Mt. Hope Cemetery
Mt. Hope Cemetery is in receivership. Please direct financial and business questions to Sara.Wooley@IllinoisComptroller.gov, not the Belleville Library or SCCGS. Some questions about monuments might be answered by Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Belleville. Grass cutting questions may be directed to the Belleville Streets Department: 618.239.3454.
Mt. Hope Cemetery, established in 1897, is the resting place for more than 26,800 persons, located at 9401 West Main, Belleville, Illinois. The St. Clair County Genealogical Society (SCCGS) provided all funding to microfilm the burial and lot records of Mt. Hope cemetery, now part of the SCCGS Collections at the Belleville Public Library. Permissions were received in October 2014; filming was completed in February 2015. It is one of many endeavors that fulfill the Society’s purpose. Contact SCCGS (firstname.lastname@example.org) to VOLUNTEER on a future transcription project.
History and Maps:
History of Mount Hope Cemetery – a timeline.
MAP OVERVIEW ♦ Section A ♦ Section B ♦ Section C ♦ Section D ♦ Section E ♦ Section F ♦ Section G ♦ Section H(big) ♦ Section H(little) ♦ Section I ♦ Section J ♦ Section K ♦ Section L ♦ Section M ♦ Section M1 ♦ Section N ♦ Section O
Left: Mt. Hope microfilm is presented to Belleville Public Library archivist, Carol Kirby, by SCCGS president Mark Bauer. Teri Bromley, SCCGS cemetery chairwoman, holds the microfilm guide to the records accompanied by Diane Walsh. Center: 22,064 lot cards are alphabetized prior to microfilming by SCCGS volunteers Nancy Pannier, Tom Budde, Janice Carlson, Linda Schneider and Karen Zimmermann. Right: Sample of some lot books from Mount Hope Cemetery, Belleville.
SCCGS is pleased to provide the following information for other independently operated groups involved with Mt. Hope:
The Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery, an informal association of individuals concerned about the future of this cemetery and its records, endeavors to actively support the revitalization and future care of Mt. Hope. Contact coordinator E. Gayle Schneider, Ph. D., at 1829 Meadowland Dr., Greenville, NC 27834 or phone 252-757-7728 to Join their Facebook page Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery (Belleville, Illinois).
Mt. Hope Cemetery still needs a new Receiver (2018). Ideally the Receiver would be a retired attorney or accountant we are told. Contact Sara Wooley, staff attorney, Illinois Comptroller’s Office if interested in this position. Please direct Mt. Hope financial and business questions to Sara Wooley (Sara.Wooley@IllinoisComptroller.gov).
History of Mount Hope Cemetery
Compiled by the St. Clair County Genealogical Society
The following timeline is not comprehensive and is provided only as a guide to the published material.
These abstracts were taken from Belleville News-Democrat articles from 1901 – 1952 and 2000 – 2010, a few obituaries, and the Belleville Cemeteries vertical file at the Belleville Public Library unless otherwise stated. The library may provide photocopies of the entire article referenced below.
BND = Belleville News-Democrat; DA = Daily Advocate
March 31, 1897 marks the first burial in Mount Hope Cemetery Burial Book for Mr. Lorenz Ferber. Immanuel Evangelical Church (later, Immanuel United Church of Christ) founded the Cemetery, administered by a board. This church was established on January 12, 1890, the sixth oldest protestant church in East St. Louis (see 75th Jubillee edition of the East St. Louis Journal newspaper, page 14 section F.)
February 24, 1905 BND p. 5. Articles of incorporation granted to Mount Hope Cemetery Association of St. Clair county, East St. Louis, to conduct a cemetery. Incorporators are Paul W Abt, H.C.W. Graebe and Jacob Schneider.
March 1, 1905 BND p. 1. Mount Hope Cemetery Association filed papers of incorporation in the Recorder’s office. The incorporators are Paul W Abt, H.C.W. Graebe,Jake Schneider, J.H. Fein. J.C. Lange, L.H. Mussmann and H.E. Mollmann.
July 30, 1906 BND p. 1. Article urges voters to pass the proposition to expand Belleville city limits west to Edgemont; will include Mount Hope and Mount Carmel cemeteries, a number of business houses, saloons, and the St. Clair Country Club.
June 1, 1907. BND p. 1. Woodmen’s Roost Camp. No.  will decorate the graves of the departed brethren. A committee is composed of G.H. Beineke, A.C. Engelmann, Wm. Rade, Arthur Wehrung, Henry Vogel and Henry Beineke. The lodge has one member buried in Mount Hope.
September 23, 1911 Daily Advocate. John Grave, sexton, dies, age 44 years
October 28, 1913 BND p. 2. Local news. H.A. Gallenbeck, sexton of Mount Hope Cemetery, has just departed for Germany, where he will spend three months as the guest of relatives and friends.
June 3, 1916 BND p. 5 Woodmen’s Roost Camp. No. 1362 M.W. of A. will decorate the graves of its deceased members in Mount Hope, Hartmann Kaemmerer, Louis Schneider.
December 27, 1918 BND p. 6 Scale of Wages and Working Rules Adopted for Livery, Cab and Carriage Drivers and Helpers of Local 50. Sec. 1. All men shall receive $22.00 per 7 day work week; 11 hours is a days work; extra drives such as funerals…shall be paid $1.50 for Mount Hope; effective February 7, 1919.
October 21, 1919 BND p. 3. Mount Hope Cemetery garage for sale.
August 23, 1920 BND p. 1. Paul W. Abt dies, age 75 years, burial in Mount Hope. Former state senator (1915-1919) and county treasurer (1911-1915), founder of Mount Hope Cemetery, one of original founders of Immanuel Evangelical Church, founder of the original First National Bank of East St. Louis (1890).
September 30, 1920 BND p. 1. New Addition to Mount Hope to be Laid Out; 150 lots; cemetery association owns  acres, about 30 in use. Vice-president Henry Vogt serving as president; other officers are Rev. E.R. Yaeger, secretary; HCW Graebe, treasurer; trustees Herman Millman [sic], Henry Boekenkroeger and Phillip Kern; A. Gallenbeck is superintendent.
January 18, 1922 BND p. 6. Officers Elected by Mount Hope Association. President Herman E. Mollman, Henry Vogt vice-president; Rev. E.R. Yaeger, secretary; HCW Graebe, treasurer; William F. Roth and Phillip Kern, directors. A. Gallenbeck is superintendent.
August 7, 1923 BND page 2. Alvin Gallenbeck, sexton of Mount Hope Cemetery died Tuesday [today].
May 28, 1924 BND p. 8. Woodmen’s Roost Camp. No. 1362 Forest team to decorate graves at Mount Hope and other cemeteries.
December 16, 1924 BND p. 9. City council grants permission for operation of non-stop cars. At Mount Hope cemetery, the through cars will be routed over the Day Line tracks.
June 4, 1925 BND p. 6. Woodmen’s Roost Camp. No. 1362 Forester team to decorate graves at Mount Hope and other cemeteries.
January 1, 1926 BND p. 9. Real estate transfer from Mount Hope Cemetery Association to R. W. Sikking and W. H. Horner; pt sec 36, T2N R9W; $2600.00.
May 21, 1926 BND p. 7. East St. Louis Shriners to unveil monument in Mount Hope at grave of the late potentate, William Robert Brown.
December 22, 1927 BND p. 1. Thomas M Webb, former State’s Attorney to be interred in Mt. Hope Cemetery tomorrow.
April 2, 1928 BND p. 2. 80-Acre plot planned for Mount Hope. Holdner farm just north of cemetery purchased for approx. $25,000. Cemetery now 200 acres. Perpetual care of lots assured. Future improvements include a mausoleum “and best constructed buildings of its kind in the country.”
December 17, 1929 BND p. 2. William F. Beckett, special watchman at Mount Hope Cemetery during hunting season.
August 16, 1930 BND p. 109. Mt. Hope Cemetery on the West End is a Protestant cemetery controlled by an association from East St. Louis.
July 9, 1931 BND p. 9. Land and lot assessment for Mount Hope.
August 18, 1931 BND p. 1. Judge Silas Cook of East St. Louis City Court, former mayor and democratic leader to be buried at Mount Hope. Was Citizens’ Relief Committee chairman during 1903 flood during which 5,000 people were cared for.
September 9, 1931 BND p. 7. Valhalla cemetery given permit. An ordinance gave special privilege to Mt. Hope, Walnut Hill, Mt. Carmel, the County Farm and Valhalla to operate in Belleville and prohibited others under the penalty of fine from $10 and $100. Contention between officials reported.
September 10, 1931 BND p. 12. ORDINANCE 1737 published; entitled Cemeteries, amending Section 119 of Article IV Chapter 14 of Revised Ordinances.
November 9, 1932 BND p. 4. Congressman Charlie Karch buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.
August 12, 1933 BND p. 5. Mount Hope Cemetery superintendent Herman E. Mollman and Mrs. Sophie Dorn wed.
May 28, 1934 BND page 3. World War veteran Arthur E. Koeller of East St. Louis buried yesterday; was at St. Mihiel September 12-16 and in both Meuse-Argonne drives and the army of occupation.
December 28, 1934 BND p. 11. A demand note of Mount Hope Realty Company which had been endorsed by Mr. Foristel, issued to G. Locke Tarlton, Signal Hill contractor; secured by 400 shares of stock in the realty company which owns the Mount Hope Mausoleum; claim against Foristel estate approved.
May 2, 1935 BND p. 2. Rev. B.H. Heithaus, retired minister, died at Mascoutah; burial in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Belleville.
September 9, 1935 BND p. 7. George Nugent, race horse breeder and owner of Nugent racing stables, died Saturday, to be buried at Mt. Hope; president of Nugent Brothers Horse and Mule Company at the National Stockyards.
September 10, 1935 BND p. 1, 2. William F. Lippert to be buried at Mt. Hope; former superintendent of Busch Glass Works, Belleville and St. Louis. Family history recounted.
February 10, 1936 BND p. 3. Jacob Werner to be buried at Mt. Hope; former night chief of police East St. Louis.
October 2, 1936 BND p. 6. Herman E. Mollman, superintendent of Mt. Hope Cemetery, 70th birthday.
December 7, 1936 BND p. 7. Bernard August Mueller, 75, buried at Mt. Hope; architect for Broadview Hotel, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Social Center, Edgemont Station engine house and public schools.
January 20, 1937 BND p. 2. George Kirby, 60, to be buried at Mt. Hope; tax agent for Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, chairman of East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners.
April 26, 1937 BND p. 2. Died yesterday, Florence Keim Guymon, wife of Otis Guymon – a court reporter for Judge Maurice V Joyce.
June 1, 1937 BND p. 14. Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Memorial Association conducts services at Mt. Hope.
June 11, 1937 Daily Advocate. Jacob Schneider of East St. Louis dies. One of the founders of Mount Hope Cemetery.
August 7, 1937 BND p. 2. Fred Schilling, 71, dies, will be buried at Mt. Hope; formerly of Millstadt, retired brewery worker.
August 13, 1937 BND p. 3. Mt. Hope receives $400.00 from estate of Mrs. Wanda Anderson of East St. Louis.
August 28, 1937 BND p. 9. Mabel Prince Combs, 40, died August 27; widow of Police Sergeant Floyd “Buster” Combs; burial in Mt. Hope.
December 13, 1937 BND p. 2. Weed fire extinguished yesterday at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
May 14, 1938 BND p. 1. Charles Mehring, 92, died; charter member of the Retail Merchants’ Association of East St. Louis. Former pattern-maker for the old Pittsburgh Railroad; retired businessman.
April 19, 1939. Vandalism on April 10 at Mt. Hope investigated. Markers were broken in Section M and Section C; three monuments were erected by Cox Monument Works on April 8 and Peroka Monument Company.
May 26, 1939 BND p. 2. Ezra R. Hines, 50, livestock salesman died last night; associated with the Producers Livestock Association at the National Stockyards.
July 24, 1939 BND p. 2. Ralph Edwin McLean, 63, president of the East St. Louis Stone Company to be buried tomorrow. His father was the late Captain George A. McLean, an East St. Louis mayor 50 years ago; grandfather Milton McLean was one of the city’s first lawyers.
October 3, 1940 (Thursday) BND p. 2. Rev. A. J. Rendleman, former pastor of O’Fallon Baptist Church; and of the Kingshighway Baptist Church in St. Louis died yesterday. Burial to be Saturday.
December 2, 1940 (Monday) BND p. 2. Mrs. Lena Bischof, 70, died Saturday. Wife of meat market operator Julius Bischof; mother-in-law of Congressman Charles A. Karch; daughter of the late hotelier Charles Link. Burial in Mt. Hope.
December 3, 1940 BND p. 2. George Flach, 84, died yesterday; iron molder and Indian War veteran.
January 29, 1941 BND p.1 and 3. Judge William Launtz, 92, to be buried in Mt. Hope; city treasurer and attorney, U.S. Commissioner; City Court Judge 1884-86; built Metropolitan Building in 1903, owner until 1928. I.O.O.F services.
February 8, 1941 BND p. 12. Herman E. Mollman, superintendent at Mt. Hope Cemetery, recieves 50-year jewel by Masons, Lodge 504; pictured.
April 11, 1941 BND p. 3. Walter Eugene Beckwith, 75, died on Canadian trip, to be buried at Mt. Hope. Head of Beckwith Brothers Real Estate Agency, president of Equity Savings Association in East St. Louis.
June 25, 1941 BND p. 2. Frances Bratton Van Ness, wife of J.L. Van Ness, former secretary of East St. Louis Community Fund Association, to be buried in Mt. Hope.
August 20, 1941 BND p. 2. William F. Goddard, 82, former salesman for Swift and Company, to be buried in Mt. Hope.
May 7, 1942 BND p. 9. Dr. Charles S Skaggs, 64, former president of the Illinois Medical Society (1934) and also the St. Clair County Medical Society (1911) to be buried at Mt. Hope.
May 25, 1942 BND p. 2. August Hockelman, 90, East St. Louis taylor for 64 years, to be buried in Mt. Hope. Immigrated 1875, founder of the German Benefit Union in East St. Louis.
September 11, 1942 BND p. 2. Lucien Moss, 46, to be buried in Mt. Hope; supervisor of audits for the motor fuel tax division of the State Highway Department; corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps.
October 1, 1942 BND p. 2. John W. Pfingsten, 72, retired farmer and an organizer of the Belleville National Bank to be buried in Mt. Hope.
November 12, 1942 BND p. 2. James E. Showalter, 82, former president of the AFL East St. Louis Central Trades Union to be buried in Mt. Hope. Joined organized labor in 1877 long before the AFL was created; served as a member of the East St. Louis Draft Board No. 3.
March 6, 1943 BND p. 2. Mrs. Anna Lindner, 73, wife of Frank Linder, East St. Louis funeral director, to be buried in Mt. Hope.
April 1, 1943 BND p. 2. Frederick Giessing, 80, president and treasurer of Schaub Hardware Company of East St. Louis, to be buried in Mt. Hope.
April 9, 1943 BND p. 2. Leslie R. Allison, 45, WW I veteran, retired attorney; St. Louis newspaper correspondent 1921-23; to be buried in Mt. Hope.
April 1, 1943 BND p. 2. Mrs. Adelaide W. Geodde, 96, to be buried in Mt. Hope. Widow of Bernhardt Goedde, founder of Goedde Lumber Company in East St. Louis 1874, he died 1905.
April 5, 1943 BND p. 1. Charles M. Waddell, 48, salesman of 30 years for Armour and Company’s plant at National City, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
June 4, 1943 BND p. 2. Rev. Karl Doernenberg, about 90, former pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Church at Ridge Prairie, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Retired 1939.
December 1, 1943 BND p. 2. Mrs. Emily Reynolds, 72, past president of the Republican Women’s Club, East St. Louis, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Wife of George W. T. Reynolds, president of Reynolds Seed Commission Company.
February 14, 1944 BND p. 2. Bohlke Hencken, 82, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery; organized Hencken and Boekenkroeger furniture store in East St. Louis in 1900.
February 25, 1944 BND p. 2. Gordon K. Hankins, 66, retired clerk at the National Stockyards, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
March 7, 1944 BND p. 1. Robert R. Thomas, 70, president of Hill-Thomas Lime and Cement Company; East St. Louis city treasurer 1915-17; Republican state central committeeman, 22nd Illinois District, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
May 22, 1944 BND p. 2. Thomas Price, 64, Armour and Company employee for 50 years, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
July 17, 1944 BND p. 2. Oscar Barton, 63, vice-president of Local No. 4, Progressive Mine Workers of America, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
July 28, 1944 BND p. 2. Goerge Mertz, 64, member of the Bartender’s Union, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Brother associated with Mertz Auto Body and Radiator Company.
September 12, 1944 BND p. 2. William Fred Vossmeyer, 67, 31-year employee of Lemp Brewery, East St. Louis, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
January 27, 1945 BND p. 7. Dr. Thomas R. Shannon, 55, physician on staff at Alexian Brothers Hospital, St. Louis and East Side Health District, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
June 26, 1945 BND p. 1. Burglars stole 110 gallons of gasoline from Mt. Hope Cemetery pump.
August 7, 1945 BND p. 2. Fred R. Lehman, 74, former chief clerk of the East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Operated Lehman’s Music House and a drug store in East St. Louis.
June 5, 1946 BND p. 7. Tombstone stolen from grave of Forrest L. Abel on the H. J. Drummond lot in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
July 13, 1946 BND p. 2. William H Bloemker died today; treasurer of Mount Hope, retired proprietor of an East St. Louis grocery and hardware company; member Immanuel Evangelical and Reformed Church.
July 16, 1946 BND p. 5 Herman E Mollman, Superintendent of Mount Hope Cemetery, is to retire this month after 44 years’ service on the cemetery board….will be 80 years old next October….
December 27, 1946. George W. Cowden, 69, retired dairy owner, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
August 19, 1947 BND p. 7. Hunting, fishing, and discharge of firearms barred at Mount Hope. Carl Becherer, superintendent of Mount Hope Cemetery.
October 26, 1948 BND p. 1. Charles Gardner, 73, retired chief accountant for the East St. Louis and Interurban Water Company, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
December 31, 1948 BND p. 8. Ice on Mt. Hope Cemetery pond not thick enough for safe skating warns Carl Becherer, superintendent.
May 9, 1949 BND p. 3. William F. Rothe buried today; served as president of the board of Mount Hope Cemetery the past 10 years.
April 14, 1951 BND p. 12. Edward C. Hardwig, 60, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery; striken while bringing his train into the St. Louis Union [Station]; conductor for the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad.
July 26, 1951 BND p. 11. Edgar Davis, Belleville, caretaker at Mt. Hope Cemetery, suffers severely lacerated foot in lawn mower accident.
August 21, 1951 BND p. 1. Hugh P. Mitchell, 70, Mt. Hope cemetery worker, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
April 2, 1952 BND p. 18. Ad. Cemetery Lot Owners Protective Association, Belleville, informs public of types of burial vaults and markers.
April 12, 1952 BND p. 3. Ad. Cemetery Lot Owners Protective Association, Belleville, informs public of inadequate Illinois Law concerning perpetual care in 1952, reported as, “…no cemetery is required to set aside more than 15% of the purchase price of a lot…only interest on that amount is all that any cemetery. is legally liable for, to its lot owners for future care.”
May 28, 1952 BND p. 1. Sophia Dorn Mollman, 74, to be buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery; wife of Herman Mollman who served as sexton at Mt. Hope Cemetery from 1931-1946.
–No articles abstracted 1953 – September 1965–
October 4, 1965 BND p. 1. Vandals desecrate mausoleum, exterior marble panels removed, smashed two interior sealed walls at Mt. Hope Cemetery. 104 grave markers toppled.
–No articles abstracted 1966 – 1989–
1981 and 1989. Weeds and grass taller than a foot at Mount Hope per BND article dated August 6, 1991.
June 1, 1989 BND p. 1. Cash flow problem blamed for tall grass per Bob Buck, president of the board of directors of Mount Hope Cemetery and affiliate of Immanuel United Church of Christ in East St. Louis; says money problems plagued cemetery for past 20 years; plot sales very slow. There are 25,000 burials and markers. Cemetery is doing best it can.
January 1991. New owner for Mount Hope Cemetery per BND articles dated August 6, 1991 and August 19, 1992 p. 1B.
August 6, 1991 BND p. 1A; August 8, 1991 p. 1A; and September 3, 1991 BND p. 1B. Picket line by Laborers Union Local 459 delays burials at Mount Hope; picketing since July 29 over firing of three groundskeepers on July 5 because of tall weeds; cement company not crossing the line; men worked without contract since 1987; new groundskeepers hired. Families upset for years at the high weeds and grass. The new owners took over in January.
September 13, 1991 BND p. 1A. Cemetery pickets leave, burials begin. No union contract since 1987; union has no jurisdiction.
December 10, 1991 BND p. 1A, 3A. Edson family demonstrated at Mount Hope cemetery to urge owners to clean up the grounds. Others complain about leaves.
February 2, 1992 BND p. 1A. State says cemetery unlicensed as required by the Illinois Cemetery Care Act after sale from church-affiliated ownership to private ownership last year. Owner said paperwork was submitted as of May 1991 but state refutes this.
[January 31], 1992. Two of fired cemetery workers filed suit in St Clair County Circuit Court per BND article dated February 7, 1992.
February 7, 1992 BND p. 1A. Appliances, mattresses and broken burial vaults dumped in northwest corner of Section G in Mount Hope Cemetery prior to new ownership. The state’s Cemetery and Burial Trust Department in Chicago is researching if charges should be filed against Esterlen for refusing to license the cemetery. Perpetual care fund never set up by previous owners who relied upon plot sales for upkeep. The annual operating budget on Mount Hope said to be about $300,000.
August 19, 1992 BND p. 1B. Owner Esterlen defends cemetery; blames prior trustees of Immanuel United Church of Christ in East St Louis for cemetery’s condition and use of perpetual care funds for reasons other than operating costs; says 13 or 14 years of neglect cannot be overturned overnight. Bushes and trees planted by families in years past are in poor condition. It takes about 14 hours to clear weeds in one of the dozens of cemetery sections.
November 14, 1992 BND p. 1A. Lawsuit alleging cemetery owner is violating the Illinois Environmental Protection Act filed in court Friday by St. Clair County State’s Attorney. Inspections conducted December 1991 and violations persist through Oct. 15 this year.
August 2, 1993 BND p. 1B. About 2,000 [sic] graves on 110 acres. High grass and tall weeds growing around headstones. Esterlen, owner, is now licensed.
No articles abstracted 1993 – 2001
May 1997: Esterlen, owner of Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville and Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville, loses his cemetery and burial fund license for failing to maintain the cemeteries and taking for his own use $85,000 from the cemeteries’ trust funds, which are supposed to maintain money people have paid for pre-arranged burials. See Timeline published May 28, 2008 BND.
October 23, 2001. Groundskeepers to be laid off. History of financial problems recounted.
October 24, 2001 BND p. 1A. Buyers sought for Mount Hope. Conglomerates are not interested in this cemetery reports Don Samson, the receiver appointed by the court. Esterlen lost his license in 1997. Today is the last day for groundskeepers to work at the cemetery at 9401 W. Main St. Each month is a deficit; it takes roughly $10,000 a month to operate Mount Hope said Samson. See “Belleville Cemeteries” vertical file at Belleville Public Library.
May 2002: Forever Enterprises of St. Louis buys Mount Hope and Valley View cemeteries and puts $200,000 into an escrow account to be used to make improvements and repairs at both sites. The company also agrees to restore the pre-paid burial funds and to reimburse the state for payments the comptroller made to consumers who claimed they were cheated at the two cemeteries. See Timeline published on May 28, 2008 BND
May 2005. Hillman Crowell of Columbia, Mo. buys Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville and Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville. See Timeline published in BND dated September 28, 2008.
September 3, 2005 BND p. 5B. Heard on the Street: Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville and Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville have new owners; purchased by Missouri resident Hillman Crowell. People who answered the phone at the cemeteries confirmed the new ownership. The properties had been under the control of Forever Cemeteries since 2002 when that company bought the properties, which had fallen into disrepair.
November 4, 2005 BND p. 4C. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War arranged a new granite marker on the grave of Sgt. Christian Hinterberger who is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.
April 18, 2006 BND p. 1B. Confederate Civil War soldier, Ninian Oliver Bell of East St. Louis, to get grave marker.
March 13, 2007 BND p. 2B. Taddeus J. ‘Ted’ Sasak died Monday, March 12, 2007; World War II army veteran, retired sausage maker for Circle Packing House in East St. Louis and a custodian at Althoff High School in Belleville.
March 2007. Corporation status revoked for Crowell’s company that owns Mount Hope Cemetery, Mid-America Growth and Development Corp. Noted on Timeline published in Sept 28, 2008 BND p. 2A
May 26, 2008 BND p. 4A. Sound-off writer complains about 2 foot high weeds.
May 28, 2008 BND. Short timeline recounts recent cemetery problems. Descendants of loved ones at Mount Hope mow path from road to a grave in order to reach it.
June 2, 2008 BND p. 4A. Sound-off writer complains about lack of upkeep at Mount Hope Cemetery.
June 4, 2008 BND p. 4A. Letter writer appalled at ghastly condition of Mount Hope Cemetery.
July 1, 2008 BND p. 1A. Mount Hope owner vows improvements.
July 9, 2008 BND p. A1, A2. Mount Hope Cemetery owner ticketed by city for overgrown weeds and grass surrounding gravestones. Wave of complaints surface after Memorial Day.
September 11, 2008 BND p. 1B. Group protests at Mount Hope Cemetery; lack of headstone and grounds maintenance.
September 28, 2008 BND p. 1A, 2A. Recap of operational problems at Mount Hope under Crowell; friends and relatives of people buried at Mount Hope have fought for months with him to keep up maintenance of the cemetery. Recent timeline on p. 2A.
October 31, 2008 BND p. 1A. State audit has found that more than $300,000 is missing from more than 450 prepaid accounts at Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville and Valley View Cemetery in Illinois, according to a spokesman for Illinois Comptroller; owner Crowell’s right to operate Mid-America was revoked by the Illinois secretary of state last year because he didn’t file an annual report or pay his franchise tax.
November 1, 2008 BND p. 1A. At Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville, more than $100,000 is missing from 200 accounts; a summary of the state’s audit stated that the cemeteries’ ownership illegally changed hands in February when Crowell transferred it back to Forever Illinois Inc. without letting the state know.
November 8, 2008 BND p. 2A Correction: A page A1 story on Oct. 31 incorrectly stated the amount of money that may be missing from a St. Louis company’s prepaid funeral accounts in several states. The estimate is millions of dollars. However, the $300,000 listed in the story as missing from prepaid burial accounts at metro-east cemeteries Mount Hope and Valley View was correct.
November 23, 2008 BND. p. 1A. St. Clair and Madison counties’ prosecutors and Illinois State Police will meet about a probe into two metro-east cemeteries with missing funds.
November 26, 2008 BND p. 4A Editorial. Conditions at Mount Hope a decades old problem, … from the BND Archives stories such as these: Aug. 9, 1981: Condition of infant’s grave adds to grief of Cahokia woman; Dec. 10, 1991: Despite new owners, family thinks cemetery grounds are still a mess; October 10, 1996: Belleville investigates owner of Mount Hope; July 12, 2001: Foreman: Maintenance crew badly understaffed; April 13, 2002: Cemetery needs volunteers to mow; May 28, 2008: Overgrown plots upset patrons. Enough. We need more than prosecution. We need a solution to this ongoing stain on our community.
December 12, 2008 BND p. 1B. Illinois State Police Lt. Jim Morrissey said state police are awaiting additional information from the Illinois comptroller’s office before opening a case regarding two metro-east cemeteries for missing prepaid burial funds.
March 16, 2009 BND p. 1A. Article reports Hillman Crowell died Feb. 13 in a car accident in Missouri. A spokesman for the State of Illinois Comptroller said his office was aware of Crowl’s death; the state investigation is at a standstill.
July 16, 2009 BND. Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville and Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville are shutting down. Earlier this month, the Illinois comptroller’s officer began process of revoking the company’s license. Property tax records show Forever Illinois Inc., which owned the cemeteries before Mid-America Growth and Development Corp. bought them in 2005, had purchased the cemeteries back from Mid-America in June 2006. Mid-America’s president, Hillman Crowell, was required by law to notify the state of the sale but failed to do so; 85-year-old Crowell died in a car crash earlier this year. The cemeteries were last placed in receivership in 1997 after previous owner Larry Esterlen took money from the cemeteries’ trust funds. People visiting those buried at the cemeteries have complained about overgrown grass and weeds and damaged headstones. Forever Illinois is affiliated with National Prearranged Services Inc., which is missing potentially millions of dollars in prepaid funeral accounts in several states and is now under the control of a receiver in Texas. . . .
July 22, 2009 BND. An attorney for the owner of Mount Hope and Valley View said his client, Forever Illinois has had nothing to do with operating the cemeteries since it first sold them to Mid-America Growth and Development Corp. in 2005. Forever Illinois sold the cemeteries in 2005; Carol Knowles, a spokeswoman for Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes, said Forever did not notify the comptroller’s office when it transferred the property to Crowell, nor did they notify us when the property was transferred back. Forever Illinois, now defunct, was part of St. Louis-based Forever Network Inc. Last year, former Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a civil complaint against Forever Network for failing to meet state regulations on the handling of prepaid funeral funds. Forever Network has denied the allegations.
August 8, 2009 BND The owner of Mt. Hope was one of more than 20 co-defendants accused in a [federal] lawsuit of racketeering and fraud in a multimillion dollar, nationwide scheme involving the use of prepaid funeral funds; a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at the comptroller’s office in Chicago.
August 25, 2009 BND Illinois Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit Monday seeking a judge’s permission to hand over to a receiver control of two metro-east cemeteries whose owners it accuses of defrauding consumers. . . The cemeteries, Mt. Hope (Belleville) and Valley View (Edwardsville) were last placed in receivership in 1997 after previous owner Larry Esterlen took money from the cemeteries’ trust funds.
September 3, 2009 BND Judge Hands Cemeteries’ Control to Receiver – Look at Records Begins.Attorneys for Illinois Comptroller and Attorney General asked that Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville and Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville be put into the hands of a receiver. A receiver is a person appointed by a court to control money and other property involved in a dispute. The receiver is Jim Carlson, who is from the Chicago area and has been involved in the cemetery business.
October 18, 2009 BND. Buyer Sought for Mount Hope; volunteers, ad hoc crews have maintained the cemeteries and performed burials. Receiver Carlson said Mt. Hope has adequate amounts of unused space; he is arranging for electricity in the office, opening bank accounts for the cemeteries, finding a contractor to dig graves.
November 15, 2009 BND. The receiver filed in Madison County Circuit Court his first inventory of the businesses, and it confirms the mess that state regulators have said the cemeteries are. Details reported in article.
September 7, 2010 BND. Mount hope – Volunteers, state agencies step in to help with upkeep; a few burials are trickling in.
April 11, 2011 BND. Upkeep and maintenance problems persist Belleville cemetery in receivership since 2009. James Carlson, receiver, reports they are “probably two to three weeks behind like many cemeteries.” Mayor has met with people about the cemetery’s condition; talked with potential buyers, and will set another meeting that will include the district’s Representative to the Illinois House and other local funeral directors.
April 13, 2011 BND Editorial against using tax money for private cemetery upkeep until the state finds a new buyer. The next status hearing is set for April 29 urges judge to move this case so the cemetery can be sold.
April 18, 2011 BND Sound Off. Writer observers Mount Hope Cemetery is not being maintained and suggests using those arrested and jailed to do a little community service such as taking care of the cemetery.
May 29, 2011 BND Letter writer suggests misdemeanor violators should pay back their costs to our law enforcement and legal systems through weekends of community service, starting with the Mount Hope Cemetery.
June 24, 2011 BND. Letter writer says Mount Hope is looking good and is truly grateful to city staff and volunteers for improving the conditions of the cemetery.
July 4, 2011 BND Jim Carlson, the state-appointed receiver is still struggling to keep Mount Hope in Belleville and Valley View in Edwardsville going which cannot be sold because the titles are still tied up in court. Some people had to pay for burials twice because the prearranged funds were gone. According to Scott Mulford, a spokesman for the Illinois Attorney General’s office, the state is trying to get restitution for the duped consumers from a consumer protection fund… .
August 15, 2011 BND The west end of Belleville needs a lagoon to relieve a combined sewer overflow – where rain and sewage meet and overflow when it rains. One of the locations under consideration is at Mount Hope. The construction wouldn’t begin until 2016; Mount Carmel Cemetery’s staff agrees to do burials at Mount Hope.
2011 Year-end Cemetery Committee report, St. Clair County Genealogical Society: Pending projects – Mt. Hope.
January 16, 2012 BND Belleville West students are working on signs for Mount Hope Cemetery to help out the community, using plasma cutters to make replacements out of metal.
May 14, 2012 BND Sound-off suggest inmates do community service to mow the grass.
June 4, 2012 BND. Letter writer says cemetery is pristine due to caring and dedicated worker named Nick.
August 6, 2012 BND Sound-off writer says Mount Hope Cemetery in Belleville looks better than in years and thanks the people responsible.
August 24, 2012 BND Blotter. Burglary at Mount Hope Cemetery; forced entry to a shed and property was stolen.
August 2012 E. Gayle Schneider writes Belleville mayor over concern for Mount Hope Cemetery. Earlier this year contacted the Illinois Comptroller’s office.
September 30, 2012 BND Answer Man tackles question how to access Mount Hope records for genealogy research. All the records are on old ledgers and index cards in the cemetery office, never opened to the public; genealogists fear a fire could destroy decades of history. Dale Kurrus of Kurrus Funeral Home in Belleville offers to relay the request to a responsible person.
October 4, 2012 BND Blotter. Burglary – Mount Hope Cemetery, unknown suspect(s) entered the maintenance shed and property was stolen.
Spring 2013. Dale Kurrus of Kurrus Funeral Home seeks St. Clair County Genealogical Society (SCCGS) interest and support over concern for records preservation at Mount Hope Cemetery. Society lends its support in effort to convince Comptroller’s office to allow records be microfilmed.
February 2014. E. Gayle Schneider obtains contact information for attorney in Comptroller’s office.
August 14, 2013 BND Letter writer complains city employees are maintaining cemetery, questions cost.
September 2014 E. Gayle Schneider again writes Belleville mayor over concern for Mount Hope Cemetery; also contacts Dale Kurrus mid-month.
October 9, 2014 BND Letter writer E. Gayle Schneider, Greenville, N.C. asks for families of those buried at Mount Hope to unite and help the state and local governments find a lasting solution to cemetery problems suggesting the group could call itself Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery.
October 14, 2014. Residents and community leaders meet at Mount Hope Cemetery; E. Gayle Schneider of North Carolina, and representatives from the St. Clair Genealogical Society, St. Clair County Historical Society, with Dale Kurrus of Kurrus Funeral Home to discuss cemetery’s future. Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, Belleville, unofficially formed; goals identified: record preservation, find a new receiver, and stable future care of the cemetery. Attorney for the Comptroller gives permission to the St. Clair Genealogical Society to microfilm the records.
November 2, 2014 BND p. B1. Newspaper columnist facilitates E. Gayle Schneider’s plea revive Mount Hope Cemetery, possibly through a Friends group; article recounts a meeting held at the cemetery October 14, 2014. Among attendees with a vested interest in the cemetery are individuals with family buried at Mount Hope, representatives from the St. Clair County Genealogical Society and the St. Clair County Historical Society, Ms. Schneider; Mayor Mark Eckert and Dale Kurrus of Kurrus Funeral Home in Belleville. Mr. Kurrus and the genealogy society pushed to preserve the records of the cemetery; the mausoleum needs repairs. The state-appointed administrator for the cemetery died; a new Receiver is needed. A crew from Mt. Carmel Cemetery has been taking care of burials.
November 28, 2014. St. Clair County Genealogical Society begins burial records preservation; Society volunteers put 22,064 lot cards in alphabetical order after 51 hours work; preservation project is in progress.
January 2015. A guide to the microfilmed records is created, an essential tool explaining the abbreviations and other information found on lot cards and burial books.
February 25, 2015. Members of the St. Clair County Genealogical Society present seven (7) microfilm reels of Mount Hope Cemetery burials records to the archivist at the Belleville Public Library, 121 East Washington St., Belleville, Illinois 62220. See photos above.
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