Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cornelius and Anne Van Vechten

The elements have been very unkind to this little headstone on the South Ridge.  The face is quite eroded and covered with raised streaks as if the marble melted and then solidified again.  The inscription is almost completely illegible;  the most that could be deciphered was part of a name which appeared to be Knickerbocker and, just below, what appeared to be the name Cornelius

There is, of course, a Daughters of the American Revolution plaque at the base and it might have been easier to identify the grave by contacting the local chapter and inquiring.  However, I usually prefer to do things the hard way (and I found a few other interesting things to pursue along the way).

The lots in a given section aren't numbered sequentially on the maps, but it was easy to look up the names of the adjacent lots to pin down the number.  With that lot number, I was able to identify the names of every individual interred there.  Two matched the legible bits of the inscription;  Cornelius Van Van Vechten and his wife, Anne Knickerbacker Van Vechten.

Born in 1735, Cornelius Van Vecthen was the son of a Schagticoke landowner who also served as a firemaster in Albany for a time.  At the age of twenty-two, Cornelius married Anne Knickerbacker.  Though they married at the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany, both were then residents of Scahagticoke.  Like his father, he also had ties to the city of Albany and also served as a firemaster.  He was among the signers of the constitution of the Albany Sons of Liberty in 1766 and, in October 1775, he received a commision as Lieutenant Colonel of the Eleventh or Saratoga regiment of the Albany County militia.  He served for the duration of the war.  At the time of the Saratoga campaign, his family home at Coveville (Saratoga County) was burned by the advancing British under General Burgoyne.  Following the Revolution, Van Vechten served in the State Assembly and, later, as the town clerk in Schaghticoke.  He died at the age of seventy-eight on October 20, 1815.

Anne Knickerbacker was the daughter of Wouter Knickerbacker and Elizabeth Fonda.  Two years young than Cornelius, she died in 1809.

Both Cornelius and Anne were likely buried in the Dutch Reformed section of the old State Street Burying Grounds and moved here to the Rural Cemetery by family members before 1868 as they do not appear on the list of graves transferred to the Cemetery by the Albany Common Council.

Maria Van Vechten, the oldest daughter of Cornelius and Anne married Enoch Leonard who is buried adjacent.  It was the Leonard monument that particularly helped to identify the Van Vechten headstone on the lot map.




Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Snowy Eagle


With all the snow we've had, this photo of the eagle-topped Edward Frisby headstone (with the Dalton cinerarium in the background) could have been taken this afternoon.  It is, however, a wintery Throwback Thursday since it was taken around 1993. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Then & Now - The Cutler Lot

One of my favorite resources on the early history of the Cemetery is Henry Churchill's 1858 Guide Through The Rural Cemetery Containing Illustrations of All The Principal Monuments, Tombs, Etc.; The History of Its Formation; The Rules and Regulations For Its Preservation, Etc. With A Steel Engraved Plan of The Grounds.  The title is quite self-explanatory and the book itself deserves a future post of its own.  The last several pages include the aforementioned "principal monuments," some of which no longer exist and some of which are greatly altered.

One such engraving which caught my attention was the lot of T.R. Cutler.  It shows a simple shaft with what appears to be a bit of carved drapery atop.  There is a little evergreen tree beside it and the whole is enclosed with a variety of ironwork;  a chain with tassels stretches between low stone posts, an arched arbor or trellis frames the monument, and there is a marvelous little gate with a spiral design. 

A search of the Cemetery's burial records placed in one of my favorite sections to explore these days; that secluded little hollow between Consecration Lake and Ravine Side Way (see the previous post on Solomon Van Rensselaer and Correspondence of The Boston Traveller). 

The Cutler lot has changed greatly since the engraving above was published.  Like many lots in the Cemetery, it has long since lost its iron adornments.  As expected, the arched trellis and that lovely spiral gate are gone.  The marble shaft lies flat on the ground, but small boundary markers with the letter C help to identify the lot.  The inscription is not visible and there are thick patches of green moss growing on the stone, though one can still see the carved drapery.  The evergreen in the engraving is also gone and a twiggy bush is growing wild beside the topped stone.


This lot was the property of Timothy Rockwood Cutler.  The first burial here was of Rebecca Hillman. Cutler.  She died on December 23, 1853 at the age of twenty-six.  She was the first wife of the lot owner.  The second burial was that of Timothy R. Cutler, whose trade was listed in the city directories as "millinery and bonnet bleaching" at 536 Broadway.  The son of Martin Cutler and Sophia Rockwood, he was born in Holliston Massachusetts on May 3, 1822 and died in Brooklyn on April 4, 1891.  His second wife, Mary, was Rebecca's sister.  She died at the age of sixty-eight on December 17, 1897 and was the final burial recorded for this lot.  

The 1880 census indicates that Timothy and Mary H. Cutler had three sons residing at home;  William (age twenty, a clerk on a boat), John H. (age eighteen, a store clerk), and Timothy (age seventeen, a student).  The household also included a twenty-eight year old Irish-born servant named Laura Shaunessey.  By his first wife, Timothy R. Cutler had at least one child, a daughter named Ida.  

Newspaper clippings also note that Mr. Cutler was a member of the Albany Burgesses Corps, a private military company founded by Captain Thomas Bayeux in 1833.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Solomon Van Rensselaer

Solomon Van Rensselaer's tall marble monument is perched on a slope overlooking Ravine Side Way, a path that begins near the remains of Consecration Lake and runs parallel to the Middle Ridge Road at the top of the same slope.  Since it overlooks this somewhat secluded walk and faces away from the main road, it's fairly easy to miss.  Two of the early histories of the Rural Cemetery - Henry Phelps' The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories and Edward Fitzgerald's Handbook For The Albany Rural Cemetery - both make substantial mention of this grave site.

Solomon Van Rensselaer was, among other things, a soldier, a U.S. Congressman, postmaster of Albany, and owner of Cherry Hill which had been built by his father-in-law.  He is perhaps best known, though, for his service during the War of 1812.  Serving under his cousin, General Stephen Van Rensselaer III, he took part in the Battle of Queenstown Heights.  During the American defeat there, he was said to have been "riddled" with shots.

He died at the age of seventy-seven on April 23, 1852.  His wife, Harriet, had passed twelve years earlier.  They were originally buried in the Dutch Reformed Church's cemetery (part of the old municipal burial grounds), but were later moved to this large family plot on the Middle Ridge.  However, several newspaper clippings from the 1960s identify his original resting place as Capitol Park where Colonel John Mills was also buried for a time.

More on Solomon Van Rensselaer




Friday, October 10, 2014

David Zeh

This fascinating stone lies well off the main road along the North Ridge.  It faces away from the road and looks towards the Kromme Kill ravine.  In between mowings, it can quickly be swallowed up by the tall grass and clover.

The monument is made of a reddish-brown sandstone and, considering how easily this material erodes, the carved details are in fantastic shape.  If you look closely at the bottom right corner below the name, you'll see it's signed by James Gazeley.  It's likely one of his earlier works. 

The style is almost whimsical and folksy;  an angle bearing tablets carved with the words "EVEN SO" emerges from puffy clouds that almost resemble clusters of grapes.  Below the heavenly messenger, there are old-fashioned scales piled with scrolls.  There is a passage from Corinthians on either side of the scales.  Above the angel, it reads, "Scripture Balance."  Below, it reads, "On Earth Peace Good Will Toward Men."  The top of the monument is certainly missing something;  a column or urn or obelisk would've have completed it. 

This unusual stone marks the grave of David Zeh who died on April 8, 1880, but was likely erected well before his death to mark the graves of other family members.  The first burials in this lot took place in the 1850s and David Zeh probably commissioned the monument then.

David Zeh, who was born in Berne, New York in 1802, was a Trustee of the First Universalist Church in Albany.  City directories identify him as a merchant at the corner of State and Hawk Streets (with a residence nearby at 7 High Street).  Based on the burial records, it would seem he married twice;  his first wife, Catherine, died in 1833 at the age of twenty-eight.  His second wife, Mary Janes, survived him and passed away in 1893.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October 7, 1844

 Nothing could exceed the order and decorum with which everything was done.
---The Albany Argus, October 8, 1844

It was one hundred and seventy years ago today that the Albany Rural Cemetery was consecrated.  The event was marked with a great deal of ceremony;  a procession of dignitaries, civic organizations, and "a great concourse" of private citizens made their way from North Pearl Street to the new Cemetery where the dedication took place in a glen just below Consecration Lake.  That section now overgrown and forgotten but once considered one of the Cemetery's finest attractions.

It had taken three years from the formation of the Albany Cemetery Association to the opening of the new Cemetery grounds.  During this time, several other sites were considered for the Cemetery, but there were obstacles to obtaining them.

The ceremony - which began at nine in the morning and didn't end until half past three - was reported on in great detail by the local newspapers, including the Argus which printed the full text of several hymns written for the occasion, Reverend Doctor Pohlman's readings, and Alfred B. Street's poem.  They did not immediately reprint Daniel Dewey Barnard's lengthy dedication speech, but published it a day later and it can be found in Henry Phelp's The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories.  

The Argus concluded the account by noting the weather which seems to have been quite like this morning's.

The weather was not at all that could have been desired – the sky being overcast and threatening rain. The grounds in consequence did not appear in all their beauty – but none who visited them could fail to be impressed with the adaptation of the place to the purposes to which it is to be sacredly devoted. Many, we presume, visited it for the first time yesterday – but few we presume will not omit an opportunity to re-visit in. We hope soon to see the walks and carriage-ways laid out, and a beginning made towards converting this retired and inviting spot into a general place of burial.

Below:  The gate mentioned in the advertisement above.  It was erected some time after the dedications and was later replaced with the current gates which were designed by Marcus T. Reynolds.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stephen Lush

Set on the edge of the North Ridge overlooking the Kromme Kill ravine, this tall marble monument marks the grave of Stephen Lush and his family.

A native of New York City, he studied law and moved to his brother's home in Albany just before the Revolution.  He served very actively during the Revolution.  He was a member of the Albany Committee of Correspondence and served captain of the New York Volunteers.  He later joined the Fifth New Jersey Regiment and served as an acting judge advocate general.  As an aide-de-camp to General George Clinton, he was captured by the British when Fort Montgomery fell in 1777.  He was released in a prisoner exchange the following year.

After the war, he returned to Albany and married; his wife, Lydia, was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Stringer.  One of their children who died in infancy is buried in the Church Grounds.  Their Market Street house adjoined that of Dr. Stringer.  Lush was among the last slave owners in Albany, owning slaves as late as 1820.  A successful attorney, he served multiple terms the State Assembly and Senate.

Lush died in 1825 at the age of seventy-two.  Since he is not listed in the Common Council's inventory of interments in the State Street Burying Grounds, it's likely he was originally buried in the String family vault which stood in a small private cemetery leased by David Vanderheyden at what is now the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and Swan Streets. 

His wife, one son, and his brother are also listed on the east face of this monument.  When it was originally erected, this plot commanded a very fine view of the ravine below with two ornamental bodies of water, Lake Bethesda and Indian Lake.