Efforts are underway to refurbish Harmonie Church Cemetery

By Jack Underwood, Staff Writer
Posted 6/30/24

The Historic Harmonie Church and Wedding Chapel is undergoing cemetery renovations.

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Efforts are underway to refurbish Harmonie Church Cemetery


The Historic Harmonie Church and Wedding Chapel

in Innsbrook has existed in one form or another, under one name or another, for nearly 200 years. As such, the adjoining cemetery holds the graves of those who have lived in Warren County for almost as long. 

Those graves include Civil War soldiers from both the Union and the Confederacy and members of the Strack family like Pastor Karl Strack, who preached at the church starting in 1843 and for whom Stracks Church Road is named. 

At one point the property was referred to as “Stracks Church” as Strack’s sermons rang from the pulpit in one of the first churches built in the county. 

As the years have worn on, many of those gravestones and markers have begun to settle, lean, topple and crack. As they begin to disappear, so will some of the only records of people who called this place home over 100 years ago. 

Members of the Harmonie Church Board are hard at work to make sure those losses never come to pass. 

The board has hired Gerry Prouhet, who has extensive experience restoring cemeteries, to refurbish and reinforce many of the oldest stones in the graveyard. 

“There are 262 total stones in this cemetery and 125 of them need some kind of repair work,” said Marie Hollenbeck, a proponent of the project. 

His work involves stabilizing the stones, markers and monuments that can still be saved and finding ways to preserve those that have already toppled. One of those can already be seen in the cemetery, where Prouhet built a cradle for one of the older headstones of a baby, who lived for only one day.

Much of his work is centered around preventative care, making sure that the stones and markers that are still standing, remain standing. He has had to raise several markers up out of the ground so that their base is more stable. 

This also helps to prevent them from tipping over and cracking, at which point they are nearly impossible to repair. 

There is evidence of previous attempts to repair markers littered across the cemetery, with some stones patched up with cement and one that even has holes drilled through it and a metal support attached to the back. 

Prouhet said his methods were designed to be more sustainable and hopefully preserve the stones in their original condition for years to come. 

“I’m focusing on the ones that are on the ground, to get them up, off of the ground to get them out of the way of the mowers and then get the ones that are leaning leveled up,” Prouhet said.   

Before they are restored, many of them also require extensive cleaning before they can be recognized, or before the lettering on them is even legible. 

Prouhet is even refurbishing any and all of the military graves in the cemetery for free. 

Even with those stones removed from the bill, his work is not cheap, and the board is currently working to raise $20,000 to return the cemetery to its former glory. 

“We have interesting stories behind the names on all of these stones and I think as a community we would not want to let these stones continue to deteriorate,” said Hollenbeck. 

The board is hopeful that with their fundraising campaign continuing they will one day be able to complete the restoration of the cemetery. 

Many of the stones belong to Warren County residents who, for the time, did not live anywhere near the church, representing its reach and significance in the early days of settlements in the area. 

Hollenbeck said she hopes that people recognize the significance of the cemetery, not just for those who visit to pay respects to loved ones, but for those buried there as well. 

“That gives you some indication of the distance that people traveled to come to church and worship here because it was the only German church in this area,” Hollenbeck said. “So that’s why the reach of this cemetery is so far beyond this little area because folks from Warrenton, Wright City, Marthasville, they were all coming here.”

She hopes that with the fundraising efforts underway, they will be able to save some of the stones in the cemetery, many of which may be the only record that a person existed. 

“These tombstones in many cases are the only record of these person’s lives,” Hollenbeck said. 

Harmonie Church, Cemetery