Independence Historical Society holds first-ever ‘Hemlock Cemetery Lantern Tour’

by Laura Bednar

The local Halloween season had a historical flare, as the Independence Historical Society held its first-ever lantern tour of the Hemlock Cemetery on Brecksville Road.

Historical Society President Deb Hudnall said Hemlock Cemetery had interested her but was often forgotten. With research, willing actors and 19th-century costumes, the tour was created.

The tour took place Oct. 16 and 23 with guests starting at the historical society building on Brecksville Road and walking a quarter mile to the cemetery. Along the way, a historical society tour guide offered stories of the cemetery and Victorian burial customs.

Hudnall said Independence purchased the cemetery for $15 in the mid-1800s, and many who are buried there worked in the former Haydite Mine. There have been no new burials since 1900, but the souls that were laid to rest spoke to those on the tour.

Actors portrayed some of the deceased from the 19th century, offering stories of their lives. Deceased Ida Wolf talked about the cholera outbreak between 1860 and 1870, which claimed the lives of many children, 30 of whom died before age 5 and are buried at Hemlock. Another Hemlock resident, Mary Munson, said her father was a respected doctor and had his practice on Brecksville Road across from the current City Hall.

Hudnall said much of the information provided came from historical society archives, with help from genealogy and ancestry sites. Some tales were legend, but the majority of the material was factual, including Independence’s brush with fame. The owners of the Cleveland Agora previously lived on the back property at the cemetery and once held a concert there featuring Todd Rundgren and Bruce Springsteen. The tour was a success, with each session sold out. The plan is to bring back the event annually. “People will be expecting it,” Hudnall said. ∞

Mary Munson stands next
to her gravestone
and tells the story of her death.