Wrong turn to Niagara Falls leads to moving discovery in Lewiston

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Lewiston is home to the Freedom Crossing Monument, which was dedicated about four years ago along the bank of the Niagara River.

Photo by Tom Rivers

Photo by Tom Rivers

I tried to stay on Route 104 last night on the trip to the Aquarium of Niagara. Somewhere in Lewiston I missed a turn and ended up next to the Niagara River. I was running late, and didn’t welcome another delay.

I was taking my son and his little sister to spend the night with Scouts from Pack 164 in Albion at Aquarium of Niagara. We would “camp out” in the aquarium. We went on this outing two years earlier and I trusted my memory to basically stay on 104 until Whirlpool Street.

I missed a sign in Lewiston and we traveled through the historic village and then reached the Niagara River. We were clearly off course.

But the wrong turn was a blessing. We stumbled upon the “Freedom Crossing Monument,” which now ranks as the most moving statuary memorial I’ve ever seen.

This memorial was dedicated on Oct. 14, 2009, on the bank of the Niagara River. It shows slaves trying to flee into Canada with help from some locals. A baby is being passed to a mother, who appears desperate to keep moving, to head for freedom.

The memorial celebrates the historical importance of the Niagara River as a gateway to freedom on the Underground Railroad. I’ve heard snippets about Orleans County homes along the route to freedom, but I don’t know any specifics. I’d like to learn more.

The memorial in Lewiston includes five figures and a boat. The Historical Association of Lewiston pushed for the project, which cost $230,000.

I’ve been trying to rally support for a quarrymen’s memorial in Orleans County. I think Albion makes the most sense for a statue of a quarrymen. Albion is centrally located in a county that was home to thousands of immigrant quarry workers.

Many people support the memorial concept for the quarrymen. Others have told me I’m crazy. But after seeing the memorial in Lewiston, I think we should consider a bigger project than just one statue to honor the quarrymen, with sites in Medina, Albion and Holley – canal villages that all were boomtowns because of the sandstone quarries.

To the people of Lewiston: Well done. Thank you for honoring our Western New York heritage.