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After the cholera outbreak in 1849, an official city ordinance required that all new cemeteries be located beyond the city limits. At the time, there was thought that such a measure might stay the rising number of cholera victims. Most of the city's cemeteries, including all of its Catholic cemeteries had been filled to capacity due to the epidemic. Archdiocese records showed that on one day alone, June 25, 1849, 99 of 126 total burials were attributed to cholera. St. Louis Catholics were in need of another, larger burial ground.

In 1853, Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick purchased 323-acre "Old Orchard Farm" northwest of the city from Kentucky politician Henry Clay. Kenrick established his own farm on half of this acreage and dedicated the other half to the development of a new cemetery. As the cemetery grew, more acreage was added to its site. Part of this property had once been used as an ancient burial ground by Native Americans and soldiers from nearby Fort Bellefontaine were also interred there. After its purchase, these remains were collected and buried in a mass grave under a large crucifix. It is located at one of the highest points of the cemetery.

Kenrick lived in the mansion on the western grounds for many years. Calvary was established on the eastern portion of the property and its association, the Calvary Cemetery Association, was incorporated in March 1867. Archbishop Kenrick was the association's first president. Graves from many of the Catholic cemeteries in the city such as Rock Springs and Holy Trinity cemeteries were reinterred in Calvary. The cemetery originally consisted of 477 acres, and due to 21st century developments, now has 470 acres.

The two story indoor premier Shrine and Chapel Mausoleum complex was dedicated in June 1961.  The outdoor All Saints Garden and Chapel Mausoleum was dedicated in 1982.  Shared family monument selections and lawn crypts have been added in various sections of the cemetery, expanding the types 0f burial facilities offered.  Traditional graves, with either lawn level marker or upright monument memorial privileges, continue to be offered.   The type of memorial permitted is determined at the time of purchase.