ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – If you want to know about the founding fathers of this city and this country, look no further than Bellefontaine Cemetery.
‘William Greenleaf Elliot was a Unitarian minister and well loved and dearly respected,’ says Richard Lay. ‘He found that 5000 children were not going to school. So he was one of those that instituted that education be mandatory.’
Richard Lay knows about St. Louis’ past and the men who paved its way, like William Greenleaf Elliot. He founded Washington University and Mary Institute after his daughter Mary died when she was just 16.
‘These dads displayed their success and they displayed their family fortune at the cemetery which was permanent,’ says Lay.
This explains the scale and detail that these dads put in place for their family in this life and beyond.
But these markers are more than just monuments to the men who built mound city.
‘There’s a lot of foresight in that,’ adds Lay. ‘It’s incredibly forward thinking and many of these gentlemen were in their 30’s and 40’s. The lifespan wasn’t near as long as it is now.’
Bellefontaine, which is still a working cemetery, began back in 1849.
There are more than 87,000 people buried here like Adolphus Busch, Henry Blow and
Robert Barnes, another dad who did the right thing for centuries to come.
‘He had two children that died very young,’ says Lay. ‘He felt like if there’d been better healthcare they’d had a longer life. So he left his entire fortune, his entire state to found Barnes Hospital. So to this day the president and chairman of BJC hospital come to lay a wreath at Robert Barnes’ gravesite.’
So if you see some familiar names at Bellefontaine, just remember they’re more than founding fathers, they’re also dear old dads ahead of their time.