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People Inc. and the Collins Correctional Facility Assist with Restoration of Wheater Road Cemetery in the Town of Collins

People Inc. and the Collins Correctional Facility will host a Ceremony of Remembrance to honor the lives of individuals who now rest at Wheater Road Cemetery. The event will be held on Thursday, September 29 at 11 a.m. at Wheater Road Cemetery, which is on Wheater Road between Route 62 and Bagdad Road in the Town of Collins. Former residents of the Gowanda Psychiatric Center will be commemorated with a memorial garden, dove release and a brief program.

In a grassy hollow in the town of Collins, People Inc. employees and program participants have spent the last three summers restoring the Wheater Road Cemetery. In this unmarked area, at least 1,200 patients who resided at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center are buried, most with anonymous numbered graves. Burials began after the center opened as the Gowanda Homeopathic Hospital in 1898. Two sections of the cemetery contain cast iron grave markers. In many cases, these were straightened and staked into place. Other sections closer to Clear Creek contain gravestones. In one area, the size of a football field, there were only three stones visible. After much exploration and excavation, nearly 500 stones are now resting on the surface. Each stone was painstakingly unearthed, cleaned and set on the ground again. This restoration project, led by People Inc., is helping to restore some dignity and honor to their lives. The Wheater Road Cemetery is the final resting place of approximately 1,200 people who resided in what was known as Gowanda State Hospital and later the J. N. Adam Developmental Center, which opened in 1898 to provide residential care for the "insane and idiotic." The restoration endeavor is an example of the strides that have been made in the treatment of people with disabilities and to acknowledge their history.

This is the third cemetery which People Inc. volunteers have helped to restore. In total, more than 2,000 graves of patients in the Office of Mental Health and New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities system have been touched by the work. Monuments were placed in the two previous cemeteries. The Collins Correctional Facility has generously donated use of equipment and volunteers to maintain the grounds. People Inc. has been joined along the way by volunteers from the Office of Mental Health, the Cattaraugus County Mental Health Association, Randolph Academy, St. Bonaventure University and Siena College. Hundreds of spring bulbs have been planted and a heart shaped garden will be installed.

As People Inc. concludes its work at the Collins site, the human services agency has been asked to assist with another abandoned cemetery in Lockport. Restoration efforts there will begin in the spring of 2012.

People Inc. is a not-for-profit health and human services agency providing programs and services to more than 10,000 people with special needs, their families, and seniors throughout Western New York. Since 1971, People Inc. has assisted individuals to achieve greater degrees of independence and productivity.

Note to Media: As per the guidelines of the Collins Correctional Facility, members of the media are asked to kindly RSVP if you are able to attend the event to provide any necessary authorization to be on the grounds. If you have any questions or to RSVP, please contact Nicole Forgione, People Inc. public affairs manager, at nforgione@people-inc.org or at 716.817.7490 (office) or 716.598.9692 (cell). Thank you.

Directions to Wheater Road Cemetery

1. Take the 90 West toward Erie, Exit at 57 A (Eden Evans Center Road)

2. Turn left on to Eden Evans Center Road

3. Proceed into the village of Eden

4. Turn right onto Route 62

5. Proceed on route 62 through North Collins and into Collins

6. Across from the Collins correctional facility, you will see a barn on the corner at the left - turn left, this is Wheater Road

7. Just past the farm land on left, there will be a tire track drive - park in grassy area there

8. Walk down the hill and look for folks working toward the front of cemetery

 

1219 North Forest Road | P.O. Box 9033 | Williamsville, New York 14231
Phone: 716.817.7400 | Toll Free NY 1.888.7PEOPLE | Fax: 716.634.3889

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