Community History St Landry History

Hebrew Rest Cemetery – Washington, LA

Photograph: The original gate to Hebrew Rest Cemetery in Washington, LA.

CAROLA LILLIE HARTLEY
Publisher and Contributing Writer

The story of Hebrew Rest Cemetery is one of devotion to the graves of long deceased ancestors. According to a list of graves in the cemetery, recently updated by Troy Weinstein, there are 63 souls buried there. Among those are some members from the Wolff and Klaus families who lived in Washington over a century ago. 

Carel Wolff
Carel Wolff (1834-1917), was a well-respected Washington businessman during the 19th century. He immigrated to the US from Poland as a young man and eventually settled in Washington, St. Landry Parish, LA. He had interest in several businesses including the Carel Wolff Store in the center of the community. He was an active member of the fire department, and the Carel Wolff Hook and Ladder Co. #12 was named in his honor during the mid 1870s.

The store of Carel Wolff pictured before the 1902 Washington Fire.

Wolff was married to Hannah Plonsky (1831-1893), from another family that was part of the active business community in Washington during the 19th century. Two of their children, Samuel and Fannie (Annie), became ill with Yellow Fever during the epidemic of the 1860s, following the Civil War. The two children both died from the disease in October of 1867. When they died, Wolff donated land for a Jewish cemetery in the town. It was named Hebrew Rest Cemetery. He also donated much of the land for the Cedar Hill Cemetery, also in Washington.

Sarah Rebecca Wolff (1870-1952) was another one of Carel Wolff’s daughters. In 1888 she married Max Klaus in a spectacular wedding ceremony that was the subject of a first page article in the Opelousas Courier newspaper on March 24, 1888.

Mr. and Mrs. Max Klaus and two of their children pictured around the turn of the 20th century.

Max Klaus (1863-1936) migrated from Germany to the United States at the age of 15, with two other brothers. He was also a Washington merchant and community leader.

Klaus Store on Main Street in Washington, LA, pictured in December of 1957.

The Cemetery
Over the years Wolff and Klaus family members, especially Wolff’s daughter Gussye H Wolff (1874-1958), took care of the cemetery. When Gussye passed away, her nieces, the daughters of Max Klaus and Sarah Wolff Klaus, took charge of the land. In 1958 Hinda Klaus (1889-1971) was in charge, but due to poor health, her sister Brunette G. Klaus (1904-1975) took over those duties.

The grave of Carel Wolff in Hebrew Rest Cemetery in Washington, LA, pictured oin 1967.

Miriam Mae Klaus (1896-1992), another Klaus sister, took charge of the cemetery’s financial needs. The town of Washington employed a gardener to mow the lawn every other week.

During that period, Hebrew Rest Cemetery was a peaceful and beautifully kept place. Flowers and shrubs, such as Louisiana irises, camellias, roses, azaleas, daisies, zinnias, calla lilies and crepe myrtles bloomed at different times of the year.

In October of 1967, one of the other Klaus sisters Hannah B. Klaus (1894-1967), passed away. As a memorial to her, in the spring of 1968, the four remaining Klaus sisters, Hinda, Miriam Mae, Nathalie (1906-1996) and Brunette, donated a side entrance gate to the cemetery. The inscriptions on the gate read: “Hannah B. Klaus” on one side, and “Klaus Sisters” on the other side.

Side gate to Hebrew Rest Cemetery in Washington, LA, installed in 1967 in memory of Hannah Klaus.

Now that the Klaus sisters are no longer living, the Town of Washington Cemetery Foundation is responsible for the upkeep of Hebrew Rest Cemetery, as well as the other two historic resting places — Cedar Hill Cemetery and the Church Landing/Yellow Fever Cemetery.

The Town of Washington Cemetery Foundation
The Foundation is a recognized 501(c) (3) charitable organization. It has assisted in maintaining the three historic cemeteries in Washington, but there is still more that needs to be done.

This Saturday, October 29, 2022, the Town of Washington Foundation is featuring the three Washington historic cemeteries for their “Visiting The Past” event. Activities begin at 9:30am and will continue until 12:00 noon.

For more information on the three Washington cemeteries, or to contribute to the foundation, please contact  WashingtonCemeteryFoundation@gmail.com  or call Dwight Landreneau at 225-0937-2518.