Herman Krueger, a native German and member of St. Peter’s German Evangelical Church established Greenwood Cemetery on January 19, 1874. From the beginning the cemetery was intended to serve African Americans. Greenwood is especially noteworthy for being the first non-sectarian commercial cemetery for African Americans in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
After Krueger’s daughter married a German native, Adam Foelsch, the cemetery was purchased by Foelsch, whose family occupied the farmhouse and operated and maintained the cemetery until the early 1980s. Initially the park like, rolling, wooded property typified the 19th-century rural cemetery movement that grew out of the reverence for nature expressed in the aesthetics of American romanticism; from a more practical standpoint, the rural cemetery movement was also fueled by the threat of cholera, which made burials outside of densely populated areas desirable for public health. Originally oaks, eventually the land surrounding Greenwood was developed into residential neighborhoods. During the 1910’s, ’20s and ’30s construction of homes proceeded to the east and west of the vertical base of the T; about this same time, the land south of the cemetery, along Hamburger Avenue, was developed for commercial purposes. By the 1940s, the land north of the cemetery was also being developed for residential use. With the exception of Maywood Street, bordering the west arm of the T, the cemetery remains surrounded by older residential neighborhoods (’20s-’50s) on three sides, and by commercial property to the south... Click "Read More" to continue reading.
The T-shaped property covers 31.85 acres and includes more than 50,000 burials. By the early 1900’s the cemetery was divided into 20 burial sections or lots. There was also a sexton’s lot. The sexton’s house was destroyed by fire in 1979, but the land was never used for burials. The burial sections were designated as A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, R, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Two additional burial sections were added after WW2 when East lawn and West Lawn were divided from Sections A and B. Other sections appearing on the burial records include, 6, EG, SG and MW. Section G was reburied as section 6 in the 1940’s. EG, MW and section 4 were located in the North West area of the cemetery now referred to as “Maywood” and were buried during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
A network of roads was cut throughout the cemetery to give access to gravesites. The larger roads are named Greenwood Avenue, Zion Avenue, Martha Avenue, and Bethania Avenue. Additional dirt paths extending from the roads provided access to inner sections of Greenwood. Originally all the roads were probably dirt; by the early 20th century they were graveled, and later they were paved with asphalt. Until the 1990’s, the cemetery was fronted by Krueger’s farmhouse, on what later became the West Lawn. The farmhouse served for many years as the cemetery office and was demolished in the late 1990’s.
The cemetery entrance was originally located in the middle of east and west lawn but was relocated at the southeast corner of the T, probably in the early 20th century as motorized funeral traffic became the norm; two stone gateposts were erected flanking the entrance, with the word Greenwood on one,Cemetery on the other and a decorative botanical motif carved in each.