Monday, May 28, 2012

Captain Cortlandt Van Rensselaer

This sarcophagus-style monument on the South Ridge marks the grave of Captain Cortlandt Van Rensselaer.

The lichen-spotted sandstone is carved with laurel wreaths at each end and a sword above the names of some of the Civil War battles that Captain Van Rensselaer fought in - Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Mission Ridge.

Captain Van Rensselaer was the son and namesake of Rev. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer and Catherine Ledyard Cogswell.  His father was well-known for his missionary work among slaves in Virginia prior to the Civil War.

Born in 1838 in Burlington, New Jersey where his father was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, the younger Cortlandt Van Rensselaer served in the 13th U.S. Infantry before his death on October 7, 1864 of wounds received at Mission Ridge.  He was twenty-six.

Captain Van Rensselaer was also a descendent of William Paterson.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Col. George W. Pratt

 This large granite cross, with its clean lines, rugged texture, and boulder-like base with a carved sword marks the grave of Col. George W. Pratt.  I had intended to write a post about Pratt one of these days, but today's Times Union has an excellent piece on him and his family home (which was severely damaged by last year's Hurricane Irene). 

Hero's home, legacy to shine

George Pratt is not only remembered with this monument just south of the Van Rensselaer family plot, but also at Pratt Rocks, a set of cliff-side carvings in Prattsville.  It's an odd sight and well worth a trip to the northern Catskills to see!

Pratt Rocks

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Last Launitz

 This finely carved marble monument on the South Ridge (in a plot directly behind the Angel of The Sepulchre) was said to be one of the priciest pieces in a cemetery filled with expensive tombstones.

It was the work of Robert E. Launitz, a Russian-born sculptor well known for his funerary art.  Launitz, who was born in 1806 in what is now Latvia, emigrated to the United States and opened a New York studio (in partnership with John Frazee) in 1831.  Launitz created a number of notable monuments for Brooklyn's famed Green-Wood Cemetery, including the beautiful memorial for Do-hum-me, the daughter of a Native American chief from Kansas (she died in New York shortly after her wedding) and also worked on that cemetery's elaborate Charlotte Canda monument.  He also designed several public memorials, including those honoring James Fenimore Cooper and Casimir Pulaski.

Launitz created several monuments for the Albany Rural Cemetery, including the large sarcophagus of Archibald MacIntyre and the ivy-trimmed monument of MacIntyre's son-in-law, David Henderson.

This monument, erected in 1870, is believed to be one of Launitz's final commissions as he died later that same year.  Richly detailed, it features ornate cornices, heavy floral swags, delicate vines, inverted torches, and - in the front niche - the figure of Hope.  One of her hands rests on an anchor (a popular symbol of faith and steadfastness), the other points to Heaven.

The monument marks the grave of James Wilson.  A self-taught cartographer born in 1796 in New Hampshire, Wilson was inspired by a collection of European globes to open the first factory in the United States to manufacture geographic globes in 1813.  His early 13-inch wooden globes sold for $50 and, with his son, he would later open a second factory in Albany

Examples of his globes (and an advertisement for his company) can be found here:

American Treasures of The Library of Congress

Wilson died in 1869 and his widow commissioned this monument from Launitz.

The headstone of his daughter-in-law Abigail can be found in the Church Grounds

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Captain Thomas Bayeux

This sandstone obelisk marks the grave of Thomas Bayeux, a co-founder and captain of a private military company called the Albany Burgesses Corps.  According to the Bi-centennial History of Albany, the Corps were organized on October 8, 1833 and took their name from the early governors.  They took part in their first parade on Independence Day the following year and also took part in the procession to the Rural Cemetery for its dedication in 1844.

One side of this monument features the State coat of arms and reads:

Erected by the 
Albany Burgesses Corps
To Capt. Thomas Bayeux
To commemorate his worth
As a Man and his merits as a
Soldier and Commander.

The reverse (shown above) reads:

Captain Thomas Bayeux
Born in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, N.Y.
Died June 4, 1844
Aged 41 years, 6 months and 20 days.

The dedication of this stone brought a large gathering of Albany residents, as well as past and present members of the Corps and a band to the Cemetery by a special train.

This monument was an early piece by James Gazeley, a prominent stonecutter whose business was located at the Cemetery.  Gazeley, who is buried on the South Ridge near the main lodge, was best known for his granite work.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Anna's Angel

This little monument with its stained and weathered angel stands not even waist-high in a corner plot on the North Ridge.  The inscription on the pedestal is almost impossible to read except for the name "Anna" and "daughter of."  It probably marks a child's grave, given its size.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Disney Gate

Located on a high bluff in one of the older sections of the North Ridge, this is a very fine example of ironwork at the Rural Cemetery.  Almost entirely intact (though slowly rusting), this beautiful Gothic gate is reminiscent of the ornate iron railings found on some older homes in the Ten Broeck Triangle area of Albany.

This fence encloses the lot of the Disney family.  Its main monument is a white marble pedestal with carved drapery; it marks the graves of one John Disney (died 1865) and his wife, Ann Quackenbush (died 1879).  Old city directories list John Disney as a sail-maker on Quay Street.  His residence was at 60 Westerlo Street.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Eunice Pierce

This stone on the high ground of the Middle Ridge is another example of an older grave transferred the Rural Cemetery to an individual plot (as opposed to the massed rows of the Church Grounds).

It's a beautifully carved piece and, because it was placed upright, it has fared much better than many transferred stones which were laid flat and have either broken, become deeply embedded, or eroded from the greater exposure to the elements.  It features a fan-like decorative motif at the corners flanking the center tablet and a very fine example of the classical urn-and-willow imagery popular in the early 1800s.  The upper branches of the willow follow the inner curve of the stone's tympanum and arch elegantly over the urn.

The inscription on the main tablet reads:

In Memory of Eunice Pierce Wife of John Pierce Died November 16, 1824 Aged 58 years, 7 months, & 16 days.

The smaller tablet below reads:

Hear what the voice from Heaven declar To those in Christ who die!  "Released from all their earthly cares They reign with Him on high."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Headstones and Footstones

It's not too often that graves like this have both their coping and footstone intact.  In most cases, the coping which outlines the grave is broken or long since removed and the footstones are missing or resting against the base of the headstone. 

This grave, along the South Ridge near Little Georgie's lovely monument is surprisingly complete.  It features a beautifully carved headstone embellished with roses and a border of ivy.  The inscription reads James V.S. Teller Died September 1, 1867, Aged 87 Years.  Gone But Not Forgotten.  The ornate cross on the footstone is also embellished with flowers (though they are a bit more weathered) and monogrammed with a T on its base.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Emerson Tree

Another of the Albany Rural Cemetery's tree-shaped monuments, this one is located on the North Ridge (just a short distance from both the Soldiers Lot and the Alrutz family).  The scroll on the front is, unfortunately, very worn and only the name Emerson can be clearly read.  The other names and dates are too blurred to decipher.  Made of white marble, it features a floral wreath and a draped cloth or veil on its cut branches.  A little dove is perched atop, its head tilted as if the bird is peering curiously at visitors. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mrs. Anne Lewis

The lengthy inscription on this gravestone in  a low, quiet section of the South Ridge (not too far from the beautiful marble monument of Erastus Dow Palmer and the unmarked grave of poet Alfred Billings Street) caught my eye.

With a little research, I've been able to make out the missing and incomplete words on this stone, except for one.  I haven't yet been able to determine Sir George's surname.  There is also a tiny inscription at the bottom of the stone of which only a word or two can be read since the edges of the stone are embedded in the ground.

In memory of Mrs. Anne Lewis who departed this life April 1st 1836.  She was born in Newport Rhode Island March 30th 1763 to honourable parentage, her mother Anne Anderson being a descendent of Sir George ____, an English nobleman.  Her father, Judah Cartwright a native of Martha's Vineyard was descended from a family distinguished for their genuine respectability.

This grave was transferred to the Albany Rural Cemetery from the Methodist Episcopal section of the State Street Burying Grounds sometime between 1844 and 1868 when the latter was closed.  Like David Fonda, Anne Lewis evidently had descendents or other relatives who chose to move her grave to a private plot instead of letting her be transferred to the Church Grounds with hundreds of others.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Angels & Iron - The Packard Lot

This little angel is found in the Packard family lot on the South Ridge, not far from President Arthur, Wooster's Hope, and the Dalton columbarium.  Its features are somewhat blurred by exposure to the elements, but unlike many such figures, it is unbroken. 

The lot is enclosed  by a lovely Gothic iron fence, broken in many spots, but still reasonably intact in others.  There is a fine gate flanked by finials in the shaped of draped and flaming urns.  Another urn crowns the gate itself which bears the name Chester Packard and the date 1866.

I've found a few references to Chester Packard.  In 1821, a periodical called The Ploughman carried a notice listing people who had unclaimed letters waiting at the Post Office and the name Chester Packard appears.  Also, his widow, Mrs. Chester Packard appears to have taken an active interest in spiritualism and seances as she gave a detailed account of a "sitting" in which the spirits of her departed son, husband, and mother appeared!  Her experience was published in an 1871 book, The Proof Palpable of Immortality, Being An Account of The Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism by Epes Sargent.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Details, Details

I've paused to look at this marble gravestone many times over the past couple of years, but I've never really stopped for a close look.  And this richly detailed stone is worth a closer look.

The stone marks the grave of one David Fonda who died in 1805 and was first buried in the Dutch Reformed section of the old State Street Burying Grounds.  Since he was buried in a private plot and not the Church Grounds, he may have been privately transferred by family from the Burying Grounds before the City's inventory mass transfer of remains in 1868. A biography of David can be found here.

The stone itself is full of fantastic details.  By the early 1800s, the winged skull soul effigies had given way to cherub heads as a popular motif for gravestones and these cherubs were quickly giving way to classical urns and weeping willows.  This wonderful stone includes both - a smiling, tilted cherubic face framed by wings above a richly decorated urn.  But the busy details don't end there.  Two smaller cherubs rest agains the top of the oval tablet, flowers and foliage flank the larger round-cheeked cherub, and swags of carved fabric drape from the urn to the finials of the stone.

The inscription is somewhat worn, but largely still legible:

In Memory of David Fonda
who departed this life 
August 3rd A.D. 1805
aged 48 years, 6 months, 
and 22 days.

This stone is located on the North Ridge in a section filled with older stones, most of which were brought from other burial grounds after the Rural Cemetery opened in 1844.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Lucia Olcott Monument

This white marble monument on the Middle Ridge is an early work of Erastus Dow Palmer who is said to have designed the monument itself, as well as creating two pieces of sculpture for it.

It marks the grave of Lucia Marvin Olcott, first wife of Thomas Olcott.  Lucia died at the young age of twenty-five in 1850, two infant children having predeceased her. Thomas Olcott, one of Albany's prominent banker, was a founding member of the Albany Cemetery Association which established the Rural Cemetery and, in return for his work, was given his choice of a lot here at no charge.  Olcott himself is buried just across the path and his monument was also the work of Erastus Palmer.

The figure atop the monument is leaning over a book (which rests atop a draped urn) and presumably is inscribing the names of the deceased in this "Book of Memory."

The front of the monument features a relief which depicts a young woman, barefoot and with wings, ascending to meet to little cherubs who offer her a crown.  The soft marble has weathered and many of the details have eroded, particularly one of the winged infants and the crown.  This allegorical relief represents Lucia being welcomed to Heaven by her two children.