BUFFALO, NY - For 165 years, the grounds beyond the gate of Buffalo's Forest Lawn Cemetery have borne witness to immeasurable grief. The monuments and mausoleums here are modern reminders of Buffalo's most historic figures. But not all the stories of those at Forest Lawn are told on the surface.
Inside the Main building, down a narrow flight of stairs, amid boxes and back offices are three vaults. Places that contain a record of Buffalo's history. Places that were off limits to the public. But are now revealed.
These are the books, pages, and ledgers of Forest Lawn. Documents detailing every piece of land - including the family plot of President Millard Fillmore. And instructions for the design and construction of the Walden-Myer mausoleum, built in the late 19th century. It was ordered by the daughter of former Buffalo mayor Ebenezer Walden. The other name - Myer - is her husband, General Albert Myer, the founder of the US weather service.
Back among the volumes of records are thousands of other names and dates - many you may know, but many more you may not. "It's the history of the founders, the leaders of the city and also the people who built the city everyday," says John Edens, who works among the often tattered bindings lining these shelves, and knows many of the stories contained within.
"Another record that's in here that's very important, it began in the 1870's, are burial permits. In many ways, this is an instruction to the superintendent to prepare a grave," says Edens.
On one page is the name of Edward Austin Kent, a Buffalo architect. He died April 15th, 1912. Listed as his place of death; at sea, S.S. Titanic.
Just above Kent is another entry from a funeral the same day. "A young boy, 12 years old, named George. We
don't know much about George. We know from our records that his father died two weeks earlier," says Edens.
Kent rests in an impressive lot, overlooking the lake, with granite memorials. The same, however, is not true for George. "George is in a lot, with his father, in their unmarked graves," says Edens.
And the stories here - among these historic books - of people like George and his father, far outnumber those of the well-known.
All of the stories from Forest Lawn will soon be available for the public to see in person. Construction is nearing completion on the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center near the Main Street entrance. The historic records will be moved there when it's finished, which is expected to happen this summer.