St. Mary Cemetery
421 N. Sterling Avenue
West Peoria, Illinois 61604
In 1881, Bishop John Lancaster Spalding bought forty acres of land to be developed as St. Mary's, the second Catholic Cemetery on what was then the western edge of the city. Bishop Spalding was so devoted to the project that he frequently rode his horse the 5 1/2 mile round trip to observe the progress first hand. Among his other responsibilities of the day, he took a personal role in planning this new burial ground and specifically directed that numerous flower gardens be included. Over 100 years later, flowers bloom in over 20 locations in the cemetery. However the Elm Trees that he planted along the main roadway were removed because of Dutch Elm Disease during the 1930's and 1940's. Before they were removed, these trees grew to form a shaded archway so beautiful that a 1926 article in the Peoria Journal Transcript described it as "one of the most impressive views in America".
Patrick Ward purchased the first lot in 1882 with the first burial in October of that year of a young girl named Ann Devers.
The Bishop's Mausoleum was constructed in 1920. Five Bishops who served the Peoria Diocese are now entombed in St. Mary's, Archbishop John Lancaster Spalding (1840-1916); Bishop Edmund Michael Dunne (1864-1929); Archbishop Joseph Henry Schlarman (1879-1951); Bishop John Baptist Franz (1896-1992) and Bishop Edward W. O'Rourke (1917-1999). The mausoleum, which is located in what is referred to as the "Heart Section" of the cemetery at the end of the main entranceway, was styled after Bishop Spalding's pillared family home in Kentucky.
One of the many Impressive memorials in the cemetery is a circular plot located about 100 yards west of the "Heart" section known as the Henebery family plot. Mr. Henebery participated in the original development of the site with Bishop Spalding. A concrete coping surrounds this unique burial place, 60 feet in diameter. Encircled within this area is the resting-place of Matthew and Mary Henebery (1903 & 1912) and 32 of their family members.
About 1915, the Charles Bourke family erected the stone pillars that form the entranceway in memory of Patricia K. Bourke. A granite marker recently placed inside the gate, refers to the mere 12 foot wide opening of the entranceway as a symbol of the straight and narrow path we all must follow to enter the heavenly gate.
At St. Mary's on Saturday, July 10, 2004, two acres of the 10,000-year-old meadow was dedicated as an Illinois Natural Heritage Landmark. This area was dedicated because of the rare and biologically important Glacial Hill Prairies. In 2003 two biologist from the Illinois Natural Area Inventoty Site counted 138 plant species that were deposited in the meadow during the Ice Age. These included a Prairie Petunia and a 12-foot tall Teasel plant that stores rainwater.