Emily Helena Crummer Lodge by Anonymous

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Emily Helena Crummer Lodge, 1828-1864.
Image courtesy of Michelle Ann Kratts

Her grave with spreading briar is grown,
And most the name o’er wends,
Upon the shattered fallen stone,
That tells of home and friends;

Are British hearts, so hard and cold,
And dead to Love’s bequest,
That Valor’s child forgotten sleeps,
In Stangers’ Rest?

O roll, Niagara’s mighty wave,
Sing to her in her dreams,
With tears of spray bedew her grave,
And sunlight flood with beams,

O birds at morn sing sweetly there,
Beside your happy rest,
And stars of night look kindly down,
In Strangers’ Rest.


Source:  Kratts, Michelle Ann. The Missed: Tales of Spirit & Tragic End at Niagara Falls.  2013.  Originally published in the Niagara Falls Gazette, August 1891.

The inscription states that Lodge “died many years ago at the Cataract House” hotel. Records indicate that she died in October 1864. For information about Lodge see chapter 2 of the Death Sketches section of The Missed by Michelle Ann Kratts

Lodge is buried in the Strangers’ Rest (also known as Travelers’ Rest) section of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, NY. See the grave record of Emily Helena Crummer Lodge

Niagara by Kathy Gilbert

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Deer in the Winter
Image courtesy of PxHere

The river carries me here
As a babe on its island’s shores I play
Palms and fingers squish soft sand, feet kick,
On my back, sun warmed laps of waves.

Currents change with the seasons
Moody green, then blue; milky, then grey
Factory polluted in a haphazard way.
In autumn steam rises after first frost

Buckhorn’s creek freezes over in white
Our skates’ steel cuts crust to granules of light
We hear the creak of the sheet unable
to bear our weight; it cracks, we lie on the ice

crawl to shore; imagine the classmate trapped
head under the lip of ice, face turned blue
frozen in his boots, red cap and jacket;
first of our generation to pay the price

like deer seeking to drink fresh water
stranded on ice floe; eyes wide in fear
headed for the Rapids, then the Falls.
Sooner or later the current carries us all.


Source: Kathy Gilbert, 2021

Award winning poet Kathy Gilbert grew up in Niagara Falls, NY, attending St John de La Salle, Prince of Peace, and 66th Street schools before moving to Grand Island.  She currently resides  in Northern California where she received an MFA in poetry from San Francisco State University. In 2020, she published a poetry collection, Aprils Three. Other poems have appeared in Transfer, Anomalous, Swampwriting, The Steel Toe Review, The Community of Writers, and,Vistas & Byways. She is currently working on a book about Niagara Falls.

Niagara Daredevil, 37, Buried Near the Falls by Gwendolyn MacEwen

My apologies to Gwendolyn MacEwen’s family for initially publishing this poem on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website without waiting for proper copyright permission.  It has been removed at the family’s request.


The poem, about daredevil Karel Soucek, was published  in Poetry Canada Review, vol. 8, no. 4,  1987

Read about Gwendolyn MacEwen

Epiphanies on the First Cold Day by Robert Billings

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The cover of Before the Heart Went Down by Robert Billings

1
I thought there was nothing in the fields of light
that was not there in darkness

After breakfast in a quiet house
surrounded by pastures of new frost
my heart crouches believing
the next sound will be
something it can sing

2
This is my persistent nightmare

I jump into a shallow river
Hy feet sink in mud
to mid-calf, the top
of my head
just breaks the surface

It’s November:
too soon for ice
to preserve me

At noon I warm my hands at the apples
ripening on a window sill

3
The smell of cold through an open window

On the corner of my desk
is a print of a mother-goddess
in a black plastic frame:

Syria
Third century B.C.

The guide-book defines
Civilization
means living together

Sometimes a glancing blow
is the back of my wife’s hand
slowly down my thigh

4
And so it comes back to this

In Munich 1974
a man in a bar
said a cormorant
dropping from a cliff
is the soul of
whatever flung this
earth on the sea

Midnight on the highway through Perth County
wearing sunglasses against the headlights
I bite through the cold skin of an apple


Source: Waves vol 11, no 2 & 3, Winter 1983

Robert Billings, born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and raised Fort Erie, became well known in Canadian literary circles as a poet, critic, teacher,  and editor of Poetry Canada Review and Poetry Toronto.  In 1983 he penned the poem “Epiphanies of the First Cold Day.” Epiphany 2 foreshadowed his eventual fate. In 1986 after his marriage broke down and bouts of depression hit him, he threw himself into the Niagara River. His body was not recovered until six months later.

Fellow poet and editor Herb Barrett paid tribute to Billings in his poem For Robert Billings

Watch the video At the Brink: A Personal Look at Suicides Over Niagara Falls by Michael Clarkson. Clarkson was a long-time friend of Robert Billings, who is one of the people discussed in the video.

A Shropshire Lad by John Betjeman

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Matthew Webb Killed in the Whirlpool Rapids July 24 1883. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

The gas was on in the Institute,
The flare was up in the gym,
A man was running a mineral line,
A lass was singing a hymn,
When Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Came swimming along the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley.
Swimming along –
Swimming along –
Swimming along from Severn,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank while swimming along to Heaven.

The sun shone low on the railway line
And over the bricks and stacks
And in at the upstairs windows
Of the Dawley houses’ backs
When we saw the ghost of Captain Webb,
Webb in a water sheeting,
Come dripping along in a bathing dress
To the Saturday evening meeting.
Dripping along –
Dripping along –
To the Congregational Hall;
Dripping and still he rose over the sill and faded away in a wall.

There wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carries the bricks to Lawley.
Rigid and dead –
Rigid and dead –
To the Saturday congregation,
Paying a call at Dawley Bank on the way to his destination.


Source: Betjeman’s Banana Blush: Sir John Betjeman the Poet Laureate Reads His Verse.  Charisma Records, 1973.

Read about Sir John Betjeman

Captain Matthew Webb was a world-renowned swimmer who attempted to swim the Whirlpool Rapids at Niagara Falls on July 24, 1883. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Niagara Falls, New York. Read about Captain Webb here.

Click here for another story about Webb’s ghost