History and mystery surround Hannibal's B'nai Sholem Cemetery
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 02:00:00 GMT —
Driving south on Highway 79 out of Hannibal will lead you to the entrance of Riverside Cemetery.
A short drive up the gravel road will lead you to a plot of land with one of the most scenic views in the Tri-States and several chapters of history.
You might be surprised to learn there are actually two cemeteries located on that gravel road.
At the southern end of Riverside Cemetery lies the entrance to the B'nai Sholem Cemetery, dedicated to the Jewish faith.
According to Riverside Cemetery Board President Peter Danielsons, Riverside Cemetery was founded in the 1860s, but to his knowledge, B'nai Sholem was founded earlier.
Danielsons has served on the Riverside board for 31 years, but he says there's a bit of mystery surrounding B'nai Sholem.
"We do not have the records for any of the burials in this cemetery. Those were maintained, to my knowledge, by Temple Israel, which is the former synagogue here in Hannibal," he said.
The Riverside Cemetery board helps maintain B'nai Sholem, but does not actually own it.
Even with its unknowns, you can learn a lot about the cemetery when you walk through it.
Several families from several decades have monuments in the gated plot, some of whom might have been among the first to settle in Hannibal.
"There are stones from the 1870s in this cemetery, and Hannibal itself would have been formed in about 1810," Danielsons said.
There are even a handful of Hannibal notables buried in B'nai Sholem, according to Danielsons.
"I would imagine many people in this area have been involved with the Hannibal Clinic. One of the founders of the Hannibal Clinic is actually buried here in the Jewish cemetery, Dr. (Daniel) Landau," he said.
There are several aspects of the cemetery that stand out, including the large ginkgo tree in the northeast corner.
Legend has it the tree was planted when the cemetery was founded, but there might be no way of knowing for sure - for now, it's another mystery.
What stands out the most, though, is that it's always quiet on the hill at B'nai Sholem.
On an ordinary day, all you'll hear is the wind in the trees, standing guard to the stories of a proud faith.