National Dutch-American Day Albany

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November 16, is  National Dutch-American Heritage Day when we celebrate our Dutch roots. Without the Dutch there would probably be no Albany.

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We were discovered in 1609 by Henry Hudson, exploring for the Dutch East India Co. By 1624 there was a settlement surrounding Fort Orange.

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The village came to be known as Beverwyck (basically Beaverville). In 1664 the English came into possession of the entire New Netherlands colony and Beverwyck became Albany, but the streets of Albany retained their Dutch names for many years.

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When Martin Van Buren was elected our 8th president in 1837 his primary language was Dutch, although he’d been born in 1782, after the American Revolution. It was common in the early 1800s for there to be “English” schools in Albany where kids from Dutch speaking families could learn English. Into the 1880s there were still members of old Albany Dutch families who spoke Dutch at home (old habits die hard).

We are surrounded by our Dutch heritage in our place names, from Guilderland, to the Krumkill and Normanskill Creeks, to Feura Bush and Watervliet.

Few vestiges of our original Dutch architecture exist – the oldest is the Van Ostrand- Radcliffe house at 48 Hudson Ave. that dates back to the 1720s. (Johannes Van Ostrand came to Albany from a Dutch family outside Kingston and Johannes Radcliffe was the grandson of one of the original Dutch settler families and a British soldier who arrived to garrison the Fort.) Another is the Quackenbush House on Broadway, built in the 1730s – currently home of the Old English Pub. The Dutch style of building remained popular long Dutch officials left the Colony. Fort Crailo across the river was built in the Dutch style in 1707. There’s also the Ariaanje Coeymans House, Coeymans, built in the Dutch style circa 1700, the Peter Winne house in Bethlehem, the Yates House in Schenectady and the Van Loon house in Athens – all examples of original Dutch buildings.

We pay homage to our history through our more current architecture. – the fire House on Delaware Ave and the old AFD fire signal building are the best known examples of our Dutch heritage, although built in the 20th century.

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Today, Albany pays tribute to its Dutch Heritage during the Tulip Festival every May when the streets are scrubbed in the old Dutch manner and we crown the Queen of the Dutch flowers.

 

While the official presence of the Dutch in America ended over 300 years ago, they brought us food, traditions and words we use in everyday life. Santa Claus was originally the Dutch Sinterklaus (a/k/a St. Nicholas). We eat yummy Dutch foods: waffles, donuts and cookies, and use Dutch ovens to cook. Where would we be without the words: aardvark, bazooka, brandy, caboose, coleslaw, cruller, dollar. hooky, iceberg, pickle and smuggle? And there’s “Dutch courage” (alcohol aided bravery), a stern “Dutch Uncle” and “Going Dutch” (homage to legendery Dutch parsimony).

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You might be surprised how strong and pervasive Dutch roots are in America and how many people have Dutch ancestors despite the relatively few original Dutch settlers. Famous Americans with Dutch roots include FDR, Tiger Woods, Dick Van Dyke, Marlon Brando, Robert DiNiro, Christine Aguilera, Anderson Cooper, Walter Cronkite, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Diane Keaton,Jane Fonda, Taylor Swift , the Kardashians and the Boss.

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1626: The Massacre in Albany’s Lincoln Park

The City of Albany is proposing to put a sewage treatment facility in the upper section of Lincoln Park. It’s needed to address several long standing problems related in part to the Beaver Creek that runs under the Park; other changes will made be to the Park’s landscape. We thought this was an opportunity to tell you about an incident in that area almost 400 years ago that had a major impact on our history and could have changed the fate of our city.

First you have to imagine how the Park looked in the early 1600s. Today we see mostly manicured lawns, pretty shrubbery and trees and gentle rolling hills. When the Dutch first came here it was a wilderness of fierce and awesome beauty. It was a heavily forested, with a deep ravine running much of the length of the Park, a rapid flowing creek (known alternatively as Buttermilk Creek, then the Beaverkill and today, Beaver Creek) and Buttermilk Falls. (The Falls were described in 1828* as a charming spot with a foaming cascade that plunged 30 feet into a deep gorge.)

Fort Orange, the trading outpost of the Dutch West Indies Co., was established on Broadway (near the existing Holiday Inn Express) in 1624. In late summer 1626 the soldiers from the Fort set out on an expedition to the west, following the creek up to the Falls, into the area of the Park known today as the “Ravine” (in the northwest corner of the Park – near Delaware and Park Avenues), about a mile from the Fort.

It was here they were ambushed by a party of Mohawks (part of the Iroquois Confederacy). The group from the Fort included Daniel Van Crieckenbeek (there are several variant spellings), a number of soldiers (2 of whom were Portuguese) and Mahican Indians (Algonquin tribe). (There’s no indication of the number of Mohawks or Mahicans killed.)

The ambush was revenge against the colonists for siding with the Mahicans and helping them attack the Mohawks. Van Criekenbeek’s decision to join with the Mahicans was a departure from the previous neutrality of the Dutch in Fort Orange that had insured good relations with the Iroquois.

A contemporary account says that the Dutch force was met with a “barrage of arrows”. Van Criekenbeek and several men were killed. 3 men escaped; one man was wounded, but survived by swimming to safety. The most horrific reports of the ambush focus on Tymen Bouwenz. He was said to have been roasted alive and then eaten, with the Mohawks carrying some of his limbs back to their camps as symbols of their victory. (Legend has it that he was singled out by the Mohawk for the great courage he demonstrated as a brave warrior during the ambush.) The 4 men killed were buried near where they fell.

Most settlers (there were about 8 families) in the Fort fled to Manhattan fearing further retribution by the Mohawks; about a dozen soldiers remained behind. When reports of the massacre reached Manhattan Peter Minuit, recently appointed Director of the New Netherland Colony, dispatched Peter Barentsen (a sloop captain with experience among the various tribes in the Colony) to the Fort. The Mohawks explained the massacre was retribution for Dutch interference in the inter-tribal dispute and provided beaver skins as a peace offering, Amity was restored between the Dutch and both tribes. However, it would about another 4 years, in 1630, before re-settlement of families would begin. In the absence of the Barentsen’s intervention, the consequences of the massacre might have been quite different, as well as the history of Albany.

Although Buttermilk Falls is long gone and the wilderness tamed over centuries, a small part of the Ravine remains – the area where the massacre occurred in 1626, near the Falls. Despite significant changes in the 19th century and the building of the Park (it was originally called Beaver Park) in the 1890s it is the last area that remains in a natural state (perhaps kismet). The early Park planners were careful to maintain the Ravine in a natural state.** It’s remained un-marked and forgotten, although it’s the last remaining patch of Albany’s earliest history, and the location of an event that could have forever changed the fate of our city. A path has been beaten through rock outcroppings; there’s a dense cluster of trees and tangled vegetation. The rocky walls mark the Creek’s course; there’s a deep, grated culvert through which you can sometimes here the last surviving sounds of the waterfall.

The current master plan for the upper part of the Park calls for the creation of all sorts of man- made amenities, including improvement of “unusable lands in the ravine by creating the new Reflection and Learning Garden at Lincoln Park”. We’re not quite sure what that means, and clear answer from city officials about the intent for the Ravine has not been forthcoming so far.

Whatever is planned it must include preservation of the Ravine area in which the massacre occurred in a natural state, with appropriate historic maker/signs that tell its history.

Preservation of historic spaces is just as important as preservation of historic buildings. When you know the story of the massacre and walk through the Ravine you feel a visceral connection to our earliest history. It comes alive. As the historian Arthur Schlesinger said, “… history requires atmosphere and context as well as facts”.

The site in the Ravine is an historic battlefield– as much as Gettysburg or Yorktown. It’s part of our Albany history and a cultural resource that requires conservation and a commitment to remembering our past. It’s as important as to our history as the Schuyler Mansion; it’s the earliest evidence of our deep Dutch roots, and the first Dutch settlers in the New World. With a little TLC the Ravine could be maintained its natural state and this small, but critical piece of our history, preserved and marked for future generations. So few remnants of our past remain; this one is a keeper.

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*”The Runaway, Or, The Adventures of Rodney Roverton”, New England Sabbath School Union, 1842

** Indeed, when the Lincoln Park was originally envisioned the idea was to leave the area of the Ravine as a “ramble” (“The Public Parks of the City of Albany”, 1892). We suspect that the intent was to create something similar to the “The Ramble” designed by Frederick Law Olmstead in Central Park in NYC. It’s an area of winding paths a rustic setting, within a natural landscape of rocky outcrops that, although man-made, offers a needed contrast to the rest of the Park.

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Thanks to Paula Lemire and the “Battle of Lincoln Park” in her Albany History Blogspot http://albanynyhistory.blogspot.com for much of the material used for this post.

How the Van Rensselaer Manor Vanished from Albany

Most of you know that the “Patroon” originally owned the vast area around Albany called Rensselaerwyck. (Basically, Patroon means “land owner” in Dutch.) The first Patroon was Killian Van Rensselaer, a pearl and diamond merchant, who acquired the land from the Dutch West India Co. (DWIC) in 1630. Think of the DWIC as a group of venture capitalists and speculators.. betting on the New World, using a traditional form of Dutch land ownership for revenue generation and capital formation.

Rensselaerwyck was one of several patroonships in the New Netherlands, but the only one that proved successful*. The original grant that encompassed land on both sides of the River was soon expanded by acquisition of additional lands from the Indians. In exchange for the land the Patroon had to establish a functioning colony (over which he had almost total power). (Much like IDA grants today, the Patroon got a tax break for the first decade.) Rensselaerwyck was a feudal manor and the Patroon was literally Lord of the Manor, except for Albany, which was at the time Fort Orange, a wholly owned subsidiary of the DWIC.

1.4There’s no evidence that the first Patroon ever visited his fiefdom. Business was conducted in his name by agents, from a large house and cluster of buildings north of the Fort on Broadway, near the Patroon Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River. In 1666 the compound was destroyed by a flood and rebuilt by Jeremias Van Rensselaer. (Jeremias was the third son of Killian and the first Patroon to establish permanent residence in Rensselaerwyck.)

 

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2According to Steve Belinski (the “Colonial Albany Social History Project”) the new building was constructed in the “Country Style” with the entrance on the long side and attached outbuildings. (Think a Patroon “compound” and the seat of government for the Manor.) A century later in 1765 a new and grand Manor House would be built on the same grounds by Stephen Van Rensselaer II, the Patroon and 3rd Lord of the Manor for his new wife, Catherine Livingston, daughter of Philip Livingston (signer of the Declaration of Independence). It was a large Georgian Mansion – one of the grandest homes in the country at the time – nestled amid a forest setting and lush, well-tended gardens. It was a thriving, mostly self-sufficient plantation, including slaves.

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14There were changes made to this Manor House around 1820 and again in the early 1840’s the existing structure underwent major renovation by architect Richard Upjohn (he designed the existing St. Peter’s Church on State St.), preserving the Georgian features of the original Manor House. It was still a gracious baronial manse – but it would be the home of the Last Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer IV.

 

14.1The days of the Patroon were coming to an end. The Anti-Rent Wars had already started in the late 1830s. The Patroon’s thousands of tenants were protesting what was still a feudal system of land ownership in which the Patroon held all the cards. The Wars would continue until 1846** when the NYS Constitution was amended to abolish the Patroon system and Van Rensselaer would start selling off his property – in Albany and across the Manor. ***

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20The Last Patroon died in 1868. By then the Manor House was hemmed in by the Erie Canal and the railroads on the east and the growing city and its factories on the west. By the 1870s the great Manor House was abandoned. There were attempts by the family to have the structure declared a New York State landmark of sorts. There were efforts made by some citizens to move the building to Washington Park. These failed.

 

 

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Finally, in the early 1890s Albany’s great architect, Marcus Reynolds (Banker’s Trust, the D&H Building and the Delaware Ave. fire house) and young Van Rensselaer cousin, convinced the family to agree to have the Manor disassembled. He transported the exteriors and the Manor House was “re-built” as the Sigma Phi fraternity house (Van Rensselaer Hall) at Williams College. (Reynolds was an 1890 graduate of Williams.) The interiors were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and are currently on display in Gallery 752 in the American Wing.

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Van Rensselaer Hall survived until 1973 when it was demolished for a new Williams College library.

The last evidence of the Patroons in Albany survived into the 20th century on Broadway near Tivoli St. Alas, circa 1918 the Patroon’s Office (where the Patroon’s agents conducted business for almost 200 years) was demolished to accommodate the expansion of the International Harvester franchise.

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Today there’s no trace the Patroons were ever here, except for an historical marker on Clinton Ave. that identifies it as the former Patroon St., the original dividing line between the Patroon’s land and Albany. There’s no historic marker … nothing, nada, zip, zilch ….at 950 Broadway, near Manor St., the address of the Manor House. (This was one of the pet peeves of the late Warren Roberts, History Prof. at U Albany and author of the great book, “A Place in History; Albany in the Age of Revolution 1775-1825”. )

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And that’s how the Van Rensselaer Manor House vanished.

* A 10th G Grandfather, Cornelius Melyn, was the Patroon of Staten Island. It didn’t work out. There were wars with several Indian tribes, and battles with the DWIC and the successive Director Generals of the colony, including Peter Stuyvesant, over the dictatorial nature of the DWIC. He was a cranky rebel and a thorn in the side. Great Grandpa Corny ended up in the English New Haven Colony, took an oath of loyalty to the Crown and relinquished his right to the Patroonship of Staten Island. The last vestige of Corny is a mural in the Staten Island Borough Hall.

**The Anti-Rent Wars are fictionalized in the novel, “Dragonwyck” by Anya Seton (1944) and in a movie of the same name (1946) with Gene Tierney, Vincent Price and Walter Huston. Vincent Price is the perfect arrogant Dutch Patroon villain.. “You must pay the rent.”

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*** A GG grandfather purchased land in the 200 block of Livingston Ave. (then Lumber St.) in 1850 as part of the Patroon’s property sell-off.

The Old Burying Places – Albany NY

Broadway and Pruyn Street – Broadway and State Street – Beaver Street and South Pearl Street – First Municipal Burial Ground – State Street Burying Grounds – Albany Rural Cemetery

In Albany’s earliest days, the deceased residents of the little Dutch colony on the Hudson were buried in close proximity to Fort Orange. When the Fort’s commander, Daniel Van Kriekenbeek and several of his men were killed in a bloody 1626 conflict between the Mohicans and Mohawks near what is now the northwest corner of Lincoln Park, they were said to have been buried quickly close to where they fell.

Some people were buried near their homes. A list of early Dutch Reformed burials notes that, in 1738, Cornelius Clasen was laid to rest “in his Orchard.” To this day, small, old family burial grounds can be found along roads and on old homesteads in rural Albany county. Later, prominent families like the Van Rensselaers and the Ten Broecks would build private burial vaults on their own estates. The Schuylers established a graveyard at The Flatts, the large family farm just north of Albany.

There are letters referencing the burial of the Patroon, Jeremias Van Rensselaer (died 1674), in the garden of his house where his infant son was already laid to rest. This residence and garden were located just north of the Fort itself.

There was also a small church near Fort Orange actually a converted trading house and not one purpose-built for worship. According to early maps and records, a burying ground existed close to this temporary church. This would have been Albany’s first graveyard, located along what is now Pruyn Street between Liberty Street and Broadway.

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A map of this vicinity drawn up in the early 1800s includes the outline of this first Albany cemetery and notes the location of a “Van Schaick’s Tomb.” There is no further information on whose tomb this was, but it may have been built by the descendents of Goosen Gerritse, the first of the Van Schaick to settle at Fort Orange.

Graves would have been marked with either simple wood slabs or bits of common field stone. At most, the stones would have been crudely carved with a name and a date of death. That is, if the graves were marked at all. Burying the dead was a necessity, lavish memorials were not a priority.

No traces of this burial ground remain. The site is just east of the Albany Bus Terminal and covered by the downtown Holiday Inn Express.

When a permanent Dutch Reformed church was built in 1656 (and rebuilt in 1715) at what is now the intersection of State Street and Broadway, it had a burial ground adjacent to it. An 1886 plaque on the Old Post Office on the east side of Broadway recalls the location of the church and the “Burial Ground around it.” This churchyard would have received burials from the time the church was built until it quickly reached capacity. The church itself contained a vault in which a number of families chose to interred their dead. A list covering burials from 1722 to 1757 lists over thirty individuals who were laid to rest within this church.

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The graves in this early churchyard were sometimes marked with simple tablet-style markers of slate or brown sandstone, but more commonly, slabs of wood (usually pitch pine which was readily available in the area, cheap, and surprisingly durable) identified the occupants of the graves. Carved headstones and marble markers would later become popular for the wealthy. Some of these would feature soul effigies (winged skulls or angel’s heads) or, later, such popular mourning emblems as willow trees, urns, or even miniature monuments as part of their design. One of the oldest surviving headstones now at the Albany Rural Cemetery is a small slice of weathered marble with the name Catylna Bogert and the date 1721 carved in crude, uneven letters.

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This churchyard, however, quickly reached capacity. A second burial ground for the Dutch church was established a few blocks away. This new burial ground, laid out between Beaver Street and Hudson Avenue on the east side of South Pearl Street, also filled quickly. Rather than open a third burial ground, however, officials solved the overcrowding problem by adding layers. Existing headstones were laid flat over their respective graves and several feet of earth were spread over the grounds to allow for a new layer of graves to be dug atop the old. This process was repeated at least one more time meaning that headstones and coffins were now stacked three or even four layers deep. This layering process meant that coffins with steep gabled lids were banned and all new burials had to be in flat-topped coffins to allow for better stacking.

When the Middle or Second Dutch Church was built, it was constructed atop the old burial ground. Most of the old graves were left intact. Again, the headstones were laid flat and yet another layer of earth spread over them. Those graves that lay within the footprint of the new church were exhumed and the remains placed in a vault beneath the new church which was designed by architect Philip Hooker and its corner stone laid in 1806. This building would serve as a church until 1881 when it was replaced by a much larger edifice at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and Swan Street.

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Before the Middle Dutch Church rose on the old graveyard, a new burial ground was established just above Eagle Street. Located just south of State Street and the modern-day East Capitol Park, this was a municipal burial ground divided into large lots of the various churches (Dutch Reformed, Saint Peter’s Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian). At the western edge, there was a private burial ground for the Bleecker and Lansing families; in 1789, the City leased the land for a burial ground from Barent Bleecker who had already built a burial vault there.

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Another burial ground was established in 1764 by the Van Rensselaers for the use of residents of the Manor of Rensselaerwyck in the area known as Arbor Hill. Around the same time, David Vanderheyden established a private burying ground with a vault on land at the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and Swan Street.

In less than twenty years, this first municipal cemetery also proved insufficient. A second, larger municipal cemetery – commonly known as the State Street Burying Grounds – was laid out at the city’s western edge. The graves from the first municipal cemetery were eventually moved there.

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The Burying Grounds extended from Washington Square (which ran parallel to Willett Street) on the east to Robin Street on the west and from State Street on the north to Hudson Avenue on the south. It was bisected by several streams which would later prove problematic. Like its predecessor, the State Street Burying Grounds were also divided by congregation. The Dutch Reform, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches were again represented, with the addition of sections for Catholics, Baptists, Quakers, and Seceders. There were private family sections, several with vault. There was also a Negro section and a potters field identified on maps as the “Strangers” burial ground. Several sections had public vaults to receive and store bodies when the ground was too frozen to dig new graves.

The Dutch Reformed burials were divided among two large lots. The one on the south side of the Burying Grounds extended along the Hudson Avenue between the present Knox Street pedestrian mall and New Scotland Avenue. The other, on the north side, occupied land along State Street between Sprague Street and Robin Street. The latter is now covered by the Washington Park playground and it’s said that the domines (ministers) of the Dutch churches were once buried on a small hill in this area.

The first burial in the new municipal burial ground was that of twenty-five year old Henry Roseboom who died on April 21, 1790. He was buried in the Dutch Reformed section.

This municipal cemetery served Albany for the first half of the 19th-century, but it was not without problems. The streams which passed through the grounds, including the Dutch Reformed section, would often flood the graves. There are firsthand accounts of new graves being in the Dutch Reformed section in 1835 when the earth was so soggy that straw was dumped into the bottom of the graves to hide the flooding before the coffins were lowered in. There were occasions when the standing water in graves was so deep as to actually submerge the coffins. Run-off from the graves and vaults was also contaminating nearby ponds (including water used by breweries).

When the new Rural Cemetery was opened north of the city in 1844, new burials in the State Street Burying Grounds slowed drastically. Families who could afford to often removed their dead from the old cemetery to inter them in new plots at the Rural Cemetery. Blandina Bleecker Dudley was among those making such a change; she purchased a lot on the new Cemetery’s scenic Middle Ridge, erected a spectacular Gothic brownstone spire, and had the remains of multiple generations of Bleeckers removed from their private vault at the State Street Burying Grounds for reburial in this new plot. The old Bleecker vault was torn down and its materials – bricks, stone trim, ironwork, etc. – were sold for reuse.

With fewer new burials and the removal of many prominent old family graves, the State Street Burying Grounds fell into further disrepair. The fence separating the graveyard from the street was dilapidated. Neighbors often let cows and other livestock wander and graze among the tombstones. Crimes were committed in and around the neglected cemetery. Travelers passing by were robbed, a woman was arrested for being there with a young man “in suspicious circumstances.” A dead baby, either stillborn or the victim of infanticide, was found abandoned in an old public vault. Thieves attempted to steal jewelry from a family vault but were frightened away from a sudden store and a massive fire at a nearby factory. Local gangs of immigrant Irish and German youths would use the graveyard as a place to fight and other young men used it as a place for target practice.

By the end of the Civil War, burials had all but ceased and there were public calls to remove the State Street Burying Grounds completely. In 1868, an inventory was made of the remaining graves there. It is a long, but incomplete list; the names and dates were collected from the surviving headstones, but many graves were unmarked. The Strangers and Negro section, for example, yield very few names compared to estimated number of burials in each. In the Dutch Reformed section, many older headstones were missing, broken, or simply unreadable.

As plans moved forward to clear the Burying Grounds, thousands of graves were exhumed so the land could be cleared to Washington Park. About 4,000 remains were removed (not, as is commonly reported, 40,000). The Dutch Reformed section alone cost the City of Albany $3,369.00 to exhume, not including the cost of new coffins and transportation to their new resting place. The remains were placed in new pine boxes and carried by wagons to Albany Rural Cemetery where a section had been set aside specifically to receive these transferred burials. This section, Number 49 on the Rural Cemetery map, is known as the Church Grounds. As with the old State Street Burying Grounds, it was divided into lots by church with the Dutch Reformed section being designated Lot 1, Section 49. The Dutch Reformed lot is the largest in the Church Grounds and includes some of its oldest stones and remains.

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While they were now safe from desecration and development, the graves in the Church Ground would suffer from neglect. While arrangements were made for reburial, there were no real plans made for upkeep of these graves in a cemetery where maintenance of individual plots was generally the responsibility of the families which owned them. Early historians of the Cemetery such as Edward Fitzgerald and Henry P. Phelps gave little attention to the Church Grounds in their books. By World War II, the Church Grounds were in disarray. Headstones which had originally been laid flat in rows were stacked in haphazard piles and deep weeds covered the field. A small crew of laborers were brought in by the Cemetery superintendent to clear the section of overgrowth and arrange the headstones in rows in their respective sections. At this time, masonry blocks were placed under the upper edges of the stones to create an incline and allow rain to run off. This has, unfortunately, down little to prevent serious erosion of the carved inscriptions and decorative elements. The tall marble shaft of General Peter Gansevoort, the defender of Fort Stanwix and grandfather of Herman Melville, was discovered among the jumble of old stones. He was originally buried in the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds; now his headstone stands in the Gansevoort family plot on the Cemetery’s Middle Ridge.

During the mid-to-late 19th century, as new buildings replaced older ones in downtown Albany and the infrastructure expanded to meet the increasing demands of the population, the sites of its former churchyards sometimes yielded up the forgotten dead. In 1851, as workers dug a trench near State and Broadway, they broke through the long buried foundation of the 1715 church. On the north side, two ancient coffins containing bones were found. Below a house standing on what had been the northeast corner of the Beaver Street burial ground, more old coffins were discovered. In November 1882, construction work at the Beaver Street site revealed coffins of long-dead members of the Vanderheyden and Quackenbush familes. Two headstones dated from the 1770s were also revealed, along with a small iron canon. Still more bones, coffin pieces, and tombstones were found below Beaver Street by Italian immigrant laborers in August 1888. These included the headstone of Jeremiah Field and the now-lost headstone of Albany’s second mayor, Johannes Abeel. Some of the coffins originally held the remains of Albany’s elite; they were made of expensive imported cedar wood as opposed to the cheaper, common local pine. These were removed from the site in a barrel. A newspaper report at the time noted that the four skeletons discovered “had sound teeth.”

When such remains were discovered, it was the general practice to place them in the vault beneath the Middle Dutch Church on Beaver Street. When that church was replaced by the Madison Avenue Reformed Church in 1881, that newer church also included a vault beneath its bell tower in which the historic remains and tombstones were placed.

Among the dozen or so headstones known to have been kept at the Madison Avenue Reformed Church were the 1721 Catylna Bogert stone with its primitive carved inscription, the headstone of Jeremiah Field, the ornate sandstone marker of Elyse Gansevoort Winne with its winged skull and carved vines, and the large stone of Captain Peter Winne. The Winne stone is a large rectangular slab which may have stood on a set of stone legs like a table, similar to the original marker of Colonel Philip Schuyler (1687-1741).

The Madison Avenue Reformed Church was devastated by a fire in 1931. Parts of the structure survived with a Central Market grocery store being built atop the sturdy stone foundations by 1943. In the aftermath of the fire, the old Dutch headstones and remains were removed from the tower crypt and placed in the Church Grounds at Albany Rural Cemetery alongside the graves and headstones from the State Street Burying Grounds.

The discovery of graves at the Beaver Street burial ground site continued into the late 20th century. When the KeyCorp parking garage was built between Hudson Avenue and Beaver Street in 1986, the excavation dug deep into earth where old graves were still stacked three deep. Archaeologist uncovered human bones and coffins, including gabled lids. Only those graves in areas where the garage supports were erected were exhumed. It is not known just how many graves remain at the site, but they were left in place and construction of the parking facility proceeded above the resting place of some of Albany’s earliest residents. Those exhumed were examined and documented by archaeologists and other professionals from the New York State Museum. These remains then joined those of their friends and relatives in the Church Grounds.

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