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Thomas Jefferson and the Niagara Falls Underground Rail Road

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (Oakwood Cemetery) - She never dissapoints.  Michelle Kratts comes through again.   This time she explores how Thomas Jefferson may have some ties to the Underground Rail Road activities in Niagara Falls!  Read One of Oakwood’s Most Remarkable African American Families.


Oak What?  

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NIAGARA FALLS, NY  (Oakwood Cemetery) - What do Whitney Avenue, Cudaback Avenue, Gaskill Middle School, Trott Vocational High School, Oppenheim Park, and Three Sister Islands all have in common?  How about Pierce Avenue, Porter, Packard, Jerauld, Mckenna, Haeberle and Hyde Park?  Give up?

Their namesakes are all resting in Oakwood Cemetery on Portage Road.  Hundreds of cars drive by daily, and yet most people don’t give the site a single thought.  They see Tops across the street, or the Trott building housing the DMV.  They might even stop at Arby’s for a sandwich.  Meanwhile Oakwood sits silently across the street, holding its secrets.  But to unlock the secrets all you have to do is visit.  If you ever get the chance, drive through the gates and into Niagara Falls history.  Oakwood is about to celebrate it's 161st birthday.  On February 9, 1852 a group of subscribers to the new cemetery got together to incorporate Oakwood. 

Originally on the outskirts of the village, (Niagara Falls or “the Village of Manchester” ended at Pine and 10th) Oakwood was in the middle of farm land, and not that easy to get to.  The Town of Niagara made up the rest of the area.  As the village grew around the cemetery, and eventually became the city of Niagara Falls, the Town of Niagara retained two of the eighteen and a half acres inside the fences.   To give you an idea of the size of the cemetery, if you drew a line south to Pine Avenue from our furthest northwest fence, then south from our furthest eastern fence, the property would be run from just after 10th Street, to George’s Appliance or Levy Brothers. 

So what’s with all the names?  Well, Parkhurst Whitney is buried here.  He was the owner of the Cataract House, a prominent hotel right down by the Falls.  His daughters, Celinda, Angelina, and Asenath Whitney are all buried here as well.  They are the sisters in Three Sisters Islands.  Charles B. Gaskill is here, so is J.F. Trott, both prominent businessmen, both have schools named after them.  Max Oppenheim is in the E.B. Green designed Mausoleum.  Charles Hyde is in there as well.  Both donated lands to become parks.  Hyde Park is still one of the largest municipal parks in New York State outside of Central Park in New York City.  The Porter family are here, (we can write an entire book on their history).  Gad Pierce is here as well.  He had one of the first Taverns in town.

Come visit them when you’re downtown.  Get out and walk around, you will almost forget you are in the middle of the city.  Oakwood may hold Niagara’s historical secrets, but its willing to tell you all you want to know if you just come for a visit.       


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Connie Rodhy

1939 - 2012Oakwood Cemetery Association is saddend to announce the passing of Board of Director Connie Rodhy.  Connie was well loved by all who knew her.  Her involvement in various Community and Church related activities brought her in touch with so many people.  Connie was a "people person".  She loved to get to know new people and would offer them the shirt off her back if she thought it would help.  She volunteered at Niagara Memorial Medical Center and was active with the Ladies Order of Ancient Hibernians.  The Catholic Church was a big part of Connie's life where she volunteered in the offices at The Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph Parish.  Connie served on the Board at Oakwood for the past 3 years helping restore the cemetery to it's former glory.

We wish her family and friends our deepest sympathy.

A visitation will be held at the M.J. Colucci & Sons Funeral Chapel at 2730 Military Road on Thursday, December 20, from 3pm - 6pm.  Funeral Services will be held Friday, December 21, at 10am at Mt. Carmel Church, 27th and Independence.


Wreaths Across America Ceremony 2012

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (Oakwood Cemetery) -  Over 20 members of the Western New York Chapter of Patriot Guard stood at attention by their flags as Mayor Paul Dyster, Assemblyman John Ceretto and David Fabrizio from the Niagara Falls Memorial Commission spoke to the crowd.  They were joined by the Niagara Falls Police Honor Guard who presented the colors.  Monte Jones led those in attendance in a rousing edition of the Star Spangled Banner.  The 2012 Wreaths Across America Ceremony at Oakwood Cemetery joined over 800 sites across the country to remember our fallen Veterans, to thank our living Veterans and those currently serving, and to teach our children that freedom does not come free.  Pipe Major Duncan Hollinger of the MacKenzie Highlanders' Pipes and Drums played Amazing Grace on his pipes as 7 ceremonial wreaths were placed in honor of each branch of the services.  Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POWs/MIAs were all recognized.  Marcia Jones led the crowd in God Bless America.  Members of the 1812 Re-Enactors performed a gun salute with their muskets.  Taps was played by bugler Dominic Schrock of the Boy Scouts.  Wreaths were laid on graves with stands donated by the Military Officers of Western New York.  A special thank you to Lt. Col. Robert Bienvenue for arranging for the stands involving the Military Officers.  Tim Horton's kindly provided the coffee and hot chocolate.  Thank you to all who participated and to those in attendance.  Another great ceremony was achieved, but more importantly, our Veterans were honored and remembered with a fitting service.