As you recall, my heart was thumping at the find of Jean-Baptist De’Gamache, or Bapbett. If you want to catch up click here! Bapbett’s house was located where the North leg of the Arch is located. The Arch is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial property.
This is pure irony.
Bapbett fortified the expansion West. Dang, that’s pretty cool. He operated a mill, tried land surveying and farmed. He also ran a successful fur trade and operated a Meramec River Ferry for a short period of time. Sheesh!
Bapbett married Marie Charlotte D’Amours de Leuvieres in 1767, just three years after founding St. Louis. The pair had five children where only two survived to adulthood.
Their first baby was the first baptism inside the French Catholic Church. This is where the old cathedral is today.
Discovering his final resting place that sent me on a pursuit of my own. The picture above depicts St. Louis Catholic church during the French colonial time period.
If you look closely you can see the wooden crosses behind the building that marks the cemetery to the left. In those early years the church faced the river.
I was very excited to visit his resting place until I thought about it a little more. You see, that land with tombstones doesn’t exist today and currently is Highway 70.
You better believe I had documents in hand visiting the Old Cathedral as soon as possible. Walking up to its doors I couldn’t help but feel sentiment for its past. I was astounded by all the changes when comparing to the original picture. The trees were replaced by concrete, landscape, fast moving cars, and tall buildings.
inside an Archivist told me that Some family plots from the original grounds were traceable. sadly, the Gamache plots, my family, have been lost over time.
I will admit that I felt sucker punched. Bapbett and his family, MY FAMILY, are missing? This statement came to mean something to me.
‘Lost over time’ means that at some point they were not lost.
I was determined to find them.
I quickly visited the St. Louis Archdiocese research office. I was confident they would have the records I was looking for. Luckily, I was right. They did have records of the original interred souls in the cemetery. I had names of my ancestors but all the pages that should have shown their exhumed data were not available. So I checked the pages in the films next.
Picture a movie sequence where page and book and film show up empty and missing on repeat.
This made no sense and left me wondering if this was a weird coincidence. I continued to upheave any stone and search for any records. I also looked to find new Gamache relatives that may have some information. Documents did not surface at this time. I did find a cousin!
Connecting with him I learned that many members of the Gamache family had opened lawsuits against the government and the church in the 1950’s.
The general consensus was that these lawsuits tarnished relationships and records.
This made some sense with the missing paperwork trail from the Archdiocese Research Office. But I had no proof of that either. All I had was roadblocks and whispers and I couldn’t do anything with that.
Every so often I would call the Archdiocese Research Office to see if any missing pages or new information were found. The answer was always ‘No records have been located at this time.’ Then one day, while making a call on a work lunch break, my persistence paid off BIG time. The person that answered the phone was not the usual gal I would speak too.
To say I perked right up would be an understatement.
I explained what I was looking for. After a short pause she stated that she recently came across an old memo regarding exactly what I was looking for. She put me on a brief hold and returned asking where she can fax me a copy. Being at work and trying not to scream of excitement was hard! I sprinted to the fax machine. Five minutes later I was holding a copy of a memo from the 1950’s. This interoffice memo pertained to the cemetery land sale information, overseeing priests’ name and the dates that my family’s graves were removed.
This was the biggest break in this wall!
Working alongside a local cousin, and my dad, we quickly discovered that when the church sold the land to the city. After the sale they had to move those graves as soon as possible. To do so, and save as much money as they could, they requested that each family purchase new headstones. In addition, they requested that family also pay for new plots in a different catholic cemetery.
At this time there were 47 Gamache relatives buried on the land. Wowza.
Understanding how my family was lost started taking form. At the time this was quite upsetting for a lot of the families. Bapbetts next of kin did not have the means to pay for this. If someone came to me and said I needed to pay for 47 plots and throw in some tombstones I would not be able to afford it either.
After they dug up my ancestors’ graves they were stacked into the basement of the Old Cathedral for several years.
After the money was not completely raised for reburial they opened each casket and dumped my ancestors remains into two metal tombs. Bone on bone. They did not mark names on the tombs. They were listed as unknowns.
No detail is insignificant doing research.
Bapbett and his colonial family were the last to be moved out of the Old Cathedral. I decided to search the records of other catholic cemeteries at the time. I looked for incoming unknown burials in two metal tombs. We searched several cemeteries and then we spotted them. I soon discovered these plots were now the home to a different family from a later time.
Back to the books I went.
We searched for when the two metal containers were exhumed and moved again. Then again. You guessed it, again! The last cemetery had this memo from 1947 explaining the removal from Rock Springs Cemetery and where they ended up.
After a year-long research effort we were able to trace the metal tombs to Calvary Cemetery. With the help of modern technology and cemetery staff we verified their location at Calvary. I must say that all the assistance and help at this time from the Archdiocese Office and Calvary Cemetery was very gracious and kind.
Once we located the and solidified the research the Archdiocese of St. Louis offered to pay for most of the monument and maintain the upkeep.
The plan for a monument was previously designed between my distant cousin and the Archdiocese. I was not made privy to the inscriptions or the design. As beautiful as the monument is, the names of my Gamache family buried beneath were not included on any face of the stone.
The monument is a wonderful tribute to the brave ‘First Thirty’ and remains the only monument in St. Louis honoring them in one place.
I desire for all to know that this memorial also acknowledges and preserves the memory of my 47 Gamache relatives buried beneath.
I want to hear all about a time you had to dive knee deep into research like this! Did you spend a lot of time inside libraries and cemeteries? Tell me below!