Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Captain Samuel Schuyler

This towering marble monument with anchors carved on both its east and west faces stands on the brow of the Middle Ridge with a commanding view of the Hudson River and valley below.

Anchors on headstones often represent steadfast faith and are found on a number of graves in Albany Rural Cemetery.  In this case, they also symbolize the occupation of the deceased (such as the Bogart and Townsend monuments)

He was born in 1781, but very little is known of Samuel Schuyler's origins, though it has been speculated that he was a descendent of the prominent Albany family of the same name.  Sometime prior to 1805, he married Mary Martin-Morin; the couple would have eleven children.

Like many other African-Americans of his era, Samuel began his working life as a laborer on Quay Street, along Albany's thriving waterfront. Within five years of his marriage, though, he had his own boat to haul lumber, produce, and other goods. He would expand his business interest to real estate, owning a substantial number of lots along South Pearl Street.  His sons would join him in business, as partners in a flour and feed store and, later, they would establish the Schuyler Towboat Company.

Captain Schuyler died in 1842 and was buried in this lot which also holds the graves of three generations of his family.  It's interesting to note that, when his son and namesake died in 1894, the New York Times obituary made no mention of the family's African-American heritage and referred to his ancestors as "the early Dutch settlers of Albany." 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Meads Monument

This marble monument stands in the Meads family plot on the Middle Ridge, close to the Young double headstone and Erastus Palmer's monument for Lucia Olcott.

The monument consists of a urn enclosed within a marble canopy.  The cross which once topped the monument has fallen off and rests by the urn.  It marks the graves of several members of the family of Orlando Meads (a founding member and later president of the Albany Institute), most notably his son.

The inscription on the urn reads:

John Hun Meads Son of Orlando Meads Died Aug. 11, 1855 On Board The Steamer Pacific Aged 19 Years & 5 Months.  

There is also a inscription in Greek.   Near the base of the urn, is the notation "Buried In Albany" which hints that the urn may have been created first as a memorial to the young man and located elsewhere before being placed in the Cemetery.  His father, Orlando, served as president of the Albany Institute of History & Art. 

An inscription on the front of the monument bears the name of another John Meads who died  in 1870.  According to Henry Phelps' history of the Cemetery, John Meads was a great admirer of the Rural Cemetery who visited almost daily.  The Fitzgerald guide to the Cemetery describes him as "an old and respected citizen of Albany, who was conspicuous in many noble public charities."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The G.A.R. Lot

The G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Lot is set near the western edge of the North Ridge and not as visible or striking as the Soldiers Lot with its even rows of headstones and bronze statue.  Almost overlooked in comparison, it contains the graves of Civil War veterans.

Among the soldiers buried here are several African-American men who served the Union Army, including Private Alfred Dana (Co. I, 31st US Colored Troops, present at Appomattox), James N. Lucas (Co. E, 38th US Colored Troops, a native of Barbados), Corporal Jacob Thompson (Co. K, 26th NYS Colored Infantry), and Sargent William M. Walters (31st US Colored Troops).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Robert H. King

This monument with its badly tilted headstone and intact footstone marks the grave of Landsman Robert H. King, one of six Medal of Honor recipients buried at the Albany Rural Cemetery.

While serving in the Navy during the Civil War, he volunteered to serve about Picket Boat No. 1 which successful sunk the Confederate ironclad Albemarle on October 27, 1864. Captured along with all but one crew member, King was held at Salisbury Prison until the following March.  Unfortunately, conditions in the prison had so damaged King's health that he died in Albany just days after his release.  He was twenty years old. 

The headstone features typical emblems of a Civil War grave; a shield, sword and scabbard, a cannon, and a soldier's cap.  The footstone includes an eagle and an anchor.  A bronze plaque set in the ground notes that he received the Medal of Honor.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Simeon DeWitt

This small marble headstone marking the grave of Simeon DeWitt, who served as both Surveyor General of New York State and of the United States, sits in a little hollow just above the low path which runs along the south shoulder of the Middle Ridge. 

A native of Warswarsing, New York, Simeon DeWitt was educated at Queens College and served in the Revolutionary War, including at the Battle of Saratoga.  He would later describe the surrender of the British troops under General John Burgoyne as "the most glorious, grandest sight America ever held."  During the War, DeWitt also served as an assistant geographer to Robert Erkine, the U.S. Army's first surveyor.  When Erkine died in 1780, DeWitt was chosen by General Washington as his replacement.

In 1784, DeWitt was appointed Surveyor General of New York State, a post he would hold for over fifty years.  He would map almost the entire state, giving names to counties and towns established after the war.  At the same time, he settled in Albany and his 1790 map of the city is a valuable record of the city's early development and geological features long since lost to progress.  Many streets in Albany were given names by DeWitt which are still in use today;  among them are Elk, Beaver, Eagle, Hawk, Swan, Dove, Lark, Robin, Quail.

In 1794, DeWitt acquired land along Market Street (Broadway); the property included the ruins of Albany's first permanent European settlement, Fort Orange.  He built a brick home on the land and resided there until around 1810 when he relocated to Ithaca, one of the towns he'd named in Central New York.

He died in 1834 and was originally buried in Ithaca.  A decade later, his body was returned to Albany and reburied, first in the vault of the Middle Dutch Church and then, in 1854, to this quiet spot in the Rural Cemetery.  A metal marker from the Daughters of the American Revolution was added to the gravesite to recall his service.