This fall, the Crossing of Hannibal paid to have a new headstone placed in the Old Baptist Cemetery at the gravesite of Celia Stone.

This fall, the Crossing of Hannibal paid to have a new headstone placed in the Old Baptist Cemetery at the gravesite of Celia Stone.

Celia Stone was the second wife of Barton Stone, who is credited with being one of the founders of the Restoration movement to which “Christian” churches and many non-denominational churches trace their roots.

After Barton Stone passed away in Hannibal on Nov. 9, 1844, Celia Stone sold the family farm near Jacksonville, Ill., and lived out the remainder of her life at her daughter’s home in Hannibal. After Celia Stone passed away on April 23, 1857, she was buried in the community’s still relatively new Baptist Cemetery.

Like many headstones in the old cemetery, Celia Stone’s had worn with age to the point that it was “unreadable without chalking it,” according to Randy Drish, campus pastor for The Crossing’s Hannibal congregation.

In an interview with the Courier-Post last fall, Drish indicated that with a new headstone in place the old one would eventually be relocated to a local history museum.

Shortly after the story appeared, a Courier-Post reader said that moving the headstone to another location might not be appropriate, citing a $500 fine a youngster in Illinois was assessed after removing a grave marker.

When asked about Missouri statutes regarding the relocation of headstones, Lt. John Zerbonia of the Hannibal Police Department cited Section 214.131 of the Missouri Revised Statutes pertaining to cemeteries. It prohibits the removal of “any tomb, monument or gravestone” from a “private burying ground.” Such an act is a class A misdemeanor.

While the ice-coated headstone was still lying at Celia Stone’s gravesite on Monday afternoon, whose responsibility would it be to press charges if it ever were removed? While the city of Hannibal pays to have the historic site mowed each year, at least two administrators at City Hall were unsure regarding the city’s exact responsibility concerning the property. That’s not surprising since current city officials weren’t working at City Hall when the old cemetery was turned over to the city, according to research performed by J. Hurley and Roberta Hagood.

The first burials at the Old Baptist Cemetery took place in 1837. There were many burials made there in the 1880s and 1890s, and the cemetery was still in use in 1900 and later.

In March 1869, the cemetery was deeded to Dr. Benjamin Q. Stevens, son of the Rev. Benjamin Stevens, a Baptist minister, who for a period of time had kept the cemetery’s records.

After members of the Sevens family died, no one claimed the cemetery or cared for it.

In 1965, after years of disuse and no one assuming responsibility for the Old Baptist Cemetery, it was felt that if the city owned the old burial grounds it would be better maintained.
The heirs of Dr. Benjamin Q. Stevens had the only possible claim to ownership of the cemetery. In 1965 the 15 living heirs quit-claimed the property to the city of Hannibal.