Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Death of Judge Clinton

On September 7, 1885, the body of an older gentleman in a black suit was found about a quarter mile beyond this bridge in the ravine between the Rural Cemetery's Middle and North Ridges.  A little boy made the discovery and quickly ran to tell an undertaker who had just finished an interment nearby.  The Cemetery's superintendent was also summoned. The man was found with several roots and herbs in his pockets, along with a small notebook and pocket-knife.  A clover was still held in one hand.  He had evidently been collecting botanical specimens somewhere along the Cemetery's Dellwood Avenue.  His pockets also contained a fine gold watch which had stopped at 3:30.  A closer examination of the notebook revealed the gentleman's name - Judge George W. Clinton.

The son of Governor DeWitt Clinton, he was born in New York City on April 21, 1807, but was raised in Albany where he attended the Albany Academy.  After graduating from Hamilton College and Norwich University, he attended Litchfield Law School in Connecticut and admitted to the bar in 1831.  The following year, he married Laura Catherine Spencer, the daughter of John Canfield Spencer (under whom he'd completed his legal studies).  The couple had nine children.

Relocating to Canandaigua, New York, he served as District Attorney for Ontario County before settling in Buffalo.  In 1842, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo.  His long political and public career included service as United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York and Judge of the Buffalo Supreme Court.  At the time of his death, he was also Vice-Chancellor of the Regents of the State University.

In 1882, he moved back to Albany to edit a collection of Clinton family papers.  A founding member and first president of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, Judge Clinton took a special interest in botany and had published a catalog of both native and natural plants of the Buffalo area.  After his move to Albany, he would frequently walk the Rural Cemetery in search of interesting plant specimens.

The Albany Express reported:

The death of Judge Clinton, at the Rural cemetery, was a shock to his Buffalo friends, but the Commercial of that city says, "It was a happy ending for such a life as his, after all.  The good man, whom all Buffalonians  loved to claim as their first and best citizen, while enjoying one of the botanizing strolls in which he delighted, fell back in the lap of Nature and quietly gave up his spirit.  That was all."  At a dinner of the bar of Buffalo some years since, Mr. James O. Putnam, after speaking of Judge Clinton's eminent professional career, said:  "Nature's own child, he has unfolded to us her mysteries as she has revealed them to him from tree and shrub and flower and her myriad schools of life; for to him nature unveils her face, and fills his ear with her music, and his soul with her all-pervading beauty."  It thus appears that the end of his career was peculiarly in harmony with the tastes and characteristics that marked his life."

Judge Clinton's body was returned to Buffalo where he was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Judge George W. Clinton on Find A Grave

Appropriately, he was laid to rest holding in his hands the clover he had picked in the Rural Cemetery moments before his death.

P.S.  Don't forget, you can still contribute to the Cemetery's annual fund and, if you enjoy these stories, be sure to like our Facebook page.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Support the Rural Cemetery

If you missed the post a few days ago with the link to the Cemetery's Annual Fund, you can find more ways to support the Cemetery at the link below.

How to support the Albany Rural Cemetery

You can make a donation, join the Friends of the Albany Rural Cemetery, volunteer, or support the Albany Cemetery project (of which this blog is a part of).

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Outwin Children

This memorial to three young children is cut to resemble two small side-by-side headstones, but the inscription (especially the third name and the epitaph) runs across them like a single stone.

The headstone marks the graves of three children, two of whom died within two weeks of each other and one who followed them just a few months later.  They were originally buried in the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds and moved here at an unknown date.

John Outwin, departed this life March 14, 1833, aged 2 years, 2 months and 21 days.

Alexander McDonald Outwin, departed this life 1st March 1833, aged 3 years, 10 months and 23 days

Margaret Outwin, departed this life August 26, 1833, aged 5 years, 11 months and 5 days.

Loved youth, how short on earth your stay
Death his fell dart has hurled,
But soon your spirits found their way
To yon celestial word.
While fond remembrance reads your stone
And heaves the deep felt sigh,
We'll learn to lean on Christ alone
And in his bosom die.

They were the children of John and Margaret Outwin.  John was listed in city directories as an accountant at 144 Washington Avenue. He is not listed in the burial records, but Margaret is.  She died at the age of 90 on September 11, 1882 There was at least one sibling who survived to adulthood (yet still predeceased his mother);  there is a William Outwin interred elsewhere in the same plot who died on January 26, 1880 at the age of forty-five. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Albany Rural Cemetey Annual Fund

 If you're interested in supporting the Albany Rural Cemetery's Annual Fund, please click the link below to print out a copy of the donation card.

Albany Rural Cemetery Annual Fund

Letter To The Times Union - Cemetery Funding An Ongoing Need

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Western Corner

Seen in the light of an unusually warm December day, this is the westernmost corner of the Cemetery.  They are located on Tulip Hill at the end of a secluded glade just below the adjacent Beth Emeth Cemetery.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Located in a corner lot near Cypress Water, this little statue must have been quite pretty.  Now, nothing is left but a tiny, poignant foot on the broken headstone of Anna Elizabeth McGarvey Wells who died on spinal meningitis on January 4, 1893 (just a month after her first birthday).

Anna was the daughter of John G. Mills, noted as "lover of horses, coin collector, and pigeon fancier," and Elizabeth McGarvey Ryan. 

Sadly, both parents also died young.  John died on May 7, 1906 of cirrhosis of the liver at the young age of forty.  Elizabeth survived him by only seven years, dying of a lung ailment on February 17, 1913.  She was forty-six.

The family lived at 921 Madison Avenue in Albany, a house which still stands and is now part of the College of St. Rose.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Disappearance of Robert Harper

This lovely monument with a heavy, tasseled pall draped over a marble shaft and a wreath of flowers encircling an urn with flames is located on the slope of the Middle Ridge just across from the Cemetery's chapel.

The monument marks the grave of Robert Harper and the inscription notes that he died January 22, 1870.  He was buried on April 24 of the same year.

Born in Ireland around 1811, Robert Harper is listed in Albany city directories as a vegetable merchant, first at the city's central market and, later, at 90 State Street.  His home was on Lydius Street (now Madison Avenue) near Partridge Street.  City directories also show as John Harper at the same house and give his occupation as a gardener.  Robert and John appear to have been brothers.  Robert also served as an alderman in the city's 10th Ward.

According to an article which ran in The Albany Evening Times, Robert Harper had "risen from obscurity to affluence and an honorable position among our citizens."  Property maps shows that his property covered about twelve square blocks from old Lydius Street south to Gansevoort Street between Partridge Street and Main Avenue

Late on night of January 22, 1870, he was seen leaving the Watkins House, a restaurant at 100 State Street, but he never arrived at home.  There were rumors that he was kidnapped, robbed, and murdered.  There were even several arrests made in connection his disappearance, but no one was charged.

The following April, after a period of spring rains, a body was found in the Hudson River at Coeymans by John Hounstein, an "old gentleman" who had charge of the lights on the Coeymans dyke.  Described as "poor, honest, and hardworking" by the newspapers, Hounstein spotted the body near the dyke, fastened it to his little boat, and towed it to land.  It was April 19, a little over four months after Robert Harper walked out of the Watkins House for the last time.

A doctor was summoned to examine the body.  The doctor detected no signs of violence and it was decided that no foul play was involved in the death;  it was presumed that Harper fell into the river basin at the foot of State Street and his body was held in place over the winter by boats, only to be washed downstream in the spring.  An examination of his pockets found a copy of Harper's Magazine, a gold watch on a chain, keys, a pocketknife, a corkscrew, a pocket ruler, and a packet of personal and business papers. 

Justice McNamara, identified in the newspapers as a relative of Robert Harper, rushed to Coeymans by tugboat in the company of the coroner and two detectives who had been investigating Harper's disappearance.   They identified the body as Robert Harper.  A further search of the deceased reveal several packets of money totaling $829.

Robert Harper's remains were returned to Albany and brought to the Morange undertaking rooms, then located at 39 North Pearl Street.

 The Morange Undertaking Ware Rooms ca. 1871 - photo from the Albany Public Library and the Albany...The Way It Was group archive on Flickr.

Robert Harper was buried in Lot 3, Section 62.  The burial records note that his second wife, Susan, instructed them to bury him beside his first wife, Sarah E., whose date of death is not listed in the records.  His first wife must have died at some point after the 1860 census.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Automobiles May Enter

This brief article comes from the April 20, 1910 issue of The Horseless Age, a periodical which covered automobile-related topics.  That year, the Cemetery trustees first allowed automobiles to enter the Cemetery grounds, but only through the South Gate and with certain restrictions.

"At the half-mile circle, to which they will now be permitted to run, a man will be stationed constantly, and if any motorist passes the point, all gates will be closed by telephone orders until the violator of the rule is caught."

Thursday, August 6, 2015


 In a lovely contrast to the recent vandalism of a mausoleum and headstone, the broken wings of an angel have been restored.

This pretty monument is hard to see from the main roads and paths;  it's tucked in a very quiet and shady corner of the South Ridge near Moordanaers Kill.  Still, it's a popular subject for photos and it's not unusual to see flowers tucked in the hands of the statue or in the two little urns on the pedestal.

The wings have been detached for many years.  Twenty years ago, when I first saw this monument, one wing was resting upside down on the base (and reminded me of a giant shell) and the other was propped up behind the monument.

December 2012

Sometime during the last month, someone refitted the wings back into their slots on the angel's shoulders.  A closer look shows how they've been secured with thin bits of stone and what look like coins.  The tips are long since broken and missing, but with the wings back in place, the pretty figure is now quite stunning.

This monument marks a single grave;  Elizabeth "Libbie" Lathrop.  Born in Albany in 1852, she was the daughter of Francis and Alida Griswold.  Her father was a gold beater whose home was 307 Hamilton Street (his place of business is listed in city directories as 23 Beaver Street.  She married Charles Lathrop, brother of Jane Lathrop who, with her husband Leland Stanford, founded Stanford University.  Charles served as the school's first treasurer.

Libbie died the same year the University was founded;  she passed away of heart disease in San Francisco on July 3.  She was thirty-three years old.  Her remains were returned to Albany and interred in this peaceful nook of the Cemetery on July 19.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Albany Marble Works

An advertisement for Thomas K. Kenny's Albany Marble Works from an 1844-5 city directory.  The ad feature a decorative mantelpiece and a scene reminiscent of popular late 18th and early 19th century mourning art;  a woman sadly contemplating a headstone beneath a stylized tree (see The Mourners for examples of similar imagery on gravestones and for links to two such scenes attributed to painter Ezra Ames). 

The ad lists the various types of marble articles of "every description" produced by the Marble Works, including  monuments and grave stones.  Several monuments by Thomas Kenny can be found at the Albany Rural Cemetery, including the Delavan monument and the signed Mary Kane headstone.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Caught In A Landslide

Something about Section 189 on the North Ridge has always struck me as odd.

It's at an extreme corner of the Cemetery near the North Pond.  Behind the fence, traffic passes on Spring Street and houses have sprung up in the years since I first started exploring.  Sounds from Siena College often carry over.

The stones in this field are arranged very neatly and almost all face the same direction.  It's quite symmetrical compared to most lots where the monuments face whatever direction the owners wanted which gives the older sections a pleasantly disorganized look.

Many of the stones here are fairly old in what is a relatively newer section.  It doesn't appear on the extremely useful 1912 lot map, yet many of the stones predate it.  A search of all burials in Section 189 shows that burials in this section only began in 1941,, but clearly some of these stones are far older.  Many date from the mid to late 1800s.

Researching a few of the names found on the older stones revealed another interesting detail.  I picked one of the names - Charles Angus who died in 1875 - and checked the burial index cards which showed he were buried in Lot 22, Section 89. 

Several of the Angus family stones in Section 189

For a moment, I thought it could be a typo - that perhaps it was supposed to read "189," but the "1" was accidentally omitted.  A check of a few other names, however, showed they were all listed as buried in Section 89. 

Several years ago, when I began my research, I came across a passing reference to a landslide in a back issue of the Friends of the Albany Rural Cemetery's newsletter.  More recently, I found a brief article in the defunct Knickerbocker News describing a court case in which the Cemetery sought and obtain permission to move a number of graves which had been affected by a landslide.  The article didn't mention what part of the Cemetery had been damaged by the landslide, but the connection was clear.

In 1951, a landslide caused part of Section 89 to collapse.  Section 89 overlooks the Kromme Kill ravine and the remains of Lake Bathesda.  The landslide caused some graves and monuments above the old Bramble Copse walk to tumble into the ravine.

Detail of an 1871 map showing Section 89.

As a result of the landslide, approximately 150 graves had to be removed from the portion of Section 89.  The article didn't mention where the graves were going to be placed.  However, a second check of records for the Angus family and a sample of other names on those older monuments in that far corner of Section 189 showed they were all not only listed as Section 89, but most came from lots along the edge of the ravine overlooking Bramble Copse Walk.

Map from 1912 showing the original location of the Angus lot on the ravine side of Section 89.  The wavy parallel lines in the lower left of the corner are part of the lake.

These monuments seems subtly out of place because, in a way, they are.  The older gravestones in Section 189 are those which were relocated after the 1951 landslide damaged Section 89.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vandalism Incident

Two monuments - a vault and a headstone - were vandalized recently. has details and video in the link below.  If you have any information on the incident, please contact the Colonie Police Department at (518) 783-2744. - Albany Rural Cemetery vandalized

Paul Grondahl, of the Times Union, has an excellent article on the incident.

Vandals desecrate mausoleum, grave marker at Albany Rural Cemetery

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Glen Cross Bridge

In the past, a number of small bridges cross the Cemetery's streams and ravines, conveniently linking the North, Middle, and South Ridges for visitors following the "Tour" route laid out in such books as Henry Fitzgerald's Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery.  Very few of the bridges survive now, including the Glenn Cross Bridge.

One of the most highest and most scenic of the old bridges, Glenn Cross spanned a narrow ravine that cuts into the South Ridge.  The southern end of the bridge was the path from Section 5 and the northern end was the path between Sections 9 and 10 (near the circular plot of Francis Dwight).

The picture above is scanned from an antique stereoview in my personal collection.  The original photograph was taken from the north side of the span and looks south across it toward the monument of Harmanus Bleecker.  The previously mentioned Dwight enclosure is just behind the photographer.

The looping old Tour route laid out on older Cemetery maps passes both across the bridge and beneath it.  The early Cemetery map printed by John Gavit identifies the path beneath the bridge as "Glenwoodie."  Later maps label the approach to the bridge from the south as "Glen Crossway" and the north approach as "Ravine Crossway."

The highlighted circle on this 1871 map shows the location of Glen Cross Bridge with Consecration Lake to the upper right.

 A recent view from the north side.  The stone abutments are all that remains of Glenn Cross Bridge. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Spencer Stafford

When the Hallenbake Burial Ground, the last family cemetery in Albany, was removed from the corner of South Pearl and Hamilton Street in 1860, the remains of Spencer Stafford and his family were among those transferred to the Rural Cemetery's North Ridge.

A native of Rhode Island, fifteen year old Stafford came to Albany in 1787..  His brother, Thomas, and other relatives had already settled in the city and young Stafford became an apprentice in Thomas' Market Street store.  At the age of nineteen, he married into the Hallenbake family when he wed Dorothea.  The couple built a home on the Hallenbake land, but in 1790, relocated to Deerfield, Oneida County where Stafford was briefly engaged in the manufacture of potash.  A year later, however, the Staffords returned to Albany permanently. 

Stafford was described as "self-reliant, industrious, and enterprising" and as possessing "qualities essential to mercantile success."  A silversmith as well as a merchant, he also entered into the stovemaking business and  held various civic positions, including service as a city alderman.

Spencer Stafford would eventually build a mansion on Lydius Street;  the house still stands as 100 Madison Avenue.

Dorothea Stafford died in 1806, two years before Spencer built the Lydiys Street house.  The couple had five children.  A year later, Spencer Stafford married Harriet Romeyn by whom he had four more children.  Portraits of both Spencer and Harriet are now in the collections of the Alban Institute of History and Art and appear in their digital collections:

Portrait of Spencer Stafford by Ezra Ames
Portrait of Harriet Romeyn Stafford by Ezra Ames

Spencer Stafford died on February 10, 1844.  He laid to rest in the Hallenbake family's burial grounds where his first wife was already buried.  Harriet Romeyn Stafford survived her husband by five years and, after her death on July 5, 1849, was also buried in the Hallenbake cemetery.  In June 1860, all remains from this family burial ground were removed to the Rural Cemetery.  A sandstone monument marks the Staffords portion of the large Hallenbake plot.  Footstones with their initials mark the graves of Spencer, Dorothea, and Harriet while inscriptions on the sandstone monument memorialize

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A New Facebook Page

As I continue to work on my book, Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The Graves - I always find photos and resarch to share that don't quite fit a blog post (a link, an anecdote, a photo such as the one above).  So I've created a Facebook page for the project and I would be very happy if you'd join me there, too.  You're also more then welcome to post on the new page, too.  I look forward to it.

Albany Rural Cemetery - Beyond The Graves on Facebook

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ann Eliza Bleecker

The headstone of Ann Eliza Bleecker in the Dutch Reformed section of the Church Grounds is nearly illegible.  One can just make out the name carved in the worn marble and it gives little detail about the life of this early American poet and novelist.

The daughter of Brandt and Margaretta Schuyler, Ann Eliza was born in 1752.  She grew up in a wealthy family and was well educated.  From an early age, she showed a very strong interest in literature and frequently wrote verses.  She did not write for publication, but would often send her verses to family and close friends.

In 1769, she married John James Bleecker, Esq. of New Rochelle and moved to Poughkeepsie.  A few years later, the couple settled on a farm near the Tomhannock Creek in Schaghticoke.  At "Tomhanick," Bleecker had built a comfortable house on a "little eminence" with a "pleasing prospect."  The house had a beautiful garden with a view of the Creek, an orchard at the edge of the forest, and was surrounded by meadows and cultivated fields.  Beyond the house was, as Ann Eliza described it, "the ample shadow of that solemn ridge of pine."  Young Mrs. Bleecker loved her garden and would gather seeds from her plants to scatter along the brook and in the woods.

The Bleeckers had two young daughters, Margaretta and Abella, and what seems to have been an almost idyllic life until the summer of 1777 when the Revolutionary War came dangerously close to home.  With rumors of British soldiers and their Loyalist and Native allies advancing towards the area and the memory of the 1711 Schaghticoke Massacre still reasonably fresh in the minds of their neighbors, John Bleecker went to Albany to arrange the evacuation of his family.

Not long after her husband left, frightened by an inaccurate report that a raiding party was within two miles of the village, Ann Eliza took her two young daughters and a mulatto servant girl and fled (on foot and by wagon) south to Lansingburgh. Her husband met her there and took her to Red Hook in Dutchess Coutny where she joined her mother and sister.  Unfortunately, her infant daughter Abella died of illness during the flight and, not long after, Ann Eliza's mother and sister also died.

After the British were defeated at Saratoga, the Bleeckers returned to Tomhanick.  In 1781, John Bleecker was abducted by what may have been a Loyalist party.  He was realized a week later at Bennington, but Ann Eliza, pregnant and still devastated by the death of her mother, sister, and daughter, suffered a miscarriage.  She never truly recovered from the trauma of the war and her personal losses; her daughter, Margaretta, would later describe her as often alternating between gaiety and good humor and bouts of melancholy during which she would burns writings that did not reflect her dark mood. 

Ann Eliza Bleecker's health failed and she died at the age of thirty-two on November 23, 1783.  She was buried in the Dutch Reformed Church's graveyard, then located on Beaver Street just east of South Pearl Street.  Eventually, her grave was moved to the State Street Burying Grounds and, ultimately, the Church Grounds at the Rural Cemetery.  The headstone does not mark her exact grave site;  over the years, the old markers have been moved, stacked, and rearranged so that they do not actually correspond to individual graves.

Ann Eliza Bleecker never published her writings during her life time.  After her death, her daughter, Margaretta Van Wyck Faugeres, collected and published the surviving manuscripts. 

Her works included The History of Maria Kittle, an early Gothic novel and captivity narrative.  It is a graphic story, based in part of the 1711 Schaghticoke Massacre and her own fears during the war, which was told in the form of letters.  In a similar vein, she also wrote a story based on a gruesome murder near Pittstown in which James Yates murder his wife, four children (from inant to 6) along with all of his livestock).  The disoriented Yates then appeared naked at his parents home saying he believed he had been killing hostile Indians.  In a posthumously published article attributed to Ann Eliza, it was reported that Yates was interrogated in the Bleecker's Schaghticoke home before being transported to the Albany jail. 

The published works also included a number of poems, many describing her pleasant pre-war life at Tomhanick as well as the more tragic and frightening experiences of the Revolution (such as Written in retreat from Burgoyne)  These poems were published along with various essays and miscellaneous works.  The complete volume can be found online here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cretia Jackson

 There are two Boyd family lots near the western terminus of the Middle Ridge;  the lot of James and Peter Boyd marked with a large, simple marble obelisk and the lot of Robert Boyd is marked with a towering and elaborate monument which features a sarcophagus, a winged hourglass, and heavy lions' feet. 

In the latter lot, in the shadow of that elaborate memorial, there is a marble headstone with the following inscription:

Cretia Jackson died April 4, 1855.  For more than fifty years, a most faithful and respected servant of the family.

Her burial record indicates the Cretia (which was short for Lucretia) died of congestion of the lungs at the age of fifty-seven, meaning she would have started her service to the Boyd family while still a child.  Records such as the 1800 census show that members of the Boyd family owned slaves and she may have been the daughter of one of these slaves.  She was born during New York's gradual emancipation;  the law at the time of her birth granted freedom to children born after 1799, but they were to serve an indenture until they came of age.  This would explain why she would have served the family from the young age of seven.

She appears in the 1850 census as "mulatto."  Her name doesn't appear in previous census years. 

Cretia is one of several servants interred in the plots of the families which they worked for, ranging from a faithful slave of the Quackenbush family to the Swiss-born butler of the Barnes family.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Margaret Carman

A small marble headstone on the Middle Ridge marks the grave of Margaret, wife of Theodore Carman.  She died on April 27, 1839 at the age of 28.  Her headstone has the image of a broken column (typically a symbol of an early death) which is draped with a heavy veil or shroud.

Theodore Carman is also interred in this lot; he died on December 26, 1856 at the age of 45.  He was a shoemaker at 24 Norton Street in Albany.  The deed to this lot was in the name of Olivia (also spelled Olevia) Carman who died on January 18, 1864 at the age of 53.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Narcisse Remond

This tall marble monument (usually half-hidden by one of the Cemetery's magnolia trees) marks the grave of the Narcisse Remond, proprietor of The Marble Pillar.  The Marble Pillar was located in the basement of a building by the same name which stood at the northwest corner of State Street and Broadway.  At various times, the stately building also housed a museum, telegraph office, and was a departure point for various stagecoaches and other forms of transportation.  A contemporary newspaper remarked that soup or steaks done in Remond's style was "a luxury."

Remond's burial records give very little biographical information except that he died on December 29, 1855 at the age of 43 years, 2 months, and 15 days.  The worn inscription on the gravestone itself notes that he was born in France and "came to this country in 1833 and took his abode in Albany."  The burial record of his wife, Mary Josephine Remond, indicates that she was born in Versailles.

The monument is not original to the lot.  Remond was originally interred in a vault as mentioned in several early books on the Cemetery and that fact is still reflected on his wife's burial card.  During the 1870s, the Cemetery's Superintendent Jeffrey P. Thomas, strongly encouraged the owners of vaults in poor condition or whose design was not considered in keeping with the natural style of a rural cemetery to have those structures removed and replaced with more suitable memorials.  The Remond vault was removed around this time. Mary Josephine Remond had passed away in 1872 at the age of 57.  At the time of her death, she was living in Brooklyn at 174 Monroe Street.

One interesting detail of the Remond gravestone is the elaborate Masonic symbol carved on the upper portion.  In addition to the compass and builders square found on many Masonic graves around the Rural, it also includes an arch with a prominent keystone and a worn relief of the Ark of The Covenant atop the steps on which the arch stands.  This elaborate symbol is associated with the Royal Arch Masons, part of the York Rite.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Francis B. Dwight

Set atop a South Ridge hill that drops steeply down towards Consecration Lake, this circular lot is among the Rural's oldest plots.  Surrounded by what appears to be its original iron fence, it contains a massive tree and a single gravestone.  The upper part of the hill where it stands was originally called Mildand Hill on early maps of the grounds and the lower part was called Mount Formosa.  As the Cemetery expanded and the maps changed, the area was renamed Oakwood Forest Hill and then Roseland Hill.  Now it is simply Lot 1, Section 11.

The lot is a little tricky to enter from the front (the far side in the photo above) as the ground drops off steeply above the path and whatever steps may have once accessed the lot are gone.  However, there is an opening in the fence at the rear of the lot.  Reading and photographing the sole slab-style headstone is made difficult by the fact that it lies at the very front edge of the lot and there is only room to stand behind or beside it.  Still, enough of the inscription can be read to identify two of the occupants of this old and scenic burial place as Francis B. and Catherine Dwight. 

Francis B. Dwight was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 14, 1808.  He was the eight of twelve children born to James Scutt Dwight and Mary Sanford Dwight.  He entered Harvard at sixteen and, after graduation, spent a couple of years touring Europe before studying law.  He practiced in Massachusetts and the Michigan Territory before settling in New York State.  On July 24, 1834, he married Catherine Van Rensselaer Schermerhorn.  The first Mrs. Dwight died sometime prior to 1843 since, on April 20 of that year, he married Catherine Waters Yates.

He moved to Albany in 1840 and, with encouragement from John Canfield Spencer, the New York Secretary of State, Dwight began publication of The District School Journal For The State of New York.  Though he was urged to enter politics, he preferred to "devote his life and talents to the great cause of popular education."  He was named superintendent of schools for the city and county of Albany and, on June 1, 1844, was unanimously nominated to the executive committee "for the care, government, and management of the Normal School."  The institution would evolve into the University At Albany, part of the State University of New York.

View of the State Normal School on the north side of State Street just below Eagle Street.  Courtesy of @AlbanyMuskrat on Twitter.

City directories show Francis B. Dwight as a resident of 1 Clinton Park (now Clinton Square).  While much of this block survives, his house has been demolished.

Described by one newspaper as "the most accomplished advocate of popular education" and a "pioneer" in the establishment of the Normal School, Francis Dwight died on December 15, 1845.  He was only thirty-seven years old.  His death, according to the Albany Argus, was caused by a serious inflammation of the bowels.  He was greatly and sincerely mourned by his friends and colleagues.

Francis and his first wife share a headstone.  It is a large slab laid flush to the ground near the entrance to the plot.  A simple carved cross surmounts their names.

Francis' second wife survived him and remarried as she is listed in the Cemetery records as Catherine W. Graham.  She was, however, interred with Francis in this lot after her death on April 4, 1879.  At the time of her death, she was a resident of 168 West 47th Street in New York City.  She was sixty-six years old.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Sweet Surprise

As mentioned in a previous post, the Rural Cemetery has been full of surprises this spring.  As I stopped to take a picture on the North Ridge near the Kreuder monument, I noticed something different set against the trees at the edge of the ravine.

From a distance, it was actually difficult to tell just what was set atop this tall monument.  At first, it appeared to be a large bird, but it was too still and lacked the coloring of the hawks which are fairly common here.  It might have been a simple draped urn or even a statue.  Upon a closer look, it turned out to be the latter.

It's located not too far from the Hallenbake lot and the little headstones of the Prentice daughters.  It was also mentioned in Henry Churchill's 1858 Guide Through The Rural Cemetery.  Yet, somehow, I'd never seen it before.  Perhaps because, the last time I was close to it, I was limping along with a cane and, on previous wanderings, I was too busy picking my way down the marble steps that lead from the Hallenbake enclosure to the old, narrow path that runs along the north shoulder of the ravine.

One reason it's easy to miss is because it was meant to be seen from that path, identified on older maps as Dell Side Avenue.  It faces the ravine and, when the old bridges which linked the North, Middle, and South Ridges, there would have been several scenic approaches to this lot.  From the lot, there would have been a lovely view of the Kromme Kill and Indian Lake.

The little statue atop the monument turned out to be quite familiar.  I've seen examples of this kneeling child before.  There is a similar one in Schenectady's Vale Cemetery and other copies appear in burial grounds around the country.  A similar figure also appears as a stock image in old advertisements for stonecutters such as William Manson and James Gazeley

A check of burial records shows that this is the Anderson family monument and there's the sweet aspect;  the Andersons were in the candy business.  A city directory from 1848 lists George Anderson as a "Plain and Ornamental Confectioner" at the corner of Broadway and Lydius Street (now Madison Avenue).  The advertisement offers various sweet goods such as ice cream, jellies, cakes, and pastries.  A few years later, the 1853 directory featured a full page advertisement for Anderson & Wright, a well-stocked candy "manufactory" and soda foundation.

George Anderson was born in England around 1818.  His burial records state he died of consumption on March 11, 1856.  His widow, Sarah, was born in Berne, New York in 1820.  She passed away on Christmas Eve, 1879.  About a dozen other family members are interred around this lot, including George's siblings, Charles and Mary Anderson.  Charles and Mary both died of consumption within days of each other;  thirty-five year Charles on March 8, 1844 and twenty-nine year old Mary on March 14, 1844 died on March 8, 1844.  The Rural Cemetery had not yet been consecrated so Charles and Mary were temporarily interred at the State Street Burying Grounds as their burial records indicate that they were "removed from Albany" to this lot.
 The ad above is borrowed from the Albany...The Way It Was image collection on Flick.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Catharine Ann Van Benthuysen

This stone on the North Ridge is beautifully detailed;  elegant and Gothic, it features a rose and a tulip on either side of a niche framing a worn figure of an angel.

It marks the grave of a Catharine Van Benthuysen who died on August 23, 1854.  It does not give her age or date of birth.  The lower part of the stone might contain additional information or an epitaph, but the slab has broken off its base and the bottom portion is obscured now.  The burial records on file indicate she was twenty-three at the time of her death.

Census records for 1850 show a sixteen-year old Catharine A. Van Benthuysen, the daughter of Watervliet farmer Volkert Van Benthuysen and his wife, Dorcas.  Catharine's parents are also buried in the plot, as well as Ida, a two-year old sister who died just a month after Catharine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reverend David Dyer

This slim marble memorial on the South Ridge overlooks a deep ravine and the remains of Consecration Lake.  It stands just off an old path near the Witt hillside vault in an area of the Cemetery formerly Mount Olivet.  In the past, this plot would have included a pretty view of Glenn Cross Bridge which has since been removed.

The monument's inscription is difficult to read, but just clear enough to identify it as the resting place of Reverend David Dyer.  Born in England around 1811, he relocated to Albany where he was active with the Albany Tract Society, an organization which produced and distributed religious literature.  City directories show he lived at 126 State Street, not far from the Society's office at 82 State.

Reverend Dyer also served as the chaplain of the Albany Penitentiary and authored an 1867 history of the Penitentiary which can found on Google Books.  The following year, he also published a report on "Impressions on Prison Life In Great Britain" at the request of the superintendent and inspectors of the Albany Penitentiary.

Reverend David Dyer died suddenly in February of 1870.  The cause of his death was given as heart disease.  After his passing, a number of resolutions in his honor were passed by organizations and institutions with which he was associated.  He was interred at the Rural Cemetery on May 5, 1870.

The uppermost portion of his headstone features a shallow niche with an urn.  The urn is filled with weathered, but still charming flowers.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Old Flag

New flags are regularly placed on the graves of soldiers, but sometimes the old flags remain.  Here, a previous year's flag dangles from a Grand Army of The Republic marker.