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Union Cemetery

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Main entrance to Union cemetery.

Main entrance to Union cemetery.

Union Cemetery was formed in 1863.
By Gina Buccino, Niles Daily Times 1984 Special Edition

Niles 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 Heaton.

Tombstones for John and Hannah Heaton.

The 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.

Daniel 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 tombstone.

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.

Naomi Heaton grave marker.

John Heaton grave marker.

John Heaton grave marker.

Priscilla Eaton grave marker.

Priscilla Eaton grave marker.

James Heaton

James Heaton
1770-1856

Margaret Heaton

Margaret Heaton
1771-1823

Warren Luse grave marker.

Warren Luse grave marker.


View of the Thomas E. Thomas crypt located in Union Cemetery in Niles, Ohio.

View of the Thomas E. Thomas crypt located in Union Cemetery in Niles, Ohio. Dated May 1986. PO1.893

Among 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.

Heaton plot in Union Cemetery after the Niles Historical Society repaired and cleaned up the tornado damage. Dated May 1986. PO1.900

Walking 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.

Oliver and 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 Cemetery

Holloway crypt located in Union Cemetery
in Niles, Ohio. Dated May 1986 PO1.889

Photo of a crypt damaged by the 1985 tornado. Damage is confined to upper wall next to roof on the left side.

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.

Heaton plot in Union Cemetery after the Niles Historical Society repaired and cleaned up the tornado damage. Dated May 1986 .PO1.900a


iew of cemetery destruction at Bentley Avenue and 'Dead End' sign.

View of cemetery destruction at Bentley Avenue and 'Dead End' sign. PO2.699

avugrincic@tribtoday.com
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.

May 31, 1985 Tornado damages in the Heaton plot of Union Cemetery in Niles, Ohio. PO1.892a

May 31, 1985 Tornado damages in the Heaton plot of Union Cemetery in Niles, Ohio.

PO1.892

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,” Liste said.

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.

RESTORATION
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 days.”

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 places.


A series of photographs showing in graphic detail, the aftermath of the tornado that ripped through Niles on May 31, 1985.

A series of photographs showing in graphic detail, the aftermath of the tornado that ripped through Niles on May 31, 1985. PO1.1830

A series of photographs showing in graphic detail, the aftermath of the tornado that ripped through Niles on May 31, 1985.

PO1.1831

PO1.1850


Filling in the quarry at Union Cemetery during September 1986. The mausoleum is in the background.

Filling in the quarry at Union Cemetery during September 1986. The mausoleum is in the background. PO1.898

Union Cemetery - filling in the quarry in front of the cemetery. Summer, 1986.

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.

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

The Hartzell Avenue gateway entrance
to the Union Cemetery in 2019.

The Hartzell Avenue gateway entrance

The Hartzell Avenue gateway entrance
to the Union Cemetery in 2022.

Memorial Gateway 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 Tibbetts.

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 tree.

The Victory, Mount Vernon walnut tree.


WWI Memorial at Union Cemetery.

WWI Memorial at Union Cemetery.

The new chapel at union cemetery after completion and landscaping in 1994.

The new chapel at union cemetery after completion and landscaping in 1994.

The new chapel at union cemetery after completion and landscaping in 1994.

PO1.895

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.


     

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