The Cold Water Cemetery in St. Louis County, Missouri dates back to the late 1790s and is still in use

CJ Coombs
Coldwater Cemetery.LittleT889, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

There are a lot of historic cemeteries in Missouri. There’s one in Florissant, Missouri located in north St. Louis County known as the Cold Water Cemetery which has also been referred to as the Patterson Family Cemetery. Although the cemetery is still in use, it was used largely from 1809 to 1929.

This cemetery is believed to be the oldest Protestant cemetery west of the Mississippi River. It’s managed by the Missouri State Daughters of the American Revolution

An American Revolutionary War soldier, John Patterson, died in 1883 and he and his family are buried there. Initially, the cemetery was the Pattersons’ family plot and it’s believed Patterson’s wife, Keziah Homday Patterson, was the earliest burial. There is a memorial plaque where the Salem Baptist Church used to stand on the site.

During the 1970s, there was a restoration effort taking place to improve the appearance of the landscaping as well as damaged headstones.

In 2004, this cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cold Water Cemetery

The Cold Water Cemetery speaks for the early pioneer Anglo-American families of St. Louis County. The congregations of the Protestants grew in the area with the help of Rev. John Clark who did a lot of preaching. He passed away in 1833 and is buried in this cemetery.

While Cold Water Cemetery still receives interments, the historic grave markers and rural settings document the lives of the original settlers. The period of significance is from the date of the first interment to the year the Cold Water Cemetery Association was formed to preserve and maintain the historic burial ground.

In 1797, John Patterson, Sr., and his family made their journey by wagon train from North Carolina to the Cold Water Creek area. This area was under Spanish rule and they acquired land from Spanish land grants. It was referred to as The Patterson Settlement.

The Spanish who were Catholic were trying to understand the new settlers arriving who were Protestant. Rev. Clark was a Methodist Minister who some referred to as Father Clark. Supposedly, Rev. Clark was holding early church services in private homes in 1809 near the cemetery. Rev. Clark would enter Missouri by crossing the Mississippi River from Illinois and be guided to a secret place that had been arranged by the Pattersons. Before the sun would rise, Rev. Clark would go back. He was making monthly visits from 1789 and 1804. Back then, he could have been prosecuted for promoting Protestantism.

The acceptance of their faith would change over time. It's believed that Rev. Clark might have been the first Protestant minister to preach on this side of the Mississippi. Once he started making routine visits to the Cold Water Creek settlements, the first church was built around 1808.

In 1832, a second church was built after the first was destroyed by fire. It was named the Cold Water Church/Union Meeting House.

It took 38 years to complete the Meeting House. The Church was said to be used by the Methodists, Baptists, and an early Presbyterian congregation. It, too, is believed to have burned. The church disappeared but the cemetery endured. (Source.)

In the late 1700s, French settlers were arriving and they established settlements such as Ste. Genevieve around 1750, St. Louis in 1764, St. Charles in 1769, and Florissant in 1788. The lure to move there were Spanish land grants and tax exemptions. Immigrants started coming to the area surrounding Florissant from Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Interestingly, there are veterans from several historical wars interred here including those from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Seminole War, Civil War, Mexican War, World War I, World War II, and Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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