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.