Monday, May 25, 2015

The Old Flag


New flags are regularly placed on the graves of soldiers, but sometimes the old flags remain.  Here, a previous year's flag dangles from a Grand Army of The Republic marker.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Daughters of John and Sarah Prentice


Last week's walk through the North Ridge on the way to Dianna Mingo's grave yielded quite a few wonderful surprises, especially in areas explored many times before.

Marble headstones with sleeping infants are fairly common, but usually they are quite tiny with the reclining figures being no large than small dolls.  So, this peaceful child was almost startling as it is nearly life-sized.  Beside it, a small headstone depicts a young child kneeling.

Located just beyond the fenced Hallenbeek lot where the hillside slopes down towards the Kromme Kill ravine and an old path called Dell Side Avenue, the lot features two poignant headstones marking the graves of Sarah and Jane Ann Prentice.

Sarah died April 13, 1860.  She was just twenty-nine days old.  Her monument is the reclining infant.  Beautifully detailed, it shows the sleeping child dressed in a thin nightdress that is almost invisible due to erosion of the stone.  Beneath her blanket, there is a cushion with tassels.  One end of the headstone reads "Gone Home."


Jane Ann died on September 5, 1857 at the age of one year, four months, and seven days.  Her headstone shows a child kneeling amid what appear to be cushions.  Her face is eroded, but one tiny hand points toward Heaven.  The top of the stone is decorated with carved flowers.


 As with many early burial records, there is no cause of death given on their index cards. 

John F. Prentice, identified in census records as a schoolteacher, died only a few years after his little girls.  He passed away on April 30, 1862.  He was only thirty-two.  His widow, Sarah Lansing Prentice, survived him for many years.  She died of asthma on November 10, 1904 at the age of seventy-six.  Both John and Sarah are buried in the same lot as their children, but their gray granite headstone has toppled from its base.


Both Sarah and Jane Ann's gravestones are signed by their maker, Tuckerman & McClelland located on Lydius Street (now Madison Avenue)  Below is an advertisement for the Marble Works from Albany Argus in 1860.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Iron Acorn


An acorn finial decorates an old iron plot fence on the North Ridge.  Later that same day, I came across another acorn finial near Washington Park.

Monday, May 18, 2015

In Search of Dianna Mingo


Several months ago, while transcribing this 1873 newspaper article about the Albany Rural Cemetery, a reference to an 1872 interment certainly stood out.

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 further search of the Albany Evening Journal turned up a very detailed article on this centenarian which was published on July 30, 1872.

The Funeral of A Centenarian - Albany's “Oldest Inhabitant” - A Life Begun In The “Good Old Colony Times” - A Remarkable Old Woman and a Veritable “Mother in Israel”

On Sunday afternoon, one of the rarest of events occurred at the African Methodist church on Hamilton street, near Lark, in the celebration of the funeral services of one whose life had exceeded a full century, who died at last with mental faculties unimpaired and whose clear remembrance extended to early childhood, thus covering the entire history of a great nation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Burial Places of Abraham Ten Broeck



General Abraham Ten Broeck was laid to rest twice before coming to his current and final burial place at the Rural Cemetery.

Born on this date (May 13) in 1734, his name is still a familiar one as a historic home, a street, and a neighborhood all carry it.  

The son of Albany merchant Dirck Ten Broeck and Maria Cuyler, Abraham Ten Broeck was educated in business under the supervision of his brother-in-law (and Signer of the Declaration of Independence) Philip Livingston.  Abraham Ten Broeck applied his learning to the lumber business; exporting lumber cut from forests north of Albany and importing other goods for sale.  Before the Revolution, he owned a dock, lumber yard, and substantial amounts of residential and commercial real estate.  In 1763, he married Elizabeth Van Rensselaer, sister of the Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer II.  When Stephen died at the young age of twenty-seven, Abraham Ten Broeck became an administrator of his estate, the vast Manor of Rensselaerwyck, until Stephen's son and namesake came of age. Ten Broeck's public service included two tenures as Mayor of Albany.  During the Revolution, he served with the Albany County Militia and led them at the Battle of Saratoga.  He eventually attained the rank of Brigadier General.

In 1793, Abraham Ten Broeck built a handsome brick mansion on a hill just north of Albany.  This house, then called Arbor Hill, still stands as a museum and headquarters of the Albany County Historical Association

When he died on January 19, 1810,  the seventy-six year old Abraham Ten Broeck was laid to rest in a private vault on his own estate.  The site of the vault (shown in the recent photograph above) was just behind the mansion along what is now Livingston Avenue.  The condition of the vault, however, deteriorated, and the remains of General Ten Broeck and his family were removed to the private vault of the Van Rensselaers.  This vault was located on the Manor, near the corner of modern day North Pearl and Pleasant Streets This vault was torn down after 1849 and no trace of it survives today.  All the remains it had contained were brought to the new Rural Cemetery where they were placed in a large underground vault.  Above the vault, a white marble monument forms the centerpiece of the lot.  Among the members of the extended Van Rensselaer family laid to rest here was Abraham Ten Broeck. 


Ten Broeck's name does not appear on the Van Rensselaer monument, but a small bronze marker and flag-holder at the base honor his memory.  It was placed there in 1950 by the Ten Broeck Chapter of the Daughters of the War of 1812.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The DeWitt Children and The Church of The Holy Innocents


Set at the edge of the hill overlooking the first turns of the South Ridge Road, an angel with a bronze cross stands atop a delicately carved marble pedestal in tribute to four children of William H. and Ann DeWitt.

The children's dates of death are not noted in the Cemetery's card file, but their ages and the causes of their deaths are:

William Henry - Disease of Lungs - aged 6 years, 4 months
Frances Ann - Scarlet fever - aged four months, 25 days
Edward Clark - Croup - aged 1 year, 9 months
Catharine Clark - scarlet fever - 4 years, 7 months, 15 days

A "lumber baron" and Trustee of the newly consecrated Cemetery, DeWitt had the remains of the children removed from the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds to this lot atop a hill called Mount Olivet on the earliest maps of the grounds.  The exquisite tombstone that he erected was included in Churchill's Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery as one of "the principle monuments."


DeWitt also ordered four swans for the Cemetery's ponds.  One did not survive the trip from Europe, but the remaining three were, for some time, a popular sight for visitors strolling the grounds.

The DeWitts built another, even more noteworthy memorial to the deceased children;  the Church of the Holy Innocents.  This small, but lovely church of rustic stone was erected in 1850 at the corner of North Pearl and Colonie Streets. 


 And now that church is in serious danger.  Empty for years (despite being included on the National Register of Historic Places and Historic Albany's list of most endangered structures), this once-beautiful little church is the victim of severe neglect and, yesterday, a portion of the rear wall collapsed.

Times Union article

It is a shame that such a beautiful and meaningful building has been allowed to deteriorate so badly.  Albany has - both in the past and in recent years - lost so much of its tangible history to neglect and decay rather than preserve them through intelligent adaptation and reuse.

It would be a pity to have yet another gaping hole in the cultural fabric of what is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the Untied States.  It's rare that I use this blog as a soapbox, but please consider contacting the parties involved and urge them to do whatever it takes to save The Church of The Holy Innocents.

Office of The Mayor, City of Albany - 518-434-5100
Hope House (current owners of the site) - 518-482-4673 - Kevin Connally, Executive Director

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Captain Richard Dusenberry


This headstone was another elusive one, due in part to the fact that I had the 1912 lot map backward on my first attempt to locate the gravestone of this veteran of the Revolutionary War.  This time, I plotted the location based on the adjacent family lots, which included the Campbell and Ira Harris monuments.

There is fairly little information on Captain Richard Dusenberry, apart from what this headstone tells us.  Given the variations in spelling common on old records, it's possible that this was the same man referred to as " "Richd Deusenbury" in the 1810 census (as a resident of the town of Colonie) or "Richard Duzenbery" in the 1820 census (which lists him at Albany).  In 1817, city directories list him at 143 Market Street where he was involved in the "lumber yard wood/furniture/carriage trades(s)."

Richard Dusenberry was first interred in the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds and moved here around 1869.  He appears in the inventory of graves compiled by the city's Common Council in advance of the removal.  Since he was not among those in the mass reburial in the Church Grounds, his remains must have been removed to this lot by family.

Before its removal from the old Burying Grounds, this stone had a lower portion with an epitaph.  Only the upper half of the stone survives, but publisher and history buff Joel Munsell published the complete inscription in his multi-volume Annal of Albany.

Capt. Richard Dusenberry, a patriot of the American Revolution, who departed this Oct. 8, 1830, aged 71 years, 1 month, and 9 days.  The great, the wise, and dreadful God, hath snatched our dearest friends away, Not all their riches could procure Their souls a short reprieve, Nor save from death one guilty hour, Or let our cheerful parents live.  Also, their three infant children.  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, Rev. XIV chap. 13 verse.