War of 1812 cemetery set for replica fence, gates

The Buffalo News

By T.J. Pignataro

News Staff Reporter

August 12, 2012


The ongoing effort in the Town of Cheektowaga to memorialize the “Soldiers of the War of 1812” advanced further last week when the Town Board agreed to award a bid to a Rochester-area company to fabricate and retrofit fencing and gates at the War of 1812 Cemetery on Aero Drive.

The fences and gates will be near-exact replicas of the same that originally enclosed the cemetery in the 19th century, according to Cheektowaga Council Member James P. Rogowski.

“We’re restoring it to what it looked like,” Rogowski said of the new fence and gates at the cemetery. “This is what we want our federal cemetery to look like.”

Rogowski, along with former Council Member Tom Johnson, who’s now the chairman of the War of 1812 Cemetery board of trustees, spearheaded the effort to provide a historical face-lift for the burial ground of about 200 soldiers.

“We’ve been working on it for years,” Rogowski said.

The $22,669 contract was awarded to New York State Fence Inc. of Hilton. The company will craft almost exact replicas of the twisted wrought iron fence that first adorned the cemetery – the chief aesthetic difference being “rounded tops” instead of spikes on the 6-foot iron fence poles to minimize animal injury.

New York State Fence also will fabricate a recreated rounded entrance archway to the cemetery that says “Soldiers of the War of 1812” to replicate the original cemetery gate.

The soldiers – both American and British – were buried in mass graves that are marked by a single white cross on each of the burial mounds. The burials were made at the cemetery between August 1814 and July 1815.

The cemetery, also known as the Garrison Road Cemetery, has received increased attention in recent years as this year’s bicentennial celebration of the war approached. In June, there was a special re-enactment service, ceremony and parade from the cemetery commemorating the bicentennial of the war.

The Town of Cheektowaga assumed control of the cemetery in 1985 from the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. Representatives from the United States and Canada helped to “re-dedicate” the cemetery at that time, and Queen Elizabeth II sent a letter commending the Town of Cheektowaga.

As town officials have continued their efforts sprucing up the old cemetery, Rogowski said word is spreading near and far about its historical significance.

“We have people come here from different countries to visit it,” said Rogowski, explaining that recently an Alaska resident came to Cheektowaga to visit the cemetery – the burial ground for a great-great-great-great-grandfather.

The new fence and gate are expected to be in place sometime in the fall, although Rogowski is crossing his fingers it gets done a little early – like in time for a Sept. 13 scheduled wreath-laying ceremony there as part of the Fleet Week celebration in Buffalo and Western New York.

Sept. 13 holds special significance in the War of 1812 as the night American forces at Fort McHenry successfully withstood the British navy’s barrage from Baltimore Harbor – which led Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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