Forest Lawn Cemetery - Table of Contents
A Short History of Forest Lawn
Buffalo, New York
The original 80 acres of land near the edge of the city were purchased by Charles E. Clarke in 1849 with the intention of establishing a cemetery, based on the French and English example of rural cemeteries.
Besides interment on family land or in churchyards, various spaces in Buffalo before 1849 were also designated for burial. Some of them:
- Franklin Square cemetery (now occupied by the Old County Hall)
- Cold Spring burying ground
- Delaware and North burying ground
- the potters' field that William Hodge sold to the city in 1832 in anticipation of the cholera visiting Buffalo (later Masten Park and now the site of City Honors School)
- Black Rock Burying Ground
- Bidwell Farm Burying Ground
- Matthews and Wilcox Grounds
The concept of owning a place for future burial, especially in a rural setting outside the city limits, is a new and generally alien concept in the mid-1800s. In 1852, the Franklin Square cemetery Memorial is placed to mark the relocation of graves from the older burial ground, and this helps the public to accept the new cemetery.
By 1861, rural cemeteries across the country are a popular place for recreation, and this will lead to the urban park movement first made famous by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Forest Lawn is located on land acquired from the Seneca Nation circa 1797 by William Johnston, a retired British Army captain who had married a Seneca women and wielded a considerable influence among her people. In 1806 title passed to Erastus Granger, agent to the Six Indian Nations, and it was on this land that Granger met with the Great Council of Nations and persuaded the Council to refuse an alliance with the British in the war of 1812. Some 30 years later, when the young city of Buffalo was rising into prominence, a need was felt increasingly by her populace for a large, park like burial ground. Accordingly, in 1849 the public-spirited entrepreneur Charles E. Clarke purchased approximately 80 acres of the Granger estate at $150 per acre and begun the following spring to grade and survey the land as a park/cemetery. For more information about Granger, see McLean House and the Appleton House.
The first burial was made in the afternoon of July 12, 1850, for John Lay, Jr., who had been an old and greatly esteemed member of the community. The purchase of lots of other early Buffalonians followed in rain rapid order. In 1855 Clarke conveyed the unsold cemetery grounds to a group of lot owners known as Forest Lawn Cemetery Association, which acquired more land from the surrounding farms and incorporated in 1864 under the name of the Buffalo city cemetery known commonly as Forest Lawn. Since then the cemetery has been guided by a board of trustees under 11 presidents and four chairmen.
The first offices of the Buffalo City Cemetery were at No. 4 West Swan Street . In 1866 the offices were moved to Main and Court streets and the grounds, by then greatly improved and enlarged to 203 acres, were dedicated on September 28. Improvement followed improvement;
- a chapel built with stone from the cemetery's own quarry, 1882;
- a bridge across Scajaquada Creek, 1888;
- the present iron fence begun, 1892;
- a second bridge, 1895;
- the Main Street and Delaware Avenue arches, 1900 and 1901;
- the present office building, 1908;
- the superintendent's house, 1926;
- a crematory and columbarium added to the chapel, 1932;
- the quarry filled and landscaped, 1939;
- a modern service building, 1949;
- Oakwood Community mausoleum 1973;
- Birchwood Mausoleum, 1976; and
- Rosewood Mausoleum, 1980.
- Brown, Richard C. and Watson, Bob. "Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land," USA: Windsor Publications, 1981.
- "A History of Forest Lawn Cemetery," by Albert L. Michaels and Bette A. Rupp. Pub. in "Forest Lawn Cemetery: Buffalo History Preserved." available at Forest Lawn Administration Bldg. and in bookstores.