There are more than 110 Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Albany Rural Cemetery

When the Battles of Lexington and Concord ended on April 19, 1775 word spread like wildfire through the Colonies. Everyone had been waiting for this, knowing it would come, and not knowing what would happen next. Except that it would be dangerous – 8 colonists died and 9 were wounded on that day.

Yet thousands of men rushed to serve. (Over 350,000 men served in the War over its 7 years.)

There are more than 110 Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Albany Rural Cemetery (and more waiting to be identified).

Some served in the Continental Army, others in state and county militias. Some fought in the local battles we’re all familiar with, like the Oriskany and Saratoga, while others served at Yorktown and Brandywine. Some lived in Albany when they joined the fight, others came to live here after the War. Some were lifelong soldiers, while others were members of minute man companies or the militia, ready to be called up at a moment’s notice.

We’ve put together several brief biographies of those interred at Albany Rural Cemetery that we hope provide you with a better sense of those who fought to forge a new nation.

Daniel Shields
Shields was born in Scotland, but lived in New York City. He enlisted in the Continental Army at the age of 14 (it appears he lied about his age). He served in a NYS regiment under Lafayette at the Battle of Yorktown. (He was discharged with the rank of captain.) Shields received a badge of merit signed by General Washington.

After the War Shields moved between Albany and Schenectady, trying his hand at different jobs. In 1824 Shields and Lafayette had a brief, but fond re-union when Lafayette visited Albany as part of his American tour. Shields’ granddaughter married Leland Stanford (also from Albany), the railroad mogul, politician and founder of Stanford University.

Shields died in 1835, and is interred in Lot 21, Section 11 of the Cemetery.

Goose (Gosen) Van Schaick
Van Schaick was the son of a merchant, who was once mayor of Albany. He’d fought in many battles in the French and Indian War. In 1770 he married a local girl, Maria Ten Broeck; the couple lived on Market St. (now Broadway).

Van Schaick represented his ward on the Albany Committee of Correspondence and would actively serve in the War. He was wounded at the Battle of Ticonderoga in 1777 (in the cheek-the site of a previous wound) and served at the Battle of Monmouth. He was also part of what has come to be known as one of the darker parts of our history, the Sullivan Raids in 1779, in which most of the Indian Nation in the western part of the State was brutally savaged by American troops.

At the end of the War Brevet Brigadier General Goose Van Schaick returned to Albany, still troubled by his cheek wound (which had been determined to be cancerous).

He died on July 4, 1789, age 53. Goose and Maria are buried side by side in Lot 5, Section 3.

Cornelius Van Vechten
Van Vechten was born in 1735, son of a Schagticoke landowner who also served as a firemaster in Albany for a time.

Van Vechten was one of the signers of the constitution of the Albany “Sons of Liberty” in 1766, and 1775 was commissioned Lt. Colonel of the 11th (a/k/a Saratoga) regiment of the Albany County militia. At the time of the Saratoga campaign, the family home at Coveville (Saratoga County) was burned by the advancing British under General Burgoyne. Van Vechten served in the militia until the War ended.

Following the Revolution, Van Vechten served in the State Assembly and, later, as the town clerk in Schaghticoke. He died at age 78 in 1815.

The Van Vechtens were originally buried in the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds. They were moved to Lot 7, Section 38 at the Cemetery in 1859.

Walter Whitney
Whitney was born in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1760. He served in a unit of the Connecticut artillery as a teenager, from 1777-1779. He subsequently became a school teacher in Connecticut, but moved to outside Albany in the late 1780s (in the towns of Berne and New Scotland) where he also farmed, until his family came into the city in the late 1820s.

He died in 1846 while living at 26 DeWitt Street (now a very small cul-de-sac between Broadway and Erie Blvd).

Whitney’s white marble headstone on the North Ridge is decorated with patriotic emblems – an eagle with a banner bearing the words E PLURIBUS UNUM and a shield rises above a cannon. Look closely alongside the cannon to see crossed swords. Above the eagle are thirteen stars (some are worn and hard to see) for the original thirteen colonies and 76 is carved between the eagle and the cannon.

The Whitney grave can be found in Lot 159, Section 92.

Abraham Eights
Abraham Eights was a second generation American (his grandfather was born in the Netherlands), son of a sea captain, born circa 1745. He settled in Albany in the 1760s, became a sailmaker and lived on Water St. on the Hudson River.

He was one of Albany’s original “Sons of Liberty” in 1766. At the start of War in 1775 he was commissioned a Lt. in the Albany County Militia, but later resigned. He’s found in subsequent records (1777-1779) serving as a private in the Albany County militia on an as needed basis. It appears that he helped the cause with cash and in-kind contributions (ensuring sails were in working order for the sloops that plied the River, and for his next door neighbor Capt. Stewart Dean, who was a commissioned privateer during the War, and with whom he served in the Militia).

Eights became a wealthy man and in later years was the Dockmaster of Albany. His grandson was James Eights who painted the wonderful watercolors of Albany that show us how the city looked in the early 1800s.

Abraham died in 1820, and is buried in Section 52, Lot 13.*

Josiah Burton
Burton was born Connecticut in 1741. The family then moved just across the border to Amenia in Dutchess County. Historical data suggest that Burton was a silversmith. In May 1775 he was commissioned as a captain in the Dutchess County Militia. It appears he resigned that commission because in 1777 he’s a first lieutenant in an Albany county militia regiment, mustered out of Kinderhook. He moved to Albany in the 1790s and is listed in the Albany County census in the first ward in 1800.

Burton died in 1803 at the age of 61. He’s buried in Section 49, lot 5. *

Benjamin Lattimore – African-American Revolutionary War Soldier
Benjamin Lattimore was born a free man in 1761 in Connecticut. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War he was living in Ulster County, near New Marlborough, several miles south of Poughkeepsie. Lattimore enlisted (while still a teenager) with the 5th NY Regiment, Continental Army i(n 1776 once Black men were allowed to serve).

A few days later his company was sent to NYC where they took part in the Battle of Manhattan. Later that year he was on duty at Fort Montgomery (on the Hudson, just north of Bear Mountain) when he was captured along with hundreds of other Continentals by the British. Lattimore was re-captured by the Americans in Westchester, and re-joined the Continental Army.

Lattimore’s regiment was also part of the Sullivan Expedition in the western part of NY”, designed to punish the Iroquois for raiding frontier settlements.

By the late 1790s Lattimore and his family moved to Albany. He was licensed by the city as a “cartman” (authorized to haul cargo through the city streets). By about 1810 Lattimore also owned a grocery store, ad began to accumulate real estate.

Throughout the rest of his life Lattimore was active in advancing the conditions of African- Americans in Albany. He was part of a group that established the first “Albany School for Educating People of Color” in the ealry 1800s, was founding member of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and was chairman of the Albany committee to celebrate the abolition of slavery in New York State in 1827.

He died in 1838 at the age of 78 and was buried in the AME cemetery. Records indicate that his remains were moved to Albany Rural Cemetery, but his headstone has gone missing.

*Abraham Eights’ daughter Catherine married John Burton, son of Josiah Burton in the 1790s (my 3rd great grandparents).

Thanks to Paula Lemire, Historian at the. Historic Albany Rural Cemetery for much of this information and to Stefan Bielinski, for the information he has discovered about Benjamin Lattimore in his Colonial Albany Project http://exhibitions.nysm.nysed.gov//albany/welcome.html

Julie O’Connor

Mary McPherson’s Gift to Albany

Mary McPherson was born in Scotland in 1804 to Lachlan McPherson and his wife, Mary Mitchell. In her childhood, she lived near the River Tay in a house built by Lachlan himself.

When Mary was about fourteen and her brother, John was twenty-six, the McPherson family moved to America. They had friends in Albany who looked after them and helped Lachlan to obtain work.

Her father became the custodian of the old State Hall at the corner of State and Lodge Streets and John became a carpenter. Both men were respected for their honesty and humor as well as for their skilled work. Mary would later work as a housekeeper for many years. The family lived in quarters on the upper floors of the State Hall where they were known for their thrift, though Mary was regarded as somewhat eccentric for her love of bright clothing even as she passed into spinsterhood. Her dress and hair were often adorned with flowers.

In 1839, Mary’s mother died and was buried in the Presbyterian lot of the old State Street Burying Grounds (now Washington Park), though her grave and modest headstone were later moved to Albany Rural Cemetery. Around this time, Lachlan, John, and Mary moved to a small farm on Patroon Street, now Clinton Avenue. That block is now called McPherson Terrace in honor of the family.

Lachlan died in 1859, leaving all of his money and property to both children. John died in 1881. With the loss of her family, Mary put aside her colorful clothing and wore mourning for them for the rest of her life.

Mary was now the sole heir to the McPherson estate. Her family’s thrift and her own saving made for a substantial amount of money, but Mary had no one to inherit it. She had never married, nor had John.
At the age of seventy-seven, Mary decided that she wanted her modest fortune to honor both her family and her country of birth in some public way. In drawing up her will, she made Peter Kinnear, a well-known businessman and another native of Scotland as my executor. While a portion of her money was set aside for the poor of Albany, the bulk of the estate would go to create a permanent tribute to the McPhersons and their homeland.

abMary died in 1886. She was buried in Lot 26, Section 15 where a monument of rose-colored Scottish granite marks the McPherson lot. Carved thistles, a symbol of her homeland, adorn the stone.

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Kinnear carried out Mary’s wishes, commissioning sculptor Charles Calverley to create a heroine bronze statue of the Bard of Caledonia, Robert Burns. The statue sits atop of pedestal with panels depicting scenes from the poets’ works such as “Tam O’Shanter’s Ride” and “Auld Lang Syne.” The monument stands near the eastern edge of Washington Park and the words, “THE MCPHERSON LEGACY TO THE CITY OF ALBANY” are carved on the back of the pedestal.

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By Paula Lemire – Historian Albany Rural Cemetery

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Please consider joining the Friends of Albany Rural Cemetery or renewing your membership if you haven’t already. Membership forms were recently mailed, but if you haven’t received one yet, please contact us with your mailing address and we’ll send one to you. The support of the Friends is vital to the financial health of the Cemetery.

 

Albany Rural Cemetery
Cemetery Avenue, Albany, NY
(518) 463-7017

info@albanyruralcemetery.org

Albany’s Dianna Mingo (1767-1872)

An unmarked grave (Lot 8, Section 99) on the North Ridge is the final resting place of a woman who is said to be the oldest person buried at Albany Rural Cemetery; a former slave named Dianna Mingo.

Dianna was born in December 1767 as a slave of Matthew Bakeman (Beekman)* of Schodack . As a young woman, she witnessed the Revolutionary War firsthand and, in later life, would tell friends of her experiences.

The Revolution

Mrs. Mingo was nearly ten years old when the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed, and well remembered the great rejoicings and illuminations in honor of that event. She saw Gen. Washington; and her recollections of many incidents were vivid and distinct; frequently she would delight her friends by recalling them; how when the British enemy were coming, the inhabitants would get up in the night and run for the woods, where they dug holes in the earth and buried their gold and silver, their plate and jewelry, and would also hide their treasures in their beds and lay upon them to protect them from marauding parties; how one of the ladies had a baby who cried, and how to stop its little tell-tale voice the mother lay over it and smothered it; how also the “tories” spurred into her master’s yard one day, killed the cattle and poultry, and fired the dwelling, burning it to the ground.

The venerable woman would also often tell her reminiscences of the war of 1812; and describe the visit of Gen. Lafayette to this city in 1825; his crossing from Greenbush to this city, when the people remained up all night in order to receive him, and strewed flowers and branches in the roads before him; his riding in the gorgeous yellow carriage of the Van Rensselaers, and the tumultuous joy of the people in welcoming him. Indeed it would take volumes to contain the oft-recounted memories of this really wonderful old woman; but what we have specified will show the great extent and interest thereof.

(from the “Albany Evening Journal”, July 30, 1872)

She was freed before the general emancipation took effect in New York (1827), married a man named Christopher Mingo who died in the 1830s, and eventually settled in Albany.

stevensonhseShe worked first for the family of Mayor James Stevenson, as a cook at the Manor House of the Van Rensselaers, and later in the household of attorney Marcus T. Reynolds (grandfather and namesake of the architect). She spent several years employed in Newburgh, but returned to Albany after an attack of paralysis. She spent the last years of her life living in a modest wood frame house, at 385 State St. near the corner of Willett St. She remained active almost until the end of her life. With the help of her niece, Mary G. Jackson, she supported herself by taking in laundry.

Dianna Mingo died on July 25, 1872. She was said to be 105 years old. Her funeral was held at the Israel A.M.E. Church on Hamilton Street where she had been a beloved member. It was reported in the newspapers that her funeral was so well attended that mourners crowded onto the steps of the pulpit and spilled out the doors.

Writing of her passing, the” Albany Evening Journal” noted:

Diana Mingo was a truly remarkable instance of the preservation of both body and mind. Forty years ago, when she felt she was going old, she planted a seed in front of the house in which she died, from which has grown a horse-chestnut tree that still flourishes, green and delightful, like her memory to all who knew her.

*The Beekman family were early Dutch Settlers that by the middle of the 1750s extended from New Jersey to New York City through the Hudson Valley to the Albany and Troy area. Beekmans were among the “merchant princes” of the state, and some of the largest slave holder families across New York. But after the Revolution individual members started questioning the practice of slavery and by the mid 1800s were committed abolitionists.

By Paula Lemire, Historian Albany Rural Cemetery

Albany’s Baker Street Irregular: Frederic Dorr Steele – Sherlock Holmes Illustrator

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“The Sherlock Holmes story started with ‘A Study In Scarlet” in 1887. Three or four English illustrators tried their hand at picturing the sleuth but the man who jelled the famous profile for the British was Sidney Paget. He was one of Sir Arthur’s favorite illustrators.

But Americans know Sherlock through the work of another artist, the late Frederic Dorr Steele, who illustrated most of the Holmes’ stories on this side of the Atlantic and whose sharp pen and ink sketches are almost as well known as the yarns themselves.”
— Rochester Democrat Chronicle, April 6, 1952

Frederic Dorr Steele was born in Eagle Mills, Michigan on August 6, 1873. His father, William Henry Steele, was a native of Albany, part of a large extended family. The Steele family had deep roots in Albany and their ancestors included early Dutch settlers and the Livingston family. His mother, Zulma DeLacy Dorr, was born in Ghent, Columbia County; she was an artist of some repute. His maternal grandmother. Julia Ripley Dorr, was a hugely popular and critically acclaimed novelist and poet of the Victorian period.

As a young man, Frederic moved to New York City to study art at the National Academy of Design. From the 1890s on, he worked as an illustrator for magazines such as The Illustrated American and Scribner’s.

In 1903, he began to illustrate Sherlock Holmes stories for Collier’s Magazine. He would produce numerous drawings of the legendary detective for the remainder of his professional career. He based his drawings of the legendary detective on actor William Gillette who portrayed Holmes on stage beginning in 1899 and in a silent film in 1916. zz

Between Gillette’s onstage image and Steele’s drawings, the image of Sherlock Holmes with his sharp features, calabash pipe, and deerstalker cap took hold in American culture, and has endured for over a century.

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Steele married Mary Thyng in 1898 and the couple resided in Nutley, New Jersey until 1912 when he returned to New York City. Frederic and Mary separated in 1936.

Steele spent his last years living at 717 Greenwich Street and, on July 6, 1944, he died at Bellevue Hospital at the age of 70. He was cremated and, on October 30, 1945, his ashes were brought to Albany for burial in a very old family plot originally purchased by his great-grandfather, Lemuel Steele.

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Frederic’s grave is a narrow, unmarked space between his father’s headstone and the southwest corner post of Lot 61, Section 5 on the South Ridge.

By Paula Lemire, Historian at the Albany Rural Cemetery,  from her Facebook Page: Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves. Albany Rural Cemetery- Beyond the Graves

Albany’s Gertrude Valentine – World War I volunteer – killed in France

There are scores of World War I soldiers buried at Albany Rural Cemetery. Some, like sixteen year old James Armstrong and pilot George Goodwin died in the War. Others lived to serve in World War II. There are also several Army nurses buried here.

In Section 27, Lot 16, a large dark granite cenotaph bears the following inscription:

“In Loving Memory of Gertrude Crissey Valentine
Born April 8, 1890
Died in France June 11, 1919
while serving her God and Country
Buried in Le Mans Cemetery
American Officers Row No. 177 Sec A”

“She died in the line of duty.”

Gertrude was raised at 80 Chestnut Street in Albany. Her father, Clarence Valentine, was a partner in a firm making such wooden products as packing boxes, moldings, shingles, as well as felt weather stripping. Gertrude attended the State College for Teachers’ Model School from kindergarten, then went on to Vassar College where she graduated in 1913. She returned to Albany and continued her education at the State College with plans for a teaching career. She was also involved in local musical societies as newspapers mention young Miss Valentine playing the piano and coronet at various social functions.

During the War, she went to England and then to France with the YMCA. At the close of the War, while still serving as a canteen worker, she was killed in an automobile accident. Her grave is now in Plot C, Row 7, Grave 13, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France.

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Between 25,000 – 30,00 American women served overseas in World War I. Over 100 were women  from Albany.  They included nurses working at field hospitals and Base Hospital 33 (established by Albany Hospital-now Albany Med-in Portsmouth England, the Red Cross, the YWCA and the Salvation Army, many of whom worked close to combat areas.Gertrude Valentine was one of approximately 125 American women who died in the line of duty in the Great War.

Never forget that women who couldn’t even vote went off to war to serve their country.

By Paula Lemire from the Facebook Page Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves

Miller’s Nook-Albany Rural Cemetery –

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Prior to the acquisition of the land by the Albany Cemetery Association between 1841 and 1844, a portion of the grounds in and around the south ravine was occupied by several buildings, most notably a mill and a small schoolhouse.

According to Charles Heisler, a past Superintendent of the Cemetery who compiled an extremely detailed handwritten record of all the land purchases that comprise the present Cemetery site, about half of the original acres purchased by the Albany Cemetery Association had been owned by John Hillhouse, a West Point graduate and the engineer who did some of the earliest survey work on the site.

Hillhouse had inherited his portion of the site from his father, Thomas, and John attended the little school on the south bank of what became Consecration Lake. This land is described as “the South Ridge from about Section 104 east to the Chapel and from the southern boundary north to Moordanaer’s Kill, the stream between the South and Middle Ridges.” He also left behind a detailed account of what existed on this land prior to the laying out of the Cemetery:

“The brook (called by the old Dutch inhabitants of the valley ‘Moordenaer’s kill,’ from a tradition of a murder committed near the bridge that crossed its mouth at the time the road between Albany and Troy ran along the river bank), originally hugged the base of the hills bounding the dell on its northerly side. The school-house stood directly on its bank on the south side, at the base of the most prominent of these hills, whose top was crowned with a lofty pine. The mill was further up the stream, on the same side with the school-house, just at the point where it emerged from the ravine and entered the open dell. A bridge now occupies its site. It was called the “old oil mill,” and was originally built by my father for the purpose of preparing oil-cake for the fattening of cattle. The house was for the miller’s use. There were two dams on the creek above for the supply of water for the mill, one at the bend just beyond the high bridge, the other on the site of the present dam at the outlet of the lake above. From the former the water was conveyed in an open plank race carried along the slope of the hill, and discharged through a long, high trough upon the over-shot wheel. The mill and dwelling were erected about 1816. How long they served their original purpose I am not able to say exactly, but probably some five or six years….

About 1829, the mill, having been leased to some parties for the manufacture of printers’ ink, the school, with its fixtures and dunce-block, was removed to the new school building, which my father built and which is still standing on the south side of the Cemetery avenue. The manufacture of ink not proving a success, the work was abandoned and the school-house became thereafter the home of one of the farm laborers, while the mill was given up to the bats and flying squirrels, and suffered to go to decay. In this state they continued until 1846, when, in the purchase made by Gov. Wm. L. Marcy and Thomas W. Olcott for the Albany Rural Cemetery, they became the property and passed into the possession of that most worthy association and fell before the tide of improvement.”

Nothing, of course, survives of the “old oil mill.” The last traces of it appear on the first published map of the Cemetery in 1845. Just to the north of Consecration Lake, a curved open space is identified as “Miller’s Nook” (now the area of the Spaulding and Springsteen family plots in Section 62, Lots 97 and 98) and the site of the present stone bridge is called “Mill Side Bridge.” By 1858, however, when “Churchill’s Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery” was published, these names had disappeared completely from the new map.

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1880s view of the area of the “old oil mill.” The stone bridge is just behind the large tree to the left of the fountain. The “Miller’s Nook” is on the right just behind the man on the shore of Consecration Lake.

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The waterfall on the Moordanaer’s Kill.

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The Hillhouse family plot in Section 4, Lot 1. The large monument on the left is reportedly the first granite one erected in the Cemetery.

From Albany Rural Cemetery- Beyond the Graves

Cuyler Reynolds and the Albany Rural Cemetery – He Got No Respect

Visitors who stop into the Albany Rural Cemetery Office for genealogical research often comment on the detailed burial index cards which are not unlike an old-fashioned library card catalog. A cache of old documents tell an interesting tale of the card file’s possible origin.

Cuyler Reynolds, brother of architect Marcus T. Reynolds, is best remembered as the Albany City Historian (which is noted on the black stone slab covering his grave in Section 17).

Cuyler was the first curator of the Albany Institute of History & Art after the older Albany Institute and Albany Historical & Art Society merged. He served as its curator from 1899 to 1909 and it was during his tenure that the museum’s famous pair of mummies was acquired.

In 1908, just after his work on the New York exhibits at the Jamestown Exposition, Cuyler Reynolds wrote a letter to attorney Marcus T. Hun (the Hun and Reynolds families were related – Marcus’ mother was the former Lydia Reynolds). The cover letter has not been located yet, but the typed statement that he enclosed reads:

“In February 1907, I addressed the Trustees of the Albany Rural Cemetery, meeting in upper room of the Mechanics & Farmers’ Bank, Dudley Olcott presiding, advocating the introduction of a card system for the records.

I submitted a tentative form of card which I had printed at my own expense.

The matter was considered to radical to be adopted at that time, and I then was appointed director of the N.Y.S. Historical Exposition at the Jamestown Exposition, where I spent the summer and fall of 1907.”

At the bottom of the typed statement, written boldly above his signature, Cuyler Reynolds wrote, “The idea was mine.”

The implication of this statement is that, after rejecting Reynolds’ proposal for a new way of filing burial records, the 1907 board adopted a strikingly similar card system in his absence. It appears that Reynold was seeking credit for the design and compensation of some sort.

37200829_1597095057065774_6681363576491343872_nMarcus T. Hun’s reply seems somewhat uninterested in taking up the cause:

“As to the Cemetery Association the matter seems to rest with you and Mr. Burns, and possibly if you wish to get closer to the trustees, with Mr. Dudley Olcott.

I hope you will be be able to make some arrangement that will be satisfactory to you, as it seems to me that it would be to the advantage of the Cemetery to have you clear up these defects in the old records.”

Marcus T. Hun would later serve as president of the Albany Cemetery Association until his death in 1920.

This is where the paper trail ends for now. Did Cuyler ever resolve the issue and receive any credit for his design which is indeed strikingly similar to the file system in use now? The answer might lie in the long missing Trustee minutes which have not been seen since they were misplaced during one of the many mergers and moves of local banks, including the old Mechanics & Farmers.

Cuyler Reynolds, “widely known as a collector and historian, and official historian of the city of Albany” (and likely designer of the Rural Cemetery’s card system) died on May 24, 1934. He was buried in the large Dexter-Reynolds family plot in Lot 1, Section 17. More of his story will be told another time. Marcus T. Hun is also buried in the same lot.

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The First Burials in Albany Rural Cemetery- 1845

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A tall monument marked with the name “Strain” stands at the edge of a steep hill at the eastern edge of the North Ridge. It is a fairly simple tombstone by Albany marble cutter John Dixon,but an inscription on its south face tells that it marks “The First Interment In The Cemetary” (note the incorrect spelling of cemetery).

These first burials at the Rural Cemetery took place in May, 1845. Twenty-one year old David Strain died of consumption on October 24, 1844, just a few weeks after the consecration. Buried at the same time were Rebecca and Isabelle Strain. Rebecca was an infant sister who died in 1829. The records don’t indicate twenty-five year old Isabelle’s relationship to David. She may have been his paternal aunt; she died of an inflammation of the brain in 1819.

While the Cemetery had already been dedicated when he died, it was not yet completed; there was still landscaping required, new paths to be laid out, and other improvements to be made. It is likely that young David’s remains would have been placed in one of the public receiving vaults still in use at the old State Street Burying Grounds until the family plot was ready to receive him, along with Rebecca and Isabelle.

A sentimental poem later published in the Albany Argus hints that David may have gone abroad to seek a cure and reads: “Sleep on, it seems but yesterday,Thou wert in foreign lands, Where thou wert met by glowing hearts, And more than friendly hands. When all the spells their love had tried Could not thy health restore, Weary and faint, you dared the sea To reach thy home once more.”

David and Rebecca were children of Albany soap and candle manufacturer Joseph Strain. His soap and candle factory stood at 54 Church Street in Albany, his residence was a few doors away at 63 Church. The family’s summer home still stands at the corner of Broadway and McDonald Circle in Menands. For many years, it served as the Home For Aged Men.

The Strain family plot is located on what was originally called Kennisau Hill and later renamed Landscape Hill. It is now simply Lot 46, Section 6.

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The Grim Past of Van Rensselaer Park

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Located between the vacant St. Joseph’s Church and the Ten Broeck Mansion (identified on the 1876 map below as the property of Thomas W. Olcott), Van Rensselaer Park is a small and pretty wedge of urban greenspace.

Framed by Ten Broeck Street, Ten Broeck Place, Hall Place, and Second Street, it features a modern playground and an elegant 19th-century iron fence. Its history, however, goes back to the mid-18th century and the Patroons of Rensselaerwyck.

On October 31 1764, Stephen Van Rensselaer II deeded this parcel of land to the City of Albany specifically for the purpose of a cemetery. At the time, this area was known as “The Colonie,” though by 1808 it was annexed to the city proper.

Known variously over the years as the Colonie Burial Ground, the Arbor Hill Burial Ground, and the Van Rensselaer Burial Ground, the Patroon intended that the lot be used held by the city “on the condition that the same should not be applied to any private purpose or secular use, but should remain as a burial ground or cemetery for all persons in the manor of Rensselaerwyck.”

The Van Rensselaer Burial Ground is not to be confused with the private vault which was later built on the grounds of the Van Rensselaer Manor House for the interment of the Patroon’s own family and which was later torn down in favor of a large plot at the Albany Rural Cemetery.

As with the municipal State Street Burying Grounds at the western edge of the city, the little Arbor Hill Burial Ground eventually became an eyesore. The streets around it were filling up with elegant new houses. Construction and improvements to the surrounding streets altered the grade of the land around the old cemetery. Removal of the surrounding soil raised the burial grounds edges to an embankment of some fifteen feet. Bones and coffins were often exposed as sand was removed. Sometimes the remains tumbled into adjacent lots. The surrounding wooden fence was in ruins.

The well-to-do residents of Ten Broeck Triangle were not pleased to see gloomy old tombstones and exposed remains from their windows and stoops. Local property owners, including Joseph Hall (the namesake of Hall Place), advocated for its removal.

An 1844 report to the Common Council observed:

“The whole presents a neglected and ruinous aspect, which must be painful to the surviving friends of the dead, who are buried there, and a source of annoyance to a neighborhood daily becoming more populous, notwithstanding the obstacle to its growth which this burying ground presents…..would not be expedient to continue to use this ground for future interments. The public are becoming every day more convinced of the inconveniences and painful associations, as well as the unhealthiness of burying the dead in the midst of the habitations of the living, and it is to be hoped that the practice with us, as it is in very many cities, will be entirely discontinued. Apart from the other considerations, this ground, after all that may be done for its improvement, will still present an appearance of insecurity, which must deter most persons from allowing their friends to be buried in it. We are, however, bound to protect the remains of those who now lie there, and the question presents itself whether it is better to put the ground in as decent condition as possible, or to remove the remains to a proper place where they may remain undisturbed in future.”

One expensive proposed remedy was a new fence of varying heights to enclose the forlorn graveyard. Another proposal called for removing the old remains to a lot at the new Rural Cemetery and erecting a suitable monument over them.

“We propose then, in place of maintaining at a heavy expense to the city the present unsightly burying ground on Arbor Hill, that the remains of those buried there should be carefully removed to the new cemetery and then deposited in a vault over which a handsome monument shall be erected – on the monument the names of dead may be inscribed and it will thus stand as a perpetual memorial. Neither the growth of the city or any probable contingency will ever disturb the remains there deposited – survivors will no longer be shocked by seeing the bones of their relatives bleaching in the sun, but will feel a comfort and joy in seeing the place of their repose surrounded as it will be by the most appropriate associations, and their own pathway to the grave may be made more cheerful by the thought that the same resting place may at the appointed time receive their own remains, as well as those of their friends.”

In the end, neither plan was adopted. On October 1, 1849, Stephen Van Rensselaer III deeded the land to the city again. Now that the city held title to the land without the stipulation that it be used for burials, work began to clear the graves and transform the old boneyard into a small park (just two decades later, the State Street Burying Grounds would similarly be converted to Washington Park)

Relatives of the deceased at were given a chance to remove the bodies of their kin from the Arbor Hill Burial Grounds at their own expense; a few were indeed transferred to the Rural Cemetery. The rest would be disposed of by the city. According to a 1901 column in the Albany Evening Journal:

“A large underground vault was placed in the center of the plot and all bodies not claimed were put in the common vault and the spot covered. The bones, or what remains of them, are now reposing within the confines of the park.”

The articles and records make little or no mention of what became of the old headstones. They might have been stacked inside the vault, recycled for paving and other purposes, or simply discarded.

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Originally posted  by Paula Lemire to http://albanynyhistory.blogspot.com/

Samuel Schuyler – Afro-American Riverboat Captain

Samuel Schuyler was born in 1781, but very little is known of his early life, though it has been speculated that he was related to THE Albany Schuylers,.

Like many other African-Americans of his era, Samuel began his working life as a laborer on Quay Street, along Albany’s thriving waterfront. By 1810, he had his own boat to haul lumber, produce, and other goods. He would expand his business interest to real estate, owning a substantial number of lots along South Pearl Street and adjoining streets.

Sometime prior to 1805, he married Mary Martin-Morin; the couple would have eleven children. Several sons would join him in business, as partners in a flour and feed store and, later, they would establish the Schuyler Towboat Company. His oldest son and namesake owned the large house at the corner of Ash Grove and Trinity Place; it was the younger Schuyler who added the distinctive cupola with fine views of the Hudson River, the primary source of the family’s fortune.

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The elder Captain Schuyler died in 1842 and was buried at the Albany Rural Cemetery. An anchor carved on his monument does double duty a symbol of faith and hope and a nod to his career.

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It’s interesting to note that, when his son and namesake died in 1894, the New York Times obituary made no mention of the family’s African-American heritage and referred to his ancestors as “the early Dutch settlers of Albany.”