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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


This small white marble headstone on the North Ridge features an eroded, but charming carving of a little girl with angel wings and ribbon sash. She holds what may have been a floral wreath in one hand as she points to Heaven. 

Located in the Zweeres family plot, this stone has one of the most unusual names I've seen in the cemetery - Sieprieana.  And, on the burial index card, it's spelled Siepiunanna. Often, names that seem unusual at first glance aren't really that strange or different, but simply old-fashion spellings or names that are no longer in fashion.  This one, however, is quite unique.

She was the daughter of Dutch immigrants, John and Dina Zweeres,  and died from croup on March 13, 1889.  She was just weeks shy of her third birthday.  Her father was a bookkeeper and, at the time of Siepriama's death, the family lived at 338 South Pearl Street.