Pieces of the Past
Artifacts, Documents, and Primary Sources
from Letchworth Park History

Mr. Letchworth's Grave

After learning about the life and works of William Pryor Letchworth, one might assume that his mortal remains would rest beneath an ornate monument - a fitting tribute to a man of his importance and means.

But as you will see below, such is not the case. Mr. Letchworth, the great benefactor who gave us the Park that bears his name, sleeps beneath a simple, but special stone.

Photo by Dawn Brooks

Six months before he died, Mr. Letchworth wrote to his brother Josiah, detailing his final wishes. " I would like my remains to be placed in a rough hewn stone sarcophagus, after the general design of that illustrated in the sixth edition of the life of Mary Jemison, page 274. The sarcophagus I desire to have taken from the Blue Stone Quarry on the Genesee River, a few miles above Portageville. I desire that on the ground above it there be laid a perfectly plain slab...upon which slab shall be inscribed my name and the date of my birth and decease, only. If practicable, I desire that the slab be taken from the hard rock of the upper strata of Table Rock at the Lower Falls, which, if I remember rightly, is from twelve to sixteen inches thick. I think this slab had best be placed directly upon the surface of the ground, without any masonry underneath it, the inclination to be the same as the ground surrounding it." (Larned p 420-21)

After his death on December 1, 1910, Josiah hoped to carry out all of his brother wishes. The only problem was the gravestone itself - it proved to be to difficult to cut a suitable stone from the Lower Falls. It was decided to take the stone from the Middle Falls, not far from his beloved Glen Iris. The stone was cut, shaped, and engraved with

William Pryor Letchworth

Born, Fifth Month, 26, 1823

Died, Twelfth Month, 1, 1910

Photo by Dawn Brooks

Photo by Dawn Brooks

Why such a simple marker for such a remarkable man? Why isn't he buried in the Park with an elaborate stone, perhaps embellished with his statue?

First of all, perhaps because of his Quaker background, Mr. Letchworth was never one for ostentation. His Glen Iris, for example, was enough of a mansion for his taste.

It is also likely that Mr. Letchworth saw his Glen Iris Estate - the new Letchworth State Park - as the real monument to his life and work. No statue is needed - just gaze at the Middle Falls, and you will be reminded of the remarkable man who preserved the Portage Falls for generations to come.




Special thanks to Dawn Brooks for visiting Mr. Letchworth's Grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery and giving us permission to use her photographs!

Also, go to our links page to find the link to the Forest Lawn Cemetery Web Page.

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