The final resting place for many of Buffalo Polonia's forefathers is at St. Stanislaus Cemetery on Pine Ridge Road in Cheektowaga which is associated with St. Stanislaus Parish in Buffalo.
Early interments for Buffalo's Polonia (founded in 1853) took place at the nearby United German & French Cemetery. A cemetery association had been established in 1859 by six parishes, among them St. Michael's and St. Mary's in Buffalo. These two parishes is where Fr. John Pitass (1844-1913), who arrived in 1873 to become the founding Father of Buffalo's Polonia, performed baptisms, marriages and funerals for our pioneers until St. Stanislaus Church was officially opened for business in 1874.
According to the 50th anniversary book for St. Stanislaus Parish, "In 1888 Rev. John Pitass was notified by the administration of the German Cemetery, in which Poles from their arrival were buried, that henceforth Poles can no longer be buried there." However, this doesn't appear to be accurate since microfilmed records for United German & French Cemetery reveal that Poles continued to be buried there, although in greatly diminished numbers, after St. Stanislaus Cemetery was established in 1890. Certainly there were a few prepurchased lots for couples and families (i.e., not all interments were single graves).
Among those buried at United German & French Cemetery is an early pioneer priest named Fr. Francis Ciszek who died on April 28, 1888. He is buried among other dedicated priests in the circular Section A located in the portion of the cemetery on the west side of Pine Ridge Road. A modest upright gravestone marks his final resting place.
The early Polish pioneers don't seem to be interred in any particular section of the cemetery although a few surviving gravestones have been found for them, for example, Mrs. Magdalena Zastró¿yñska née Wojda, who died on Aug. 5, 1887 at the age of 57. She and her husband arrived in Buffalo in the late 1860s.
Fr. Pitass initially paid $5,000 dollars for a 22 acre farm off of Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga for the purpose of a Polish cemetery. However, it was later learned that the location could not legally be used as a cemetery due to its proximity to the city. Fr. Pitass then refunded the parish with his own money and kept the farm for himself. A portion of that property later became St. John Gualbert's Parish (founded in 1917) named in honor of Fr. Pitass' patron saint.
Fr. Pitass then purchased 20 acres on the east side of Pine Ridge Road (now the old section of St. Stanislaus Cemetery). The first interment was on Tues., Sept. 9, 1890 for Mrs. Apollonia Burzyñska née Kaczmarek (age 48) of Townsend Street in Section A 2, Line 1, Grave 1. For her burial the individual gravesite was blessed. The entire property was consecrated that fall.
Shortly thereafter Fr. Pitass purchased an additional five and a half acres of adjoining property. During the pastorship of Fr. Alexander Pitass (1875-1944), the nephew of Fr. John, several parcels were acquired on the west side of Pine Ridge Road (the new section) amounting to 97 acres. By 1948 over 60,000 people had been interred at St. Stanislaus Cemetery. In the early 1960s the Am-Pol Eagle reported that over 100,000 interments had taken place there.
One gravestone worthy of a special visit is that of Teodor Czarnecki and his wife Antonina née Tryjankowska in the new section. The couple was married on Sept. 14, 1884 near Bydgoszcz, Poland. They are the maternal grandparents of the late Edmund Muskie (originally Marciszewski), Polonia's most successful politician. He served as a U.S. Senator from Maine, 1968 vice presidential candidate, 1972 presidential candidate (briefly) and secretary of state during the Carter administration.
Incidentally, concerning a Polish American of international fame, Martha Stewart's maternal grandparents, Joseph and Frances Ruszkowski are buried at the nearby Mt. Calvary Cemetery. They were married on June 29, 1914 at Transfiguration Church in Buffalo.