Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vandalism Incident

Two monuments - a vault and a headstone - were vandalized recently. has details and video in the link below.  If you have any information on the incident, please contact the Colonie Police Department at (518) 783-2744. - Albany Rural Cemetery vandalized

Paul Grondahl, of the Times Union, has an excellent article on the incident.

Vandals desecrate mausoleum, grave marker at Albany Rural Cemetery

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Glen Cross Bridge

In the past, a number of small bridges cross the Cemetery's streams and ravines, conveniently linking the North, Middle, and South Ridges for visitors following the "Tour" route laid out in such books as Henry Fitzgerald's Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery.  Very few of the bridges survive now, including the Glenn Cross Bridge.

One of the most highest and most scenic of the old bridges, Glenn Cross spanned a narrow ravine that cuts into the South Ridge.  The southern end of the bridge was the path from Section 5 and the northern end was the path between Sections 9 and 10 (near the circular plot of Francis Dwight). 

The picture above is scanned from an antique stereoview in my personal collection.  The original photograph was taken from the north side of the span and looks south across it to the monument of Harmanus Bleecker.  The previously mentioned Dwight enclosure is just behind the photographer.

The looping old Tour route laid out on older Cemetery maps passes both across the bridge and beneath it.  The early Cemetery map printed by John Gavit identifies the path beneath the bridge as "Glenwoodie."  Later maps label the approach to the bridge from the south as "Glen Crossway" and the north approach as "Ravine Crossway."

The highlighted circle on this 1871 map shows the location of Glen Cross Bridge with Consecration Lake to the upper right.

 A recent view from the north side.  The stone abutments are all that remains of Glenn Cross Bridge. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Spencer Stafford

When the Hallenbake Burial Ground, the last family cemetery in Albany, was removed from the corner of South Pearl and Hamilton Street in 1860, the remains of Spencer Stafford and his family were among those transferred to the Rural Cemetery's North Ridge.

A native of Rhode Island, fifteen year old Stafford came to Albany in 1787..  His brother, Thomas, and other relatives had already settled in the city and young Stafford became an apprentice in Thomas' Market Street store.  At the age of nineteen, he married into the Hallenbake family when he wed Dorothea.  The couple built a home on the Hallenbake land, but in 1790, relocated to Deerfield, Oneida County where Stafford was briefly engaged in the manufacture of potash.  A year later, however, the Staffords returned to Albany permanently. 

Stafford was described as "self-reliant, industrious, and enterprising" and as possessing "qualities essential to mercantile success."  A silversmith as well as a merchant, he also entered into the stovemaking business and  held various civic positions, including service as a city alderman.

Spencer Stafford would eventually build a mansion on Lydius Street;  the house still stands as 100 Madison Avenue.

Dorothea Stafford died in 1806, two years before Spencer built the Lydiys Street house.  The couple had five children.  A year later, Spencer Stafford married Harriet Romeyn by whom he had four more children.  Portraits of both Spencer and Harriet are now in the collections of the Alban Institute of History and Art and appear in their digital collections:

Portrait of Spencer Stafford by Ezra Ames
Portrait of Harriet Romeyn Stafford by Ezra Ames

Spencer Stafford died on February 10, 1844.  He laid to rest in the Hallenbake family's burial grounds where his first wife was already buried.  Harriet Romeyn Stafford survived her husband by five years and, after her death on July 5, 1849, was also buried in the Hallenbake cemetery.  In June 1860, all remains from this family burial ground were removed to the Rural Cemetery.  A sandstone monument marks the Staffords portion of the large Hallenbake plot.  Footstones with their initials mark the graves of Spencer, Dorothea, and Harriet while inscriptions on the sandstone monument memorialize

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A New Facebook Page

As I continue to work on my book, Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The Graves - I always find photos and resarch to share that don't quite fit a blog post (a link, an anecdote, a photo such as the one above).  So I've created a Facebook page for the project and I would be very happy if you'd join me there, too.  You're also more then welcome to post on the new page, too.  I look forward to it.

Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The Graves on Facebook

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ann Eliza Bleecker

The headstone of Ann Eliza Bleecker in the Dutch Reformed section of the Church Grounds is nearly illegible.  One can just make out the name carved in the worn marble and it gives little detail about the life of this early American poet and novelist.

The daughter of Brandt and Margaretta Schuyler, Ann Eliza was born in 1752.  She grew up in a wealthy family and was well educated.  From an early age, she showed a very strong interest in literature and frequently wrote verses.  She did not write for publication, but would often send her verses to family and close friends.

In 1769, she married John James Bleecker, Esq. of New Rochelle and moved to Poughkeepsie.  A few years later, the couple settled on a farm near the Tomhannock Creek in Schaghticoke.  At "Tomhanick," Bleecker had built a comfortable house on a "little eminence" with a "pleasing prospect."  The house had a beautiful garden with a view of the Creek, an orchard at the edge of the forest, and was surrounded by meadows and cultivated fields.  Beyond the house was, as Ann Eliza described it, "the ample shadow of that solemn ridge of pine."  Young Mrs. Bleecker loved her garden and would gather seeds from her plants to scatter along the brook and in the woods.

The Bleeckers had two young daughters, Margaretta and Abella, and what seems to have been an almost idyllic life until the summer of 1777 when the Revolutionary War came dangerously close to home.  With rumors of British soldiers and their Loyalist and Native allies advancing towards the area and the memory of the 1711 Schaghticoke Massacre still reasonably fresh in the minds of their neighbors, John Bleecker went to Albany to arrange the evacuation of his family.

Not long after her husband left, frightened by an inaccurate report that a raiding party was within two miles of the village, Ann Eliza took her two young daughters and a mulatto servant girl and fled (on foot and by wagon) south to Lansingburgh. Her husband met her there and took her to Red Hook in Dutchess Coutny where she joined her mother and sister.  Unfortunately, her infant daughter Abella died of illness during the flight and, not long after, Ann Eliza's mother and sister also died.

After the British were defeated at Saratoga, the Bleeckers returned to Tomhanick.  In 1781, John Bleecker was abducted by what may have been a Loyalist party.  He was realized a week later at Bennington, but Ann Eliza, pregnant and still devastated by the death of her mother, sister, and daughter, suffered a miscarriage.  She never truly recovered from the trauma of the war and her personal losses; her daughter, Margaretta, would later describe her as often alternating between gaiety and good humor and bouts of melancholy during which she would burns writings that did not reflect her dark mood. 

Ann Eliza Bleecker's health failed and she died at the age of thirty-two on November 23, 1783.  She was buried in the Dutch Reformed Church's graveyard, then located on Beaver Street just east of South Pearl Street.  Eventually, her grave was moved to the State Street Burying Grounds and, ultimately, the Church Grounds at the Rural Cemetery.  The headstone does not mark her exact grave site;  over the years, the old markers have been moved, stacked, and rearranged so that they do not actually correspond to individual graves.

Ann Eliza Bleecker never published her writings during her life time.  After her death, her daughter, Margaretta Van Wyck Faugeres, collected and published the surviving manuscripts. 

Her works included The History of Maria Kittle, an early Gothic novel and captivity narrative.  It is a graphic story, based in part of the 1711 Schaghticoke Massacre and her own fears during the war, which was told in the form of letters.  In a similar vein, she also wrote a story based on a gruesome murder near Pittstown in which James Yates murder his wife, four children (from inant to 6) along with all of his livestock).  The disoriented Yates then appeared naked at his parents home saying he believed he had been killing hostile Indians.  In a posthumously published article attributed to Ann Eliza, it was reported that Yates was interrogated in the Bleecker's Schaghticoke home before being transported to the Albany jail. 

The published works also included a number of poems, many describing her pleasant pre-war life at Tomhanick as well as the more tragic and frightening experiences of the Revolution (such as Written in retreat from Burgoyne)  These poems were published along with various essays and miscellaneous works.  The complete volume can be found online here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cretia Jackson

 There are two Boyd family lots near the western terminus of the Middle Ridge;  the lot of James and Peter Boyd marked with a large, simple marble obelisk and the lot of Robert Boyd is marked with a towering and elaborate monument which features a sarcophagus, a winged hourglass, and heavy lions' feet. 

In the latter lot, in the shadow of that elaborate memorial, there is a marble headstone with the following inscription:

Cretia Jackson died April 4, 1855.  For more than fifty years, a most faithful and respected servant of the family.

Her burial record indicates the Cretia (which was short for Lucretia) died of congestion of the lungs at the age of fifty-seven, meaning she would have started her service to the Boyd family while still a child.  Records such as the 1800 census show that members of the Boyd family owned slaves and she may have been the daughter of one of these slaves.  She was born during New York's gradual emancipation;  the law at the time of her birth granted freedom to children born after 1799, but they were to serve an indenture until they came of age.  This would explain why she would have served the family from the young age of seven.

She appears in the 1850 census as "mulatto."  Her name doesn't appear in previous census years. 

Cretia is one of several servants interred in the plots of the families which they worked for, ranging from a faithful slave of the Quackenbush family to the Swiss-born butler of the Barnes family.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Margaret Carman

A small marble headstone on the Middle Ridge marks the grave of Margaret, wife of Theodore Carman.  She died on April 27, 1839 at the age of 28.  Her headstone has the image of a broken column (typically a symbol of an early death) which is draped with a heavy veil or shroud.

Theodore Carman is also interred in this lot; he died on December 26, 1856 at the age of 45.  He was a shoemaker at 24 Norton Street in Albany.  The deed to this lot was in the name of Olivia (also spelled Olevia) Carman who died on January 18, 1864 at the age of 53.