Niagara Gazette — TOWN OF LOCKPORT — It’s easy to drive by its entrance without noticing. From Niagara Street Extension, just across from the county Sheriff’s Office and Jail complex, it’s only marked by a plaque on a boulder.
For years, nature owned the spot. Trees and brush dominated the plot of land that is the Niagara County Almshouse Cemetery, plunging the space and the 1,400 or so people buried there into obscurity.
”I didn’t even know there was a cemetery here until about 16 months ago when I heard this project was underway,” said Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, a county resident for decades.
Now, after two years of mowing and clearing brush, the cemetery has been restored. The effort was led by People Inc., the regional private human services agency and its Museum of disABILITY, which held a Thursday ceremony to mark the restoration and to honor those buried there.
“There was nothing here to even indicate that this was a cemetery and we believe all people should be treated equally and fairly even in death,” said David Mack-Hardiman, the associate vice president of People Inc.
The ceremony included the unveiling of a special memorial plaque and a refurbished monument, the only inscribed gravestone at the location. Orleans Monument donated an engraved granite bench.
Known as the Merritt-Spencer Monument, was found by volunteers to be in rough shape. The structure was broken in several pieces and detached from the base. The monument was repaired and placed on a new foundation.
Approximately 40 names of individuals laid to rest in the cemetery were read during Thursday’s program, followed by the release of a pair of doves.
While many were laid to rest without marked graves, all of those buried at the site were Niagara County Almshouse residents. The almshouse was open on that spot between 1830 and 1916, taking in those who were sick, poor or mentally ill. The 120-acre site included a large residence, a working farm and a quarry.