Wednesday, March 28, 2018

An Historic Tour of The Cemetery

On May 18th, the Albany Rural Cemetery and the Historical Society of the Town of Colonie will hold a special evening tour featuring first person presentations of a dozen of the Cemetery's "permanent residents." 

Details about the tour can be found on our Facebook Event page and registration information will be be posted very soon.

Other tours are in the planning stages so, please, keep an eye on Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The Graves for dates and information.   The annual Audubon Bird Walk will be held on April 21s - details can be found here

Also, there is a new Instagram for the Cemetery - please follow historicalbanyruralcemetery

The latest issue of the newsletter is arriving in mailboxes now.  If you'd like to receive it, please join the Friends of the Albany Rural Cemetery.  You can print a membership form here to mail or drop off at the Cemetery office during business hours.  It will be changing to a monthly format and there is information on changes to Friends membership. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Announcement Time

Those of you who follow Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The Graves or my personal profile on Facebook will have already read this, but for those of you who haven't not yet seen the news, I'm very happy to announce that I am now working as a consulting historian for the Cemetery.

This is something I've wanted to do for quite some time now (it's almost a cliche to call it a "dream job," but that's exactly what it is) and I'm so glad that it's now official.

Posts will continue here and on Facebook and on a new Instagram - historicalbanyruralcemetery (if you use IG, please feel free to follow this new account as well as my regular account since I do post about A.R.C. and Albany history at the latter, too).

I already have several projects lined up which I'll share as they fall into place, including tours and other events.

Also, if you haven't seen the current issue of the Friends of the Albany Rural Cemetery newsletter, stop by the office and pick up a copy for my article on the Van Rensselaer tomb (and, don't forget to join the Friends - a printable form is here)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Restoration Work Needed on Cypress Pond

“At the west, a short distance below, is a pear-shaped bit of silver, known as Cypress Water, in which is  a miniature island.”

(from "The Albany Hand-book for 1881" by Henry Pitt Phelps)

One of the most recognizable features of the Cemetery landscape, Cypress Pond (or Cypress Waters, as it was more commonly known in the past) turns 148 years old this year.  Among the monuments that overlook this pretty "bit of silver" are the bronze statue of "Contemplation" by Charles Calverley atop the grave of Dr. Jephta Bouleware, the pensive maiden marking the family plot of author Charles Fort, and one of the most photographed statues at Albany Rural - the John G. Myers angel.  Seven of the Cemetery's many roads and paths converge here.

The centerpiece of the South Ridge, if not the entire Rural Cemetery, Cypress Pond was created from a swampy patch of land dotted with natural springs.  A large stone slab covering the outlet at the north end of the pond bears the date of its creation, 1869.  The work was undertaken during the tenure of Superintendent J.P. Thomas who was known for numerous changes and improvements to the Cemetery, including the extension of the grounds to the South Gate.  While a small pond does appear on Cemetery maps from the late 1850s, this area of the Cemetery was, for the most part, a swampy area dotted with natural springs.

 And what's in a name? The cypress is a tree long associated with cemeteries and can be found growing in many burying grounds. It has been a symbol of mourning since ancient times because, if cut back too much, the tree will not regrow. Its branches were gifted to grieving families in Athens and it was burned to clear the harsh odors of cremations. The trees have also been planted in great numbers in Turkish cemeteries for centuries

Early photos of Cypress Waters show the little island which formerly occupied the middle of the pond.  Some of the earliest views even show a little canoe near the island.  The wooded island was later replaced with a classically-styled fountain installed in 1950.

Unfortunately, Cypress Pond is now in urgent need of repair.  The fountain which replaced the little island has not functioned in several years.  Several sinkholes near the newly repaired shelter at the northeast corner of the pond required work.  The pond walls are unstable and tilting inward towards the water.

Work is being done in phases and, to date, the Cemetery has financed $21,115 towards these much needed repairs.  The final two phases of the project - replacement and reactivation of the fountain and the stabilization of the pond walls will require additional funds.

The fountain runs on water pressure from a gravity-fed reservoir.  It will be converted to an electrical source with a new floating aerating fountain similar to those seen in Washington Park, Buckingham Pond, and The Crossings in Colonie.  The work will included electricity and working water outlets in the areas around the pond.  The engineering work and design are completed and the project is now awaiting funding.

The buckling pond walls are hazardous, especially since the area immediately around the pond is a popular place for visitors to park and walk.

A more detailed illustrated report on the work to be done and funds needed can be downloaded here:  Cypress Pond Restoration Report PDF

If you would like to make a donation of any size to help complete the badly-needed repairs to the fountain and pond walls, please make a check or money order out to:

Albany Rural Cemetery
Cemetery Avenue
Menands, New York 12204

Please include a memo that the donation is for "Restoration of The Cypress Pond Area."  Or contact the Cemetery directly at  518-463-7017 or with questions or to discuss other donation options.  You can also stop by the office during business hours.  Donations are tax-deductible.

And, please, share and spread the word.  This post (with additional historic images of the pond) will also be available on Facebook at Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond Graves (it will be pinned to make it easy to find) and on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

All The Latest

 For those of you who have been following either my personal Facebook page, my Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The Graves Facebook page, or my recent GoFundMe campaign, you know that, James, my boyfriend of nine years (and the best cemetery exploring partner) had been fighting cancer since last fall and passed away suddenly on April 2.

Despite this, I've been keeping up with my Cemetery research, both on Facebook and on my personal web site.  Here's a quick rundown of some recent highlights:

Rediscovering Sibbie - The Last Documented Slave At The Schuyler Flatts

From the Single Grave Books - Civil War Bounty Jumpers

The English Graveyard

Carlyle Harris and The Epitaph That Never Was

The Lost Ravine Bridge

Celtic Crosses

The Burying Places - Albany's old Dutch graveyards

And, most recently, the grim tale behind the Van Rensselaer tomb.

Also, the latest issue of the Friends of The Albany Rural Cemetery newsletter is out this week.  If you'd like to read it, pick up a copy at the Cemetery's main Office (Route 32 entrance) or join (you can print a form here)

Last, but definitely not least, consider following The Friends of Albany History on Facebook.  You won't regret it!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Grief and The Elusive Daniel Campbell.

I first came across this monument - both in person and in Henry P. Phelp's The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories - while still in high school.  Works by Erastus Dow Palmer had already become a favorite "find" at Albany Rural by then.  But information on the Daniel Campbell buried here was elusive until recently when I came across a tattered copy of a sermon preached by the Reverend William B. Sprague at an 1851 funeral.

The following is crossposted from my Facebook page, Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The GravesAdditional photos are posted there.


Located in Lot 4, Section 18, this monument is quite well documented in early written histories of the Albany Rural Cemetery, but the story behind it is a little more elusive.

In Edward Fitzgerald's 1871 “A Handbook For The Albany Rural Cemetery,” it's described as “a marble obelisk...erected by the young men of Albany” and that its inscription provides “an enduring record of that deed.” In his 1893 “Albany Rural Cemetery – Its Beauties, Its Memories,” Henry P. Phelps goes into a bit more detail and hints at a romance cut short, writing “The monument is of Italian marble and, on the reverse side will be found a bas-relief by Palmer, representing Grief, a bowed female figure, suggestive of the betrothed one whose heart was broken forty years ago.”

The inscription on the south face of the monument reads:

“The young men of the City of Albany, in their grief for his too Early Removal, have erected this Monument to the memory of Daniel Campbell; a man who loved humanity as most love their nearest kindred, and who, as his only riches, the blessings of the needy.”

The north face contains the relief of Grief by Erastus Dow Palmer. It depicts a young woman in a kneeling pose with her head bent and resting on one hand.

The monument, however, gives no further information on the identity of Daniel Campbell. He was obviously much loved, but no date of birth or death is given on the beautiful tombstone.

The lot was deeded to Archibald Campbell, the Scottish immigrant who had served as Acting Secretary of State of New York in the early 1840s and who died in 1856. The Cemetery's burial records list a Daniel D. Campbell in this lot. His index card states that this person died of consumption at the age of 22 on September 3, 1863. This, however, cannot be the same Daniel Campbell honored with the Palmer monument described above.

The Daniel Campbell so beautifully eulogized in marble must have died before 1858 as an engraving of the monument and a copy of the epitaph were included in the second edition Henry W. Churchill's “Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery” which was published that year. Erastus Dow Palmer's records indicate that he worked on “Grief” in 1852.

No other Daniel Campbells are recorded in the Cemetery's burial cards so information on his life must be gleaned from other sources. A pamphlet, “Sermon, Address, &c., Occasioned By The Death of Daniel Campbell,” contains both a sermon by the Reverend William Buell Sprague on the Sunday following Daniel Campbell's death. Also printed in the pamphlet is the sermon given by Ray Palmer, Minister of the Congregational Church in Albany.

The funeral's date was October 8, 1851. The newspapers indicate that Campbell died on the morning of October 6 at his father's home. His cause of death was not stated, but an illness is implied.

The fragile booklet also reprints several death notices published in the Albany Argus.

“We discharge a very painful duty in announcing the death of Daniel Campbell, a young gentleman in whose character all the better ingredients of our nature were harmoniously blended, and whose life has been devoted, assiduously, to works of unostentatious goodness and mercy....The deceased was a son of Archibald Campbell. He was born, educated, and has always resided in Albany. His impulses and sympathies, ever warm and generous, were ever prompting him and leading him to do good. He was known in the Schools, at the Asylums, in the Benevolent Societies, at the Young Men's Association and was seen, with his beaming countenance and affectionate manner, wherever aid could be extended to the unfortunate, wherever aid could be extended to the unfortunate or relief administered to the suffering.”

Another notice, from the Albany Express, reported, “On Sunday evening, at the close of a pure and noble life, there passed away from among us one of the choicest spirits of our city – Daniel Campbell. From an easy, natural sleep, he seemed to glide away into the deeper sleep of the good and true who rest from their labors....He was not widely known, but how well and earnestly esteemed, can be learned best among the poor, who he has served for years with a ceaseless and unwearying devotion. Occupying no public office and living so quietly among us that we seemed scarcely so much conscious of his presence as of the works he performed, all unambitious, he was in fact a public benefactor.”

Among the many institutions and charities mentioned in these various printed tributes were the Orphan Asylum, the St. Andrew's Society, the Mission Home, and the Young Men's Association.
Census records and city directories provide a few practical details of his life.

He was the son of Archibald and Mary Campbell. The 1850 census identifies him as a merchant, aged 40, and a member of his father's household (which included three siblings and two servants). The family home was at 60 Chapel Street (near the corner with Pine Street). The 1851 city directory lists him as a coal merchant, a partner in the firm of Belknap, McKercher & Campbell. The business was located at the corner of Broadway and Spencer Street.

There is, however, no hint of just who “the betrothed one” alluded to by Phelps might have been. Her identity remains a mystery.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

James' Cancer Fight

As those of you who follow either my personal Facebook profile, my Albany Rural Cemetery Facebook page, or Twitter account might know, my partner of eight years has recently been diagnosed with throat cancer and, last week, underwent a temporary tracheostomy to relieve serious breathing problems that occurred as a side effect of the radiation treatments.

I affectionately refer to James as my research assistant though his assistance generally consists of carrying my backpack full of maps and notes, asking if it's time to go home for lunch, or making sure I don't tumble down various hills while taking photos at Albany Rural.

His cancer is in the early stages and, even with setback due to the breathing complications, his prognosis is good.  But this is still an incredibly difficult time for us.  I am acting as his full-time caregiver until he completes his treatments and completely recovers.

More can be read at our GoFundMe page.  If you can contribute or even just share the link, it would be truly appreciated.

James' Cancer Fight on GoFundMe

Thank you and Happy Holidays.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Repairs To A Van Rensselaer Gravestone

 The following article is from the Times Union.  If you are not a Times Union Plus subscriber, link around by Googling the phrase "patroon van rensselaer plot at albany rural to be repaired times union" and the first result will take you to the article.

Times Union - Patroon Van Rensselaer plot at Albany Rural to be repaired.

The photo above shows the headstone to be repaired and was taken in late March.