Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cemetery Lane, 1907

A rather clever postcard was printed to look like birch bark that was peeled back to reveal an image of Cemetery Lane (now Cemetery Avenue).  It is, of course, the approach to the Albany Rural Cemetery (and St. Agnes Cemetery) from the main gate on Broadway. 

Postmarked 1907, it shows the Avenue before the installation of the current fence which lines both sides and before disease wiped out the rows of elm trees.

The card was mailed from Albany on July 2 and address to a Miss Lila C. Ritter in Alder Creek, Oneida County.  A little research shows that Miss Ritter graduated from Boonville High School two years later and became a teacher until she married Loren Yerdon in 1915  The Yerdons lived on a farm in Steuben County, but later moved back to Alder Creek.  She passed away on September 10, 1971 at the age of 82.

There is no note on the card and the sender didn't sign his or her name, though there are two sets of initials inked on the lower edge and "Cemetery Lane, Albany" is written in pencil on the reverse. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Lost At Sea

The burial card and monument for Jacob F. Benjamin lists his date of death as Christmas Day, 1853 and it includes an intriguing notation - LOST AT SEA.  

It was December 25, 1853 when a vessel from the Pacific Mail Steamship Company encountered a terrible gale and foundered near Charleston.  The ship had left New York and was bound for Panama. Aboard were both soldiers (the ship was transporting the Third Regiment of the United States Artillery) and civilian passengers, including women and children. The decks were swept with wind and water, the smokestacks toppled, the boats lost.  Reports of the total casualties vary;  some contemporary newspapers reported about 300 casualties and 150 saved. First hand accounts of the disaster can be read here.

Among those reported dead that night was "The barber, colored, washed overboard."  This barber's name was not given in any accounts of the tragedy, but it was most certainly the same Jacob F. Benjamin; he Albany city directory for the same year lists him as a barber residing at 111 Knox Street.

His body was not recovered, but his name was carved on the marble shaft in a family plot deeded to his wife, Abigail.  At the time of his death, they had five children who ranged in age from an infant (his father's namesake) to eleven years old.  Jacob was thirty-five when he was lost to the waves.

The Benjamin plot is Lot 94, Section 100.  It is adjacent to the Arsenal Burial Ground and the grave of Dr. Thomas Elkins.