Awhile back we announced what we believed to be one of Cherokee Street’s Lost Cemeteries across the street from the Lemp's Grand Hall. While researching this further, we found another lost cemetery under the campus of the abandoned Shepard School. Once known as the German Evangelical Cemetery, we were able to verify its location by it's listing on old plat maps dating back to 1850. We also found some references that the bodies were removed in 1856, but for some reason, the land has never been entirely developed. The Shepard School building occupies the front half of the defunct cemetery along Wisconsin Ave, and the playground occupies the rear portion along Lemp Ave.
Shepard School was built in 1905, and this isn’t the only time the St. Louis Public School District has purchased an old cemetery. Roosevelt High School located on Gravois was built upon the Old Pickers Cemetery in 1925. Some urban legends claim that Roosevelt students have found the remains of skeletons and caskets that had washed up through the soil of the athletic field. The graves in the front half of the Old Pickers Cemetery were removed, but the bodies under the Athletic Field remain. The reason why these graves remain is that this was the diseased portion of the Old Pickers Cemetery. Some diseases such as Cholera can remain dormant in buried corpses for centuries.
In the 1875 illustrations of Compton and Dry, the location of the old German Evangelical Cemetery was nothing more than horse trails linking Cherokee Street to President Street. In an area of St. Louis that experienced periods of rapid growth throughout history, this plot of ground has never been developed beyond a playground. Could the Shepard School Playground also be littered with diseased corpses that cannot be safely removed?
The school has been closed for several years, and vandals and scrappers are starting to take their toll on the building. There is evidence of the school being broken into several times, and the benches and playground equipment have been vandalized. The asphalt pavement is starting to become overgrown, and depressions can be seen in the asphalt. Could this be evidence that the rear portion of the Shepard School Campus was once the diseased portion of the old German Evangelical Cemetery? I guess the only way we will ever know is if someone decided to remove the asphalt to develop the rear portion of the campus.