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.

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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.

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