Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Mayor

For most people raised in the Albany area, this name needs to explanation.  This granite headstone - one of a matching set in the large family plot - marks the grave of Erastus Corning 2nd, the man who served as Mayor of Albany for over four decades. 

For anyone too young to remember Mayor Corning or not originally from this area:  Wikipedia

Mayor Corning passed away on this date in 1983.  As memorable as his death was, the one incident that stands out in my memory was a hoax some weeks before.  I was ten and sitting at the kitchen table, playing with Colorforms.  The radio on the shelf above the sink was and, just as I carefully placed a roast turkey on a red sofa, the host interrupted the regular talk show to announce they had just received word that Mayor Corning had died at the hospital in Boston.  The news was stunning, but not unexpected and the host was quiet emotional.  But a few minutes later, the host announced the Mayor was still alive and I remember how angry he was that anyone would call in such a prank.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Almost Unknown

The name on this headstone is worn and practically illegible and the soldier's cap atop is eroding.  It marks the grave of one of several hundred Civil War soldiers - both casualties and veterans - buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Haunted Cemetery

For lovers of the paranormal, the Rural Cemetery is also the subject of local ghost stories.  There are stories of in old-fashioned pajamas seen drifting along the paths at twilight.  Some accounts describe them as elderly, others as young.  Other stories talk of glowing orbs appearing in photographs, unexplained shadows, and spectral black dogs.  It's also said that the old Superintendent's Cottage is now home to spirits and that an out-of-control horse which died after crashing headfirst into a monument  at the base of the North Ridge on an August evening in 1906.  The horse, which had been hitched to a buggy outside a church on Fifteenth Street in nearby Watervliet, had become spooked and bolted, dragging the buggy down Broadway and into the Cemetery.  The unfortunate horse, which was buried in the fields near the barns, is said to still gallop wildly along the Cemetery's roads.

Even the often-repeated urban legend of the hitchhiking girl has featured the Rural Cemetery as its setting,though the local variation of this tale is usually set at Graceland Cemetery on Delaware Avenue just south of Albany.  In more recent years, vague stories of mysterious black sport-utility vehicles (along with “men in black”) seen driving around the Cemetery have appeared on the internet.

I've personally experienced a few odd things in the Cemetery.  Several years ago, while walking in the general vicinity of the McIntyre plot, I felt someone gently, but firmly touch the back of my head.  I could rule out overhanging branches, mischievous friends, and such normal explanations.  On another occasion, I looked up from photographing a Revolutionary War veteran's headstone and saw - briefly, but clearly - a white figure walking towards me in the tall grass.  In the 1990s, while walking with my dog on the Middle Ridge just uphill from the DePeyser Douw vault, I heard a beautiful female voice humming a few bars of a melody just about a foot from me.  The tune repeated twice and I noticed my Pomeranian was staring intently in the direction that the voice came from.  There was no one nearby. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Our Angel Mother

The Albany Rural Cemetery was just five years old when fifty-four year old Mary Ann Davis Williams died on September 1, 1849.  Her monument notes that she was "Mother of William Davis, Margaret Elizabeth and John Samuel Williams."  Located on the South Ridge not too far from Ira Harris and "Sara and Her Babe," the tall marble features a lovely wreath of laurels decorated with ribbons and enclosing the inscription, "Our Angel Mother."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Restoration of The Soldiers Lot

The restoration of the Soldiers Lot, which was begun last year, is showing fine results.  Over one hundred white marble headstones have been cleaned and reset on new concrete foundations. 

Click here for photos of the work during earlier stages

Located on the North Ridge, the Soldiers Lot was established in 1862 and also includes a bronze monument with the names of over six hundred additional local men who died in the conflict.  By Memorial Day, these white rows will be brightened by the placement of small American flags at each grave.

Hopefully, the same sort of restoration can eventually be done at the G.A.R. lot on the far end of the North Ridge.  Many of the stones there are illegible and overgrown.

Click here to see the headstone of Orange Peck prior to restoration.

More on the Soldiers Lot

The Walker Vault

With its lack of a family name on the exterior and its entrance now sealed with a stone wall, this vault has always had an air of mystery about it.  Located on the North Ridge just across the road from the Soldiers Lot, the vault had iron doors when I first saw it in the early 1990s.  At some point, though, the badly rusted doors were removed (leaving the black marks from the process), and the entrance closed.

The plot was purchased in 1867 by Frederick W. Walker who erected this vault for his family not long after.  According to Cemetery records, Frederick Walker attended the Albany Academy around 1819.  A lumber merchant and attorney, his address was listed as 187 State Street (part of a block since removed when the Empire State Plaza was built).  He was the son of Willard Walker, a merchant with an establishment at 64 Quay Street (now covered by the amphitheater area of the Corning Preserve).  Willard Walker was born June 18, 1769, died January 1, 1848, and is listed among the burials in this vault.

Also listed as buried here is Lavinia Walker, wife of Willard who died giving birth to a stillborn child at the age of thirty-three on November 11, 1818, a Maria Walker who is identified as the three year old daughter of Willard and his second wife, (also named Maria and presumably buried here) and an H. Woodruff whose relationship to the family is not indicated, but who is identified as a builder who died in 1839 at the age of fifty-eight.