Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Charles and Blandina Dudley

 

This tall, slender brownstone spire on the Middle Ridge stands on the Middle Ridge just a few yards from the Burden crypt.  From this high vantage point, one can look down over Cemetery's chapel and across the Hudson River or down into the south ravine to see the remnants of the cascades and Consecration Lake.

This monument, erected by the widowed Blandina Bleecker Dudley, is also a treasury of local history and family pride.  All of its flat faces are carved with detailed inscriptions which proudly chronicle such details as colonial emigrations and the original burial places of the remains transferred here by Blandina.

Among those buried here are Anneke Janse Bogardus, (the17th-century widow who owned a large tract of what is now Manhattan), Harmanus Bleecker (a member of Congress and namesake of the former library on Washington Avenue and Dove Street), and Jan Janse Bleecker (the blacksmith who came here from Holland in 1658).

Born in 1783, Blandina (spelled Blandena on the Cemetery's records) was the daughter of Rutger Bleecker, a Revolutionary War gunsmith who made a considerable fortune in speculating on land seized from Tories.  Her English-born husband, merchant Charles Dudley, had a distinguished politcal career; he served as Mayor of Albany from 1821-4, New York State senator from 1823-25, a second term as Mayor from 1828-9, and United States Senator from 1829-31.

His inscription on the spire reads:

Charles Edward Dudley Born May 23rd 1780 at Johnson Hall, Stafford-Shire, England.  Baptized in the Parish Church of Eccleshall by the Rev Dr Catlow.  Departed this life Jan 23rd 1841 at his residence in the City of Albany with all the Christians Blessings, beloved, and Honoured by all.  He has exchanged his mansions on earth for a more enduring one in Heaven in the Hope of a Blessed Immortality.  Erected by Blandina Dudley relict of Charles Edward Dudley, A.D. 1854.  Mary Ann only sister of Charles Edward Dudley Died Dec 17 - 1806 at New York aged 23 years  Her remains were placed under the Old Dutch Church now Post Office, N. York

Charles and Blandina had no children to inherit the family money.  To honor her husband and leave a permanent legacy, Blandina donated a generous portion of his estate (equivalent to $3 million in today's money) which would establish the Dudley Observatory.

Created by a state charter in 1852, the first observatory was built two years later just north of Albany on what is still called Dudley Heights.  However, the vibrations of trains passing too close to the original site were harmful to the sensitive instruments houses at the original observatory.  A new Dudley Observatory was built on South Lake Avenue in the early 1890s.  The Dudley Observatory is now located at 15 Nott Terrace in Schenectady (though, as noted on Wikipedia, it no longer serves as an active astronomical observatory) and is now part of the Museum of Science and Innovation (miSci).

Blandina died on March 6, 1863.  Her inscription on the grand family monument is much shorter than her husband's:

Blandina Bleecker Relict of Charles E. Dudley Born Oct. 1, 1783, Died March 6, 1863.  Aged 80 years & 5 months.  

The Dudley Observatory homepage.

1 comment:

  1. "Under the Middle Dutch Church in Hudson St. are deposited the remains of our ancestors taken from the old church in State St. Among them are those of Anneke Jantz Bogardus, Jan Jansen Bleeker, & Rutger Jacobson, who laid the corner stone of the old church, above named, A.D. 1656."

    I took that to be a cenotaphic inscription: that their remains remain under the site of the Middle Dutch Church, not that they'd been transferred to Albany Rural.

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