Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Samuel Richards Headstone

The marble headstone of one Samuel Richards of Canandaigua, Ontario County, New York. Richards, a clerk in a mercantile company in Canandaigua, died in Albany on August 2, 1804. He was only twenty-eight and remembered as "a talented young man."

Richards was first buried in the Presbyterian section of the municipal burial ground near Eagle Street and State Street (just south of the modern East Capitol Park). It's likely that his grave was moved further uptown to the State Street Burying Ground when that replaced the old downtown graveyards and, finally, his remains and headstone were moved to the Rural Cemetery in 1868.

Richards' white marble stone is beautifully carved with two urns, a symbol of mortality that replaced the winged skulls and cherubic soul effigies popular on headstones in previous generations.

The covered upper urn is framed by an elegant arch. A stylized flower and delicately carved vines which spread out over the monument rise from the lower urn. The surface of the stone is also carved with a cross-hatched pattern giving it an almost woven texture. It's difficult to tell if this stone was signed by its carver as the lower portion is embedded in the earth, but it's one of the finest markers in the Church Grounds and shows a great deal of skill and care.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Palmer's Angel

In his novel, "The Flaming Corsage," noted Albany author William Kennedy has two of his characters rendezvous in the Rural Cemetery. They arrange to meet by Erastus Dow Palmer's Angel At The Sepulchre, calling the heroic white marble statue "the one landmark of whose location everyone was certain" and “the best-known resident of the cemetery, eclipsing magnates and governors, even heroes of the Revolution.”

The larger-than-life Angel was commissioned to mark the grave of Emma Rathbone Turner in 1868 and is the sole monument in a large circular plot on the South Ridge. It is one of several works by Palmer found in the Cemetery and certainly the most striking.

Admired by many and criticized by some, the Angel inspired at least one imitation; I've recently come across photos of a marble statue in a California cemetery that is clearly a copy of the Angel, though the features are much softer and it lacks both the imposing grace and meticulous detail of Palmer's funerary masterpiece.

People often questioned Palmer as to whom he used as a model the Angel's features, but Palmer is said to have denied using a model for the face at all. I have a few ideas as to who inspired the statue's face, but I've save that story for now.

The Angel is one of the reasons I fell in love with the Albany Rural Cemetery. I was quite young when the movie Ironweed was filmed in various locations in and around Albany, including the Rural Cemetery. Area televisions stations did some stories on the filming locations. During one such news piece, I caught a glimpse of Palmer's Angel and just had to see it in person. I've enjoyed exploring the Cemetery ever since.

To see what Palmer's Angel looked like before the elements and lichen eroded its features, visit the Albany Institute of History and Art. Palmer's original plaster cast of the Angel At The Sepulchre forms the centerpiece of a wonderful gallery highlighting his works.

More about The Angel of The Sepulchre
More about Erastus Dow Palmer

Friday, December 16, 2011

Celtic Cross With Roses

Exceptionally pretty roses cover this Celtic-style cross on the Middle Ridge overlooking the Cemetery's chapel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Hidden Gem

This lovely old statue of a classically-gowned maiden holding a wreath is quite easy to miss. It's located high on the eastern end of the North Ridge, just behind the Soldiers Lot and not easily visible from the main road. It once overlooked scenic paths that ran along the shoulder of the North Ridge and it has a fine view of the Kromme Kill ravine with the Middle Ridge visible on the other side. The paths are unused now, but looking across, you can glimpse monuments like the Burden crypt.

Enclosed in a small fenced lot, this pretty monument marks the grave of 21-year old Charles E. Alvord who passed away on November 17, 1851. Also buried here is his sister, Emma, who was less than two years old when she passed away on July 23, 1836. Near the monument, there is a small headstone lying on the grass which reads "Charles and his sister Emma." Like the base of the larger monument, this little one is also trimmed with carved ivy. A broken piece of the lot's ornate gate is propped against the statue's pedestal which is carved with the following:

The Trumpet Shall Sound And The Dead Shall Arise
I Am The Resurrection And The Life

Though it an older burial in a secluded section, someone must visit from time to time. The rusted gate is carefully secured with a twist of wire and there were silk lilies tucked into the piece of gate resting at the statue's feet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Unknown Soldiers

Walking through the rows in Soldiers Lot yesterday, I came across two headstones - Number 42 (shown above) and Number 63 - marking the graves of Unknown Soldiers of the Civil War.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Elsie Cuyler Ten Eyck

One of the loveliest soul effigies I've encountered in the Church Grounds. This simple, serene face does not feature the wings commonly found on such carvings, but is fully enclosed in what resembles a sort of halo (or even an old-fashioned ladies cap) and surrounded by delicate flowers.

This sandstone slab marked the grave of Elsie Cuyler, wife of Barent Ten Eyck. Elsie was born in 1728 to merchant Johannes Cuyler, Jr. and his wife, Catharine Glen. Her husband, whom she married in 1756, was an Albany silversmith. Elsie died in 1791. Barent outlived her by four years. I have not yet located or identified his headstone.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Captain John Bogart - The Last of The Dutch Skippers

The grave of Captain John Bogart (also spelled Bogert) on the Middle Ridge.

The anchor that adorns this monument is a fitting symbol of sentiment carved below it (Hope Is The Anchor of Soul) and of the man who rests here.

John Bogart was born in Albany in 1761, the son of Hendrick Bogart, a surveyor and Hudson River skipper. Fifteen when Revolutionary War began, he joined the Albany militia, took part in the escort of British prisoners, and served on his father's sloop, Madeleine, transporting supplies for the Continental Army. By the age of seventeen, he was skipper of the sloop.

After the Revolution, young Bogart continued on in his father's profession. He was a respected skipper on the Hudson River and, in the 1790s, was appointed the city surveyor. He served in a number of other civic positions during his life, including alderman, fireman, and treasurer.

When he died in 1855, he was known as "the last of the Dutch skippers." The last line carved on his monument reads, An Old Man and Full of Years; at ninety-two, Bogart was reportedly the oldest man in the Albany at the time of his death.

His monument is located on the Rural Cemetery's Middle Ridge. The white marble is flanked by two smaller headstones marking the graves of his wives, Catherine Ten Broeck (d. 1792) and Christina Vought (d. 1836). Both women were originally buried elsewhere and transferred to the Rural Cemetery to rest beside the Captain's monument. Catherine appears in the list of interments in the Dutch Reformed section of the old State Street Burying Grounds.

A closer look at the monument shows a small broken shot glass resting on the ledge near the anchor. Perhaps someone stopped to drink a toast to the Old Dutch Skipper.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Major Lewis N. Morris

It's said that the funeral of Major Lewis N. Morris was the longest in Albany's history, stretching all the way from downtown to the high and scenic Middle Ridge of the Rural Cemetery nearly three miles away.

The son of Col. Staats Morris (who served under "Mad Anthony" Wayne during the Revolution) and grandson of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Lewis N. Morris graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1820.

Morris served in the Mexican War and took part in the Battles of Palo Alto and Resace de la Palma, earning recognition for his "gallant and meritorious conduct." On September 21, 1846, he was killed by a shot to the heart during the American victory at Monterey.

The following year, the citizens of Albany erected a massive sandstone monument on his grave "to commemorate the gallantry of the soldier, the worth of the man."

The monument which features a soldier's cap and a large cannon barrel draped with a wreath and a flag, was reportedly the prototype for many of the Cemetery's Civil War monuments a generation later.

(Major Morris' son, Lewis O. Morris, followed in his footsteps. During the public memorials for Major Lewis, a sword commissioned for the father was presented to the son. Lewis O. Morris received an Army commission the following year and was killed at Cold Harbor during the Civil War)

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Little Angel

There are many children's graves throughout the Albany Rural Cemetery. They are often marked with such symbols of youth and innocence as lambs or doves or angels. Some, like Georgie, a touching portraits of the deceased child. Others show idealized sleeping infants or the accessories of childhood (tiny carved boots, a little girl's hat, tiny empty chairs). They are sad, but sweet reminders of the higher children's mortality rate of previous eras.

This small monument on the Middle Ridge (just a stone's throw from the Burden vault with its majestic dogs) has one of the most adorable cherubs I've seen in the Rural Cemetery and marks the grave of one Robert J.Rose, Jr. who died in 1910 at the tender age of eight.