Grand Gardens of the Niagara Portage




Saturday, July 18, 2015 10am-4pm

Offers a wide variety of activities at 4 distinctly different venues in Niagara Falls

The New York State Parks Trolley will provide transportation between locations


The NACC 1201 Pine Avenue

10am-Noon - Children’s Garden

12 Noon – Presentation to Showcase the Children’s Garden

Established in 2014 to teach children how to grow fruits and vegetables

The garden area is a place where visitors can sit on benches to relax or read

1-7pm – 9th annual Good News Gospel Festival


Schoellkopf Park Portage & Pine

10am-Joy Kuebler Landscape Architectural presentation

10am-1pm – Schoellkopf Garden Club will be available to greet guests

11am- Tai Chi in the Park with Ray Robertson

12:30 pm–Yoga in the Park with Laura Vendrys from Tree of Life Yoga Studio 


Oakwood Cemetery 763 Portage Road

10am-Welcome to Historic Oakwood

11am-Mike and Kathleen Shadrack “Smug Creek Gardens”presentation

Noon-3 Sales of Hostas by WNYHS and book sale by the Shadracks

1 pm- Tree Tour-John Farfaglia-Cornell Cooperative Extension

3pm-Sally Cunningham CNLP presentation on “The Power of Garden Tourism”

Look what’s happened in  Western New York!


Niagara Falls Public Library 1425 Main Street

will feature a book signing by Michelle Kratts local author in Turtle Rock Garden from 10 a.m. – noon, as well as a book sale from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the International Peace Garden. The library will also have childrens activities and crafts in the “Learning Together Sculpture Area” from 1-4 p.m.


Frederick Law Olmsted: Passages in the Life of an Unpractical Man, a one-man play by Gerry Wright, will be presented at 1 pm on Saturday, July 18, 2015 at the Niagara Falls Public Library, 1425 Main Street, Niagara Falls N.Y. This free show honors the life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture.  The play provides insight into Olmsted's passionate vision as he played critical roles in the dynamics of slavery as a writer and as the Executive Secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the Civil War.  Olmsted and his partner Vaux designed the Niagara Falls State Park, Buffalo's Delaware park and New York City's Central Park.


The New York State Parks Trolley will stop at each of the 5 venues on a continuous basis. They will pass by the following locations along the route from Portage Road to Main Street to Pine Avenue that will feature plantings of their own.

Carnegie Building 1022 Main Street

It was designed and built in 1902-1904, with funds provided by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The structure cost $50,000 to build and opened in April 1904. It is a low one story brick structure. It functioned as a library until March 9, 1974 when the library’s collections outgrew the small building and were moved to the new Earl Brydges Building at 1425 Main Street, and is now occupied by the offices of Niagara Falls Urban Renewal Agency, along with other city departments. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

City Hall 745 Main Street

It is a historic building located at Niagara Falls and was constructed in 1923-1924, in the Beaux-Arts style. The building embodies Neo-Classical revival architectural details. It features a centrally arranged rectangular form, with a central projecting pavilion, fluted columns with Ionic capitals, and smooth ashlar sandstone walls with pilasters. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

There will be parking available at each of the participating venues, and one can board the trolley at any one of them to get to another. All 5 have bathroom facilities available and some will also have food and/or drinks.

Note the hourly presentations in red. There will be at least 1 at each location on the hour, and will last about 45 minutes. Hopefully that should give attendees enough time to make it to the next presentation on the hour.

“Gardens will be in full bloom, and we look forward to greeting you to Niagara Falls.”


Join us for the Grand Garden Walk of the Niagara Portage

NIAGARA FALLS, NY  (Oakwood Cemetery) - Join us August 9, 2014 for a Grand Garden Walk of the Niagara Portage.  Stop at each of the 5 sites and drink in the gorgeous gardens.  Sites include the Niagara Falls Public Library, Oakwood Cemetery, The Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, Schoellkopf Park and the Walnut Avenue Community Garden.  Hours vary for each site, so download the brochure/map and check out all the information.  

Is she, or isn’t she…a relative of Mary Todd Lincoln? It’s your turn to find out.

by Michelle Ann Kratts


There is a grave at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls and a spectacular rumor has made it one of the most interesting stops on the grounds.  For almost one hundred and sixty years a woman has kept a secret buried with her in Lot #231.  The secret involves our First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln.  Is it true that Mrs. Lolly/Lowly Todd Childs, resident of Oakwood Cemetery, is a relation of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln? Various family members, throughout the years, have claimed that their ancestor was directly related by blood to President Lincoln’s wife.  If that is true, then there is definitely cause for great celebration in the city of Niagara Falls.  However, there are parts of the story that just do not add up.  The time has come to put these ghosts to rest.  Researchers and family members have been searching for the proof that would corroborate this story but have not been able to do so.  So now it is up to you! 

Oakwood Cemetery Association is calling upon all researchers to help find documentation that would connect Mrs. Lolly/Lowly Todd Childs to Mrs. Lincoln, or that would prove that there is no connection.   Please send your research to Oakwood Cemetery Association at by the anniversary of Mrs. Childs’ death, November 26, 2013.  The first researcher with definitive proof (one way or the other) will receive a copy of the DVD, Lincoln, for their work. 

We have been compiling files on Mrs. Childs for years now, but there are still so many questions.  Recently, her old grave was dug up by our CSI (Cemetery Stone Investigators) at Oakwood Cemetery, Jason Hake and Brendan Kratts.  Pete Ames, historian and board member, directed them to the possible site of our lady’s burial.  Her stone had disappeared under grass and dirt.  The boys were spot on and as they hit the dirt they knew they had found her.  They peeled away the growth of centuries past and then there she was…”Lolly.” Part of her name could still be made out, though her grave had been broken down into over a dozen pieces. 


We do not know exactly where Lolly/Lowly (also known as Sally) Todd Childs was born or who her parents were.  We do know from the 1850 Census of Niagara Falls that it was said that she was born around 1776 in Connecticut.  We also know that she was married to Stephen Childs, also of Connecticut. 


There is another Sally Todd that is often confused with our Lolly/Lowly Todd Childs.  This particular Todd woman is documented as the daughter of Gideon Todd and Prudence Tuttle.   However, we are quite certain she is not the same woman as this Sally Todd was married to Benjamin Baldwin. 

Stephen Childs came to the Niagara area around 1822.  He was one of the founders of the Lewiston Presbyterian Church.  They were also early members of the First Presbyterian Church of Niagara Falls.

From the Session Minutes, 1824-1843, First Presbyterian Church, Niagara Falls.

We have not been able to find much more on Mrs. Childs until her death and burial in Oakwood Cemetery.  She was most likely buried in the Old Burying Grounds, which had been located on the North side of Main Street and between Second and Third Streets, and removed to Oakwood around 1855 (along with many of the other graves from the Old Burying Grounds). 

Several generations of this family lived in the Niagara area and their names are quite familiar.  It is possible that Lolly and Stephen had the following children: 

Harriet (who married Col. Phillip Tufford, who served in the War of 1812, Battles of Lundy’s Lane and Queenston Heights).  They were married in Lewiston and lived in Suspension Bridge as farmers.  They are both buried in Witmer Cemetery.  The Tufford home still stands on Packard Road and Wagner Drive in Town of Niagara. 


Col. Phillip Tufford, Witmer Cemetery  ( picture added by Matt Adair)



 Harriet Childs Tufford, Witmer Cemetery  ( picture added by Matt Adair)

It is believed that another possible child of Lolly Todd Childs and Stephen Childs was Benjamin Childs, also known as B.F. Childs.  He was the founder of the International Hotel.  He was married to Julia (unknown) Childs. 

The line that we have been following includes Harriet Childs Tufford and Col. Phillip Tufford’s daughter, Mary Ann Tufford Ortt.  Mary Ann was born 27 November 1818 in Lewiston and married David Ortt in Lewiston on 4 December 1844.  They both died and are buried in Canada.


David Phillip Ortt, courtesy

Mary Ann and David’s daughter, Ann Jane (Jennie) Ortt, was born 15 October 1860, in Simcoe, Ontario.  Jennie was married to Alfred Elsheimer and lived in Niagara Falls, New York.   It is possible that our “Mary Todd Lincoln” stories came from Jennie.    For stories during Jennie’s lifetime ran rampant and filled the newspapers both in the United States and in Canada.  Most articles state that Lolly Todd Childs was the sister of Robert Smith Todd (the father of Mary Todd Lincoln).  That would make Lolly, Mrs. Lincoln’s aunt, and her children first cousins to the First Lady. 

Some of the following articles contain information concerning the ancestral relations between Lolly Todd Childs and Mrs. Lincoln.  They are all from the Niagara Falls Gazette.




We have looked into the family of Robert Smith Todd, Mary Todd Lincoln’s father, but have not found a reference to Lolly.  We have not found any ties to Connecticut, either.    Robert Smith Todd was born in 1791 to Levi Todd and Jane Briggs.  Levi Todd was born in Montgomery, Pennsylvania.  He and his brothers were founders of Kentucky.  Genealogies state that Levi was married twice: first to Jane Briggs (m. 1779-1800) and second to Jane Holmes (1802-1807).  Lolly was said to have been born around 1776.  Was there another earlier wife?  It was also said that Levi Todd was the father of at least eleven children.  Could one of these children be Lolly Todd Childs?  During the American Revolutionary period he was in Kentucky and the commander of the Kentucky Militia.  At this point there is no mention of him having a residence in Connecticut.  Perhaps Lolly was not born in Connecticut, either, as we have not proven that as well.  If a birthplace is written on a census it is still quite possible that the location is not accurate. 

Children of Levi Todd (including Robert Smith Todd) have included the following:

Ann Mariah Todd (17 JUN 1778-?)

Hannah Todd Stuart (1781 - 1834)
Elizabeth Todd Carr (1782 - 1863)
John Todd (1787 - 1865)

Nancy (date unknown)

David Todd (March 29, 1786-June 9, 1859) Columbia, Missouri.
Maria Logan Todd Bullock (1788 - 1861)
Robert Smith Todd (1791 - 1849)
Samuel Todd (1793 - 1876)

Margaret B. Todd Rodes (June 4, 1799- November 27, 1865)

Roger North Todd (September 5, 1797-April 11, 1846)
Jane Todd Breck (1796 - 1856)
James C. Todd (1802 - 1849)


Unfortunately there is no Lolly Todd Childs.  Or is it possible she could be either the unknown “Ann Mariah” or the “unknown” Nancy mentioned above?  And what about the name “Lolly?”  She is also referred to as “Lowly” or “Sally.”  Some sources say it may be a form of Polly, Molly, or even Laura or Lillian.

As for Mary Todd Lincoln…it was said that she often visited Niagara Falls.  According to one account…”she always returned to Niagara with new interest.”  Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln’s visit in 1857 is forever immortalized in pen and ink on the Cataract House Register.  Perhaps there was a reason Mrs. Lincoln sought refuge at Niagara Falls.   Was she visiting with family? 

We hope that you can help us solve this Family History Mystery from Oakwood Cemetery.  There are family members today that are very excited about the possibility of solving this enigma, and of course, we at Oakwood Cemetery would love to finally put this story to rest. 

Good luck!  Any new information will be very helpful.


Robert Smith Todd

Mary Todd Lincoln




Website issues

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (Oakwood Cemetery) - Due to Hurricane Sandy the Network Operation Center for our Web Provider ( in New York City has lost power.  Normally this would be a non-issue.  Back up generator would kick on and it would be business as usual.  However, with the flooding involved in NYC the pumps for the fuel for the generators have been lost.  I can't say enough about Squarespace and the communication they are providing about the situation.  They are doing yoeman's work keeping things rolling, however, there may be some glitches along the way.  Please understand that these are temporary and will be resolved shortly.  Thanks for your understanding, and thanks again to Squarespace for keeping us on the web, and letting us know where we stand with the repairs needed.  

Flower pots for Mother's Day this Sunday

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (Oakwood Cemetery) - The Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse at Opportunities Unlimited Niagara has created some beautiful flower pots for Mother's Day.  The pots are available at the cemetery from 9am - 3pm Saturday, and Sunday.  Prices are $25 and $30 for 10" and 12" pots.  Monies go to support Opportunities Unlimited and a small portion goes to the cemetery.

Annie Edson Taylor

Recognizing that March is National Women's History Month, we wanted to tell you a little about one of our more famous residents.

In the fall of 1901 Annie Edson Taylor took a trip that she thought would bring her fame and fortune.  On her 63rd birthday the former school teacher climbed into a barrel with her pet cat at her side.  The hatch was closed and the barrel was set adrift above Niagara Falls.  She began a voyage that day that only a handful of people over the last century would live to tell about. 

She began her life in Auburn, NY and grew up in a comfortable lifestyle.  Although her father passed away when Annie was 12, his inheritance left them in a style the family was accustomed to.  At 17 Annie met David Taylor, and after a short courtship they were married.  A baby followed but passed away within days of being born.  At 25 she became a widow after David was wounded in the Civil War. After a stint in San Antonio, Texas as a school teacher, she decided to move back to New York State where she became a dance instructor.  She liked the finer things, and as her parent's inheritance began to run out she became more desperate to make ends meet.  The thought of living a life with less than finer things literally "drove her to the brink".

The New York Times, October 25, 1901


She Is Alive, but Suffering Greatly from Shock 
Plunges from the Horseshoe Cataract -- 
-- Thousands View the Attempt -- 
"Don't Try It,” She Advises Others. 

Special to the New York Times.

NIAGARA FALLS, N. Y., Oct. 24. -- A widowed woman, Mrs. Anna Edson Taylor, safely passed over Niagara Falls in a barrel this afternoon. The trip from end to end was witnessed by several thousand people. The fact that Mrs. Taylor failed to go on Wednesday did not lessen the confidence of the public in her. Still everybody was agreed that it was a foolhardy trip.

It was beyond any conception but her own that she would live to tell the story. But she is alive to-night, and the doctors say as soon as she gets over the shock she will be all right.

This initial voyage over Niagara's cataract began at Port Day, nearly a mile from the brink of the Falls. From Port Day Mrs. Taylor and her barrel were taken out to Grass Island, where she entered the barrel, and at 3:50 she was in tow of a boat speeding well out into the Canadian current. At 4:05 the barrel was set adrift, and Mrs. Taylor was at the mercy of currents in waters that never before have been know to spare a human life once in its grasp.

From the spot where the rowboat left the barrel the current runs frightfully swift and soon breaks over the reefs that cause the water to toss in fury. The barrel was weighted with 200-pound anvil, and it floated nicely in the water, Mrs. Taylor apparently retaining an upright position for the greater part of the trip down the river and through the rapids.

Fortunately the barrel kept well within the deep water, and except for passing out of sight several times, in the white-crested waves, it was in view for the greater part of the mile. In passing over the Horse Shoe Fall the barrel kept toward the Canadian side at a point 300 feet from the centre.

It dropped over the fall at 4:23 o'clock, the bottom well down. In less than a minute it appeared at the base of the fall, and was swept down stream. The current cast it aside in an eddy, and, floating back up stream, it was held between two eddies until captured at 4:40 o'clock.

As it was landed on a rock out in the river it was difficult to handle, but several men soon had the hatch off. Mrs. Taylor was alive and conscious, but before she could be taken out of the barrel it was necessary to saw a portion of the top away. Her condition was a surprise to all. She walked along the shore to a boat, and was taken down the river to the Maid of the Mist Dock, where she entered a carriage and was brought to this city.

She is suffering greatly from the shock. She has a three-inch cut in her scalp back of the the right ear, but how or when she got it she does not know. She complains of pain between the shoulders, but this is thought to be from the fact that her shoulders were thrown back during the plunge, as she had her arms in straps, and these undoubtedly save her nick from breaking.

In passing over the falls she admits having lost consciousness. While thanking God for sparing her life, she warns everybody against trying to make the trip. So severe was the shock that she wanders in her talk, but there is little doubt but that she will be in good condition within a day or two.

Three doctors are at her bedside to-night. Mrs. Taylor is forth-three years old. She wasborn in Auburn, N. Y., and has crossed the American Continent eight times. During her stay here she has impressed everybody with her wonderful nerve.

The barrel in which Mrs. Taylor made the jouney is 4 1/2 fee high and about 3 feet in diameter. A leather harness and cushions inside protected her body. Air was secured through a rubber tube connected with a small opening near the top of the barrel.

Mrs. Taylor is a school teacher and recently came her from Bay City, Mich. She was born in Auburn, N. Y., and is forty-three years old. She has cross the American Continent from ocean to ocean eight times. 



Perhaps Annie's vanity got the best of her when she knocked twenty years off her age.  

The trip over the Falls in a barrel never brought her the money she had hoped.  She died destitute in Lockport, NY April 29, 1921 at the Lockport Home and Infirmary. The Oakwood Cemetery Association donated a grave to honor her place in Niagara Falls history.  She is buried next to fellow riverman Carlisle D. Graham. Also in the same row is Captain Matthew Webb, first man to swim the English Channel, and Francis Abbott, "the Hermit of Goat Island".

Thanks to Wikipedia, and for information on Annie. 

Note:  Please see our News page for an exciting development concerning Annie Edson Taylor.