Thursday, February 11, 2016

Flags and Wreaths, 1965






This silent compilation of video of War-time Albany includes some excellent footage of flags being placed on the graves of soldiers in May, 1965.  The Civil War Soldiers Lot is included in the video, along with an impressive wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President Arthur.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cemetery Lane, 1907


A rather clever postcard was printed to look like birch bark that was peeled back to reveal an image of Cemetery Lane (now Cemetery Avenue).  It is, of course, the approach to the Albany Rural Cemetery (and St. Agnes Cemetery) from the main gate on Broadway. 

Postmarked 1907, it shows the Avenue before the installation of the current fence which lines both sides and before disease wiped out the rows of elm trees.

The card was mailed from Albany on July 2 and address to a Miss Lila C. Ritter in Alder Creek, Oneida County.  A little research shows that Miss Ritter graduated from Boonville High School two years later and became a teacher until she married Loren Yerdon in 1915  The Yerdons lived on a farm in Steuben County, but later moved back to Alder Creek.  She passed away on September 10, 1971 at the age of 82.

There is no note on the card and the sender didn't sign his or her name, though there are two sets of initials inked on the lower edge and "Cemetery Lane, Albany" is written in pencil on the reverse. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Lost At Sea


The burial card and monument for Jacob F. Benjamin lists his date of death as Christmas Day, 1853 and it includes an intriguing notation - LOST AT SEA.  

It was December 25, 1853 when a vessel from the Pacific Mail Steamship Company encountered a terrible gale and foundered near Charleston.  The ship had left New York and was bound for Panama. Aboard were both soldiers (the ship was transporting the Third Regiment of the United States Artillery) and civilian passengers, including women and children. The decks were swept with wind and water, the smokestacks toppled, the boats lost.  Reports of the total casualties vary;  some contemporary newspapers reported about 300 casualties and 150 saved. First hand accounts of the disaster can be read here.

Among those reported dead that night was "The barber, colored, washed overboard."  This barber's name was not given in any accounts of the tragedy, but it was most certainly the same Jacob F. Benjamin; he Albany city directory for the same year lists him as a barber residing at 111 Knox Street.

His body was not recovered, but his name was carved on the marble shaft in a family plot deeded to his wife, Abigail.  At the time of his death, they had five children who ranged in age from an infant (his father's namesake) to eleven years old.  Jacob was thirty-five when he was lost to the waves.


The Benjamin plot is Lot 94, Section 100.  It is adjacent to the Arsenal Burial Ground and the grave of Dr. Thomas Elkins.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Death of Judge Clinton


On September 7, 1885, the body of an older gentleman in a black suit was found about a quarter mile beyond this bridge in the ravine between the Rural Cemetery's Middle and North Ridges.  A little boy made the discovery and quickly ran to tell an undertaker who had just finished an interment nearby.  The Cemetery's superintendent was also summoned. The man was found with several roots and herbs in his pockets, along with a small notebook and pocket-knife.  A clover was still held in one hand.  He had evidently been collecting botanical specimens somewhere along the Cemetery's Dellwood Avenue.  His pockets also contained a fine gold watch which had stopped at 3:30.  A closer examination of the notebook revealed the gentleman's name - Judge George W. Clinton.

The son of Governor DeWitt Clinton, he was born in New York City on April 21, 1807, but was raised in Albany where he attended the Albany Academy.  After graduating from Hamilton College and Norwich University, he attended Litchfield Law School in Connecticut and admitted to the bar in 1831.  The following year, he married Laura Catherine Spencer, the daughter of John Canfield Spencer (under whom he'd completed his legal studies).  The couple had nine children.

Relocating to Canandaigua, New York, he served as District Attorney for Ontario County before settling in Buffalo.  In 1842, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo.  His long political and public career included service as United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York and Judge of the Buffalo Supreme Court.  At the time of his death, he was also Vice-Chancellor of the Regents of the State University.

In 1882, he moved back to Albany to edit a collection of Clinton family papers.  A founding member and first president of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, Judge Clinton took a special interest in botany and had published a catalog of both native and natural plants of the Buffalo area.  After his move to Albany, he would frequently walk the Rural Cemetery in search of interesting plant specimens.

The Albany Express reported:

The death of Judge Clinton, at the Rural cemetery, was a shock to his Buffalo friends, but the Commercial of that city says, "It was a happy ending for such a life as his, after all.  The good man, whom all Buffalonians  loved to claim as their first and best citizen, while enjoying one of the botanizing strolls in which he delighted, fell back in the lap of Nature and quietly gave up his spirit.  That was all."  At a dinner of the bar of Buffalo some years since, Mr. James O. Putnam, after speaking of Judge Clinton's eminent professional career, said:  "Nature's own child, he has unfolded to us her mysteries as she has revealed them to him from tree and shrub and flower and her myriad schools of life; for to him nature unveils her face, and fills his ear with her music, and his soul with her all-pervading beauty."  It thus appears that the end of his career was peculiarly in harmony with the tastes and characteristics that marked his life."

Judge Clinton's body was returned to Buffalo where he was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Judge George W. Clinton on Find A Grave

Appropriately, he was laid to rest holding in his hands the clover he had picked in the Rural Cemetery moments before his death.

P.S.  Don't forget, you can still contribute to the Cemetery's annual fund and, if you enjoy these stories, be sure to like our Facebook page.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Support the Rural Cemetery



If you missed the post a few days ago with the link to the Cemetery's Annual Fund, you can find more ways to support the Cemetery at the link below.

How to support the Albany Rural Cemetery

You can make a donation, join the Friends of the Albany Rural Cemetery, volunteer, or support the Albany Cemetery project (of which this blog is a part of).

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Outwin Children

This memorial to three young children is cut to resemble two small side-by-side headstones, but the inscription (especially the third name and the epitaph) runs across them like a single stone.

The headstone marks the graves of three children, two of whom died within two weeks of each other and one who followed them just a few months later.  They were originally buried in the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds and moved here at an unknown date.

John Outwin, departed this life March 14, 1833, aged 2 years, 2 months and 21 days.

Alexander McDonald Outwin, departed this life 1st March 1833, aged 3 years, 10 months and 23 days

Margaret Outwin, departed this life August 26, 1833, aged 5 years, 11 months and 5 days.

Loved youth, how short on earth your stay
Death his fell dart has hurled,
But soon your spirits found their way
To yon celestial word.
While fond remembrance reads your stone
And heaves the deep felt sigh,
We'll learn to lean on Christ alone
And in his bosom die.

They were the children of John and Margaret Outwin.  John was listed in city directories as an accountant at 144 Washington Avenue. He is not listed in the burial records, but Margaret is.  She died at the age of 90 on September 11, 1882 There was at least one sibling who survived to adulthood (yet still predeceased his mother);  there is a William Outwin interred elsewhere in the same plot who died on January 26, 1880 at the age of forty-five. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Albany Rural Cemetey Annual Fund

 If you're interested in supporting the Albany Rural Cemetery's Annual Fund, please click the link below to print out a copy of the donation card.

Albany Rural Cemetery Annual Fund

Letter To The Times Union - Cemetery Funding An Ongoing Need