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.