Thursday, February 18, 2016

On All Over Albany

In case you haven't read it yet, please stop by All Over Albany for my piece on African-American history and the Rural.

Eight short stories recalling the lives of African-Americans at the Albany Rural Cemetery

Monday, February 15, 2016

Rediscovering A Soul Effigy

A recent research walk on the Rural Cemetery's Middle Ridge revealed a few interesting surprises, including only the second marble section marker I've seen intact.  Stopping near the wonderfully eclectic monument to Ozias Hall to retrieve a lot map from my backpack, I happened to look back down the hill toward a corner lot I'd visited several years ago.  

There's a cache of older headstones there, mostly transferred from the State Street Burying Grounds and laid flush to the earth in a large family plot.  I'd photographed a few of them back in 2013, but gave up because several of them were positioned at the very edge of a short, but very steep slope.  Since I was using a cane as I recovered from a badly dislocated knee, I didn't want to risk a tumble! 

As I looked down from the Ozias Hall lot, I noticed about two or three headstones in that corner lot.  These had not been visible on that previous visit.  They looked quite old so I retraced my steps back down from the Hall lot for a closer look.  One was fairly plain;  the inscription was partially obscured, but I could make out a partial date of 17--.  The stone next to it was heavily embedded in the earth.  Only a couple of inches were visible with most of the slab covered in very thick moss and the upper portion overlapped by a tree root.

But there was something interesting on that upper portion.  A row of tiny parallel lines was just visible under a layer of thick dirt and moss.  It hinted some sort of carving, perhaps the bottom edge of wings.  It might even be a soul effigy - the winged faces popular on 18th-century tombstones.  They were not particularly common in Albany compared to New England and the lower Hudson Valley, but there are some interesting examples in the Church Grounds and the Schuyler lot.  Many, though not all, of the Cemetery's soul effigies are documented in Experiencing Albany:  Perspectives On A Grand City's Past.

I keep a few "tools" in my backpack when I'm at the Cemetery, including a soft brush which I used it to sweep the dirt from the upper part.  And, yes, there was a soul effigy complete with a fashionable wig atop on oval face.  There is even a hint of a heavenly crown peeking out from under the turf.

The inscription was much harder to reveal with just the brush.  But I was able to clear just enough to reveal some elegant flourishes and enough letters to copy for identification.

The headstone belongs to Jacob Ten C. Eyck who died on September 8, 1793.  Born in Albany in 1705 to silversmith Coenradt Ten Eyck and Gerritje Van Schaick Ten Eyck, he followed in his father's line of work.  As a young man, he apprenticed to Charles Le Roux in New York City.  He returned to Albany around 1736 where he practiced his trade as a smith - an example of his work is currently on display as part of the Albany Institute of History & Art's excellent exhibit, Masterworks - 225 Years of Collecting.  He also served as constable and city firemaster and, eventually, as sheriff of Albany County.  From 1748 to 1750, he served as Mayor.

In 1736, he married Catharina Cuyler.  They had four children.  Catharina died in 1790.

Jacob C. Ten Eyck was eighty-eight at the time of his death.  He was buried in the Dutch Reformed Church's section of the municipal burial ground which closed in 1868 to allow the land to be redeveloped into Washington Park.  While most graves were relocated to the Rural Cemetery's Church Grounds, Jacob C. Ten Eyck's was moved to this large plot in Section 60.  Records indicate that Catharina was also moved here and her headstone is likely nearby, waiting to be cleared, too.

 AIHA - a silver bowl by Jacob C. Ten Eyck

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Flags and Wreaths, 1965

This silent compilation of video of War-time Albany includes some excellent footage of flags being placed on the graves of soldiers in May, 1965.  The Civil War Soldiers Lot is included in the video, along with an impressive wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President Arthur.