In the 1950’s Ed Nizalowski was told of a black burial ground in the Oakley Corners State Forest by his father, but it wasn’t until 1981 that he was able to visit the site. This visit sparked a desire to learn if there was any truth behind the story.
Nizalowski has led hikes since 1992. On April 30 he will be giving an orientation session concerning the hike starting at 9 a.m. inside the Herrick Barn at the Bement-Billings Farmstead.
By examining census records, he was able to prove that Black people lived on a farm belonging to Madison Livermore in the 1870’s. When looking at other information pertaining to Black people in the area, Ed discovered an Afro-American past in Tioga County that stretched back to the mid-1700’s.
The upcoming hike will include information relating to the burial ground, Black history in Tioga County, a history of the farm that is now the state forest and some tips on how to interpret the rural landscape.
The hike has become much more than just an interesting aspect of local Black history. It will help give a glimpse of how primeval wilderness was transformed into a highly productive farm that is now a state forest.
Those not wishing or unable to go to the orientation session for the burial ground hike should meet at 10 a.m. at Oakley Corners, a spot near the center of the Oakley Corners State Forest. The hike is a relatively easy one with a well-marked trail.
Oakley Corners is three miles from the juncture of Wade Hollow and Route 38. (Wade Hollow is three miles south of the stoplight in Newark Valley on Route 38 or six miles north of the Village of Owego.) Travelers from the triple cities can take Dutchtown Road for about two miles off of Route 38B. The hike is normally done rain or shine, but severe weather may result in postponement.