Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The House of Shelter Lot, Middle Ridge

A small gravestone that reads simply Little Willie resting against a tree just off Ravine Side Way is the only marker in this small lot belonging to the House of Shelter.  The lot is on the south side of the path and overlooks a narrow, deep section of the Moordanaers Kill ravine between the remnants of Consecration and Tawasentha Lakes.

The House of Shelter was an institution founded in 1868 with the intent of "reclaiming and reforming women who had strayed from the path of virtue and were living in vice."  The House of Shelter owned two such lots at the Rural Cemetery.  There is a much larger one overlooking an overgrown area between Sections 104 and 121.

There are forty-six recorded burials in the House's Middle Ridge lot.  The earliest was in 1875 and the latest was in 1889.  There are also three burials for which no date is listed.  Of the forty-six burials here, most were children less than two years of age.

The sole headstone here may have marked the grave of one of three infants named Willie who were buried here:  Willie Critz (died June 1, 1765 - the first burial in the lot), Willie Gray (died July 20, 1877), and Willie Fry (died June 12, 1885).  The stone is undated and has no last name so it is not possible to further identify Little Willie.

Monday, December 29, 2014

From The Albany Daily Evening Journal - January 24, 1873

The January 24, 1873 edition of the Albany Daily Evening Journal published the following article looking back at the state of the Cemetery the previous year.



Latest view of the City of The Dead

Incidents in its History – New Monuments and Tombs – Improvements During the Year 1872 – Gov. Dix Once a Trustee

Among the many public institutions of our city there is none in which Albanians generally manifest more interest, nor which they point out to the stranger with a greater degree of pride, than that silent academy of art and conservatory of nature, our peaceful Rural cemetery.”

Only a few years ago the “Rural” was not extensively known as one of the finest cemeteries in the country – a distinction which it certainly merits, but latterly the daily concourse of summer visitors is largely composed of summer visitors who have heard of the wonderful natural beauties of the place, and hearing come to see.

Of course, the great mass of the visitors are residents of the surrounding cities and villages. It was supposed that the opening of the new park would tend greatly to keep away from the cemetery the large number of Albanians who had been accustomed to visit the grounds merely for a pleasant stroll; but thus far such has not proved to be the case. Together with the annual devotees who during the season of flowers, go regularly to decorate the mounds of their loved ones, are to be see crowds of persons, in all conditions of life, who can have no higher purpose than a quiet, recreative ramble among the leafy meandering paths, and limpid lakes, and through the shady, cool ravines which combine to lend so much of the picturesque to this enchanting garden of graves.

Because we speak of persons visiting the cemetery for “recreation,” it must not be supposed that applications for admission are indiscriminately entertained. Far from it, as the utmost vigilance is employed to guard against the entrance of rough and improper characters. Again there are doubtless persons who object to the bare idea of “recreation,” even of the contemplative sort, in such a place. Washington Irving was of a different opinion. Another author says that a cemetery should not be exclusively devoted to scenes of sorrow, and another that such institutions should be made “schools of instruction in architecture, sculpture, landscape gardening, aboriculture and botany.” The author of “Thanatopsis” and kindred poems of the serious order, would seem to be decidedly partial to “meditation among the tombs,” by those who meditate in congenial pairs, for he says:

And what if, in the evening light,
Betrothed lovers walk in sight
Of my low monument?
I would the lovely scene around
Might know no sadder sight nor sound.

The increasing celebrity of the Albany Rural cemetery is principally due to the extensive improvements of the last few years. During the year recently closed a great deal was achieved toward enchancing the architectural beauty of the grounds; and here we propose to notice a few of the principal monuments and tombs erected or finished in 1872.

On the south ridge Mr. Robert L. Johnson has erected a very costly and handsome sarcophagus of granite. The lot of Douglas L. White has been ornamented by a massive granite monument, and attendant memorials of unique design, in the same material. A most attractive and creditable addition to the architecture of the place is the tomberected by Stillman Witt. This is constructed of the attractive Cleveland sandstone. On either side of the door are three Scotch granite columns surmounted by highly wrought marble caps. The combination of the pure marble, the dark, rich granite, and the delicate colored sandstone produces a very novel and happy effect, and the Witt vault is certainly destined to be greatly admired. The fine Scotch granite obelisk of S. & B.F. Watson – the fourth monument of this material which has been erected here – is very attractive. Judge William W. Reed and George W. Hoxise have also placed fine memorials upon their respective lots. Another noticeable structure is the marble cottage monument reared by J.J. Austin to the memory of his father.

On the middle ridge the monuments erect by Stephen Paddock and Lawson Annesley of Albany and George B. Fraser of West Troy appropriately ornament that locality, and the Townsend vault on the north ridge is one of the finest erections of the last year.

While the lot owners have been doing so much to add to the attractiveness of the grounds, Superintendent Thomas has not been idle during the past season. The large and romantic Tawasentha lake has been deepened and otherwise improved. Unsightly portions of the ground have transformed into nicely graded sections of desirable and valuable lots. Unoccupied spots, not available for burial purposes, have been planted in evergreens, artistically grouped, and various other evidences of progress are visible.

A glace at the cemetery records shows that one by one the fathers of the institution are passing away. Last year one of the most efficient of the trustees and the cemetery lost one of its best friends by the death of Wm. H. DeWitt. Dr. Welsh, who first brought the project of a rural cemetery for Albany prominently before the public preceded the former to this garden of graves by about a year. John I. Wendell, whose monomania was the improvement of the cemetery, is long since dead.

The two gentlemen last named were members of the original committee of twelve oppointed on December 31, 1840, to seek out and locate suitable grounds for a rural cemetery. This statement suggests to us a historical reminiscence, which at this juncture may be of interest to our citizens: One of the most ardent advocates of the expediency of founding a rural cemetery for Albany when that question was first agitated, is now governor of the state of New York. Gov. Dix was one of the original committee of twelve previously spoken of and one of the trustees of this institution in the year 1846. An unusual record appears upon the register of interments for last year – that of the burial of Diana Mingo, a colored lady aged 106 years. She was the oldest person ever buried in the cemetery.


A bit more on Diana Mingo can be found in this article on the town of Schodack where she was born in 1766.  Her grave does not appear in the Cemetery's on-line records or index cards, but it might still be possible to locate it by checking the 1872 burial records in person. 

The image at the top of this post is from an antique stereoview showing one of the old bridges which linked the South and Middle Ridges around the time this article was published.  The bridge no longer exists.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Harp With A Broken String

Located on the South Ridge, this small, ornate marble headstone features the beautiful symbol of a harp with a broken string and delicately carved lettering.  It was signed by the maker, James Gazeley.

This beautiful stone marks the graves of Samuel Pruyn and his first wife, Helen.  Helen died on October 28, 1833 at the age of thirty-three.  Originally interred in the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds, she was reburied here after Samuel Pruyn's death.  A small, plainer stone visible just behind this one marks the grave of Anna, a daughter of Samuel and Helen who died at the age of sixteen.  Like her mother, she was buried at the old municipal cemetery and reburied here.  There are a total of twenty members of the family buried in this lot and one adjacent.

As for Samuel Pruyn, the Albany Evening Journal provided a long and detailed death notice in the February 19, 1862 edition:

Sudden Death of Col. Samuel Pruyn.

Our citizens were startled this morning by the announcement that Col. SAMUEL PRUYN was dead. The announcement came with paralyzing suddenness to those who met him, in his usual robust health and spirits, last evening--rejoicing with his fellow-citizens over the good news brought to us from the seat of war. No man was happier, or seemed more likely to pass on healthfully into a green old age.

Col. PRUYN was one of our most estimable citizens. Descended from a family which has been identified with the city from a period long anterior to the Revolution, no man was better acquainted with its local history, or with the men or incidents of the past. He was himself, in all his habits, thoughts and associations, an Albanian -- linking the past with the present, and partaking of the highest and noblest qualities of both periods.

Although greatly absorbed by business cares from early manhood, as merchant, Bank Director, Supervisor, Inspector of the Penitentiary from its inception, and the prudent guardian of his own large estate, he devoted many hours of every day to the careful study of standard literature. He was profound in chronology, history and biography, and his library is adorned with many of the best and rarest works in these several departments. Those who shared his literary tastes will miss him.

Mr. PRUYN leaves a large family to weep over his sudden decease. 

The cause and manner of his death is unknown. It has been his custom to spend his evenings in his office, which is detached, by the space of the garden, from his dwelling. Last evening Mrs. PRUYN was from home, at the sick bed of a niece dangerously ill. She remained there during the night, and other members of the family supposed that he had, as usual, come in from his office and retired. Nothing different was known until this morning, when one of the servants discovered the dead body at the foot of the stairs leading up from the garden to the house. He had fallen heavily, for his nose was broken and his face lacerated. Whether he merely slipped and fell, and so received fatal injury, or fell in an apoplectic fit, is a mystery. During the day, he had complained of a slight headache, but deemed it so trifling as to require no assistance. All that is known is, that he is dead -- having reached his 63d year.

Several other monuments in the Rural Cemetery feature a harp.  The broken string symbolizes that the song of this life has ended and this instrument will never play again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cornelius and Anne Van Vechten

The elements have been very unkind to this little headstone on the South Ridge.  The face is quite eroded and covered with raised streaks as if the marble melted and then solidified again.  The inscription is almost completely illegible;  the most that could be deciphered was part of a name which appeared to be Knickerbocker and, just below, what appeared to be the name Cornelius

There is, of course, a Daughters of the American Revolution plaque at the base and it might have been easier to identify the grave by contacting the local chapter and inquiring.  However, I usually prefer to do things the hard way (and I found a few other interesting things to pursue along the way).

The lots in a given section aren't numbered sequentially on the maps, but it was easy to look up the names of the adjacent lots to pin down the number.  With that lot number, I was able to identify the names of every individual interred there.  Two matched the legible bits of the inscription;  Cornelius Van Van Vechten and his wife, Anne Knickerbacker Van Vechten.

Born in 1735, Cornelius Van Vecthen was the son of a Schagticoke landowner who also served as a firemaster in Albany for a time.  At the age of twenty-two, Cornelius married Anne Knickerbacker.  Though they married at the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany, both were then residents of Scahagticoke.  Like his father, he also had ties to the city of Albany and also served as a firemaster.  He was among the signers of the constitution of the Albany Sons of Liberty in 1766 and, in October 1775, he received a commision as Lieutenant Colonel of the Eleventh or Saratoga regiment of the Albany County militia.  He served for the duration of the war.  At the time of the Saratoga campaign, his family home at Coveville (Saratoga County) was burned by the advancing British under General Burgoyne.  Following the Revolution, Van Vechten served in the State Assembly and, later, as the town clerk in Schaghticoke.  He died at the age of seventy-eight on October 20, 1815.

Anne Knickerbacker was the daughter of Wouter Knickerbacker and Elizabeth Fonda.  Two years young than Cornelius, she died in 1809.

Both Cornelius and Anne were likely buried in the Dutch Reformed section of the old State Street Burying Grounds and moved here to the Rural Cemetery by family members before 1868 as they do not appear on the list of graves transferred to the Cemetery by the Albany Common Council.

Maria Van Vechten, the oldest daughter of Cornelius and Anne married Enoch Leonard who is buried adjacent.  It was the Leonard monument that particularly helped to identify the Van Vechten headstone on the lot map.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Snowy Eagle

With all the snow we've had, this photo of the eagle-topped Edward Frisby headstone (with the Dalton cinerarium in the background) could have been taken this afternoon.  It is, however, a wintery Throwback Thursday since it was taken around 1993. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Then & Now - The Cutler Lot

One of my favorite resources on the early history of the Cemetery is Henry Churchill's 1858 Guide Through The Rural Cemetery Containing Illustrations of All The Principal Monuments, Tombs, Etc.; The History of Its Formation; The Rules and Regulations For Its Preservation, Etc. With A Steel Engraved Plan of The Grounds.  The title is quite self-explanatory and the book itself deserves a future post of its own.  The last several pages include the aforementioned "principal monuments," some of which no longer exist and some of which are greatly altered.

One such engraving which caught my attention was the lot of T.R. Cutler.  It shows a simple shaft with what appears to be a bit of carved drapery atop.  There is a little evergreen tree beside it and the whole is enclosed with a variety of ironwork;  a chain with tassels stretches between low stone posts, an arched arbor or trellis frames the monument, and there is a marvelous little gate with a spiral design. 

A search of the Cemetery's burial records placed in one of my favorite sections to explore these days; that secluded little hollow between Consecration Lake and Ravine Side Way (see the previous post on Solomon Van Rensselaer and Correspondence of The Boston Traveller). 

The Cutler lot has changed greatly since the engraving above was published.  Like many lots in the Cemetery, it has long since lost its iron adornments.  As expected, the arched trellis and that lovely spiral gate are gone.  The marble shaft lies flat on the ground, but small boundary markers with the letter C help to identify the lot.  The inscription is not visible and there are thick patches of green moss growing on the stone, though one can still see the carved drapery.  The evergreen in the engraving is also gone and a twiggy bush is growing wild beside the topped stone.

This lot was the property of Timothy Rockwood Cutler.  The first burial here was of Rebecca Hillman. Cutler.  She died on December 23, 1853 at the age of twenty-six.  She was the first wife of the lot owner.  The second burial was that of Timothy R. Cutler, whose trade was listed in the city directories as "millinery and bonnet bleaching" at 536 Broadway.  The son of Martin Cutler and Sophia Rockwood, he was born in Holliston Massachusetts on May 3, 1822 and died in Brooklyn on April 4, 1891.  His second wife, Mary, was Rebecca's sister.  She died at the age of sixty-eight on December 17, 1897 and was the final burial recorded for this lot.  

The 1880 census indicates that Timothy and Mary H. Cutler had three sons residing at home;  William (age twenty, a clerk on a boat), John H. (age eighteen, a store clerk), and Timothy (age seventeen, a student).  The household also included a twenty-eight year old Irish-born servant named Laura Shaunessey.  By his first wife, Timothy R. Cutler had at least one child, a daughter named Ida.  

Newspaper clippings also note that Mr. Cutler was a member of the Albany Burgesses Corps, a private military company founded by Captain Thomas Bayeux in 1833.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Solomon Van Rensselaer

Solomon Van Rensselaer's tall marble monument is perched on a slope overlooking Ravine Side Way, a path that begins near the remains of Consecration Lake and runs parallel to the Middle Ridge Road at the top of the same slope.  Since it overlooks this somewhat secluded walk and faces away from the main road, it's fairly easy to miss.  Two of the early histories of the Rural Cemetery - Henry Phelps' The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories and Edward Fitzgerald's Handbook For The Albany Rural Cemetery - both make substantial mention of this grave site.

Solomon Van Rensselaer was, among other things, a soldier, a U.S. Congressman, postmaster of Albany, and owner of Cherry Hill which had been built by his father-in-law.  He is perhaps best known, though, for his service during the War of 1812.  Serving under his cousin, General Stephen Van Rensselaer III, he took part in the Battle of Queenstown Heights.  During the American defeat there, he was said to have been "riddled" with shots.

He died at the age of seventy-seven on April 23, 1852.  His wife, Harriet, had passed twelve years earlier.  They were originally buried in the Dutch Reformed Church's cemetery (part of the old municipal burial grounds), but were later moved to this large family plot on the Middle Ridge.  However, several newspaper clippings from the 1960s identify his original resting place as Capitol Park where Colonel John Mills was also buried for a time.

More on Solomon Van Rensselaer

Friday, October 10, 2014

David Zeh

This fascinating stone lies well off the main road along the North Ridge.  It faces away from the road and looks towards the Kromme Kill ravine.  In between mowings, it can quickly be swallowed up by the tall grass and clover.

The monument is made of a reddish-brown sandstone and, considering how easily this material erodes, the carved details are in fantastic shape.  If you look closely at the bottom right corner below the name, you'll see it's signed by James Gazeley.  It's likely one of his earlier works. 

The style is almost whimsical and folksy;  an angle bearing tablets carved with the words "EVEN SO" emerges from puffy clouds that almost resemble clusters of grapes.  Below the heavenly messenger, there are old-fashioned scales piled with scrolls.  There is a passage from Corinthians on either side of the scales.  Above the angel, it reads, "Scripture Balance."  Below, it reads, "On Earth Peace Good Will Toward Men."  The top of the monument is certainly missing something;  a column or urn or obelisk would've have completed it. 

This unusual stone marks the grave of David Zeh who died on April 8, 1880, but was likely erected well before his death to mark the graves of other family members.  The first burials in this lot took place in the 1850s and David Zeh probably commissioned the monument then.

David Zeh, who was born in Berne, New York in 1802, was a Trustee of the First Universalist Church in Albany.  City directories identify him as a merchant at the corner of State and Hawk Streets (with a residence nearby at 7 High Street).  Based on the burial records, it would seem he married twice;  his first wife, Catherine, died in 1833 at the age of twenty-eight.  His second wife, Mary Janes, survived him and passed away in 1893.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October 7, 1844

 Nothing could exceed the order and decorum with which everything was done.
---The Albany Argus, October 8, 1844

It was one hundred and seventy years ago today that the Albany Rural Cemetery was consecrated.  The event was marked with a great deal of ceremony;  a procession of dignitaries, civic organizations, and "a great concourse" of private citizens made their way from North Pearl Street to the new Cemetery where the dedication took place in a glen just below Consecration Lake.  That section now overgrown and forgotten but once considered one of the Cemetery's finest attractions.

It had taken three years from the formation of the Albany Cemetery Association to the opening of the new Cemetery grounds.  During this time, several other sites were considered for the Cemetery, but there were obstacles to obtaining them.

The ceremony - which began at nine in the morning and didn't end until half past three - was reported on in great detail by the local newspapers, including the Argus which printed the full text of several hymns written for the occasion, Reverend Doctor Pohlman's readings, and Alfred B. Street's poem.  They did not immediately reprint Daniel Dewey Barnard's lengthy dedication speech, but published it a day later and it can be found in Henry Phelp's The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories.  

The Argus concluded the account by noting the weather which seems to have been quite like this morning's.

The weather was not at all that could have been desired – the sky being overcast and threatening rain. The grounds in consequence did not appear in all their beauty – but none who visited them could fail to be impressed with the adaptation of the place to the purposes to which it is to be sacredly devoted. Many, we presume, visited it for the first time yesterday – but few we presume will not omit an opportunity to re-visit in. We hope soon to see the walks and carriage-ways laid out, and a beginning made towards converting this retired and inviting spot into a general place of burial.

Below:  The gate mentioned in the advertisement above.  It was erected some time after the dedications and was later replaced with the current gates which were designed by Marcus T. Reynolds.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stephen Lush

Set on the edge of the North Ridge overlooking the Kromme Kill ravine, this tall marble monument marks the grave of Stephen Lush and his family.

A native of New York City, he studied law and moved to his brother's home in Albany just before the Revolution.  He served very actively during the Revolution.  He was a member of the Albany Committee of Correspondence and served captain of the New York Volunteers.  He later joined the Fifth New Jersey Regiment and served as an acting judge advocate general.  As an aide-de-camp to General George Clinton, he was captured by the British when Fort Montgomery fell in 1777.  He was released in a prisoner exchange the following year.

After the war, he returned to Albany and married; his wife, Lydia, was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Stringer.  One of their children who died in infancy is buried in the Church Grounds.  Their Market Street house adjoined that of Dr. Stringer.  Lush was among the last slave owners in Albany, owning slaves as late as 1820.  A successful attorney, he served multiple terms the State Assembly and Senate.

Lush died in 1825 at the age of seventy-two.  Since he is not listed in the Common Council's inventory of interments in the State Street Burying Grounds, it's likely he was originally buried in the String family vault which stood in a small private cemetery leased by David Vanderheyden at what is now the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and Swan Streets. 

His wife, one son, and his brother are also listed on the east face of this monument.  When it was originally erected, this plot commanded a very fine view of the ravine below with two ornamental bodies of water, Lake Bethesda and Indian Lake. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Correspondence of the Boston Traveller

The following account of a visit by "The Boston Traveller" to the Cemetery appeared in the Albany Argus on July 31, 1845.  The account was dated July 22 and signed only "A Son of the Pilgrims."

I have just visited the new Cemetery, about three miles from Albany. It is in the township of Watervliet on the Troy road, and a little more than halfway to that city. It affords a drive, inside the fence, of five miles. The entrance and grounds are not yet completed, but they certainly bit fair to excel any similar ones in the country. Soon after entering, you pass through an oak filled opening, filled with gradual mounds, and approach to ravines suitable for burial places. These glens are among the most picturesque that can be conceived. In crossing them, and the streams which flow through a portion of them, you traverse bridges built of the trunks and limbs of tress, cut from the grounds. These rustic structures are strongly put together with railings formed in various shapes, adapted to the place. It is intended to plant trailing vines at each end, and thus cover their upper sides with foliage.

The views from these natural passage ways are some of the most charming the eye ever beheld. The gentle sloping or steep banks – the shady coves, hidden away among the overhanging trees – the palisades of mossy rocks, wreathed with rude crowns of bending bought – the opening river in the distance, with its dotted banks and vessels – present a scene of rural beauty rarely equaled. Intermingled among the bridges and winding paths are several of the most delightful lakes and cascades. Sufficient wood has been cleared away from their borders to admit the light of the sun and moon to the greatest possible advantage, affording the sky, clouds, trees, and hillsides a perfect reflection in the limpid waters. Here, overlooking mimic seas, burial spots have been already selected. Most cordially do I commend the good judgment of those that choose them. – Several open knolls and eminences are to be found, from which the river, Troy, and the public road are finely commanded. On one of these is admirable site for an observatory to overlook the enclosure. A large lot in the rear is intended for a flower garden and shrubbery nursery, where those who wish to obtain such memorials for their loved ones, can be readily supplied – the avails to be devoted to improving the Cemetery.

There have been, as yet, no burials, but it is probable, there are some bodies to be removed from other grounds. The place cannot but be a favorite with the Albanians, and all who pay visits to its sacred, silent shades. The movement was first suggested in a sermon preached by one of the clergymen of Albany – Rev. Dr. Welch. He is now on the Board of Manager, and is one of the most efficient members. Should you ever visit Albany, gentlemen, be sure to drive through this very sweet spot.


The author of the article states that there were no burials yet, but records show that David Strain was buried here in May of 1845.  There was likely no monument in the Strain lot yet.  The rustic wooden bridges described were later replaced with iron and stone bridges;  most of these are long gone, too. 

The photo above shows an old monument hidden away in one of the picturesque glens the Boston Traveller expressed admiration for.  It stands near the remains of Consecration Lake.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Cemetery and Its Waggon

From the July 1, 1879 edition of the Albany Evening Times, news of a more affordable and less fatiguing way to visit the Cemetery.

In accord with the recommendation of the Evening Times, Mr. Thomas, the superintendent of the Rural cemetery, has made arrangements whereby a careful driver and a comfortable waggon await the visitors at every train. Those who desire it are taken to their lots and brought back for only ten cents the round trip. As it becomes better understood, – the number of visitors will doubtless greatly increase; for delicate women who can hardly walk to the upper or more distant parts of the cemetery, can now reach such portions of the grounds without fatigue. Mr. Thomas deserves the thanks of all those who cannot afford to pay five dollars for carriage hire to enable them to make a trip from Albany to the cemetery. We hope enough patronage will be given to this new method of conveyance to make it a success, as it well deserves to be.

The cemetery, since the recent rains, is a very beautiful place. The vegetation is in the very height of June verdure; the views, varying with every different stand-point, are simply superb. It is recognized by every lover of the beautiful in nature as the loveliest situation of all the cemeteries in the country.

See also:  The Trolley To The Cemetery

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pye The Englishman

Around 1800, an Englishman named John Pye opened a tavern on the road between Albany and Troy.  It stood just a little south of the present entrance to the Rural Cemetery along Route 32.

Born in England around 1752, he first appears in local records after the end of the Revolutionary War and was known to be a good friend of General Philip Schuyler and his family.  The Schuylers were, of course, his neighbors; their large farm known as The Flatts lay just a few yards northwest from the Pye Tavern.

John Pye is best remembered for a robbery at his tavern on a wintery night in 1808.  Robert Johnson, later described as "a highwayman," entered the tavern seeking $1,000 in cash and gold that Pye was rumored to have beneath his bed.  He surprised the sleeping innkeeper and his wife and, drawing a pistol, demanded, "Your money or your life."  When Pye hesitated, Johnson fired and wounded him in the neck.  Some accounts say that Pye's wife, Elizabeth, then fired at the highwayman with her husband's own pistol.

Johnson fled, racing back to Albany on horseback.  He attracted attention when he jumped his horse across a toll barrier and escaped across the river.  By then, the alarm had been raised and William Winne, a letter carrier and watchman pursued the highwayman through the snow.  When Winne confronted Johnson, the robber pulled a knife on him and managed to knock out Winne's front teeth.  Winne, however, was able to subdue him by seizing his bandana and choking him with it.  Johnson was apparently wounded by Mrs. Pye's shot and died shortly after being taken into custody.  His skeleton was reportedly kept in the office of an anatomist in Troy for some years after.

John Pye survived the attack and continued to manage his tavern.  The incident caused quite a sensation in the local papers and an account was published in 1836 with the lengthy title, "The robber, or A narrative of Pye and the highwayman, Being a detailed and particular account of an attempted robbery of the inn of John Pye, between the cities of Albany and Troy, N.Y. in 1808, and of the outlaws' final capture and end: as related by Mrs. Pye herself, and others who were most intimately acquainted with the whole tragical affair..."  The story was not without embellishments, some contributed by William Winne himself.

Pye died in 1817 and was buried among his friends in the Schuyler family burial ground at The Flatts.  His widow married their bartender, William Nutt, and continued to manage the tavern.  She died in 1846 at the age of 90 (or 97, according to some sources).  She and her second husband were also buried at The Flatts.

In the 1920s, all of the graves at old Flatts burial ground was removed to the Rural Cemetery.  A number of headstones were brought over from The Flatts with the remains, but most are now illegible.  One of the worn stones above may be that of Pye The Englishman.

More on the original Flatts burial ground here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Boyd Family

When this impressively tall white marble shaft was raised, it was at the very edge of the Albany Rural Cemetery.

At the time, the Rural Cemetery had only been open for two years and this lot on the Middle Ridge was close to its western boundary.  A map published that same year shows the section was then called Wildrose Bank;  at the time, the sections were known by such fanciful names as Kelpiesford, Songbird's Bower, and Poetry Glen.  Later, the Church Grounds would be laid out just beyond this point and a lodge built here.

Before the Rural Cemetery was founded, most residents of Albany were laid to rest in the municipal State Street Burying Grounds.  Once the new Cemetery was consecrated in 1844, however, there was increasing interest in closing the old municipal graveyard and removing its burials.  By the end of the Civil War, the City's Common Council had begun that process in order to redevelop the old Burying Grounds into a public park. 

Some families, however, didn't wait for the City to disinterred their dearly departed en masse.  They made their own arrangements to have their loved ones' graves removed to newly purchased lots at the Rural Cemetery.

James and Peter Boyd, sons of a prominent Albany brewer also named James Boyd, purchased this lot in 1846.  That June, the remains of their parents and six siblings were exhumed from their graves in the First Presbyterian section of the State Street Burying Grounds, an event noted on the monument itself.  A month later, they were laid to a final rest on Wildrose Bank.  Also buried with them was Peter Boyd who himself passed away just before the re-interment.


James Boyd (the elder) was born in Scotland, but settled in Albany before the Revolutionary War.  In 1776, he married another native of Scotland, Jane McMaster.  In 1796, he founded the Arch Street Brewery (later known as the Albany Breweing Company) on a site near South Pearl Street and the outlet of the Beaverkill.   He died in 1832.

Another member of the Boyd family is buried just down the Middle Ridge Road beneath a large and elaborate monument.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Drawings by George Hubbard

This blog by George Hubbard features some of his pen & ink drawings of monuments and buildings at the Albany Rural Cemetery, as well as other nearby landmarks.  Do take a look!

George Hubbard

The drawing above is of Little Georgie;  his white marble headstone is a familiar site along the Cemetery's South Ridge Road.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Event: Wreath Laying At President Arthur's Grave

On October 5, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President Chester A. Arthur at 11 a.m..  The ceremony is in honor of Arthur's 185th birthday.

That afternoon, the Cemetery Trustees will be holding a special event at Schuyler Meadows.  More information on the event, which will feature journalist and author Paul Grondahl, can be found on the Cemetery's site:

Events at Albany Rural Cemetery

See also:

The Presidential Grave
Ellen Herndon Arthur

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Boy Injured At Cemetery

This story serves as a serious reminder that one should definitely keep a close eye on children in cemeteries.

Times Union - Police: Tombstone falls on, seriously injures boy - Boy injured from falling tombstone at Albany Rural Cemetery

There are so many potential hazards in a cemetery, ranging from holes caused by wild animals or sinking old graves and Old headstones which can be very unstable; leaning on them or pushing them can easily cause a stone to topple.  Every year, I come across stories (local or national) about children who are injured by climbing on stones, too.  Of course, it's not yet known just what caused this boy's injuries and here's hoping he makes a complete recovery.  But it is also reminder that everyone - children and adults - should be careful in cemeteries.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

John Kolkanis

This tiny headstone on the North Ridge (not far from the G.A.R. plot) is fairly unique.  It includes a photograph of the deceased;  such headstone photos are not common in the Rural Cemetery, though I have seen a few other examples in other local cemeteries such as Calvary in Glenmont.

The grave belongs to one John Kolkanis, though his name is spelled "Colcanis" on the stone.  He was born in Greece and, at the time of his death, resided at 469 Delaware Avenue (near the corner with Whitehall Road).  The burial record lists his cause of death as "Drowned in the Hudson River," but search of local newspapers didn't reveal any any additional details.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Great Bibliopole

 This large granite headstone with its little carved flowers in located in a very obscure corner of the Rural Cemetery, just up a grassy steep path from a wildly overgrown row of charity plots.  It's a hilly area just west of the South Ridge and labelled Summit Ridge on some older maps of the grounds.

While it's not carved deeply and a little difficult to read, the epitaph on this monument caught my eye.  Maybe the light was at just the right angle, but the words, YE OLDE BOOK MAN stood out and certainly required a closer look.

1834 Joseph McDonough 1917 - Ye Olde Booke Man - Here lies McDonough The Great Bibliopole.  Shall he be forgot?  Oh no.  He no promise broke, served no private end.  Unblamed through life, lamented in the end.  A wise old sage was he but not severe.  His manly sense checked no decent joy.  A graceful looseness he could put on, Enjoying life's enchanted cup to the brim.

McDonough was a well-known seller of used books in downtown Albany, beginning in 1870.  He was a native of Ireland who sold books in Liverpool before continuing that trade here.  He did business at a number of different locations in downtown Albany;  over the years, various ads and directories place him at 53 and 55 State Street, 98 State Street, 30 North Pearl Street, and 39 and 41 Columbia Street.  Later, he had a shop on Hudson Avenue.  An ad in The Literary Collector for Ye Olde Booke Man, offers "libraries, or odd lots, or remainders of editions purchased" and "monthly catalogues of second-hand books mailed free on application."  He was also a publisher;  one of the more noteworthy local titles he produced was Players of A Century which traced the history of theatre in Albany and was authored by Henry P. Phelps who also wrote The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories.

He died on April 8, 1917 following what the Albany Evening Journal described as "a three weeks illness." The newspaper noted he had a "wide circle of friends"  He was survived by a married daughter and a son, Paul Arthur McDonough, who was described as "an actor in London."  Also buried with him are his wife and an eighteen year old daughter, Jane, who died of tuberculosis on Christmas Day, 1881.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Albany Medical College Lots

Located not far from the massive Winslow family tomb at the low, eastern edge of the North Ridge, these small granite mark lots reserved for the remains of individuals who have donated their bodies for anatomical research and other study at the Albany Medical College.

The Times Union has a feature on yesterday's service in honor of over three hundred people newly interred here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Doctor Thomas Elkins

This weathered marble monument stands near the crest of a low hill overlooking the Arsenal Burial Ground on the North Ridge.  Though eroded, the lettering can still be read:  DR. THOS. ELKINS 1818-1900.

Elkins was a doctor, an inventor, and a prominent member of Albany's 19th-century African-American community.  He studied surgery and dentistry under Dr. Alden March, a founder of the Albany Medical College.  Elkins operated a pharmacy on North Swan Street which he later relocated to Broadway at Livingston Avenue (the latter was still called Lumber Street at the time).  According to contemporary newspaper reports, the front window of the pharmacy was blown in by the powerful explosion of a nearby locomotive on February 25, 1867.

He seems to have taken at least a passing interest in horticulture as well;  in 1886, a committee of the African Methodist Episcopal Church agreed to plant a memorial tree in Washington Park and the tree in question was one grown from seed by Dr. Elkins.  The committee included a son of Samuel Mando.  Elkins also made a trip to the then newly-formed nation of Liberia and is reported to have brought back a collection of African artifacts, shells, and minerals, though the fate of his collection is not known. 

Elkins is perhaps best remembered as part of Albany's Underground Railroad. For a time, he lived a few doors away from Stephen and Harriet Myers on Lumber Street and actively took part in their work.  He is identified as a member of the local Vigilance Committee which assisted slaves fleeing The South.  As a trained doctor, it is more than likely he was able to offer medical assistance to those fugitives in need of such care.  During the Civil War, he served as a medical examiner to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (the unit made famous in the film Glory).

Elkins was also well-known as an inventor.  His work as a medical examiner led him to develop and patent a unit for the cold storage of corpses which is said to have been a forerunner of the refrigerator.  For this innovation, he received a certificate of "highest merit" from the New York Agriculture Society.  He also patented several pieces of multifunctional furniture, including a combination of a commode, washstand, bureau, mirror, chair, table, and bookshelf intended to save space in a small room. 

Elkins died in on August 10, 1900.  He was eighty-eight years old and the cause of his death was listed as apoplexy.  His funeral from his home at 888 Broadway was presided over by the canon of the Cathedral of All Saints and his pallbearers were the sons of several of his closest friends.

More on Elkins' inventions can be found here, including diagrams. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Private James Armstrong

Private James Armstrong was only sixteen when he was killed in action in Belgium during World War I. 

The son of a coal handler (who, according to census and burial records, lived at 1226 Fifth Avenue in Watervliet), he died in Belgium on August 3, 1918 while serving in Company G of the 105th Infantry. 

Originally interred in Belgium, his body was exhumed by the U.S. Government and returned to his family for reburial in the Albany Rural Cemetery on April 10, 1921.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Trolley To The Cemetery

For people who wished to visit the loved ones graves at the Rural Cemetery or to simply stroll the scenic grounds, a trolley like this was the best option for people who didn't have a carriage or other vehicle of their own.  Earlier in the Cemetery's history, horse-drawn omnibuses traveled the same route between downtown Albany and the Broadway gates.  The Cemetery also had its own little depot for trains.  That station is gone, but freight trains still regular pass by.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mama Sarah and Clary-Boy

This pretty marble monument on the South Ridge includes one of the more unusual epitaphs I've encountered in the Albany Rural Cemetery and one I didn't actually notice until I looked at the photo later.  The marble is in very good condition for its age, still fairly clean and its lettering still legible.  It is topped with a very simple draped urn and marks a lot belonging to the Parker and Britton families. 

The upper half inscription on the face shown above reads:  Sarah N. Parker wife of Winchester Britton Died November 15, 1854.  Aged 20 years And 22 days. 

The lower half read:  "I am coming to take you away, Clary-Boy"  "I do see, Mama Sarah.  I will come,"  January 29, 1857 Verified February 6, 1857 Clarence P. Britton Aged 2 years 10 mos. 8 dys.

Sarah Nelson Parker was the first wife of attorney Winchester Britton whose interesting obituary appeared in the Albany Evening Times on February 15, 1886.

After Sarah's early death, Winchester had married her sister Caroline (also buried here).  They had eleven children. 

The dialogue quoted on this side of the monument, though, seems right out of a sentimental novel or tract of the era with the spirit of the deceased mother calling to the young son that will soon join her in the family's cemetery plot and little "Clary-Boy" ((who was only nine months old when "Mama Sarah" died) responding to her summons.  It's not quite clear what the word "verified" means in this context or what the significance of the January date is.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ellen Herndon Arthur

With its tall bronze angel and polished black sarcophagus, the monument of Chester A. Arthur is easily the most famous in the Albany Rural Cemetery.  Small metal markers throughout the Cemetery point the way to it and annual wreath-laying ceremonies honor the 21st President of the United States.

President Arthur isn't - as a few visitors (and authors) have mistakenly assumed - buried inside that black stone sarcophagus.  His grave is actually just behind the massive monument.  And that is where the delicate white marble sarcophagus-style headstone of his wife is located.

Ellen Herndon was born in Culpeper Court House, Virginia in 1837.  She was daughter of Captain William Lewis Herndon, a Mexican War veteran and Naval explorer who headed an expedition to the then largely uncharted Valley of  the Amazon in South America.  Herndon was hailed as a hero when he went down with his mail steamer, the SS Central America.  When the ship was crippled during a hurricane near Cape Hatteras, Captain Herndon arranged for over a hundred and fifty women and children to be transferred to another vessel before Captain Herndon went going down with his ship on September 12, 1857. 

Chester Arthur, then a promising young lawyer, proposed to Ellen on the verandah of the U.S. Hotel in Saratoga Springs in 1856 and they were married in New York City three years later.  The couple had three children;  William Lewis Herndon Arthur who was named after the Captain, Chester Arthur II, and Ellen, known as Nellie. During the Civil War, Ellen quietly sympathized with the South because of close family ties in her native Virginia while her husband served as Quartermaster General of the New York Militia.

Ellen Arthur, known to those close to her as Nell, died at the age of forty-two on January 12, 1880.  She had caught a cold while waiting for her carriage after a benefit concert in New York City which quickly developed into pneumonia.  She died before Arthur could reach her bedside. 

Ellen was buried in a family plot at the Rural Cemetery originally purchased by her father-in-law and her grave was marked by a sarcophagus-style monument of white Italian marble on a bluestone base. It was erected in early 1883 by William Manson who was also responsible for creating the Fireman's Monument, the Col. Mills monument, and the massive granite monument in the William Appleton lot. The top of this sarcophagus is carved with a cross which runs the length of the monument.  During Chester Arthur's lifetime, the lot in which Nellie was buried was beautifully landscaped with rose bushes, geraniums, and ornamental trees. At the time, this area, rather near the western edge of the Cemetery, was known as “Sunset Lawn.” 

When Vice-President Chester Arthur became President after the assassination of James Garfield, he had freshly-cut flowers in front of Nell's portrait every day and he had a stained glass window depicting the “Annunciation To The Shepherds” installed as a memorial to her in the south transept of St. John's Episcopal Church which he could see from his White House windows, especially at night when the church was kept lit. A talented singer, Ellen Arthur had been a member of that church's choir during her youth.

A year after his own Presidency ended, Chester Arthur died in 1886 and was buried near Ellen in the family plot. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Stone With Symbols

Located in the Stone family plot where South Ridge Road winds uphill from the main office, this headstone has sunk into the earth and may be truncated, but the upper portion is covered with symbols. 

At the center, there is a hand with heart on the palm which often represents charity.  Beneath the hand are three chain links.  Both are symbols often found of the graves of Odd Fellows, though the hand-and-heart is also associated with the Shakers.  There are two symbols commonly found on the graves of Masons - a carpenters square to the left of the hand and an all-seeing eye above it.  To the right of the hand is an image that resembles the divining rods used to douse for water.  This, too, is a symbol associated with the masons. 

The lot contains the graves of Julia Jay Stone (died December 11, 1848, age 1), Kyes Stone (died April 16, 1855, age 46), Alfred Stone (died September 24, 1859, age 50), Mary A. Jay Stone (died October 2, 1861, age 48), Nettie W. Stone (died March 14, 1877, age 22), Henry Alfred Stone (died October 12, 1877, age 1), Florence Stone (died March 20, 1885, age 13),  and Charles H. Stone (died December 4, 1894, age 41). 

Kyes Stone's name is carved on the tall marble monument at the center of the lot, along with the name of his wife, Mary A. Jay.  Nettie and Florence have small headstones to the right of that larger monument.  This stone with symbols is very likely the grave of Alfred Stone who, according to the 1850 census, was a printer.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cicero Loveridge

This marble headstone in the shadow of a large old tree is quite easy to overlook.  It is an unassuming monument with an inscription that is very difficult to read as the stone has darkened and the delicately carved letters have eroded.  Fortunately, publisher Joel Munsell preserved this epitaph in a list of inscriptions from the Dutch Reformed Burying Grounds in Volume 6 of his Annals of Albany.

Self-educated and highly gifted, Early distinguished, As well in his profession of the Law, As an accomplished writer, And an eloquent orator.  

His many friends, Mourning in his untimely death, The blight of so much promise, Have erected This tribute to his cherished memory.

Esteemed and beloved, For his generous nature, true heart, Unswerving faith, And unsullied integrity.

"To war on Fraud entrenched with Power, On smooth pretence, and specious wrong, This task was in his life's brief hour, For this he banished sky and song.”

Loveridge died in October 1842.  His obituary appeared in newspapers as far away as Utica.  The Troy Daily Whig ran the following notice:   

DIED,  In Albany on the afternoon of the 27th in the 34th year of his age, after an illness of a few days, CICERO LOVERIDGE, Esq., Counselor at Law, formerly Editor of the Troy Mail and recently Police Justice of the city of Albany.  Thus in the flower of early manhood, and with scarce a note of warning, while the star of promise was shining brightly over the future, has he been cut down like the grass which perisheth, leaving void in the bosom of a young, interesting and amiable family, which nothing earthy can supply.  The friends and acquaintances of the deceased are invited to attend his funeral from his late residence, 33 Beaver street, Albany, this afternoon, at 3 o'clock.

The Schenectady Cabinet's obituary also noted that his death was the result of scarlet fever.  The Albany Argus described him as "a sprightly and vigorous writer" who was "lamented by a large circle of friends, and all who enjoyed his acquaintance bore testimony to his estimable and social qualities."

Beyond his legal profession, Loveridge was also a poet.  A couple of years after his death, the Saratoga Republican printed some verses from his pen, "The Home of My Youth," which read in part:

For these, most gladly would I give
My lightest hopes, my brightest dreams;
And Reason's wide prerogative, 
And Learning's dim, tho' boysted beams,
For I am weary of the strife
With which a busy world is rife
And vain ambitions schemes ---
Of toling, with a solemn tread
O'er withered hopes, and pleasures dead.

Cicero Loveridge's wife, Gloranah Groesbeck, died in 1865 and is also interred in this lot.  Their son, Clinton Loveridge, was a landscape painter.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Henry M. Galpin

Lt. Col. Henry M. Galpin was born in Fly Creek, New York on Independence Day 1836.  Twenty-five when the Civil War began, he would suffers numerous wounds over the course of the conflict.  He was wounded in the back of his at Malvern Hill, Virgina in 1862 and then in the eye at Spotsylvania in May of 1864.  He was shot through both thighs at Cedar Creek late that same year.

Despite those wounds, he survived the war.  He died on March 9, 1871 of consumption.  He was thirty-five years old.

Buried in his family's South Ridge lot, his monument is full of symbolism.  The cut tree without branches represents a young life ended without descendants.   A flag is draped on the tree while a cannon and a shield (carved with his name and the dates of his birth and death) rest against the stump.  The stone pedestal is very difficult to read as the soft marble has weathered, but it lists some of the battles in which he fought.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Boulder From Mount Hope

The book, Traveler's Tales - Rumors and Legends of the Albany-Saratoga Region by Mark MacGregor Steese and Sam McPheeters contains scores of anecdotes about ghosts, odd happenings, and local legends drawn mostly from newspaper clippings and old books. Among the stories is this one about Mount Hope Drive in the Kenwood area at Albany's southern edge.

The old Prentice Mansion on Mount Hope Drive, in Kenwood, was long the subject of ghostly tales.  Most of these concerned the Prentice burial vault, which was somewhere on the estate -- no one knew where.  The most popular tale was that there were particular times during the month, when the moon could only be discerned faintly behind thick shrouds of cloud, passersby might see in the vicinity of the vault, used as a temporary resting place for some members of the Prentice family, the specters of those people, clad in their cerements, discussing matters of days long past.

In the forties, the vault was rediscovered by some Albany boys.  When the earth was cleared away and the rusting padlock removed, the massive hinged slab covering the entrance was lifted, and the chamber was entered.  It was found to be empty.  Whether or not this dispelled the ghost stories in not known.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Agness Bratt

The inscription on the old, tilting stone reads:  Sacred to the Memory of Agness Bratt Relict of Derrick Bratt Age 42 years, 9 months & 20 days.

Despite it's age, there is no record of this stone in the old State Street Burying Grounds.  It may have come from a private family graveyard or it may have been removed from the Burying Grounds before the Albany Common Council organized an inventory of graves to be transferred to the Rural Cemetery's Church Grounds in the late 1860s.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Documenting The Potter's Field

 Tucked between the plots for St. Peter's Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Church within Section 49 of the Albany Rural Cemetery is the Potter's Field which contains remains moved from the previous Potter's Field at the State Street Burying Grounds and new burials during the late 1800s.

The Potter's Field at the Church Grounds blog

List of known burials in the Potter's Field

Monday, June 23, 2014

Simeon D. Myers

Buried in an otherwise unmarked grave inside the lot of Abasalom Anderson and family is Simeon D. Myers. 

Born in Watervliet in 1865, he was an employee of the famed Delvan House on Broadway in Albany on the night of December 30, 1894.  The fire that destroyed the hotel became one of the city's greatest tragedies as nineteen lives were lost.  Many of the victims were, like Simeon, employees of the hotel.  A number of them were buried in the neighboring St. Agnes Cemetery, but this young man was laid to rest in the lot of his maternal grandfather on the South Ridge.  His parents, John and Sarah Myers, were also interred here. 

See also:  Edward Delavan
               Delavan Hotel Fire

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Private Absalom Bainbridge

The Albany Rural Cemetery has the graves of several hundred Civil War soldiers, both casualties and veterans.  Most, of course, served in the Union Army.  There are, however, several Confederate veterans buried here, too.

Private Absalom Bainbridge, Company B of the Virginia Rangers, was one of three Confederates who encountered President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth and his companion David Herold at Port Conway.  Bainbridge, along with his cousin, Mortimer Bainbridge Ruggles, and Private Willie Jett crossed the Rappahannock River with the fugitives and eventually helped them to find lodging at the home of tobacco farmer Richard Garrett.  Bainbridge left the Garrett farm before Federal troops arrived, surrounded Booth in the barn, and ultimately shot him.

Edited:  More on Bainbridge's encounter with Booth can be found here.

A native of Freedlands, Virginia, Bainbridge later moved to New York City and worked as an interior decorator for A.T. Stewart Dry Goods.

On May 31 1902, the fifty-four year old Absalom Bainbridge died of a stroke at 68 Charles Street, the Manhattam home of a lady friend named Harriet Hotaling.  He was buried in her family plot here on the South Ridge a few days later.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gardener of The Albany Rural Cemetery

Advertisement from the back of Churchill's Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery ca. 1858.  (Click to enlarge)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wife of John Lansing, Jr.

John Lansing, Jr. had quite an impressive career behind him when he left his New York City hotel to mail some letters on December 12, 1829.  The son of Albany silversmith Gerrit Lansing, he began as a teenaged law clerk in the years before the Revolution.  During the War, he served as a secretary to General Philip Schuyler before entering politics.  A delegate to the Constitutional Convention and member of the Continental Congress, his resume over the years would include several terms in the New York State Assembly, including two as Speaker.  From 1786 to 1790, he served as Mayor of Albany.  Later, he would serve as the State Chancellor and Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court  During the former, he used his own money to fund a survey of the Catskill and Helderberg Mountains.

In 1781, he married Cornelia Ray.  Born in Manhattan, she was the daughter of a New York City businessman who had sought safety for his family in Albany during the Revolution.  John and Cornelia had ten children, five died as children (including both sons).  Lansing Manor in North Blenheim, Schoharie County (now on the grounds of the New York Power Authority owned Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project) was built by Lansing as a country home for his daughter, Frances and her husband John Sutherland in 1819.

On December 12, 1829, Lansing left the City Hotel in Manhattan.  He failed to keep a dinner appointment and was never seen again.  For years, conspiracy theories abounded about his disappearance.  It was assumed that he was murdered, but no body was ever found and theories pinned the crime on everyone from the Freemasons to medical students who wished to dissect and study the old gentleman's cadaver.  Other people speculated it was suicide or just an accidental drowning along the Manhattan waterfront (he was going to post a letter by a boat heading back to Albany).

It's unlikely the true story will ever be known.  Some years later, prominent Albany editor Thurlow Weed was given a letter which was said to detail Lansing's fate and name the responsible parties.  Weed was given the information on the condition that he would not reveal it until the persons named were all deceased.  However, when all the parties allegedly involved had died, Weed decided that too much time had passed and destroyed the letter!

Several printed sources state that Lansing's family later placed a cenotaph in his memory in the plot at the Albany Rural Cemetery.  Cornelia died in 1834 at the age of 76.  Records don't indicate where she was originally buried before the Rural Cemetery was established, but she was eventually be re-interred at the Rural Cemetery in the Rensselaer Westerlo family lot on the North Ridge.  Westerlo was the husband of Cornelia Lansing's daughter, Jane.

However, there is no cenotaph for John Lansing in the lot.  His name appears on his widow's headstone, but there is no separate stone for him.  I've gone over this lot several times and even carefully prodded a sunken area a few feet away from the headstone and the large Westerlo cross, but there is no sign of such a monument.  Unless, of course, it vanished as mysteriously as he did.