The Mound in the Meadow: Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknowns at Delaware Park

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – The village of Buffaloe was, in 1814 described by one visitor as “a nest of villians, rogues, rescals, pickpockets, knaves, and extortioners.”

When the British burned Buffalo, it was a small village of log cabins, with tree stumps strewn in the streets. It’s difficult to imagine the Buffalo of 200 years ago, but suffice it to say, the the area that is now Forest Lawn cemetery, the Parkside neighborhood, and Delaware Park, then known as Flint Hill, far outside the tiny village, served as a home base for American troops invading British Canada during the early part of the War of 1812.

Roughly half of those garrisoned here never made it home.

While the detail of the story follows, and is illustrated in the articles shown to the left, it’s enough to know that basically, after several failed attempts to invade Fort Erie by crossing the Niagara, a decision was made that troops would spend the winter of 1812 at their home base at Flint Hill.

These were volunteers, mostly from places like Maryland, Virginia, and Southern Pennsylvania. They came to Buffalo in the summer time, with their southern-styled thin linen uniforms. They had open ended tents in which to sleep, and very few blankets. No woollen winter uniforms.No boots. Food was scarce this far out on the frontier. When sickness spread through the camp, called a “dreadful contagion” by the newspapers of the day, soldiers began to succumb. Quickly.

Given the rocky soil of the area, the fact that is was frozen solid in the harsh winter, and the fact that so many were dying so quickly, men were buried in graves around a foot deep on the edge of the camp. In the spring, Dr. Daniel Chapin, upon who’s land they were camped, dug up and reburied all 300 men in a single trench, in an easy to dig meadow in the middle of his expansive backyard.

Chapin’s home was at what is now Main Street and Jewett Parkway; his backyard, Delaware Park. He buried the men in the middle of what is now the golf course, and planted willow trees to mark the spot.

When 80 years later, the willow trees began to die, a marker was placed on a boulder, in the middle of what was then the Park Meadow.

Since then, the hallowed spot, and the sacrifice made by those men to defend our nation have slowly been forgotten; especially as the nation’s first public golf course opened as that game began to sweep the nation just before the turn of the century.

In the 1920s, flappers used the cannons for playful photo backdrops (see left). By the 1940s, “The Cannons” were a well-known and well trodden night spot for teenagers looking to imbibe away from the watchful eyes of grown ups.

Ironically, by the late 60s, when the infamous Park Meadow Bar at Parkside and Russell was filled beyond capacity, the overflow crowd often went to the actual park meadow, with a 6 pack or a case to drink the night away.

At some point, the cannons disappeared. Sometime during the 1970s. Maybe something as simple as a parks worker sick of mowing around them, or the parent of one of those drunken youths making noise after he was “innocently” injured by one of those muzzleloaders. (If you know what happened to those cannon, let us know!!)

By the late 1990s, renewed efforts by area historians Michael Riester and Patrick Kanavagh began shedding new light on the War of 1812, and the Parkside area’s roll in it.

A Flint Hill marker was placed at the corner of Main and Humboldt through the hard work or Patrick and Michael. Now, along with fellow historian Steve Cichon, they are trying to call attention to Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknowns, as the bicentennial of the War looming.

I dedicate it to the memory of those who, during the War of 1812, died from wounds and disease, and whose remains find here repose; who left home and friends, to repel the invasion of a foreign foe; to defend our hill sides, valleys and plains, and who feared not death in defense of the flag. I dedicate this memorial, which will for ages mark their final resting place, to their honor and memory.

May their noble example and this tribute to their honor and memory prove an incentive to future generations to emulate their unselfish loyalty and patriotism, when called upon to defend their country’s honor, and if need be die in defence of the flag, the glorious stripes and stars, emblem of liberty, equal rights and National unity.

– Speech dedicating the Memorial, 1896

Below, you’ll find two different full accountings of what happened in the Parkside/Forest Lawn/Delaware Park area during the winter of 1812 which left about 300 American soldiers buried in a single trench mass grave, in the middle of what’s now Delaware Park golf course, without any real accounting of who was buried there.

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On the penultimate Memorial Day before the celebration of the War of 1812’s centennial, an event was organized to remember the sacrifice of the soldiers who died at the mound in the meadow.

Coverage from The Buffalo News:

Better memorial sought for grave of War of 1812 dead  – Delaware Park site is largely unknown

The Buffalo News  |  May 29, 2011  |  Phil Fairbanks – NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Next time you’re playing the fourth hole at Delaware Park Golf Course, look down and say thanks to the 300 war dead buried there.

Better yet, stop and read the small plaque on a nearby boulder, the only physical reminder of the so-called Tomb of the Unknowns.

Unbeknown to most visitors, under the middle of the park’s sprawling green meadow lies a mass grave for American soldiers who died of disease and exposure during the War of 1812.

Because of the public’s lack of awareness of the grave, a small cadre of local historians is pushing for a better memorial of the “sacred site” and the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for a young country.

“It was like a punch in the face to find out about this,” said Steve Cichon, a local radio reporter and historian. “I just can’t imagine someone putting their life on the line for me and then being forgotten, even 200 years later.”

Monday, Cichon will join a group of volunteers in planting 300 American flags at the burial site as part of a Memorial Day ceremony.

The flags simply are a first step in a larger campaign by activists who think more needs to be done to recognize the grave site and the contributions of the men buried there, many of them volunteers from as far away as Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“We’re trying to educate people,” said Patrick Kavanagh, a local historian. “No death is nice, but these men, and maybe women too, died a terrible death.”

The efforts to improve the memorial coincide with next year’s bicentennial of the war’s beginning and are rooted in a patriotic story of courage and sacrifice by young men ill- prepared for the winter of 1812.

“This is immensely important historically and one of the park’s hidden treasures,” Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, said of the burial site.

These were American soldiers, who after failing in their attempts to cross the Niagara River and invade Fort Erie, fell back to what was then known as Flint Hill.

Their camp stretched from what is now Forest Lawn Cemetery to Jewett Parkway and Main Street, and included much of what became Delaware Park.

Equipped with warm-weather uniforms and inadequate tents and facing a shortage of food, the American soldiers soon found themselves falling victim to illness and eventually death.

“Some of them didn’t even have footwear, and they had summer clothing at best,” said Kavanagh. “It was just an incredible loss of life.”

One by one, they were buried in shallow graves because of the frozen ground and naturally hard soil. That spring that Dr. Daniel Chapin, who owed the land and lived nearby, dug up the bodies and reburied them in a single mass grave.

To mark the burial ground, Chapin planted willow trees. And when the willows died decades later, park officials replaced them with the boulder and plaque that remain there today.

“May their noble example and this tribute to their honor and memory prove an incentive to future generations to emulate their unselfish loyalty and patriotism,” Parks Commissioner David F. Day said in a 1896 speech dedicating the monument.

But future generations did exactly what Day said they shouldn’t do — they forgot.

Cichon says he has no problem with the golf course covering the grave site but thinks the monument to the men buried there should be more prominent. Not long ago, two old cannons and a flagpole also sat there.

“Can we get the canons back? I don’t know,” said Herrera-Mishler, “but we’re very open and welcoming to ideas.”

Herrera-Mishler is quick to note that the Conservancy’s master plan for the park calls for adding interpretive signs that document the park’s history and expanding foot trails so they reach the boulder and plaque.

For Cichon, Kavanagh and fellow historian Mike Riester, the boulder and plaque fail to adequately memorialize the tremendous loss of life that occurred that winter nearly 200 years ago.

“They died at a clip of seven or eight a day,” said Cichon, the author of a book on Parkside’s history. “People need to know that and pay reverence to it.”

A new memorial would mean everything to Riester, who has been working on this effort for 15 years.

“These men are still unknown and forgotten,” he said. “It’s like it didn’t even happen.

“I would like to leave this earth knowing this has been fixed, and that these men will always been remembered,” he said.

2011 event at The Mound in the Meadow

Money was raised over the following year, and a memorial was placed on Ring Road at once of the entrances to the Buffalo Zoo.

The story was covered in newspapers all over the world, including The New York Times and USA Today. Coverage in The Buffalo News:

Monument will honor 300 soldiers who gave their lives in War of 1812

Buffalo News, The (NY) |  May 6, 2012 | Phil Fairbanks – NEWS STAFF REPORTER

When Steve Cichon learned about the 300 war dead buried in the middle of Delaware Park, he said, it was like a punch in the face.

It also struck him that the small plaque on the fourth hole of the golf course, the only evidence of the mass burial site, was a grossly insufficient way of honoring the War of 1812 soldiers who died defending their country.

On Memorial Day, with the bicentennial anniversary of the war looming, Cichon will unveil the results of a campaign to right that wrong — a new monument to the American war dead once hailed for their “unselfish loyalty and patriotism.”

“It’s just great that it will finally get done,” said Cichon, a local radio reporter and historian. “And something would have been lost if we had waited until the 201st anniversary of the war.”

The new monument to the “Tomb of the Unknowns” will be located on Buffalo Zoo property near Ring Road and the zoo’s bison exhibit.

“One quick email and Donna Fernandes said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ ” Cichon said. With the site locked up, Cichon turned his attention to fundraising, and he quickly raised enough to buy a discounted stone monument.

The discount came courtesy of Stone Art Memorial, a Lackawanna monument company that, like the zoo, wanted to help. Cichon also persuaded Paul Broad, a local concrete contractor, to help build a base for the monument.

“It’s been a real grass-roots effort,” said Cichon. “I raised money by haranguing all my Facebook friends.”

More than $1,500 later, he is ready to unveil what he and a small group of advocates have spent years lobbying for — a more suitable reminder of the sacrifice made by the 300 men who were ill-prepared for the winter of 1812.

They were American soldiers who, after failing in their attempts to cross the Niagara River and invade Fort Erie, Ont., fell back to what later became known as the Flint Hill Encampment. It covered an area from what is now Forest Lawn to Jewett Parkway and Main Street, and it included much of what is now Delaware Park.

Equipped with warm-weather uniforms and inadequate tents and facing a shortage of food, the American soldiers soon fell victim to illness, disease and eventually death.

They were buried in shallow graves because of the frozen ground and naturally hard soil, but that spring, Dr. Daniel Chapin, who owned the land and lived nearby, dug up the bodies and reburied them in a mass grave.

To mark the burial ground, Chapin planted willow trees. When the willows died decades later, park officials replaced them with the boulder and plaque that remain in place today.

“May their noble example and this tribute to their honor and memory prove an incentive to future generations to emulate their unselfish loyalty and patriotism,” Parks Commissioner David F. Day said in an 1896 speech dedicating the monument.

Unlike the old monument, a plaque on a boulder in the middle of the golf course, this memorial will be highly visible to anyone walking the park’s Ring Road.

It also provides visitors with an easy view of the original plaque and boulder, at the site where the soldiers are actually buried.

“It’s an ideal location,” Cichon said of the new site outside the zoo. “It’s also the right thing to do.”

Photos: 2012 Dedication of new memorial on Ring Road

Buffalo News editorial, from Memorial Day 2012:

Remember the sacrifices – Take time to honor the men and women who have made our freedoms possible

Chances are, if you spent any time planning for this weekend, it was to make a tee time, get the pool ready for the summer or buy provisions for a cookout of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

We’ve long treated Memorial Day as the unofficial kickoff to summer ? a last-Monday-in-May, guaranteed three-day weekend ? while forgetting why we observe the holiday.

But it’s not too late, even if you just take a moment today to recognize the sacrifices made by those who died at far too early an age in the service of their country.

For more than two centuries, families from this area have sent off to war teenagers and young adults, some not old enough to legally drink, only to see too many of them return in a coffin.

This year marks the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812, which saw bitter fighting here, including the burning of Buffalo and other Niagara Frontier villages.

Some 300 soldiers in that war died while camped in what is now Delaware Park. They are buried there in a mass grave.

So it is fitting that a memorial to the “Tomb of the Unknowns” will be unveiled today, near the Buffalo Zoo, by Steve Cichon, a local radio reporter and historian who led the effort to better recognize the 300.

For the past year, Buffalo Niagara has joined the rest of the nation in marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, our nation’s bloodiest war.

It’s only fitting that our attention turns back to Fort Sumter, Antietam, Gettysburg and Appomattox, because Memorial Day traces its origins to Decoration Day, a holiday established in 1868 to honor the dead from that war.

But we don’t have to look to the history books, or stoop to peer at the fading words on a long-dead soldier’s crumbling tombstone to recognize the sacrifices made in the name of the United States of America.

This is the first Memorial Day observed since the withdrawal, in December, of the last U.S. combat troops from Iraq, where 4,486 American servicemen and women died since that war began in 2003.

We continue to wage war in Afghanistan, where Americans have served since October 2001, making it by far the lengthiest war in U.S. history.

The American death count for that conflict is nearing 2,000, and coalition forces will continue to press the fight against the Taliban there through the end of 2014, President Obama and his NATO allies said last week.

We will leave Afghanistan as we left Iraq, without declaring victory, mourning the dead and, while hopeful, worrying what will happen after we’ve departed.

Unlike in previous conflicts, the general public hasn’t been asked to make much of a sacrifice during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the burden has fallen disproportionately on the servicemen and women and their families.

But we can take this one day to make a gesture to honor those who paid for our freedom with their lives. Display the flag, attend a Memorial Day ceremony, tend the grave of a fallen veteran or take your children to a parade ? but spend a few minutes explaining why we’re having a parade today.


parksidecover

From: The Complete History of Parkside by Steve Cichon (2009)
Chapter 2: Parkside Goes to War

Erastus Granger had been at Flint Hill less than a decade; the Plains Rangers less than five years when the War of 1812 broke out. The Parkside/Flint Hill area played several prominent roles in that conflict. Flint Hill was an encampment and training ground for soldiers preparing to invade Canada. It was also a sanctuary when the village of Buffalo was burned to the ground. Given the nature of war and brutal Buffalo winters, the area also served as a burial ground for hundreds who never made it home.

Throughout much of the documentation about the War of 1812, the Flint Hill Camp was described as “Camp near Buffalo.” This was explained in Peace Episodes on the Niagara (Buffalo Historical Society, 1914).

“In 1812, the Army of the Frontier went into winter quarters at Flint Hill, with Scajaquada creek as a convenient water supply.” Barton Atkins, the great chronicler of history of this period, wrote about the encampment in Modern Antiquities: The camp extended on Main Street from the present Humboldt Parkway northerly to the lands of Dr. Daniel Chapin… and westerly to the head of the Park Lake, on lands belonging to Erastus Granger. On the Main-street front of this old camp-ground stand several venerable oaks, relics of the old camp. The one directly opposite the Deaf and Dumb Asylum is distinguished as the one under which a row of soliders kneeled when shot for desertion in the spring of 1813.

The camp spread from what is now Forest Lawn to near Jewett Parkway along Main Street, and stretched as far back as the Delaware Park Lake. The shooting mentioned was Buffalo’s first execution. As of 1914, one of the old trees that bore witness to the capital punishment still remained in the backyard of 24 Florence Avenue (corner of Crescent.)

Flint Hill, along with the rest of the Niagara Frontier, was a hotbed of activity early in the war as a planned launching point for the invasion of British Canada, and as it was Indian Agent Granger’s job to keep the Native Americans neutral. The Buffalo Gazette of June 2nd, 1812, reports Granger met with the chiefs of the Six Nations, at which time they acknowledged no desire to enter conflict between the US and Canada.

By early August however, after the rumor spread of the British and their Indian Allies gaining control of Seneca-owned Grand Island, Seneca chief Red Jacket told Granger that the Seneca Warriors wished to join the conflict against the British and “drive off those bad people from our land.” As his correspondence from the time shows, Granger spent much of the ensuing year walking a tightrope, trying to make both the Indians and the powers in Washington happy.

The most complete meetings of chiefs in many years was held again on Main Street at the Granger farm in September, and this time the Senecas, the Onondagas, and the Cayugas voted to “take up the hatchet on behalf of the United States.” Those who volunteered their services at the council agreed that they “would go home as soon as the council fire was extinguished, arm and equip themselves for battle, and return to Buffalo.”

Though it was the continued hope to keep the young men of the Six Nations neutral, given the fact that “within a fortnight, between two and four hundred savages” would be in Buffalo ready to fight, President James Madison was forced to allow Granger to accept the services and organize the warriors of the Six Nations.

Still, there were many stops and starts in the Iroquois joining the war effort. Several times, after being asked to assemble, native warriors weren’t used. After nearly a year of “dancing” between native chiefs and Washington bureaucrats, the two sides kept in alliance by the constant work of Granger, it was Granger’s safety that ultimately had the Indians take to arms in combat.

They finally entered the conflict when their friend, Erastus Granger, was in peril. The Canadian British put a price on his head, and had Flint Hill… yes, modern day Parkside… marked for destruction. Judge Granger received word of this on July 10, 1813, and sent word to the greatest Seneca warrior of his time, the old chief Farmer’s Brother. Granger’s longtime compatriot, who fought in both the French and Indian War of the 1760s, and the American War of Independence, had received a medal from George Washington for his service. It was also “from Washington’s lips” that came the name “Farmer’s Brother,” by which the chief would be known for the rest of his days.

A man of at least 80 years old in 1813, Farmer’s Brother traveled from his hut in the Indian village in today’s South Buffalo, to what’s now the Parkside neighborhood, with warriors in tow, ready to fight. The Indians readied for war at the Granger home on Main Street. James Granger wrote an account of the night in his 1893 book Granger Genealogy. The chief and his followers arrived at 11 o’clock, and the night was spent preparing for the coming fray. Bullets were molded by the great fire in the kitchen (of the Granger Homestead), messengers hurried into the neighboring village for arms and ammunition, and the Indians were banqueted on unlimited salt pork prepared by Mrs. Granger’s own hands.

After over a year of waiting to join the conflict, the Senecas would finally join the war. Granger, led by Farmer’s Brother and the Senecas followed Guide Board Road (North Street today) to Black Rock. There, they met with General Porter, who decided to initiate an offensive against the British along the shores of the Niagara River.

The Senecas prepared for battle in a ritual never seen by the American troops assembled at the spot. They took of all of their clothes; stripped down to their breechcloths. Granger and the Senecas were on the right side of the line, regulars in the middle, white volunteers to the left, ready to take on the British. At the order of General Porter, the Indians leapt forward with a yell that startled both their enemy… and their allies. Within minutes, the enemy had retreated. The Indians had even rushed into the water to pull soldiers from their boats as they paddled in retreat for the safety of the Canadian shore. The victory was complete. Buffalo, Black Rock, and Granger’s Flint Hill Estate were safe, for now, due mostly to the tenacity of Farmer’s Brother’s men.

Because of its location, both high in elevation, and a relatively safe-yet-close-enough distance to Black Rock, Flint Hill had become an important meeting place for the military leaders both the United States and of the Six Nations (now Five Nations, with the Mohawks fighting along side the British.) Captain George Howard of the 25th Infantry spent some time at the Granger place recovering his strength and health. He wrote home to Connecticut on June 6, 1813, that he had met many of the famous chiefs of the Six Nations, including Red Jacket, Parrot Nose, Bill Johnson, Young King, Farmer’s Brother, and Silver Heels.

The Burning of Buffalo

Five months after that first battle, in December, 1813, by now Col. Granger and 83 Seneca Warriors under his command again responded to a British attack on Black Rock, but this time, they were forced to retreat when so many other soldiers fled from the line. Granger returned to his home, several miles away, to relative safety. As hoards of men retreated, and the lines of protection broke apart, the British marched up Niagara Street from Black Rock to Buffalo, and over the course of the coming days, laid torch to all but a handful of buildings in the village of Buffalo.

As the British and their Indian allies made their way towards Buffalo, the women and children of the village moved north up Main Street in an obviously harried fashion. Though many fled as far as Clarence Hollow and Williamsville, many dozens sought refuge and stayed safe in the home of Judge Granger on Flint Hill, and in the homes of the Buffalo Plains. As mentioned in the previous chapter, it is noted in several histories, including Studies of the Niagara Frontier, that homes on the Buffalo Plains, like that of Zachary Griffin, were not burned because, “the Indians in their course of destruction with musket and firebrand were too much overcome with liquor before they reached this house to do any further damage.”

In fact, none of the buildings as far north as current day Parkside were burned as the British and their Indian allies left Buffalo a pile of smoldering timber. It made the area, especially Granger’s place, a location where many women and children took up semi-permanent residence, while the men who weren’t taking to arms took to rebuilding the village. Encampment at Buffalo

Picture Delaware Park, all along the Scajaquada Expressway, over the Park Meadow and golf course, all the way up to Main Street filled with tents, bonfires, and soldiers milling about. As early as September 1812, over a year before the burning of Buffalo, General Alexander Smythe had planned to use Buffalo and Black Rock as a staging ground for an invasion of Canada; many of his troops, particularly Pennsylvania volunteers under the command of General Adamson Tannehill, were camped and drilling at Flint Hill.

Smythe was an interesting character, if not an effective General, or even a buffoon. His actions (and inactions) make it apparent that he felt that inspirational writing and speeches could surmount instilling discipline and training his men, many of whom were not professional soldiers, but volunteers; signing up only as the Union was in peril. Smythe was written of by Frank Severance in Episodes of Peace on the Niagara (1914): He was… often ridiculous, and has been remembered… chiefly because of certain bombastic proclamations which he issued during his short career in Buffalo and vicinity. Historians… have written of him only in a vein of amused contempt…. calling him “supercilious, dictatorial, impertinent.” (and) “indecisive, puerile and cowardly.”

The folly and incompetence of General Smythe made his troops rambunctious. During the fall and winter of 1812, many citizens of the Buffalo area were alarmed to find their fields and barns being plundered by Smythe’s hungry or simply bored soldiers. William Hodge, Jr. wrote about one series of incidents in Recalling Pioneer Days: Once several fat sheep were put into a horse stable, among the horses, just at night to be dressed the next morning; but when morning came they were gone. They had been taken a short distance into the orchard, and dressed, or butchered and carried off to camp. At last some of the soldiers were caught at this work. They were taken to their camp, and delivered up to the officers for punishment; but to this the officers were not disposed. This rather exasperated some of the inhabitants, who asked the commanding officer what they should do to the soldiers if they were caught at any more of these depredations. He said, “Shoot them, shoot them down the rascals.”

After this a number of the young men of the town kept watch at night. Of this group Velorus Hodge was one and they kept watch one night at the bridge of Granger’s creek, Main street. (This is roughly the intersection of Main Street and Jefferson Avenue.) After a while the one on guard outside discovered eight soldiers crossing the bridge, and hailed them. They answered, “What businesses have you to stop soldiers on the march?” and then a pistol was fired by one of them. The guard returned the fire. This started out those in the house; they sallied forth and all fired at the soldiers giving them an effectual peppering with shot.

Five of the soldiers fell to the ground and three making their escape. Of the five four were wounded by the shot; the fifth fell to save himself from being shot. These five were marched into camp the next morning and delivered over to the commanding officer, who approved of the course taken by the citizens. This put a check upon the stealing and plundering for quite a while.

Granger’s Creek is today Scajaquada Creek. The bridge talked about, though well hidden, still goes over Main Street near Jefferson. Plans to Invade Canada Hatched in Parkside

Plainly, his troops hated him. General Smythe wrote many verbose and bombastic proclamations to his troops, and verbally delivered several more, most of which won him “the derision of friend and foe.” He was known as “Alexander the Great” and “Napoleon the Second.” Plenty of his hot air was blown in preparation for his plans to invade Canada.

Those plans were set into motion on November 28, 1812. Smythe had as many as 8,000 men champing at the bit. He had been building, collecting, and fixing boats by the dozen for crossing the Niagara River at Black Rock. At this point, Smythe’s rhetoric had worked, whipping his men into a frenzy, ready to spill across the river at Black Rock for the glory of the union. Trumpets played Yankee Doodle Dandy, further lighting the fires under the men on a cold winter day, with wind and snow blowing off the Niagara River. An early morning crossing of 420 men in 21 boats were met with musket fire as they approached the shore to the south of Fort Erie. What happened next was the final straw for Smythe’s men. What happened… was nothing.

Wrote Frank Severance in Episodes of Peace on the Niagara (1914):

From sunrise to late afternoon, his army was embarking- the enemy on the other side of the river, in constantly-increasing numbers, looking on at the show. General Smythe did not appear at all, leaving the details to his subordinates. For hours the troops shivered in the boats, some of which, stranded on shore, filled with snow and ice. Late in the day, when at length everything seemed ready for a grand movement across the stream, General Smythe issued an amazing order: “Disembark and dine!” Disgusted and angered, the whole force was at the point of rebellion.

Two more days of similar commands to climb aboard boats… spend the day in the tiny wooden craft, freezing along the Niagara River shore in late November Buffalo weather, and then never leaving that snow and ice- filled shore.

After having been “whipped into a frenzy” days before, some men smashed their muskets against trees in disgust, and many of those who didn’t ruin their guns made mutinous use of them, firing in the direction of Smythe himself. Legend has it that musket ball holes filled General Smythe’s Flint Hill tent by the end of that third night. Of the 1700 Pennsylvania volunteers camped at Flint Hill, 600 deserted in a 24 hour period. General Peter Porter wrote an article in the Buffalo Gazette calling Smythe a coward for refusing to move forward with the planned invasion. The two fought a duel with pistols, but both shots were errant, neither hitting the other.

Between his officer colleague and the angry soldiers under his command, Smythe had survived perhaps dozens attempts on his life over a two week period, and had had enough. On December 17, 1812, within days of his three failed attempts at invading Canada, and, fresh on the heels of gun fire pointed in his direction from both a fellow general and his own men, Smythe would leave Buffalo and Flint Hill for his native Virginia. The Army Register states that he was “disbanded.” But the soldiers who lived through the rest of the winter of 1813 on Flint Hill had not yet seen the worst of it all. A horrific lasting monument to the war, still in Parkside, but little known, had yet to be created. Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknowns

Enlist your imagination once again. Picture living in Buffalo, in November and December, in open-ended tents, wearing linen uniforms, and having only very few, if any, blankets, coats, socks and boots. It was these conditions in Parkside in 1813 that yielded the mass, virtually unmarked grave that thousands of Western New Yorkers unknowingly drive by each day as they commute by Delaware Park on Route 198.

Up until the time of Smythe’s abortive campaign to invade, the mostly Southern soldiers all lived in mere pup tents. In Buffalo. In the winter. Once the offensive proved a failure, they were ordered to build huts for the winter, but most were slow to comply. The troops stationed on Flint Hill were mostly from Pennsylvania, and even further south, and showed up to Buffalo, in autumn, in their linen uniforms. Now winter had arrived, but more appropriate uniforms had not. Many Buffalo, Flint Hill, and Buffalo Plains families took in soldiers, but the village was just too small to accommodate the great number of troops wintering here.

Food supplies were unreliable to the front in Buffalo, and food that arrived was often rancid. Colonel Widner, Smythe’s second in command, stationed at Fort Niagara, had been experiencing the same conditions to the north. He reported in a letter to his commander in at Flint Hill, “We’re starving at this end of the line for bread.” The conditions were same at the camp that ran through what is now Forest Lawn Cemetery, along Main Street to the north, and into Delaware Park.

It is among these demoralized, starving, freezing troops that a “Camp Distemper,” described as a “dreadful contagion” broke out. The following account comes from an American prisoner of the British, and pays eyewitness account to what the winter of 1812-13 was like in Parkside:

That the enemy have about 3,000 troops one mile and a half in rear of Black Rock, under camp at a place called Judge Granger’s, where the General (Smythe), his aide-de-camp and several officers of rank live.. their camp is unhealthy… they die from eight to nine daily… the dead.. are put into holes two or three of which are made every day, and into each put two to four dead men. The doctors say the disease is as bad as the plague. The patients are first taken with a pain in the head, and in an hour-and-a-half or two hours they invariably die. Besides this disease he mentions their being afflicted with pleurisy, dysentery, and measles.

The Buffalo newspapers of the day daily listed the names of the dead, until the numbers became too great; eventually the Army stopped releasing the names. The home towns, listed next to the names, show, once again, that these men, from places like Baltimore, southern Pennsylvania, and Virginia, would have likely had a difficult time acclimating to Buffalo’s winter climate, even without the starvation and disease that was present. From the Buffalo Gazette, on December 22, 1812: The FEVER, which has made such dreadful havoc among our soldiers and citizens, continues to rage. The Physicians are taking unwearied pains to ascertain the character of the disease and to prescribe an effective remedy for it. Bloodletting is generally fatal in violent cases.

It wasn’t just soldiers who contracted this illness. While the causes of many of their deaths are lost to history, it’s a fact that many residents of the Buffalo Plains and Flint Hill died during this time. Among those who passed that winter were Samuel Atkins, the first Plains Ranger, and Parthenia Chapin, the wife of Dr. Daniel Chapin.

Whether Mrs. Chapin died from one of the many illnesses sweeping through the camp or not, it is certain that she knew of the suffering first hand. It was on the outskirts of the Chapin property that the several daily shallow graves mentioned above were dug. As any gardener in Parkside knows, Flint Hill derives its name from the rocky soil abundant in the area. This is also apparent to anyone who drives the Kensington Expressway; and sees the solid rock that was blasted through near the Scajaquada Expressway interchange.

While digging graves by hand would be a challenge in good weather, these graves, again two or three per day, were being dug in the difficult frozen ground of winter. Often times, they were no more than a foot deep. Dr. Chapin offered his land for the burial, and tavern owner William Hodge was pressed into service to make coffins for the dead. Records say he crafted 300 pine coffins to be used for burying the soldiers who died while encamped on Flint Hill. Written in Buffalo Cemeteries (1879):

The troops of General Smythe remained at Flint Hill until the following spring. During this time there prevailed among them a typhoid epidemic. Deprived as they were of comfortable hospitals, and a sufficient supply of medical agents, it carried off about three hundred of them. They were put into plain pine board coffins, furnished by William Hodge Sr., and temporarily buried near the south line of the Chapin place; but the rock came so near to the surface that their graves could not be more than about a foot in depth.

The ensuing spring they were removed some distance, to the north side of the farm, where the ground was a sandy loam and easily dug. Leave to bury them there being given by the respective owners of the farms, Capt. Rowland Cotton and Doctor Daniel Chapin, they were deposited directly on the dividing line between these farms, in one common grave. Doctor Chapin planted two yellow willows, one at each end of the grave, which have become large trees, and are yet growing. The grave itself remaining undisturbed to this day.

The grave was to be known in coming years as “The Mound in the Meadow,” with those willows coming from clippings of a yellow willow taken from Daniel Chapin’s yard. The willows lasted on the site until at least 1896, when on July 4th; a boulder was placed on the site of the grave, with a marker attached. It’s worthy to note that among those dead might not only be US soldiers, but perhaps servants who died while attending to the sick, and perhaps even prisoners of war- Canadian and British being held captive who met the same horrible fate as the Americans.

Aside from the boulder in the middle of the golf course, the mass grave of 300 American Soldiers, fallen in wartime service, goes unmarked, and unremembered, having been largely ignored for the last 100 years. Plans to properly mark the spot and honor the dead have come and gone over the last two centuries; you’ll read of those plans as the story continues.

As the spring of 1813 broke, and Chapin and Cotton were giving proper burial to the dead, some of those soldiers who had survived the horrible winter began to think pacifist thoughts, and wanted to leave while the getting was good. The commanding officers made an example of several soldiers who tried to desert. As a previously included account spells out, these deserters were knelt in a row and shot in front of several oak trees along Main Street near, generally near what is today Florence Avenue. Their bodies were then hanged from the trees to dissuade any further desertion from the ranks at Flint Hill.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Preserving Buffalo’s Medina sandstone street curbs

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

As with most things in life, the smallest details can make a great difference.

As our region’s rebirth and renaissance continues, more and more of us in Western New York are coming to better appreciate many of wonderful little oddities which combine to make Buffalo poised to use our uniqueness as a standout city for generations to come.

The things that “make Buffalo, Buffalo” should never be more important than they are now.

On Buffalo's Parkside Avenue, a road construction project shows the intersection of historic and unique with commonplace and less complicated.
On Buffalo’s Parkside Avenue, a road construction project shows the intersection of historic and unique with commonplace and less complicated.
I’m hoping to call attention to one small element in Buffalo’s unique character, which is easily overlooked until it’s gone.

For generations, when Buffalo’s Common Council ordered roads built, the call for Medina Sandstone curbs was written right into the legislation. Many of the red curbs of Buffalo have been in place since the time when it was horses, and not cars navigating between those curbs.

A decades-old piece of Medina Sandstone curb. The ridges on the flat surfaces show the old world stonecutting methods used in building Buffalo. This section will be replaced with white granite as a part of a road construction project.
A decades-old piece of Medina Sandstone curb. The ridges on the flat surfaces show the old world stonecutting methods used in building Buffalo. This section will be replaced with white granite as a part of a road construction project.

 

The oldest and most prevalent of these streetside chunks of stone still show the striations of old world craftsmanship, and serve as a citywide network of direct physical links to a time when Buffalo was one of the nation’s largest, wealthiest, and most modern cities.

Considered rare and beautiful and used sparing around the world in buildings like Buckingham Palace, Buffalo was lucky to be so close to the Orleans County quarry where the red rock came from that entire churches and buildings, and yes, even curbs were made from the stuff.

With great limits on new Medina Sandstone, especially for something as pedestrian as curbing, Buffalo has turned with greater frequency to the less exciting granite for curbs.

The gleaming white granite does the job of creating a barrier between the road and the sidewalk, but can we agree that it’s lacking in the spectacular and rich history and beauty of our uniquely Buffalo Medina Sandstone?

As roads are reconstructed with additional curbing for safety, and street/sidewalk intersections are being rebuilt to make them more accessible for those using strollers and wheelchairs, it’s understandable that our decades and centuries old red curbs might have to be replaced.

However, it’s my hope that now and in the future, a greater emphasis might be given in the consideration of reusing these materials whenever possible. Further, that if the nature of construction prohibits the reuse of the curbing at a particular site, that the removed curbing be saved for use at a future site where some additional curbing might be necessary to maintain the Medina Sandstone.

I love the look of the Medina sandstone curbs which have been in front of my house for more than 100 years, but if they have to be replaced, I'd love for the stone to be used in some other project so that the red curbs might be able to be saved there.
I love the look of the Medina sandstone curbs which have been in front of my house for more than 100 years, but if they have to be replaced, I’d love for the stone to be used in some other project so that the red curbs might be able to be saved there.

 

I would ask that the City Engineering and Public Works Departments move to create rules to this effect, and that the Common Council move to create law to make sure that it happens.

Too much of our city’s heritage had been lost to indifference and mismanagement.

Here’s a case where that doesn’t have to happen, and we can stop putting one of Buffalo’s unique features to the curb.

Torn-down Tuesday: What made way for the Scajaquada Expressway

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Last week, the state Department of Transportation announced the fast-track downgrade of the Scajaquada Expressway  to “Scajaquada Boulevard.” When this undated photo was taken – probably in the 1950s – there was barely a “Scajaquada Path.”

Buffalo News archives

Still familiar landmarks include what was then Mount St. Joseph Teachers College, now the main building of Medaille College, at the bottom left. To the right, Agassiz Circle remains in name only—this is now the 198/Parkside intersection. The park parking lot is also very similar today.

At the top of the larger photo, shown in detail below, you will notice the still familiar ball diamonds – but none of the on- and off-ramps for the Scajaquada Expressway. You’ll notice that some of the lots at Middlesex and Delaware remain undeveloped in the photo.

The biggest change, of course, is the four-lane highway which would now be running through the middle of the page.

Buffalo in the ’20s: Pierce-Arrow takes a test run through Parkside

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

At first glance, the back of this photo offers no clues to the precise location where this photo was taken.

Buffalo News archives

The only information offered is the names of the men in the car and the date (plus a stern reminder to put the photo back in The News archives.)

Dr. Dewitt Sherman was the president of the Erie County Medical Society. Edward C. Bull was an executive with Buffalo’s Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. and the longtime president of the Buffalo Automobile Dealers Association — not much help there.

The date, however, proves useful. Nov. 16, 1929, was the opening day of the Pierce-Arrow showroom at Main and Jewett.

While useful in placing this image, the date is also somewhat irony-filled. After spending decades as the preferred motorcar of the elite from New York City to Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, Pierce-Arrow’s new Art Deco showcase palace opened within days of the 1929 stock market crash. The crash helped precipitate the Great Depression and ended the good times and free flow of cash that helped usher the Pierce-Arrow brand to the top.

By the time the last of the Pierce-Arrows rolled off of Buffalo assembly lines in the mid-’30s, the building was a Cadilliac showroom. In fact, for parts of eight decades, the building was home to a Cadillac dealership— first Maxson Cadillac-LaSalle, then Tinney Cadillac and finally Braun Cadillac, before finding new life as a bank branch for Buffalo Savings Bank and now First Niagara.

Kitty-corner from the old Pierce-Arrow showroom, both then and now, is the English Gothic Central Presbyterian Church, which today is the home of the Aloma D. Johnson Charter School. The Main Street windows — which took the place of the building’s original front door — are seen in the photo as well as on the linked image below.

Christmas in Parkside: Black Squirrel, Books & Beer at the PM

Parkside owned businesses are spreading holiday cheer with a true “shop local” event on Wednesday.

pm

The neighborhood folks connected with The Parkside Meadow (owners Nancy Abramo & Len Mattie, Summit Ave.), Black Squirrel Distillery (co-founder Matthew Pelkey, Woodward Ave.) and Buffalo Stories LLC (owner Steve Cichon, Parkside Ave.) are joining together on Wednesday, December 16, at The PM, 2 Russell Street, for a Black Squirrel tasting and book signing by Cichon.

Buy one of his books, he'll buy you a beer! The signing at The Parkside Meadow on Wednesday, December 16th, will be Cichon's only time Cichon signs his five books this December.
Buy one of his books, he’ll buy you a beer! The signing at The Parkside Meadow on Wednesday, December 16th, will be Cichon’s only time Cichon signs his five books this December.

The warm “everyone knows ya” feeling of a corner gin mill and the selection of locally brewed beers on tap at The Parkside Meadow make it a great place for a couple of local boys to make their locally produced wares available as Christmas presents.

Pelkey will be lining up cocktail samples and special holiday gift packs from the spirit distilled a few blocks away on Elmwood Avenue starting at 6pm in the Parkside Meadow. Cichon will have his 5 Buffalo history books– including local volumes “The Complete History of Parkside” and ” St. Mark Parish: The Loving Legacy of Msgr. Francis Braun and Sr. Jeanne Eberle”– available along with his promise that if you buy one of his books that night, he’ll buy you a beer.

Mathew Pelkey will be offering Black Squirrel samples and gift packs.
Mathew Pelkey will be offering Black Squirrel samples and gift packs.

You also have the chance to give the gift of a great Parkside meal– that night and anytime, Parkside Meadow gift certificates are available in any denomination. The Parkside Meadow is quickly becoming the meeting place for folks in our part of North Buffalo– and there’s never been a better reason to stop by than to enjoy Black Squirrel samples and “buy a book, I’ll buy you a beer.”

Buffalo in the ’40s: The Zoo’s Marlin Perkins and Eddie the Chimp

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

As Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” was on the air from 1963 to 1985, Buffalonians were always quick to claim the host Marlin Perkins as one of our own.

Buffalo News archives

America’s best-known animal lover in the TV age, Perkins grew and expanded the Buffalo Zoo in the years he was curator and then director in the 1930s and 1940s.

Perkins is pictured in 1944 as he was leaving for a new post in Chicago, accepting a suitcase from Eddie the Chimp.

For as famous as Perkins was around the country, he could barely compete with the sensation he created at the Buffalo Zoo.

Eddie was the Buffalo Zoo’s first chimpanzee when he arrived from Africa in 1940. Eddie was friendly and willing to take direction, and Perkins and staff had soon taught Eddie to dance and to shave his keeper — with a straight razor. It was clear that Eddie loved the limelight, and would seemingly do anything for applause. Keepers dressed him in a Marine uniform and the chimp raised money for the USO during World War II.

But soon after Eddie became an adult — when he was 5 or 6 years old — Eddie stopped wanting to perform. One handler said it was pretty clear that Eddie thought of himself as more human than chimp. He never associated with the other chimps and never mated.

By the early 1950s, Eddie was clearly angry. The banana peels he’d fling at passersby were the least offensive organic matter one might get pelted with.

In the late 1950s, after Eddie spat at and threw dung at a group of passing VIPs, glass was placed between Eddie and zoo visitors and the barrier seemed to suit him just fine.

For more than 30 years, visitors to the zoo didn’t know what they might get from Eddie. Maybe a dance, reminiscent of the way he was in the 1940s … or maybe the show looked more like something from a bawdy boys high school locker room.

That was part of Eddie’s somewhat sad draw though — never knowing what you might see.

At the age of 47, Eddie the Chimp was the oldest resident at the Buffalo Zoo when he was euthanized after suffering a stroke in 1985. Perkins died the next year.

The new Parkside Meadow pumps tasty new life into old memories

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Judging by the smells, tastes, and smiles of its first day, the Parkside Meadow (corner of Parkside and Russell avenues, Buffalo) looks poised to be an institution on par with the warmly remembered predecessor you couldn’t go five minutes without hearing about.

Opening night at the Parkside Meadow, Parkside and Russell Avenues, across the street from the Buffalo Zoo. Over locally brewed beers, people remembered the old Park Meadow, enjoyed the tasteful memorabilia displayed and waited for a chance to taste gourmet takes on a variety of sandwiches. (Steve Cichon/Special to The News)

Echoes of the old Park Meadow, the venerable neighborhood fish fry place-turned college party hangout, were everywhere, as strangers reminisced about their days and nights in the PM — those memories growing as hazy as they were on some of those nights.

The good news is the Parkside Meadow, just like the people who remember the old PM, has grown more sophisticated in its current iteration, cultivating a more subdued yet still fascinating environment for drinks and imaginative and tasty takes on sandwich favorites.

The 1950s Iroquois Beer neon sign on the front window offers a pretty good idea of what you should expect inside. (Steve Cichon/Special to The News)

Aside from the stories that come along with the building, the place has been tastefully decorated in with hundreds of museum quality pieces of Buffalo’s industrial, retail, and beer drinking past. Dozens of matchbooks from Buffalo taverns and gin mills of yesteryear. Stoneware jugs from Buffalo’s oldest brewers and distillers. Boxes and crates once filled with bottles of beer like Simon Pure, Iroquois, and Beck’s, all once brewed by proud Buffalonians.

Among the old Buffalo taverns remembered on the walls of the new Parkside Meadow: The Park Meadow, which was a neighborhood fish fry and college party institution from the 1950s through the 1980s. (Steve Cichon/Special to The News)

From the display cases, to the walls, down to each tabletop, food delivered to your tabletop is almost an interruption of taking in what Buffalo once was. But then you take a bite, and it’s all about the plate in front of you.

Among the blasts from the past: Salt and pepper shakers made from Visniak and other old Buffalo pop bottles. (Steve Cichon/Special to The News)

The menu is simple. It’s a single sheet of heavy stock with a large selection of gourmet-style takes on sandwiches ranging from shaved lamb to fried bologna plus a few salads and larger entrees. The menu offers a chance for some interesting tastes on a corner tavern budget– nine of the menu’s 11 sandwiches are less than $10 and include fries. The full bar offers seven different locally sourced beers on tap, ranging from McKenzie’s Hard Cider and Rusty Chain to the venerable Genesee.

Opening night was a Friday night, and just like any good Buffalo spot, fish was on the menu. Three broiled options and one fried. The Hush puppy and beer-battered fish fry is a true-to-the-original twist on a Buffalo favorite, with batter that was a hint sweet and very thick and tasty.

A Buffalo Friday night at the Parkside Meadow: Hush puppy beer-battered haddock, with skin-on fries and cole slaw, and a Genesee draft. (Steve Cichon/Special to The News)

Whether you have foggy memories of the Park Meadow you’d like to relive or you’re just looking for a new spot that from food to atmosphere is really different from any other place in Buffalo, a stop at the Parkside Meadow is recommended.

This review originally appeared in Gusto.

Parkside’s community activist and community mom, Ruth Lampe

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

 

Our community’s self-styled “Deputy Dog” and “Mother Hen” has succumbed after a long valiant fight against cancer.

Ruth Lampe was no-nonsense and tough as nails, but also loved her friends, family, and community with fierce and burning passion.

She was a force of nature and in a category all her own. Her style and sensibility was a beautifully complementary combination of Iowa farm girl, 1960’s style left-wing radical activist and motherly protector and influence to all who knew her.

In a society where most people like to meet and vote– or worse, just complain– when problems arise, Ruth roared and steamrolled for what she thought was right. And once she pushed her way to the front of an issue, she took command and was relentless and got things done.

After more than 40 years of community and civic activism in Parkside, she knew everyone– and knew most of their fathers, too. Widely accepted as speaking for the community and fair, her aggressive tactics were usually met with open arms by the powers that be– with the knowledge that having Ruth on your side was always a smart move.

But it wasn’t just about sweeping grand notions with Ruth– it was about sweeping up after events. And moving chairs. And helping at the ticket table. She was the sort of leader who lead by example every step of the way, and would never ask anyone to do something she hadn’t already done and wasn’t getting ready to do again.

All that is wonderful, but to really turn the rusty wheels of change– you inevitably rankle the comfortably accepting of the substandard or offensive.

You know Ruth Lampe was a hero by the number of people who wince– even decades later– at hearing her name. It may have happened during the city’s 1982 free paint program, but 33 years later, there are still those in Parkside who will snear, “Ruth Lampe made me paint my house.” She always made an impact. She sure did on me.

When my phone rang during lunch on two weeks ago yesterday, I smiled to see the name Ruth Lampe on the caller ID.

She’d been terminally ill with untreatable cancer, but I was thinking of how I’d been filled with joy when I saw a thin-but-healthy Ruth out on Hertel going to dinner with her husband David a couple weeks before. I was about to run up to say hi when a couple of little munchkins hop out of the car, too.

Selfishly, I stopped and enjoyed watching her be grandma from half a block away. I’m sure she would have enjoyed a hello and a hug, but I wasn’t going to intrude on grandkid time, and I really enjoyed seeing her in that element.

She looked great that day, and that was in my mind as I answered the phone.

With genuine excitement I hit the button and offered a “Hey Ruth!”

Without thinking, I followed with a “How are ya!” which I genuinely meant– but said without thinking given her battle.

My upfront question meant the call got right down to business. She talked about the next stage. Hospital beds at home, making final plans.

Ruth’s last great gift to those who love her is taking on the final project of her life with the bullheaded strength and tenacity she’s shown every project she’s ever undertaken. She was planning her own goodbye– one she knew was coming in a period of time that could be counted in days more than weeks or months.

It was a classic Ruth moment of organization– but of course it’s different. This isn’t fighting with mayors over stop signs or school boards looking for racial balance and equality in our neighborhood public school.

I don’t know that I ever heard this great woman resigned to anything– but she was calm, accepting, and willing to put her and her loved ones into the hands of the Lord. The peaceful beauty and dignity with which she faced this grand struggle is awe inspiring.

This final battle is for everything. We want to help, just like with every other battle we’ve joined her for– but no letters to the editor or picket carrying can help.

We always say, “Anything I can do,” which is always true. But I think we say it more to help ourselves through the thought of someone else’s pain. Someone in Ruth’s situation really doesn’t want to be handing out jobs, you know?

So, I’ve tried not to say that. Ruth and her husband David know it’s true– anything– but I try not to say it.

What I’ve tried to do, since back pain turned to cancer turned to just a matter of time, is just remind them both in little, hopefully unobtrusive ways that I love them both very much.

There are no more cliches. Just what’s real. What else can you really do but love and pray and answer the phone when it rings?

Which it did during lunch on a Friday two weeks ago.

And Ruth asked me to be a pall bearer. At her own funeral. Taking what she could off the plate of her soon to be grieving and devastated family, by fighting and loving the best way she knew how— by doing.

I have little right to be emotional as this incredible woman powered through what was the start of her final two weeks among us, but I can’t help but be moved to tears by the thought of it. This woman, our neighborhood queen and sheriff and mother asked me to do the honor of presenting her earthly remains to her friends and to her church and to their final resting place…. That someone who has meant so much to me as a civic leader, as a mentor, as a cage-rattling compatriot, as a friend– can even think of me at all as the sun sets on her beautiful life, but that she would so powerfully and personally offer me this honor leaves me just without words… Other than…

I love you, Ruth. The many many many of us you’ve touched, we all love you.

And we’ve all learned from you. The trail you’ve blazed in fighting for what’s right won’t grow cold so long as I’m here to battle forward with the gifts of knowledge and strength you’ve given us all.

The spirit you’ve kindled lives on… and doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

New tours show Parkside neighborhood in different lights

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

I’m really excited to be offering the first of four new walking tours of the Parkside neighborhood this summer.  George Stock, who has been guiding neighborhood tours for over 30 years, continues with three new tours this summer as well.

Steve Cichon is the author of The Complete History of Parkside and four other books.
Steve Cichon is the author of The Complete History of Parkside and four other books.

At the start of the 20th century, Buffalo was one of America’s most exciting, fastest growing cities. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the Parkside neighborhood, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as a buffer between his Delaware Park and Main Street.

The wealth and new ideas that poured into Buffalo found a home and flourished in Parkside. The a wide sampling of the avant garde in architecture, art, and culture from Buffalo’s most exciting era remains mostly intact in what remains one of Buffalo’s finest neighborhoods.

The Parkside Community Association, in conjunction with the Martin House Restoration Corporation, have turned to historians and story tellers who live in the neighborhood to share the tale evolution from farmland to National Register of Historic Places.

The monthly tours, revamped and brand new for the summer of 2015, offer a series of unique glimpses into the elements that, more than a century later, continue to make Parkside one of Buffalo’s most sought after addresses. While each tour has a different focus, participants on any tour will get a more full understanding of Parkside and Buffalo.

June 13, 2015:    Parkside, The Park, and The Zoo | starts at 10am at Parkside & Russell outside the New Parkside Meadow Restaurant

Before there was Parkside, there was “The Park”– Frederick Law Olmsted’s original name for Delaware Park. Docent Steve Cichon offers a brief multimedia lecture before guiding a tour focused on how the park and the zoo helped shape the neighborhood while acting as the communal front lawn, as well as how both institutions were shaped by the neighborhood.

Tickets are on sale now at http://parksidebuffalo.org/walking-tours/

 

July 11, 2015:      FLW & Beyond: Arts & Crafts in Parkside | starts at 10am at Jewett Pkwy & Summit Ave

The aesthetic of the Arts & Crafts Movement is unmistakable, and Parkside was unmistakably one of Buffalo’s Arts & Crafts hotbeds. Docent George Stock guides a tour of architecture, architects, and art which have gained worldwide attention for Parkside, including the neighborhood’s two Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes.

Aug. 8, 2015:      The Parksiders Who Built Buffalo | starts at 10am at Jewett Pkwy & Summit Ave

As the 1800s begat the 1900s, the homes of Parkside were being built by the wealthy industrialists who were also building Buffalo. Docent George Stock introduces you to the printers, retailers, milliners, brewers, and other wealthy bon vivants who created the original sense of joie de vivre which remains part life in Parkside to this day.

Sep. 12, 2014:    Modern Conveniences: Home Life & Culture at the turn of the century | starts at  10am at Jewett Pkwy & Summit Ave

The homes of Parkside were built as oil lamps gave way to the light bulb and the horse and buggy gave way to the motor car. To this day, many Parkside homes remain a vestige of a world that had one foot in pre-industrial times and the other in the midst of the City of Light.  Docent George Stock highlights the manifestations of culture at the turn of the century in Parkside.

Each tour is approximately two hours. Admission is $20, $15 for Martin House and Parkside Community Association members. Complete ticket information at http://parksidebuffalo.org/walking-tours/ or 838-1240.

Hoping to better honor Buffalo’s Tomb of Unknown Soldiers

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

During the War of 1812, about 300-400 soldiers died on what is now the Delaware Park golf course.

an 1895 account of what happened at The Mound in the Meadow, and the scuttled plans of Elam Jewett for a memorial

There was no battle there, though the men were in Buffalo in defense of our nation’s borders. The soldiers, mostly from southern states like Maryland and Virginia, died as they wintered on the large open area that would become “the park meadow” and the golf course.

These soldiers came to Western New York to defend our nation wearing light summer uniforms and open ended tents. They took on the worst of Buffalo winter with few blankets, fewer boots, and very little food. Most of the food that did make it this far out to the American frontier was rancid.

“Camp Disease,” probably cholera or dysentery or a combination of both fueled by starvation and frost bite, killed this men in an unimaginable way.

Burial explanation, 1895

The ground was frozen, so the dead were buried in either shallow graves or simply piled in tents. When spring came, a large hole was dug… the dead buried in a mass grave.

Buffalo’s Tomb of the Unknowns.

If you don’t know about this, you’re not alone. Through the years, many attempts have been made to call attention to this sacred site— the very reason for Memorial Day.

mound 1896 memory

 

If this were a Civil War mass grave from 50 years later, Delaware Park would be a National Park and it’s story known around the world. The War of 1812 isn’t as sexy historically speaking, so these men lie mostly forgotten.

 

Mound 1895 account-2A large boulder, placed in 1896, marks the spot of the grave. The fact that its in the middle of the golf course means, again, it’s forgotten.

It was hoped the monument could be dedicated on Remembrance Day in 1896, but it wasn’t ready– and was dedicated on July 4, 1896 instead.

Old Newspapers
Old Newspapers

Sadly, through the years, the site– and therefore the memory of the sacrifice it represents– has been stripped of more attention raising features.

A flagpole disappeared in the first half of the 20th century.

This 1955 article from the Courier-Express shows a pair of Civil War parrott rifles on either side of the stone marker and a historical marker pointing to the site from Ring Road. The cannon disappeared in the 80s, the marker some time before then.

More needs to be done to honor the sacrifice of these men who gave their lives and now are spending eternity in the midst of our city.

Can the historical marker be replaced? Can we as a community build awareness and try to bring more honor to this many times over forgotten sacred site?

Read more about the history of The Mound in the Meadow and our 2011 commemoration at the site: http://www.staffannouncer.com/meadow.htm