Conway Cemetery

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We stumbled upon another rural cemetery in West County recently, off of Conway Road. The Conway Cemetery is named after one of the earliest settlers in the St. Louis County area, and the cemetery is on his property. Joseph Conway was famous for having been scalped and surviving the assault; his grand-children supposedly used to ask to feel his head on occasion.

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This interesting tombstone above marks the graves of the slaves of the Conway family. Unlike the Campbell Slave Cemetery in Wildwood, these graves are marked officially. But it is strange; the stone looks quite old but the inscription is clearly new. I suppose you can “recycle” tombstones.

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The Conways’ tombstones are clearly new, and I believe they were replaced by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who also replaced the cemetery’s sign on the road.

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This strange arrangement of stones, at first glance the outline of a rubble foundation, on closer inspection does not quite seem right. Perhaps it was a foundation, or as I suspect, actually a garden of some sort. Conway Cemetery is said to be the oldest family cemetery in the county; Southern settlers tended to have family plots on their own property, while Northerners had churchyard burials. It was a great find, and worth visiting on your own.

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. casey f. ryback says:

    No way! I pass by there quite often and have NEVER noticed that!

  2. Yeah, I ride bikes on Conway Road quite a bit and have never seen this cemetery. Any more specific information about where it is located?

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      On the south side of the road, just west of White Road at the top of the hill.

    2. Tom Maher - Kirkwood says:

      Enter 38.649427,-90.529372 on Google Satellite or Bing Birdseye.
      OT, but Joseph Conway also had as sister who was kidnapped by Indians and held for six years.
      The DAR did do the new stones, as well as the one by the side of the road, and also maintain the cemetery.

      1. Erin Conway Van Zante says:

        Thank you, DAR!
        Conway’s have a number of wills that have really implied a different feeling about their slaves than others that I’ve seen. One was so amazing that I wonder if there may have been any social repercussions? I don’t think it strange that this memorial would exist, new or old. Rare, but not strange. Scary all the other happenings on the property, stuff ghost stories and horror movies are made from.

  3. Dawn says:

    I guess it could be possible that someone painted in the engraved letters on the slave headstone? My aunt did this one time to my great-grandparent’s stone. The stone was in great shape, but you could barely see the letters. So she went out to the cemetery (rural southeast Missouri) and painted in the letters with a fine brush and black paint. All you need is a steady hand.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      That is a good theory; personally, I believe that someone found an old tombstone and reused it, as slave owners generally did not mark graves of slaves, let alone admit in the inscription that they had not properly memorialized them.

  4. Tom Bartholow says:

    I’d certainly agree that it looks like an old and very worn down marker with a new cartouche, or whatever you call it, attached like a sticking plaster. That high-contrast legend, however it was achieved, is just asking for public notice; which makes it unfortunate that the verb does not agree with the subject.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Yes, looking at that tombstone again the lettering is so incongruent it looks like I Photoshopped it on there! Oh, and that shape would just be called a shield, from heraldry.

  5. Aaron Conway says:

    I’ve been researching my family tree and Joseph Conway was a relative of mine. I live in Illinois but have gone across 64 many times in my semi and never new about Conway road or the cemetary until recently. Also Joseph supplied the land, funding and labor to build Bonhomme Presbyterian Church. Now I need to make a trip down to check thus all out. His home is supposed to be by Conway and White road as of an article I found from 1963 hopefully it is still there

    1. Tom Maher - Kirkwood MO says:

      All I could find on the old homestead:
      I would suggest contacting the C-field historical Commission. Its web page with a phone number is

    2. Chris Naffziger says:

      Aaron, I could take a look, but I don’t recall seeing any old houses near there anymore.

    3. Hello AAron, My family lives in Illinois as well, but are originally from Eminence. My Great Grandpa was Thomas H. Conway born in the 1880’s(?). I don’t know much more than he married Anna Bell. If you can give me some connections to research I would appreciate it.

  6. Effie b says:

    We used to go hang out in the house when I was in high school because it was “haunted.” I think it was demolished sometime after I graduated in ’94. There was a lot of druggie paraphernalia on the ground and neo-nazi and satanic stuff spray painted on the walls …. (We are lucky we didn’t run into any crazy people!) The place had been a school for a while and it looked as if it was abandoned quickly- chalk boards on the walls with chalk and erasers, classroom chairs and desks still around. Outside the vegetation was so overgrown you could hardly see the house from the road and you might trip over headstones and the metal gate that marked the cemetery. It looks better in these photos for sure! There was a pool full of green rainwater and frogs.
    I remember a boy from another school was found dead there by a woman walking her dog. Love triangle… Here is the article I found about it. Probably why it was demolished.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Woah, glad to hear that the site has been cleaned up. I may vaguely remember that murder you referenced.

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