Friday, December 21, 2012

Church Grounds Pieces

Fragments of broken stones in the Church Grounds section.  If you aren't following it already, please see my companion blog focusing on this historic area of the Rural Cemetery and the people buried there.

The Albany Church Grounds

Monday, December 17, 2012

Col. Lewis O. Morris

This stained and tilting marble gravestone stands in one of the most secluded corners of the South Ridge.  Located a few lots east of the large McIntyre plot, it is perched on a narrow hill which overlooks the old site of Consecration Lake.  In the distance, at the far left of the photo, there is a glimpse of the Witt crypt on the other side of a narrow ravine that splits off from the larger Moordanaers Kill ravine.

The front of this urn-topped monument features a shield-shaped tablet with a cross above it.  The top edge of the tablet is carved with a sword and tassels.  The inscription reads:  Col. Lewis O. Morris, U.S.A., Born Albany, N.Y. August 14, 1824.  Killed At Cold Harbor, VA, June 4, 1864.

If the name of this Civil War soldier seems familiar, it is because his father, Major Lewis M. Morris, was at Monterey during the Mexican War and was given one of the largest funerals in Albany's history.  The elder Morris lies buried on the Middle Ridge and his grave is marked by a magnificent brown sandstone monument

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Charles Calverley

Anyone who has strolled or driven through Washington Park has seen the handsome Robert Burns monument with its bronze statue of the Scottish poet and four plaques depicting scenes from his works.   The Burns memorial, one of the Park's landmarks, was created by Albany sculptor Charles Calverley.

Calverley was born in Albany in 1833 and, at the age of thirteen, he apprenticed to local stonecutter John Dixon.  Dixon's workshop produced a number of monuments for the Albany Rural Cemetery, including that of the Strain family and local publisher Jesse Buel, as well as architectural elements and marble mantels.

In 1853, Calverley's work in Dixon's shop caught the attention of Erastus Dow Palmer.  After seeing a rose carved by the twenty-year old, the sculptor bought out the remainder of Caverley's apprenticeship and brought him to work in his own studio.

In 1868, Calverley opened his own studio in Manhattan at Fourth Avenue and 25th Street.  Working in both marble and bronze, he created numerous busts, bas-reliefs, and medallions, with the occasional full-length statue or cameo.  He did several commissions for monuments in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, including busts Horace Greeley and Elias Howe.  Another well-known Calverley piece in Green-Wood is Precious Georgie, a touching marble portrait of a four-year old boy who died of scarlet fever.

In Albany Rural Cemetery, he also created Meditation, the exquisite bronze statue on the monument of Doctor Jephta Bouleware (see photo below) and a beautiful portrait medallion of Ann Elizabeth Brown Wiles.

Calverley died in 1914.  His family plot on the South Ridge contains four examples of his work.  The main monument is topped by a bronze bust of the sculptor (a self-portrait) and the bas-relief on the front is a likeness of his wife, Susan Hand.  Behind the main monument, a second granite monument contains medallions of the sculptor's mother and his brother, John, who died of illness while serving in the Civil War.

Below:  Detail of the Boulware monument:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Lockwood Family

This beautiful marble with a carved pall draped over its top and three delicate roses marks the graves of the Lockwood family of Albany.

Alvah M. Lockwood, a founding member of Albany's Burgesses Corps, died at the age of twenty-four on February 10, 1835 and was buried in the Dutch Reformed lot at the State Street Burying Grounds.  He was survived by his wife, Sarah, and young daughter, Alvah Ann.

Early on the morning of September 5, 1852, the boiler on the steam boat Reindeer caught fire and exploded near Saugerties.  Three dozen passengers were killed, either instantly or later from severe burns or other related injuries.  Among the passengers were Sarah Lockwood who the same day at the age of forty and Alvah Ann who died of her injuries on September 11.  A John Lockwood of Albany, most likely the brother of the late Alvah M., was also aboard the steam boat, but survived the disaster. 

The bodies of the two women were returned to Albany and interred in the Albany Rural Cemetery along with Alvah M. Lockwood whose remains were transferred from the State Street Burying Grounds to this North Ridge hilltop.

The inscription on the monument mentions the Reindeer tragedy and, near the bottom, it reads They sleep, but I do not forget them.

The Lockwood graves are located near the Strain family plot.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Frederick Hinckel

This stately figure of Hope stands facing Cypress Water on the South Ridge.  It marks the grave of Frederick Hinckel and his family. 

Hinckel's name is familiar to anyone with an interest in the history of Albany's many breweries.  With a partner, he founded the Cataract Brewery in 1857.  It was originally named for its location overlooking Buttermilks Falls (now a part of the sewer running through Lincoln Park's ravine).  Hinckel bought out his partner and changed the brewery's name.  In 1880, he built a complex of handsome brick buildings to house the business which was said to be one of the best equipped breweries in the United States.  The old brewery still stands across from Lincoln Park and has been converted into an apartment building.

Albany was once famous for its numerous breweries and there was obviously good money in the business as their owners were buried beneath some of the finest monuments in the Rural Cemetery, including this one in one of the most expensive sections and the elaborate Boyd marble on the Middle Ridge.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Young Double Stone

This stone, lying flush with the earth on the Middle Ridge, is one of the most distinctive.  Cut from a dull blue-gray slate, this double stone features two wonderful examples of New England gravestone art and has an interesting family story as well.

The stone was carved by William Young, known to gravestone historians as "the thistle-carver" since he often incorporated that plant into his designs.  This stone does not include any thistles, but does feature a pair of William's distinctive bewigged heads with their prominent noses, small mouths, and staring eyes.  William's work was almost exclusively confined to the area around Worcester, Massachusetts so finding one such as this here in New York is extremely unusual.  In fact, a bit of carving at the bottom of the stone indicates that this was actually removed from Worcester in the early 1870s.

This stone was carved by William Young to mark the graves of his father and grandfather, originally located in Worcester's Commons burial ground.  The neatly lettered inscription reads:

Here lyes interred the Remains of John Young who was born in the Isl of Bert near Londonderry in the Kingdom of Ireland.  He departed this life June 30th, 1730, aged 107.

Here lyes interred ye Remains of David Young, who was born in the Parish of Tahboyn, County of Donegall & Kingdom of Ireland.  He departed this life Decemb'r 23rd, 1776, age 94.

As one can see from the inscription, John Young and his son David lived exceptionally long lives.

John Young immigrated from Ireland to Massachusetts at the age of ninety-five, bringing with him a family that included his son, David, and David's son, William.  The Young family settled near Worcester as farmers, but William would later be described as gentleman squire.  Well read, his personal library included six law books, six history books, six science books, eighteen on religious matters, one of poetry, and seven school texts. He would serve as the town Surveyor and a Justice of the Peace.  Carving gravestones was apparently only a side job for him, but he was certainly an active carver; the Farber Gravestone Collection contains photographs of numerous stones attributed to him, including the John and David Young double stone.

The John & David Young stone in the Farber Gravestone Collection

The Young monument came to Albany Rural Cemetery in 1873 when a descendent had it removed to a family plot here.  Unfortunately, when the stone was removed from its original site, the homespun epitaph at the bottom - presumably composed by William - was cut away.  The missing portion once read:

The aged Son and the more aged Father Beneath this stone their mouldering bones here rest together.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cypress Water

Cypress Water is the old name for the ornamental pond at the heart of the Rural Cemetery's South Ridge.  When the Cemetery was founded in the 1840s, this area was nothing more than a bog fed by natural springs and was described in old books as being quite "disagreeable."  As the Cemetery expanded rapidly in its first two decades, this soggy ground was reclaimed to create some of the most expensive burial plots and the springs diverted to form this teardrop-shaped pond.  

A stone slab at the north end of the pond dates the project to 1869.  The view at the top of this post was published in the 1870s.  A canoe is seen beside a little island near the center of the pond and relatively few monuments can be seen in the distance. 

The little island has since been replaced by the fountain shown above (placed there in 1950 by Captain J. Fred Werzinger in honor of his parents and brother) and the pond is surrounded on all sides by some of the Cemetery's loveliest monuments.  The bronze angel seen above marks the grave of department store founder John G. Myers.

See also:  Consecration Lake.
               A Bench For Souls

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Theophilus Roessle - Colonie's Celery Magnate

Near the Gansevoort-Melville lot on the South Ridge, a massive granite shaft marks the grave of a man who owed at least part of his substantial fortune to the cultivation of celery and owned a large portion of what is now the town of Colonie.

Born in 1811 near Stuttgart, Theophilus G. Roessle was a German immigrant from who came to Albany penniless at the age of fifteen having lost both his trunk counting his few possessions and his traveling companion who took ill and died not long after their arrival in Rochester.

He worked at various jobs and learned both landscaping and market gardening until he was able to afford to lease a farm and, with the income from the farm, began to buy land along the Albany-Schenectady Turnpike (now Central Avenue between Osborne and Wolf Roads). This area would later become the hamlet of Roessleville and, as his wealth increased, Theophilus Roessle built a large, elegant mansion near present-day Elmhurst Avenue. The estate, its entrance road flanked by stone lions, is long since gone.

A wholesaler of produce whose property included orchards with about five thousand fruit trees, he focused his attention on the cultivation of celery, especially the white variety which was achieved by covering the young plants with earth to deprive them of sunlight. He reportedly sold a thousand bunches of celery a day in season which a good percent of the sales being out-of-state. He even authored a book on the subject, How To Cultivate and Preserve Celery in 1860. He later purchased Albany's famed Delavan House in 1849, founded the Fort William Henry Hotel in near Lake George, and later took over the Arlington Hotel in Washington, D.C.. Roessle died in 1890 and his sons followed him in the produce business.

Monday, November 5, 2012

William Manson's Business Card

This detailed advertisement comes from the 1869 edition of the Albany city directory (where such ads are referred to as business cards).  It shows a variety of marble items offered by William Manson's establishment, including elegant fireplace mantles and a selection of funerary work.

There are quite a few examples of Manson's work in the Rural Cemetery, including the Col. Mills monument, the massive granite marking the Appleton lot, the Fireman's Monument on the North Ridge, the Thomas W. Olcott monument, and the beautiful marble sarcophagus marking the grave of Ellen Hardin (wife of President Chester Arthur). 

It's amusing to note that the business card for James Gazeley's Monumental Marble Works just a page or two away in the same 1869 directory features some of the same images as Manson's.  They apparently came from a set of ready-made printing dies used by the publisher and were essentially the clip art or stock images of the era.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Professor of Elocution

This old headstone lies flush to the ground in an old section of the South Ridge (not too far from the sandstone sarcophagus of Captain Cortlandt Van Rensselaer and the graves of the Melvilles) and is quite easy to miss.  It marks the grave of John Hanbury Dwyer, one of several 19th century actors buried at the Rural Cemetery.

The darkened marble stone, which originally stood in the Episcopal section of the State Street Burying Grounds, has a lengthy inscription:

In memory of John Hanbury Dwyer
Professor of Elocution
One of the most distinguished actors of his day.
A man of brilliant talent talent and dedication:
An ornament of the British and American stage:
Author of the best Essays on Elocution 
ever published in this country.
Born in Clonnel, County Tipperary, in 1780,
came to America in 1811, died December 14, 1843

He was the son of a colonel in King Louis XVI's Irish Brigade.  As an actor on the British stage, it was said that the mere act of drawing his sword could excite the audience.  He emigrated to the United States where he found continued success and was known for "the elegance of his person, the fascination of his deportment, and that perfect knowledge of the stage business which never suffered the slightest embarrassment."  He often performed at Albany's Pearl Street Theatre (which later became home to the Baptist Church where a sermon by the Reverend Bartholomew T. Welch led to the establishment of the Albany Rural Cemetery).

Professor Dwyer's three-hundred page "Essays on Elocution" was first published 1824 and went through at least a half dozen reprints.  It can be read on Google Books.  Dwyer even sent a copy of his book ("intended for the promotion of the morals, and intellect, of the youth of America) to President James Madison who wrote back:

I have not found it convenient to give the Work a critical examination.  But a Cursory one has satisfied me that its explanations, its precepts, and its exemplifying selections, justly class it with the books useful to the Teachers & pupils, of the branch of Education on which it treats.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandstone Coffins

Surrounded by oak leaves and dotted with lichen, these old stones in the Reynolds family lot on the South Ridge resemble a pair of coffins.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Grave of The Bridgens

This worn and mossy marble stone is set high on a hill near the path leading past the Appleton lot to the little bridge which crosses Moordenaers Kill to connect the South Ridge with the western end of the Middle Ridge.  Also set into this hillside are the vaults of the Pumpelly-Read, Stanford, and Pester-Osterhout families.

 This stone reads simply Grave of The Bridgens

Fitzgerald's 1871 Handbook For The Albany Rural Cemetery describes this somewhat obscure monument:

If we look sharply we will see...a low block of marble inscribed "The Grave of The Bridgens," and some distance back of it a single undecorated grave.  The simple quaintess of the inscription has provoked many a query, and yet there is nothing cabalistic in it.  The grave contains the reinterred remains of several members of the Bridgen family. 

Only a Thomas Atwater Bridgen, an attorney, appears in the inventory of graves moved from the old State Street Burying Grounds to the Rural Cemetery's Church Grounds.  He is among those buried beneath this unusual stone.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Now & Then - The Isaac Vosburgh Lot

This is the family lot of Albany merchant Isaac Vosburgh on the Cemetery's South Ridge.  This lot stands atop a hill just beyond the Main Lodge in a section called Chapel Grove and Evenlow Lawn on older maps of the grounds, now it is merely referred to as Section 4.

This lot was purchased by Isaac W. Vosburgh for the burial of his son, also named Isaac, who died in 1848 at the age of six.  It had been only four years since the Cemetery was consecrated and, when Vosburgh erected this marble to mark his family plot, there were only a few such gravestones present.

In 1849, James McDonald Hart depicted this monument in a painting now on display at the Albany Institute of History & Art.

Albany Institute of History & Art - Albany Rural Cemetery - James M. Hart

(Be sure to click on the painting in the above link to zoom in on its details)

The painting shows the wooded South Ridge with a broad, unpaved path winding through a landscape with  very monuments except for the Vosburgh lot (which, at the time, was enclosed by a low iron railing with marble fence posts) and two others which can just be glimpsed through the trees.  Several couples are seen strolling the grounds, a popular pastime before the establishment of Washington Park, and a small horse-drawn carriage can be seen on the dirt path.  Isaac W. Vosburgh himself is shown seated on the grassy edge of the family plot with his face turned away from the viewer as he recalls his departed child.

Many monuments fill this area now, including a number of smaller stones crowding the Vosburgh lot.  The dirt lane is now a grassy footpath bypassed by the larger South Ridge Road.  Many of the trees, too, which crowd around the lot in the 1878 engraving below are also long gone.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fannie and Ella Fitch

These days, the word "pets" generally refers to domestic animals such as cats and dogs and one doesn't usually hear the word applied to children, except in not-so-complimentary instances such as "teacher's pet." So, this little marble gravestone in memory of "Our Pets" on the high eastern edge of the Middle Ridge (not far from the graves of Governor William Marcy and painter Ezra Ames) is a poignant, but pretty surprise.

Decorated with carved roses and other embellishments, this touching tribute to Fannie and Ella includes a dainty marble likeness of the girls, perhaps copied from a photograph or portrait. Though the elements have darkened the white marble to gray, the features of the children have suffered less erosion that many monuments here.

The back of the stone is somewhat more worn and it is very difficult to read, but it seems both girls died in 1863 and that they were the daughters of Dennis M. Fitch.  Census records from 1850 show that jeweler Dennis Fitch and his wife, Eliza, resided in Troy.  In addition to these two girls, they had three sons.  By the late 1860s, he seems to have relocated his silversmith and jewelry business to New York City.  He is, however, buried here in the same lot. 

There is an epitaph on the reverse of the stone, too, but only the last lines are legible:  And let them hereforth be Messengers of love between our human hearts and Thee.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Simplest Markers

In a cemetery filled with grand monuments and exceptional funerary art, one still finds simple markers like this little homemade cross on the North Ridge.  A piece of paper (perhaps from a religious booklet) pasted on it has long since weathered away, but a rosary is still looped around it.  Census and burial records identify this as the grave of Walter Burchalewski.  Born in Poland in 1877, he immigrated to the United States in 1899.  By 1930, he was living in Albany with his wife, Josefa, and eight children.  He died in 1959.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Presidential Grave

One of my favorite local sites, All Over Albany, has an article today on what is easily the most famous grave at the Albany Rural Cemetery.

Gravespotting Chester A. Arthur.

The monument marking the resting place of President Arthur was the work of Baltimore sculptor Ephraim Keyser.  Reportedly, the elegant bronze angel and black stone sarcophagus cost $10,000.  The funds were raised by a group of the late President's friends.  It was erected in the Arthur family lot on the South Ridge in 1889, some three years after Arthur's death.

The white marble markers seen behind the monument in the antique photo below belong to members of the Arthur family, including Chester Arther's parents.  His wife's delicate Gothic sarcophagus is hidden by the larger Presidential monument in this photo, but is located just to the rear of it and it will be the subject of an upcoming post here.

In his 1893 history of the Albany Rural Cemetery, Henry P. Phelps wrote about the Arthur gravesite:

We turn now towards one of the most interesting and artistic monuments in the Cemetery, erected to the memory of Chester Alan Arthur, twenty-first president of the United States, born October 5, 1830, died November 18, 1886.  The lot is not a large one, nor is it conspicuous.  It was purchased by the president's father, Rev. William Arthur, and there he and the president's mother, wife, and son are buried.  It was right and best, of course, that Mr. Arthur should sleep among his kindred and his grave was made there before any testimonial was projected.  This is the free, cheerful, almost unasked for contribution of his friends, resident largely in the state of New York.  With few words, with little publicity, and no solicitation, a handsome sum of money was promptly raised, sufficient to pay for the monument and also for a statue in New York City.  The whole proceeding was conducted in the generous, gentlemanly way so much in accordance with the life and manner of the man whom it was sought thus to honor.

See also:  Ellen Herndon Arthur

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Egbert Egberts

This low, mossy marble gravestone on the Middle Ridge bears a rather Dickensian name; Egbert Egberts. 

An Albany shopkeeper, Egberts is credited with establishing the textile mills that the nearby city of Cohoes would be well known for.  Working with a machinist named Thomas Bailey, Egberts invented a powered knitting machine - the first of its kind - that allowed them to establish mills in Cohoes where the massive waterfall and the Mohawk River would provide the steampower which allowed the industry to flourish for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

He was a founder of the Cohoes High School, served as president of the Bank of Cohoes, and a street in the city still bears his name.

Born in 1791, Egberts died in 1869.  Less than twenty years after his death, the still-growing mill industry in Cohoes reportedly accounted for a quarter of knitted good produced in the United States.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Old Arsenal Burying Ground

Near the western end of the North Ridge, there is a large corner lot filled with headstones which predate the Rural Cemetery's consecration in 1844.  Unlike many of the Cemetery's oldest stones which were transferred here from the State Street Burying Grounds (now Albany's Washington Park), these graves were relocated from the old Arsenal Burying Grounds in nearby Watervliet (formerly known as Gibbonsville and West Troy). 

As the name indicates, the Arsenal Burying Grounds stood near the south side of the Watervliet Arsenal.  This graveyard originally belonged to the Gibbonsville Reformed Church which was established in 1815.  A little less than a century later, this little cemetery (which contained between 275 and 300 graves) was all but abandoned and the Reverend C.P. Evans of Watervliet undertook to copy the inscriptions from the neglected gravestones in 1913.  Not long after Reverand Evans' transcription was compiled, the graves and headstones were removed from the Watervliet site and transferred to this lot in the Rural Cemetery. 

Among the relocated burials was that of Benjamin Hanks, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a key figure in the area's bell-making industry.

The stones in the photo above belong to Washington J. Gilbert (died in 1838 at the age of 26), Mary Clinton (the daughter of John and Effy Clinton, died at the age of 11 in 1813), and Almira (wife of Daniel Carthy, died in 1829 at the age of 40).   Almira's stone features a very nice willow-and-urn motif.

The simple, pretty stone below, which also features an urn flanked by a pair of graceful willows, is that of Elizabeth Dyer.  The wife of William Dyer, she died in 1841 at the age 30.

One interesting occupant of the Arsenal Burying Ground who was not reburied at the Rural Cemetery was Doctor Nelson L. Hungerford.  On May 27, 1839, he was killed by a falling rock in the Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls.  Originally buried at the Arsenal, he was later re-interred in Connecticut.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Doctor William L. Mastin

A simple marble headstone with a carved Bible marks the grave of one William L. Mastin on the Cemetery's North Ridge

The 1850 Census lists him as a physician residing at 40 Franklin Street with his wife, Ocelia, and eighteen year old Eve Magill (probably a servant). Interestingly, Ocelia Mastin is listed in the 1858 city directory as an astrologist!

The name is listed Masten in both the Census records and the city directory so the headstone's inscription appears to have been misspelled by the carver.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Teunis Van Vechten

This monument stands so close to the edge of the Church Grounds that, at first glance, it almost seems to be a part of that section.  It is, however, a private family lot in an adjacent section.

This cross-topped spire marks the grave of Albany mayor Teunis Van Vechten and his family.  A descendent of one of Albany's oldest Dutch colonial families, he was born in 1785 and educated at Union College.  After graduating with honors, he studied law and eventually became the legal adviser to the last Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer during the turbulent era of the Anti-Rent Wars.  He served four terms as Mayor of Albany.  He also served on the committee organized to establish the Rural Cemetery.

He died at his home (725 Broadway) on February 4, 1859.  His wife, Catherine Cuyler Gansevoort, predeceased him in 1831.  Several of their children are also buried here.

The Van Vechtan monument is wonderfully detailed.  The white marble pedestal is embellished with a pair of large inverted torches and a graceful winged hourglass.  The cross-topped spire atop it stands on heavy lion's feet and is decorated stylized foliage and wreath of laurels.  The style is very typical of sculptor Robert Launitz and may be his work.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Senator Ira Harris

This massive square granite headstone in an old section of the South Ridge (not too far from the lovely grave of Daniel Campbell) marks the grave of Senator Ira Harris, a man whose family history is closely linked to the Lincoln assassination.

Harris was born in 1802 on a farm near Charleston, Montgomery County.  Educated at Union College, he was admitted to the bar in 1828 and practiced law in Albany.  His active political and civic career included tenures the New York State Assembly, the New York State Constitutional Convention (1846), New York State Senate, and New York State Supreme Court.  He also served as president of Union College and was a founder of Albany Law School.

In 1861, he was elected to the United States Senate to replace William H. Seward after the latter was appointed Secretary of State by President Abraham Lincoln.  Senator Harris would become a friend of the President and a regular visitor to the Lincoln White House (which led to a joke that Lincoln would check under his bed each night to make sure Senator Harris was not there with yet another patronage request).

On the night that Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre, his guests for the evening were Senator Harris' daughter, Clara, and her fiance, Colonel Henry Rathbone (who was also Senator Harris' stepson).  Rathbone was wounded by Booth's knife during the assassination and his failure to prevent the President's death would haunt Henry for the rest of his life.  In 1883, suffering from declining mental health, Henry stabbed Clara to death and attempted to take his own life (he survived, was declared insane, and died in an asylum in 1911).

Senator Ira Harris' summer home just off modern-day Route 9 in Loudonville still stands.  Located just minutes from the South Gate of the Albany Rural Cemetery, the old Loudon Cottage (which is privately owned) is said to be haunted by Lincoln.  Clara's evening gown, stained with Lincoln's blood, was reportedly sealed in a closet there and the slain President's ghost has been seen there by a number of people, beginning with Clara who is said to have seen the apparition on the first anniversary of the assassination.

Senator Ira Harris died on December 2, 1873 after an illness described in contemporary accounts as "paralysis."  He was buried in his family's lot at the Rural Cemetery.  The back of the monument lists other member of the Harris family interred there.

Ira Harris was also a part of the Rural Cemetery's history; he was a founding member of the Albany Cemetery Association and served as a Trustee of the Cemetery from its incorporation until his death.  It was Harris who, after receiving a letter from the General's granddaughter, presented the resolution to have Phillip Schuyler's remains transferred from an obscure grave in the Van Rensselaer family lot to a new lot marked with a fine column more in keeping with Schuyler's legacy as a key figure in the region's Revolutionary-era history.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Squire Whipple

This modest headstone of black granite on the South Ridge near the graves of Herman Melville's parents and the brownstone sarcophagus of Cortlandt Van Rensselaer marks the grave of Squire Whipple, a civil engineer known as "the father of iron bridge building"

Born in Massachusetts and educated at Union College in nearby Schenectady, Whipple is best remembered locally for the bowstring truss bridge preserved in the Normanskill Hollow between Albany and Delmar. 

Squire Whipple on Wikipedia

Monday, September 10, 2012

Captain Townsend's Anchor

The Townsend family plot is a large fenced lot alongside the Moordanaers Kill on a low path between the Cemetery's Middle and South Ridges.  Located just across from the De Peyster Douw hillside crypt, it contains a number of noteworthy graves, but the most distinctive monument here is undoubtedly the massive granite anchor marking the resting place of Captain Robert Townsend.

A member of a prominent Albany family which included mayors, generals, and businessmen, Captain Townsend served in the U.S. Navy during the Mexican War (commanding the Porpoise) and the Civil War (commanding the Miami and Essex).  At the age of forty-six, he died of heatstroke in China while in command of the Wachusett

 A set of historic artifacts which once belonged to Captain Robert Townsend was recently the subject of a Times Union article

The photo below shows Townsend lot as it appeared in the late 1800s.  An early history of the Cemetery describes the anchor tomb as "at once elegant, modest, and substantial." 

Anchors appears on a number of other monuments in the Cemetery (such as the John Bogart marble), either as a symbol of steadfast faith or an emblem of a maritime career. 

(An iron cover made by the Townsend Furnace can still be seen near the Capitol.  Click here for a photo.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

David Strain

The monument is a tall shaft in a corner lot at the very edge of a hill on the North Ridge.  From here, one can look down on the massive Winslow vault or out across the Hudson River towards Troy.  Near the top of the shaft is the family name "Strain."  But the inscription that makes this rather obscure monument noteworthy is near the base on the south side.  It reads FIRST INTERMENT IN THIS CEMETERY.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thomas and Elizabeth Beckett

The western edge of the North Ridge contains many graves privately transferred to the Rural Cemetery from the State Burying Grounds prior to the closure and mass removal of graves by the Albany Common Council in the late 1860s (see also the David Fonda stone).

This white marble headstone marks the relocated graves of Thomas and Elizabeth Beckett which were moved here from the Dutch Reformed Church's lot at the old Burying Grounds.

Elizabeth Beckett died in  1854 at the age of forty.  Thomas died in 1862 at the age of forty-eight.  According to the city directory, he was a grocer with an establishment on at the corner of Lumber Street (now Livingston Avenue) and Lark Street.  Their home was a few blocks away at 104 Clinton Avenue.

The Beckett headstone is a simple rectangle of white marble which features some of the loveliest carved roses in the Cemetery.  The flowers and leaves are very details with two open blooms and one rose hip berry.  The style is not too unlike the roses carved on the broken stone of Elizabeth Ann in the nearby Church Grounds and may even be the work of the same stone-cutter.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edward Delavan

This cross-topped marble monument on the Cemetery's high Middle Ridge marks the grave of Edward C. Delavan, a prominent Albany hotel owner and temperance advocate.

Mr. Delavan owned the eponymous Delavan House, one of old Albany's most famous hotels.  Located on Broadway on the site of Union Station, the hotel hosted Charles Dickens, the Lincoln family, Boss Tweed (he used a luxury suite there as his local headquarters, complete with a private entrance), Theodore Roosevelt, and many other famous figures before it was destroyed in one of the city's worst fires.  Nineteen people were killed in the inferno on December 30, 1894.

Born in Westchester County in 1793, Delavan was one of the wealthiest New Yorkers by 1860.  Much of his fortune had been made in real estate investments after the opening of the Erie Canal.

Despite an early career as a wine merchant, Edward Delavan was, by the late 1820s, a fanatic participant in the temperance movement and founding member of the American Temperance Union.  He is said to have emptied the entire contents of his own expensive wine cellar into the gutters.  He also traveled to Europe to promote temperance in Italy and France, both countries famed for their wine production and consumption.  An enthusiastic propagandist, he used his personal wealth to distribute a million temperance tracts to Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Of course, a "dry" hotel was not profitable and the managers of his Delavan House reportedly found loopholes in the establishment's lease which allowed wine and liquour to be served there despite its owner's zealous objections to all alcohol.

It was Edward Delavan who bought the first deed to a lot at the new Albany Rural Cemetery in 1845.  He was buried there after his death in 1871.

Monday, August 6, 2012

James Gazeley

This granite cross stands high on the easternmost slope of the South Ridge near the Rural Cemetery's main lodge and office.  It marks the grave of James Gazeley, one of the most prominent manufacturers of monuments associated with this Cemetery.

Born in 1830, Gazeley's stoneworks were located right at the Cemetery; old maps of the grounds identify a large lot adjacent to the Cemetery near the barn complex and nearby Jermain family estate as Gazeley's property.  He also had an office at 163 Madison Avenue.

Gazeley was responsible for many monuments throughout the Cemetery, including the impressive granite Root and Visscher family vaults.  The Bayeux obelisk and David Zeh monument are early works by Gazeley.  The Samuel Pruyn headstone also bears his name.

After Gazeley's death in 1908, his company became Empire Granite.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Sandstone Portrait of Martha Parratt

This stone, erected just a little over a decade after the Rural Cemetery was consecrated, is rather unusual in that it features a portrait in carved in sandstone.  While this red-brown stone was popular for monuments during the Cemetery's early years (and there are still older examples in the Church Grounds), it was never as popular as white marble for likenesses and, in fact, is the only sandstone portrait here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Captain William T. Wooley

This marble stone with a cap and sword marks the grave of Captain William T. Wooley of the Albany Republican Artillery.  During the Civil War, he served with Company A of the 25th New York State Militia.

According to Rufus Wheelwright Clark's 1867 Heroes of Albany: A Memorial To The Patriot-Martyrs of The City and County of Albany, Wooley's patriotism was "strikingly conspicuous."

He was one of the first to respond to the call of his country, and in spite of ill health, and the remonstrances of friends who felt that his impaired strength rendered him unfit for service, he persevered in his efforts for the defense of the nation until his death which occurred in the Georgetown hospital, July 13, 1861.

Wooley was thirty-four at the time of his death.  His wife,  Susan, is also buried here.  She survived him by thirteen years.

The Wooley monument stands in a rather secluded section of the North Ridge.  Half-lost in a waist-high mix of grass, clover, and Queen Anne's Lace, it was apparently overlooked when new flags were placed on the graves of soldiers this past Memorial Day.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rensselaer Westerlo

This large, simple sandstone cross is located in the oldest section of the Cemetery's North Ridge, an area called Beaulieu Hill and Kennesau Hill on the oldest maps of the grounds and Landscape Hill on later maps.

The cross marks the grave of Rensselaer Westerlo who represented New York's 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1817 to 1819.

Rensselaer Westerlo was connected to several of the area's most prominent families.  His father was the Reverand Eilardus Westerlo, a native of Holland who served as the greatly influential pastor of Albany's First Dutch Reformed Church during the Revolutionary War.  His mother, Catharina, was the daughter of Philip Livingston, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence.  By her first husband, Catharina was the mother of Albany's "Last Patroon," Stephen Van Rensselaer II.  Rensselar Westerlo's wife, Jane, was the daughter of the State Chancellor, John J. Lansing.

This handsome stone was erected by Rensselaer Westerlo's children following his death on April 18, 1851.  He was less than a month away from his 75th birthday.  The base of the monument is carved with words from The Book of Genesis:  He was not, for God took him.

Several other members of Westerlo's family are buried in this lot; an inscription on the east side notes that a son named Eilardus died in California in 1859.

The Westerlo lot is quite close to the Lochner, Gould, and Disney plots.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Cobb Crypt

This old crypt is set into a North Ridge hill called.  It was, according to the marble plaque above the doors, built for one Benjamin F. Cobb. I've yet to find much information on him, though there are census records showing a Benjamin F. Cobb residing in nearby West Troy, now Watervliet. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Old Bell Tower

Located just above the Rural Cemetery's main Lodge at the foot of the South Ridge is the old metal and wood bell tower. 

During the Cemetery's early years, this bell would be tolled for each arriving funeral but this practice was discontinued as the increasing number of burials made the ringing incessant and impractical.  Later, it was used to signal the beginning and end of the work day for the Cemetery's workers, but this practice also ended.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Minnie & Katie

This monument to two little girls stands on the Middle Ridge, just off the main paved road and above the western end of Ravine Side Way

The white marble stone features an angel standing guard over a reclining child.  The angel's head and face are badly worn (giving the figure a somewhat macabre look) and the child's legs and arm are broken.  A beautifully carved wreath of flowers encircles the name "Minnie" with the name "Katie" underneath which suggests that Minnie died first and Katie's name was added sometime later.  The lamb sleeping atop the monument seems almost to have been added later, perhaps at the time of Katie's burial.  The lamb, too, has suffered damage to its head.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


The steep hillside and shifting earth have caused this old marble monument to fall down onto Ravine Side Way, a low grassy path running along the south shoulder of the Middle Ridge.