When the first pioneers of Stallostown died, they were buried alongside the building in which they lived. Necessitated by primitive conditions, this mode of burial soon passed as a permanent cemetery was established, a mark of a stable community. Accordingly, the first cemetery was established at the northeast corner of Fifth and Main Streets. This location would soon cease to be satisfactory due to the rapid growth of the community along with a sharp increase in the value of suitable building lots. A new cemetery site was chosen in 1836 outside the village's southern limit at the foot of Hanover Street. A three-acre square parcel of land was purchased by St. Augustine Parish from John Bernard Feldmann. The deed was recorded in the name of "John B. Purcell, Catholic Bishop of Cincinnati", September l8, 1838. The church treasurer paid seventy-five cents for the writing of the deed in the spring of 1837; however, it was not actually written until January 20, 1838.
This cemetery was one of the few Catholic places of burial in northwest Ohio in those early years. Deceased Catholics from a wide area surrounding Minster were buried there as well as the deceased of the parish. Irish Catholic immigrants who were hired by canal contractors to excavate the stretch of the Miami-Erie Canal from Piqua to Deep Cut were buried here from 1838 to 1842. The damp conditions in which they worked exposed the workers to many diseases including typhus, cholera and malaria.
A devastating cholera epidemic, sweeping the whole of the earth at the time, struck the town in 1849. The bodies of the victims were buried in the cemetery in an unmarked mass grave consisting of several trenches. Some of the victims were buried in individual graves. A monument to the memory of all the cholera victims was erected in 1937. The inscription of the memorial reads: In Pious Memory of All Our Cholera Victims, over 300, Especially in the Year 1849.
A recognized feature of the cemetery is the Steinemann Chapel which was erected in 1855. John Henry Steinemann built this chapel in thanksgiving for the recovery of his wife, Catherine Gertrude Meyer, from a serious illness. John Henry was assisted in the building of this chapel by John Michael Drees. The building measures 12 feet in width and 18 feet in length, and is constructed of red brick made at the Steinemann brickyard. It is topped by a shingled wood steeple and copper cross. An oil painting, Souls in Purgatory, brought from Germany in 1852, hangs behind the altar. The chapel was originally used by the priests as a shelter from inclement weather when they assisted at burials. In the early 1950's the chapel was restored and is presently undergoing another renovation. The Steinemann heirs donated the chapel with a sum of money for its maintenance to the parish in May, 1975. The chapel is open to the public from April l to December 3l from dawn to dusk. It is closed during January, February and March.
A reliquary containing a number of relics was emplaced in the chapel in 1976. These relics are of the following: Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Bernard, St. Justin, St. Barbara, Ss. Cosmas and Damian, St. Margaret, St. Boniface, St. Concordia, St. Simplicius, St. Fridolin, St. Innocent, St. Lawrence, St. Exsuperantius, St. Cruser, St. Victoria, and St. Purpurata. Undoubtedly, this reliquary had its origin in Maria Stein. These relics were formerly in the custody of Mrs. Eleanor (Steinemann) Lange and were bequeathed to the cemetery chapel by her son, Jerome F. Lange, of Piqua, Ohio, upon his death in 1975.
Nine acres of land were purchased as an extension to the cemetery for a sum of $1000.00 from Theodore and John Dickmann on February 21, 1884. This parcel was part of the original eighty acres purchased by Theodore Dickmann upon his arrival from Cincinnati in 1836. This addition was consecrated on May l6, 1887 by Father Henry Drees, Provincial of the Society of the Precious Blood, as representative of Archbishop Henry Elder. Father Christian Nigsch, pastor of St. Augustine at that time, erected an iron fence on the northern boundary of the cemetery facing First Street. An imposing monument, set in the center of the cemetery, and featuring a crucifix, was dedicated in the spring of 1891, to the memory of former Pastor Father Andrew Kunkler, C.PP.S. The ground around the monument serves as the final resting place for priests. Two other priests are buried in the section reserved for the sisters and brothers of the Society of the Precious Blood in the Old Section of the Cemetery. Thirty-four sisters, two brothers, and three orphans are buried in this section while another brother is buried near the monument.
In 1960, contemplating the future needs of the parish, Father William Meyer purchased a tract of twenty acres lying west of the oldest section from Clarence Walters for the sum of $20,000. Five acres of this land was later sold to the Village of Minster for future expansion of the Sanitary Disposal Facility.
The general upkeep of the cemetery is made possible through funds provided by the sale of burial lots. As stipulated by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, these moneys must be used only for this purpose. The Cemetery Fund is therefore a distinct fund, kept separate from the operational budget of the parish. Additional funds for the cemetery have been obtained by an assessment of a small yearly sum. This practice began in 1913 when all plot holders were charged $1.00 for the costs of mowing grass. In the next year, 1914, this payment of $1.00 was to be payable at the time of the pew rent collection. Years later, an assessment against all families of the parish, whether or not they had purchased a lot, was effected. The amounts of the assessment were raised by the Parish Council in February, 1976. The assessment set for each married couple was $10.00 per year. Widows and widowers, as well as single parishioners beyond high school age were assessed $5.00. For lot holders not living in the parish an annual assessment of $5.00 was asked. Today's prices have been adjusted to meet current needs.
Deceased loved ones are remembered particularly on Memorial Day and All Souls' Day, by the decoration of their graves with flowers or wreaths, and with the prayers of the bearers. In past years, a Memorial Day observance was held in the cemetery by the various veterans organizations of the community. The Minster High School band and the Men's Choir took part, along with a gun salute and the playing of Taps. The Memorial Day observance is now held in church. On the Sunday prior to Memorial Day, a Memorial Mass is celebrated at 10:00 AM with the veterans attending while on the morning of Memorial Day, the veterans' organizations conduct a memorial service. Following an old established custom, a procession to the cemetery was held on the Sunday following All Saints' Day . Parishioners start out at church following Hanover Street to the cemetery, praying the Rosary along the way for the benefit of the Poor Souls in Purgatory. Further prayers for the Faithful Departed were offered when the procession reached the central monument. After these prayers, parishioners were encouraged to personally visit the graves of their loved ones. This observance also takes place in church now.
A Cemetery Committee, consisting of seven elected members and serving under the direction of the Parish Council, was formed in May, 1976. The purpose of the committee is to assist the pastor and council in establishing policy and attending to the day-to-day operations of the cemetery. The Cemetery Committee formulated a set of regulations for the governing of the cemetery in 1979. This document was submitted to the Parish Council and adopted in January, 1980.
A more detailed history of the cemetery can be found in Pilgrims All, A History of Saint Augustine Parish, 1832-1982, Chapter XVI.