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Mass grave discovered in Auburn could be McKinley assassin’s resting place

When William McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was buried, prison authorities wanted to remove all traces of him: Authorities doused sulfuric acid over the body and buried him in a plain, black coffin among a group of executed inmates.

The warden at the time estimated the assassin’s body would disintegrate within 12 hours.

But the burial grounds of Czolgosz and others who were condemned may have been discovered last weekend when a family living outside Fort Hill Cemetery on Fitch Avenue in Auburn unearthed some bones while doing construction work, said the Citizen, an Auburn newspaper.

The bones are likely those of the executed Auburn inmates, said Auburn Police Department Detective Bryant Bergenstock.

“Based on the research and the historical data thus far, the remains are most likely that of former inmates from the correctional facility, however the investigation is ongoing,” he told the Citizen.

Currently, the bones are at the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the sex, age and number of individuals.

New York State historical records and newspapers state that the land was used as a convict ceremony from 1897 to 1909, according to the Citizen.

The lot changed hands in 1909, but it is unclear when the land deeds failed to describe the property’s burial ground. Recent county property records from 2014 do not mention the land’s history as a convict graveyard, the Citizen reported.

McKinley was assassinated on Sept. 6, 1901, during Buffalo’s Pan-American Exhibition. Czolgosz, 28, described as an anarchist, fired two shots into the chest of the president, who underwent surgery and appeared to be rallying before dying Sept. 14 of gangrene that had gone undetected.

Czolgosz was convicted and executed in the electric chair at Auburn Prison on Oct. 29.

email chsieh@buffnews.com

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