetery was via the east up the steep hill from the river side. Later accessibility was made to the cemetery eastward via Washington Street and southward via Fountain Street from Washington school.
Some things have been done in an attempt to stop the vandalism. In 1992 a group was formed to solicit and receive donations for the purchase a fence to surround the cemetery. Almost $20,000 was raised and the fence was installed that year. This has reduced the frequency of the vandalism, but has not ended it completely. In 2007 additional lighting and a security system were installed.
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Parks & Recreation
City of Cape Girardeau
Cape Girardeau, MO 63703