Monday, January 26, 2015

A Colonel and A Faithful Slave

This tall, lichen-spotted sandstone with an urn and flame atop it stands on the old South Ridge within sight of the Ann Elizabeth Brown Wiles cross and the McIntyre lot.

Sandstone likes this tends to weather quite poorly, but this one is in fairly good condition and much of its lettering is still quite legible.

The Relatives and Descendants of Henry Quackenbush 
Whose remains are deposited here, to wit: 
Elizabeth Rosebone, his widow
Catherine and Catalina, his daughters
Jacob J. Lansing, his son in law
Jacob J. Lansing
Jacob Lansing and Susan Benedict, children of his grandson
Jacob Lansing,
John Quackenbush and Catherine, his wife
And Nancy, his servant.  A faithful slave.

Sacred to the memory of Col. Henry Quackenbush
Who having lived the life, died the death
Of the righteous on the 2d February 1813
Aged 76 years.
Co. Quackenbish was with Lord Amherst at
Ticonderoga, with Gen. Gates at Saratoga,
"In the days that tried mens soulds."
Chairman of the Committee of Safety, member
Of the Colonie Legislature, Elector of President
and Vice-President
In all the relations of life virtuous.
In all the stations which he filled faithful,
Respected and honored in life lamented
In death.

His POSTERITY as a memento of their regard
For his memory, have erected this monument.

Born in  1737, he was the son of Peter Quackenbush and Anna Oothout.  His family built the Quackenbush House, the city's second oldest building which now houses the Olde English Pub & Pantry.  Hendrick married Margaritta Oouthout in 1764, but she passed away in 1764* leaving him a widower with five children.  He married Elizabeth Roseboom six years later.

More details on his life can be found at the People of Colonial Albany site.

Given the date of his death, Quackenbush would likely have been interred in the Dutch Reformed lot at the State Street Burying Grounds and removed to this lot at the Rural Cemetery prior to 1868.

Census records indicate that Quackenbush owned nine slaves and this woman was likely one of them.  Unfortunately, there is almost no other information about her beyond these carved lines and one is simply left to wonder about her relationship with the Quackenbush family.  She was evidently valued enough to be buried with the family, but not enough to be given her freedom.

*In 1882, excavations in the area of the old Dutch Reformed burial ground near Beaver and South Pearl Streets uncovered several graves and headstones.  Among them was that of Margaritta Oothout. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ann Elizabeth Brown Wiles

According to the dates on her beautiful gravestone, Ann Elizabeth Brown was born on January 12, 1839, was the wife of Thomas S. Wiles, and died on December 7, 1881.

Ann and Thomas were married in Albany on October 27, 1864.  She was only forty-two and the mother of an eight-year old girl named Bertha at the time of her death from consumption.  According to the Cemetery's records, her late residence was at 53 Dove Street in Albany (the house, built in 1860, still stands).

Her husband, Thomas Shire Wiles, was a native of Albany.  Described as one of the area's great inventors, he held a number of patents and his primary professional interest was in the washing and ironing machines used by laundries of the era.  He established the Wiles Laundry Company which was the largest of its kind in the area with some two-hundred and fifty employees.  He also had a great interest in photography, serving as secretary of the Albany Camera Club.  He married twice after Ann's death and later resided in Troy. Thomas Wiles died in Pennsylvania in 1916.

Because she passed away in the winter, Ann was not buried until the following June.  Her monument is a tall, rosy-beige stone cross decorated with finely carved lilies.  Her lovely bronze portrait was the work of Charles Caverley.  Around the medallion are the words, Blessed Are The Pure In Heart For They Shall See God.  It is located in one of the older sections of the South Ridge, just a few steps away from the Archibald McIntyre lot.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Francis E. Cornwell

This weathered little stone on the Middle Ridge records that Francis E. Cornwell died in Buffalo on November 2, 1869 at the age of forty-seven.  The Biographical Record of Yale University's Class of 1842 gives a detail account of his life and death.

Born in New Britain, Connecticut to Deacon Chauncey Cornwell and Mary Cosslett Cornwell, he came to Albany as a teacher shortly after graduating from Yale.  He relocated to Lyons in Wayne County where he studied law.  He was admitted to the bar in 1847, the same year in which he married Albany resident Catharine Livingstone Howe.  The couple resided in Buffalo where he possessed "an excellent reputation" as a lawyer and, in 1869, was nominated for Judge of the New York State Supreme Court.  Sadly, just two weeks before Election Day, Cornwell took ill.  The local newspapers described his sickness as "typhoid fever, complicated by a dangerous carbuncle on his head."  He left behind his widow, Catharine, and six children.

He was buried in a lot belonging to his wife's family.  Catharine passed away in 1906 at the age eighty-two.  Her headstone lies next to his.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cemetery Avenue

A Throwback Thursday showing Cemetery Avenue ca. 1900.  This is, of course, the road that runs from the main gate on Route 32 (Broadway) in Menands to St. Agnes Roman Catholic Cemetery and the Rural Cemetery's main offices.  A few years after this photo was taken, the wooden fence lining the road was replace with the iron one which still stands.  The lovely elm trees which shade the road in this photo are long gone, though; they were probably victims of the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic that destroyed many trees in the 1900s.

Friday, January 2, 2015


I will admit I was not very quick to make use of Pinterest, but I find myself using it quite a bit these days.  So, naturally, I've made a board of pins relating to the Albany Rural Cemetery. 

If you're a Pinterest user, please follow it.  You'll find some of my own photos, antique images, links to revisit older posts from this blog, pictures I've found on my wanderings around the Internet, and other bits and pieces that might not fit on this blog or in my book-in-progress.

You can find the board on the lower right side of this blog;  there's a widget for it.  Or click the link below.

My Albany Rural Cemetery board on Pinterest

Above:  Close-up of the intricate carvings on the De Witt family monument, one of the most recent pins.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The House of Shelter Lot, Middle Ridge

A small gravestone that reads simply Little Willie resting against a tree just off Ravine Side Way is the only marker in this small lot belonging to the House of Shelter.  The lot is on the south side of the path and overlooks a narrow, deep section of the Moordanaers Kill ravine between the remnants of Consecration and Tawasentha Lakes.

The House of Shelter was an institution founded in 1868 with the intent of "reclaiming and reforming women who had strayed from the path of virtue and were living in vice."  The House of Shelter owned two such lots at the Rural Cemetery.  There is a much larger one overlooking an overgrown area between Sections 104 and 121.

There are forty-six recorded burials in the House's Middle Ridge lot.  The earliest was in 1875 and the latest was in 1889.  There are also three burials for which no date is listed.  Of the forty-six burials here, most were children less than two years of age.

The sole headstone here may have marked the grave of one of three infants named Willie who were buried here:  Willie Critz (died June 1, 1765 - the first burial in the lot), Willie Gray (died July 20, 1877), and Willie Fry (died June 12, 1885).  The stone is undated and has no last name so it is not possible to further identify Little Willie.

Monday, December 29, 2014

From The Albany Daily Evening Journal - January 24, 1873

The January 24, 1873 edition of the Albany Daily Evening Journal published the following article looking back at the state of the Cemetery the previous year.



Latest view of the City of The Dead

Incidents in its History – New Monuments and Tombs – Improvements During the Year 1872 – Gov. Dix Once a Trustee

Among the many public institutions of our city there is none in which Albanians generally manifest more interest, nor which they point out to the stranger with a greater degree of pride, than that silent academy of art and conservatory of nature, our peaceful Rural cemetery.”

Only a few years ago the “Rural” was not extensively known as one of the finest cemeteries in the country – a distinction which it certainly merits, but latterly the daily concourse of summer visitors is largely composed of summer visitors who have heard of the wonderful natural beauties of the place, and hearing come to see.

Of course, the great mass of the visitors are residents of the surrounding cities and villages. It was supposed that the opening of the new park would tend greatly to keep away from the cemetery the large number of Albanians who had been accustomed to visit the grounds merely for a pleasant stroll; but thus far such has not proved to be the case. Together with the annual devotees who during the season of flowers, go regularly to decorate the mounds of their loved ones, are to be see crowds of persons, in all conditions of life, who can have no higher purpose than a quiet, recreative ramble among the leafy meandering paths, and limpid lakes, and through the shady, cool ravines which combine to lend so much of the picturesque to this enchanting garden of graves.

Because we speak of persons visiting the cemetery for “recreation,” it must not be supposed that applications for admission are indiscriminately entertained. Far from it, as the utmost vigilance is employed to guard against the entrance of rough and improper characters. Again there are doubtless persons who object to the bare idea of “recreation,” even of the contemplative sort, in such a place. Washington Irving was of a different opinion. Another author says that a cemetery should not be exclusively devoted to scenes of sorrow, and another that such institutions should be made “schools of instruction in architecture, sculpture, landscape gardening, aboriculture and botany.” The author of “Thanatopsis” and kindred poems of the serious order, would seem to be decidedly partial to “meditation among the tombs,” by those who meditate in congenial pairs, for he says:

And what if, in the evening light,
Betrothed lovers walk in sight
Of my low monument?
I would the lovely scene around
Might know no sadder sight nor sound.

The increasing celebrity of the Albany Rural cemetery is principally due to the extensive improvements of the last few years. During the year recently closed a great deal was achieved toward enchancing the architectural beauty of the grounds; and here we propose to notice a few of the principal monuments and tombs erected or finished in 1872.

On the south ridge Mr. Robert L. Johnson has erected a very costly and handsome sarcophagus of granite. The lot of Douglas L. White has been ornamented by a massive granite monument, and attendant memorials of unique design, in the same material. A most attractive and creditable addition to the architecture of the place is the tomberected by Stillman Witt. This is constructed of the attractive Cleveland sandstone. On either side of the door are three Scotch granite columns surmounted by highly wrought marble caps. The combination of the pure marble, the dark, rich granite, and the delicate colored sandstone produces a very novel and happy effect, and the Witt vault is certainly destined to be greatly admired. The fine Scotch granite obelisk of S. & B.F. Watson – the fourth monument of this material which has been erected here – is very attractive. Judge William W. Reed and George W. Hoxise have also placed fine memorials upon their respective lots. Another noticeable structure is the marble cottage monument reared by J.J. Austin to the memory of his father.

On the middle ridge the monuments erect by Stephen Paddock and Lawson Annesley of Albany and George B. Fraser of West Troy appropriately ornament that locality, and the Townsend vault on the north ridge is one of the finest erections of the last year.

While the lot owners have been doing so much to add to the attractiveness of the grounds, Superintendent Thomas has not been idle during the past season. The large and romantic Tawasentha lake has been deepened and otherwise improved. Unsightly portions of the ground have transformed into nicely graded sections of desirable and valuable lots. Unoccupied spots, not available for burial purposes, have been planted in evergreens, artistically grouped, and various other evidences of progress are visible.

A glace at the cemetery records shows that one by one the fathers of the institution are passing away. Last year one of the most efficient of the trustees and the cemetery lost one of its best friends by the death of Wm. H. DeWitt. Dr. Welsh, who first brought the project of a rural cemetery for Albany prominently before the public preceded the former to this garden of graves by about a year. John I. Wendell, whose monomania was the improvement of the cemetery, is long since dead.

The two gentlemen last named were members of the original committee of twelve oppointed on December 31, 1840, to seek out and locate suitable grounds for a rural cemetery. This statement suggests to us a historical reminiscence, which at this juncture may be of interest to our citizens: One of the most ardent advocates of the expediency of founding a rural cemetery for Albany when that question was first agitated, is now governor of the state of New York. Gov. Dix was one of the original committee of twelve previously spoken of and one of the trustees of this institution in the year 1846. An unusual record appears upon the register of interments for last year – that of the burial of Diana Mingo, a colored lady aged 106 years. She was the oldest person ever buried in the cemetery.


A bit more on Diana Mingo can be found in this article on the town of Schodack where she was born in 1766.  Her grave does not appear in the Cemetery's on-line records or index cards, but it might still be possible to locate it by checking the 1872 burial records in person. 

The image at the top of this post is from an antique stereoview showing one of the old bridges which linked the South and Middle Ridges around the time this article was published.  The bridge no longer exists.