The first burial in what is now Arcade Rural Cemetery was that of Otis Shepard in 1851. Two years later, the Arcade Rural Cemetery Association was formed and his son, Charles O. Shepard Sr., became its first president. The association purchased land with access from Park and Prospect streets, and dedication ceremonies were held on October 9, 1855
The “rural cemetery” movement was popular in many cities and towns in the United States in the mid-19th century to create places where people could spend time with their deceased relatives and friends in a park-like setting. As with other rural cemeteries, Arcade Rural was mostly laid out on a hill, with winding carriage paths and plenty of trees. Although the carriage paths are sometimes challenging for drivers in modern vehicles, the many mature trees and the cemetery’s distance from main streets make it a popular place for walkers.
Visitors to the cemetery might note that a number of people buried there actually died before the cemetery was created. For the first four decades of Arcade’s settlement, local burials took place in small burial grounds or family plots. After 1855, most of those people were re-interred in Arcade Rural and the earlier burial sites were abandoned. Among those who were re-interred were several veterans of the Revolutionary War.
Due to Arcade’s proximity to the Niagara River and Canada, this cemetery includes the remains of several men who went off to defend the border during the War of 1812. Over 200 veterans have been buried here, including those from the Civil War, both world wars, Korea and Vietnam. A few of the veterans’ gravestones are for men who died in the line of duty and were buried near where they died.
Perhaps the most notable burial was that of Francis H. “Fran” Striker in 1962. He was a prolific writer of radio shows in Buffalo in the 1920s and 1930s. One of those shows evolved into “The Lone Ranger” in 1933. Striker moved to the Detroit area, where he wrote many scripts and books for “The Lone Ranger,” “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon,” and “The Green Hornet.” He had a summer home near Arcade, and was a year-round resident of the village for the last five years of his life.
Monuments of many shapes and sizes can be found in this cemetery. Two of the best-known features are the life-size sculptures of Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Graves and the three female sculptures inside the fenced-in memorial to one of the Wilson families.
The cemetery has acquired additional land over the years, and space is available for many more burials. This is the largest of the three cemeteries in the Town of Arcade, the other two being the Roman Catholic cemeteries in East Arcade and the Village of Arcade. Since the village is located so close to Cattaraugus and Erie counties, many local residents have been buried in nearby cemeteries in those counties, as well as those in the neighboring towns in Wyoming County.