Before 1875, deceased parishioners were buried around the church itself in the custom of the old country of Germany. At that time, there was a sizeable community of people living in the vicinity of the church, and as Rev. A. Frey wrote in his book, “Historical Sketch of SS. Peter and Paul’s Parish, Hamburg, NY, 1831-1900,” “the more that portion of the village situated in the neighborhood of the Church was populated, the more the necessity of removing the dead from there showed itself.” Throughout our country, there was a general movement to close church graveyards and to move them into new cemeteries which were located in the countryside. This also happened in the village of Hamburg as the graveyard on the corner of Union and Lake Streets was closed and re-established as Prospect Lawn Cemetery outside the village limits. In 1875, Rev. Vincenz Scheffels purchased four acres of land off East Main Street for the sum of $600 and the present cemetery was established. Visitors will notice many gravestones from years prior to 1875 in the cemetery, as graves and markers were moved from the churchyard to the new cemetery. “After the land had been duly blessed and laid out in lots, the Parishioners took the remains of their relatives out of their former resting place near the church and transferred them to the different lots acquired by them in the new Cemetery.”
Rev. Anthony Adolph developed the cemetery by having an iron fence erected around it between 1884 and 1889.
In 1929, the cemetery needed to be enlarged and Msgr. Anthony Veit purchased an additional eight acres of land from Matt Alf for the sum of $8,000.
Msgr. Gerard Green made great improvements to the cemetery in 1991-92, installing drainage and widening the entrance. The large stone cemetery sign was erected at the entrance in 1993 and the old Moss Road was renamed Veit Road in memory of our longest-serving pastor. Older parishioners still speak of Father Veit, his sister Lena, and the section of land adjacent to the cemetery which Father Veit used for a large vegetable garden. The cemetery is the final resting place of several other beloved priests; former pastor, Rev. Vincenz Scheffels; Msgr. Anton LaRusch, Rev. Vincent Kloepfer and Rev. Norbert Selzler.
Two antique limestone statues of St. Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary stand in our cemetery. These statues originally stood in niches of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Buffalo until Msgr. Green brought them to Hamburg. Msgr. Green felt that our cemetery would be an excellent place for these two statues because, long ago, Rev. John Nicholas Mertz (1764-1844), who served at Our Lady of Lourdes church, had also served the Catholics of Hamburg before SS Peter and Paul church was established in 1844. The statue of the Blessed Virgin stands in a wooded area near the two marble cremains receptacles.
A third antique statue was added in 2011 through the efforts of our former pastor Rev. Mark J. Wolski. When the parish of St. John the Evangelist, on Seneca Street in South Buffalo, was being closed, Father Wolski arranged to have this statue brought to Hamburg and installed in the newest section of our cemetery. This statue had been in the garden of a Delaware Avenue home for years before it came to St. John the Evangelist church, but its origins before that time are uncertain.
Our cemetery has many old gravestones marking the gravesites of early Hamburg residents.
Many members of the twenty-two families who founded our parish in 1844 are buried in this cemetery and many of their stones have inscriptions in the German language. Many of the individuals who donated the stained glass windows of the saints are buried in our cemetery. This includes the Riehle, Conrad, Hund, Schumer, Kloepfer, Klimaszeske, Kruse, Rauch, Heil and Conde families. Many of the twenty-four saints’ stained glass windows in the church are memorials to members of these families and most of the windows have a pair of saints, one male and one female, with the same first names as the donors of the windows. For example, the Riehle windows show St. Martin of Tours and St. Mary Magdalene, honoring the donors, Martin Riehle and his wife, Magdalene. The pastor from 1900 to 1920, Rev. Anthony Bornefeld, donated a set of windows showing St. Francis Xavier and St. Catherine to honor his parents, Francis and Catherine Bornefeld. Rev. Bornefeld is buried in our cemetery, in the “Priest’s Section” which is marked by a large white marble cross with a bronze corpus of Jesus Christ. This monument was given by George Kopp, whose own large granite family monument is nearby.
Other notable graves include George Kopp, who operated Kopp’s Hotel and Opera House; Lawrence Bley, one of the architects of our present church; John A. Kloepfer, who served as president of Liberty Savings Bank, and whose generosity provided a water system for the cemetery.
Our cemetery is the final resting place of Miss Pauline Harter, whose sister Caroline Harter donated the magnificent monstrance which is used for benediction. The monstrance is engraved, “In memory of the blessed virgin Pauline” and it dates from 1882.
The Harter family monument has a lengthy inscription in the German language, with passages from the Holy Bible asking for the living to pray for the deceased.
SS Peter and Paul Cemetery is a beautiful and historic place to visit and an excellent option for a final resting place.