This is the original post that has since been corrected. To read a more accurate version, click here.
An innocent maintenance project for a Boonville charity lead to a surprising discovery – the graves of unclaimed children.
Residents of Boonville may not know that Harvest House, a shelter devoted to serving the homeless in mid-Missouri, was originally part of the St. Joseph Hospital. Built in 1911 by the Benedictine sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, the hospital added a home for the nuns adjacent to the central building in 1925. After the hospital was relocated to the new Cooper County Memorial Hospital in 1973, the house sat empty until 1988, when Harvest House Inc was created. Through an arrangement with the Sisters, the former nun’s home was purchased and became Harvest House. The shelter officially opened its doors in 1990.
After Boonville resident Larry Long joined the Harvest House executive board in 2012, he decided one of his first goals would be to clear out the thicket that surrounded the Harvest House property. The area was full of overgrown vines and trees that hadn’t been touched in years, and looked like a jungle.
“This growth was so thick you couldn’t see five yards in front,” says Long.
After hacking through the brush, he found an old wire fence. Long knew it had once surrounded a clearing of some kind and assumed it to be a picnic area or a garden. Upon further investigation, he noticed unmarked concrete stones on the ground but was unable to figure out what they represented.
A year passed. Long moved on to other projects, but hadn’t forgotten the mysterious clearing.
One day, he met an elderly woman from Pilot Grove who had worked at the old St. Joseph hospital in the early ‘50s. When he asked her about the clearing, she knew immediately what he had discovered – a baby cemetery.
The former employee explained that when a pregnant woman came into the hospital with a still-birth or miscarriage, she would be given the option of taking the body home or leaving it at the hospital. If the family did not want to deal with the baby, the head nurse would call housekeeping, who would wrap the baby in a blanket and bury him or her in a grave marked only by blank concrete stones.
Thanks to Long, the cemetery now stands clear and free of brush. And though all records of those buried have long since disappeared, the children haven’t been forgotten. As word gets out, people are beginning to place flowers on site in memory of the little boys and girls buried at the St. Joseph Baby Cemetery.
Many thanks to the incredible Larry Long who gave me the details, quotes and pictures. If you have a story idea for the blog, feel free to email me or leave a comment below.