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Main entrance to Union cemetery.
Cemetery was formed in 1863.
By Gina Buccino,
Niles Daily Times 1984 Special Edition
Union Cemetery, located on Niles-Vienna Road, has a rich history
all its own. The cemetery, which was formed March 28, 1863, is
the final resting place for hundreds of former residents, including
many of Niles earlier descendants like the Heaton, Stevens,Ward,
Mason, and Robbins families.
In earlier days the cemetery was known as the
Old Jack Burial Grounds. Back then, the cemetery covered 42.372
acres. Today, it covers approximately 47.5 acres.
Visitors who walk along the southeast corner
of the cemetery will find the gravesites of The James Heaton family,
who were credited as the founders of the city of Niles.
Tombstones for John and Hannah
blackened but still preserved tombstones mark the graves of Hannah
Heaton, daughter of James Heaton and Margaret Heaton,
who died February 2, 1806 at the age of six. Near the grave stands
a gravestone which reads: Margaret Heaton, wife of James Heaton,
born May 24th 1771 and died February 15th , 1823, age 51 years and
James Heaton, who died December 6, 1856, age 86 years.
Heaton, James’ brother dated the birth and death of
his family from the year of the Declaration of Independence dropped
the H from his last name when writing the epitaph for his wife’s
It reads: “Naomi Eaton wife of
Dan Eaton, was born December 2 U.S. 4 on the 5th of November U.S.
43, became like unto a potter’s vessel that was stripped
of its glazing and gilding, but as she believed the work would
not be lost but would be moulded in another form and become fit
for the masters use.”
Naomi Heaton grave marker.
John Heaton grave marker.
Priscilla Eaton grave marker.
Warren Luse grave marker.
View of the Thomas E. Thomas crypt
located in Union Cemetery in Niles, Ohio. Dated
May 1986. PO1.893
the notables who are buried in the cemetery include Harry
Stevens, a man who worked as an iron puddler in local mills
and who later conceived the idea of an improved score card to
be used in ball parks. He is also credited with popularizing the
‘Hot Dog’ and his company became the largest catering
company in the U.S. with concession stands located in major (baseball)
park. His wife donated land for a park, today known simply as
Stevens Park. His wife and children are also buried in the cemetery.
Jacob D. Waddell, who organized and
headed the Mahoning Valley Steel Company with W. Aubrey Thomas
and Thomas E. Thomas is also buried at Union Cemetery.
He and his wife, Mary, donated land to the city, today
it is known as Waddell Park.
Also buried in the cemetery is H.H. Mason,
who was the first mayor of Niles; John R. Thomas, who
founded the Niles Firebrick Company; Josiah Robbins,
an established businessman in the city who was honored when a
street was named after him.
Margaretta Thomas Clingan, whose family
donated their mansion, to provide for today’s Niles YMCA
and other members of her family are also buried in Union Cemetery.
Heaton plot in Union Cemetery after the Niles
Historical Society repaired and cleaned up the tornado damage.
Dated May 1986. PO1.900
along the oldest section of the cemetery, visitors are able to see
the gravesites of earlier Niles descendants including Russel, Crandon,
Hunter, Ambrose, Evans and Ward. Today, streets are named in honor
of these families, who during the 1800s and 1900s helped establish
businesses in Niles.
Henry Kyle, Jesse Luse, Joseph W. Rogers, J.N. Baldwin, Frances
E. Luse, Joseph Rogers, Lorena Allison and Martha Shaw
sold land to the city in the past so a cemetery could be formed.
Holloway crypt located in Union
in Niles, Ohio. Dated May
Photo of a crypt damaged by the
1985 tornado. Damage is confined to upper wall next to roof on
the left side. Dated May 1986 .PO1.890
Heaton plot in Union Cemetery
after the Niles Historical Society repaired and cleaned up the
tornado damage. Dated May 1986 .PO1.900a
View of cemetery destruction at
Bentley Avenue and 'Dead End' sign. PO2.699
NILES — Those who drove past Niles Union
Cemetery in the early 1980s might not have even known it was there,
as it was so hidden by large, lovely trees.
That changed on May 31, 1985, when an F5 tornado
tore through the city and the cemetery, ripping those massive
trees out of the ground and toppling gravestones.
The tornado counted nine dead from the Niles area among its victims
and caused an estimated $140 million in property damage as it
traveled its 47-mile path.
To those who were familiar with the Niles Union
Cemetery, now called the Niles City Cemetery, its destruction
also felt like a loss.
“It was a beautiful cemetery way back when,”
said, Jim DeChristefero, owner of Niles Monument Co.,
which sits across the street from the cemetery.
May 31, 1985 Tornado damages in the Heaton
plot of Union Cemetery in Niles, Ohio. PO1.892a
Dave Liste, assistant
superintendent of the Niles light department, was 22 and working
in the department when the tornado came through the city. He
was one of the employees sent into the cemetery to assess damage.
“After it went through,
there were so many rumors flying around that there were bodies
exposed,” Liste said. “So we were sent into the
cemetery just to make sure” of the situation there. Liste
said he didn’t see any exposed bodies or caskets, but
the roof had been blown off the mausoleum situated at the heart
of the cemetery. Stone grave markers were also displaced. “It
took those big, granite stones, and just took them down,”
Liste said. “The cemetery was just so gorgeous at the
time and it ruined it.” Cars from a repair shop across
the street had been lifted into the cemetery, the paint blown
off the cars. “It was like they were sandblasted,”
With Vienna Road and Vienna Avenue
blocked by fallen trees and downed power lines, Liste said he
saw desperate residents driving into the cemetery, weaving through
the graves in an attempt to reach their homes or loved ones.
The state of Ohio brought in a
forestry service to start cutting up the trees, and most people
were barred from entering the cemetery.
Liste said a city curfew was put in place, except for emergency
and essential workers. In the street department, Liste was working
16 hours on, eight hours off in rotations, attempting to restore
power to the city — which “didn’t happen for
The Red Cross came around with
food trucks and fed emergency workers, or workers would go to
the high school cafeteria for quick meals. It was weeks before
the city regained a sense of normalcy, and even longer before
the cemetery was restored.
In time, new trees were planted,
mostly around the outside of the cemetery and along cemetery
driveways, and a new roof was put on the mausoleum.
A few years after the tornado,
the chapel was built at the front of the cemetery. In the 2000s,
a large columbarium for cremation burials was installed, and
three smaller columbariums were added last year. The cemetery
roads recently have been repaved, and next on the list is repair
to the bricks in the main gate.
Still, 35 years after the 1985 tornado, the memory of devastation
lingers in the form of salient details and strange stories of
pencils driven into trees, holes blasted in houses by Easter
baskets and chickens from a neighboring farm found in unusual
A series of photographs showing
in graphic detail, the aftermath of the tornado that ripped
through Niles on May 31, 1985. PO1.1830
Filling in the quarry at Union Cemetery during
September 1986. The mausoleum is in the background.
Union Cemetery - filling in the
quarry in front of the cemetery. Summer, 1986. PO1.899
Mausoleum in Union Cemetery after being repaired
due to damage suffered in the 1985 tornado. PO1.888
A photo of the gateway to the Niles Union cemetery
erected in memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Parker Tibbetts at the Hartzell
Avenue entrance sometime after 1940. Mrs. Hoffman was the daughter
of Mrs. Tibbetts. PO2.799
The Hartzell Avenue gateway entrance
to the Union Cemetery in 2019.
The Hartzell Avenue gateway entrance
to the Union Cemetery in 2022.
Erected in Honor of Mrs. Tibbetts.
A beautiful gateway has been constructed at the Hartzell Avenue
entrance to the Union Cemetery. The gateway and surrounding landscaping
is a decided asset to the cemetery and was erected by Mrs. Henry
H. Hoffman in memory of her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Parker
Mrs. Tibbetts was born in Niles and lived here 80 of her 84 years.
Active in church work at the Methodist Church, she was interested
in civic efforts and gave much of her time and energy to the W.C.T.U
(Woman’s Christian Temperance Union) and was the first president
of the W.R.C.A.D of V. and D.A.R. member, her interest was outstanding
in patriotic endeavors.
Mrs. Tibbetts was a helpful co-worker in the early projects of
the Niles Federation of Women’s Clubs and was interested
in tree planting. The Victory, Mount Vernon walnut tree, now standing
on the grounds of the McKinley Memorial, was raised by her from
seed and later planted there.
The Victory, Mount Vernon walnut
WWI Memorial at Union Cemetery.
The new chapel at union cemetery
after completion and landscaping in 1994.
An oak tree, named ‘Lieutenant
Mac’ for a soldier of World War I, was planted 25 years
ago on the lawn of the Tibbetts home at 810 Robbins Avenue.