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.
About St. Joseph
Egypt's St. Joseph Parish, traces its origin to August 14, 1852, when Cincinnati Archbishop John Purcell granted Egypt's residents permission to establish a church in their community. Traveling to Minster was difficult in those early years. Paths used as "roads" were often impassable, making it a hazardous trip, especially in cold, rainy or snowy weather, as travelers often made the four to five mile trip on foot. To make matters worse, many times there was no room inside and Mass goers would have to stand outside the church during Mass.
For the early Egypt settlers, it had been a longtime desire to have a church in their area that was close enough for women and children to regularly attend Mass; and for their children to receive religious instruction. When residents, Anton Wehrman, Henry Rolfes and Johann Albert Osterloh, presented this idea in a meeting with their neighbors, the men were elected to approach Archbishop Purcell with the request since he would be visiting St. John (Maria Stein) in a few days. On the 14th of August, 1852, His Grace, granted them permission to establish the parish of St. Joseph at Egypt.
A subscription drive was held and soon $800 was pledged. A meeting with contractors was held to let a contract for the new church which would measure 52x28 feet. Several contractors, noting the sum pledged, all agreed to do the job for $800. When Henry Rolfes offered to build a church for $300 for which he would furnish the rough lumber if the rest of the congregation furnished the flooring and siding; they agreed. When the little church was completed, enough money was left over to pay a priest's salary for one year; approximately $300.
The church was build due east of the present day St. Joseph Cemetery, in the southeast corner of Egypt Pike and today's St. Rt. 364, on land belonging to John Heitman. (Today it is the Heitbrink farm.) A small bell was donated by Henry Knapke. J.H. Stricker and Mary Brandewie were the first couple to be married there.
On September 11, 1852, Johann Albert Osterloh deeded land for the purpose of a cemetery for St. Joseph Catholic Church to Archbishop Purcell. The first funeral held there was for Anna Mary Knapke, a child of two years.
Since they had no resident priest, Precious Blood Fathers came from Minster and Maria Stein every Sunday and twice during the week to administer to the spiritual needs of the congregation. With the building of "Mary's Flight Into Egypt" convent, (1857-1912) Father John Witmer became the resident priest and St. Joseph became the hub of religious observances until the convent chapel was completed in 1858. St. Joseph Cemetery has been the burial ground for the residents of the convent, as well. A total of 46 nuns, six brothers and 3 orphans are buried there. Over time the engraving on their tomb stones weathered to the point of becoming unreadable. In July, 2011, in order to preserve their history, Sisters of The Precious Blood erected a monument on the cemetery containing all their names.
In 1878, under the guidance of Father John Van den Broeck, the present brick church was built on the south side of the cemetery lot. Serving as contractor for the original structure, measuring approximately 84x36 ft., was Anton Gehr. Brick contractor was George Van Oss. In 1927, the building was remodeled to include an entrance/bell tower, upstairs choir loft and annexes to each side of the entry; larger sanctuary with enlarged sacristies and a basement to house a furnace. Father Van den Broeck is buried at St. Joseph's cemetery near the large crucifix that marks his grave.
In 1912, a rectory was erected between the church and the cemetery proper. Over the years, the cemetery grew in size and more land was purchased to fulfill the need. To preserve the history of the parish members, some tombstone restoration is beginning to take place. The cemetery, containing more than 400 souls is being maintained and cared for by the St. Joseph's Men's Society.
St. Joseph's Parish consists of 74 registered families. The church structure is well maintained and cared for by its members through many and varied committees. As in the beginning St. Joseph's no longer has a resident priest, but feel blessed to have Father Louis Schmit and/or other retired priests from St. Charles Center to offer Mass on Sundays and holy days.
Father Brunner was impressed with the quiet and peace of the Egypt community when he commissioned the "Mary's Flight into Egypt" convent to be built there. And that is a feature of St. Joseph's that persists to this day.
A more detailed history can be found in the 1996 St. Joseph's Parish History written by parish member, Barb Osterloh.