This small African-American cemetery lies on what was once the Keithly family farm, and today is just west of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5077 on Veterans Memorial Parkway. It has been used by O’Fallon Missouri’s African-American community as a burial ground since 1881, the year it was conveyed to the Trustees of a former African Methodist Episcopal Church, for a cemetery. During the 19th Century, O’Fallon was home to three African-American churches, the Cravens Methodist Episcopal (later Williams Memorial) Wishwell Baptist (a plant of Hopewell Baptist in Wentzville) and Sage Chapel A.M.E.. all were on Sonderen Street. (A list of those buried here is below.)
Burials haven’t been limited simply to members of these churches either, but through the years, as these churches closed, continued to be a burial ground for the African-
American Community. And, while these churches no longer exist, and likewise there are no records extant, we do know today there are 30 headstones, and some handmade markers, and that there are at least 111 documented burials on this property. At least twenty of these people were born as slaves prior to Missouri’s emancipation of of slaves on January 11, 1865. There are also veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War, and veterans of World War I and the Korean War.
When O’Fallon resident and Historic Preservation Commissioner Jim Frain first visited the Sage Chapel Cemetery in June 2013, he noticed that the headstone for Howard Morris, a World War I veteran, was broken and in danger of being lost. Frain approached his friend, Sheldon Hartsfield, also a veteran and Chairman of the O’Fallon Veterans Commission at that time, and they and the Amvets and a few other members of the community came together and saw the headstone with all of the proper ceremony due this veteran, saw that the stone was replaced.
(Watch a video about Sage Chapel Cemetery)
Since then, area historians have researched the cemetery’s history, nominated it for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and all while the City of O’Fallon maintains the cemetery. They have not only cut the grass, but when large trees were toppled, and fences were broken, they addressed the situation and the African-American community took notice. Everyone appreciates this. Sage Chapel Cemetery is significant to more than the African-American community of O’Fallon though.
This is only a portion of O’Fallon’s rich heritage, yet, it is a very necessary and important part. It provides dialogue and discussion and an opportunity to reach out and seek greater understanding of our larger community. It is significant with an educational role, as the stories of over one-hundred of our African-American residents are shared, it teaches a history that isn’t taught in our schools today. Sage Chapel Cemetery is already significant as a burying ground where people’s lives should never be forgotten. But even more important is the role this history has played in our community’s history which needs to be acknowledged and voices heard. If you have a family member buried in Sage Chapel Cemetery, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us using the form below.