Featured Gravestone – Levi Sexton

DSC02714Section:  St. Peter’s Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Simple stone with typical darkening and some breakage along the upper edge of the tympanum.  Inscription is very legible.

Inscription:  In memory of Levi Sexton who died January 22nd, 1830, aged 33 years, 3 mos, and 21 days.

A legal notice appearing in the Albany Argus and dated April 22, 1829 identifies a Levi Sexton as an “insolvent and imprisoned debtor” who was attached to a trading company operating in Ogdensburgh and La Chine.  Previously, he was listed as the Ogdensburgh receiving agent for the steamboat Ontario.  Census records do not provide any additional information at this time.

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Bones In A Sugar Barrel

A brief article in the August 2, 1888 edition of the Albany Evening Journal recounts the discovery of remains at the former site of the Dutch Reformed burial ground on Beaver Street near South Pearl Streets.


Excavations at the Old Churchyard on Beaver Street – Italian Workmen Avoid Contact With the Relics

The four human skeletons that were unearthed today on the site of the old Dutch church burying ground on Beaver street were placed in a sugar barrel. The barrel was about half fill when the last skull was dropped in. The bones were found about 8 ½ feet below the surface, after the three feet of filled-in earth had been removed. The skulls of the four skeletons were towards the west. They were laid out very regularly, the back bones of the arms and legs being held as if in a mould in the grasp of the light loam soil. Under two of the skeletons evidence of the cedar bottom of a coffin was found. There was nothing left, however, of the sides or top of the coffin. The decayed bits of wood were so very small and decayed that even if there had been a cover and sides to the casket, the shovels and picks of the Italian workmen would have scattered them before the bones of the dead were reached.

They Had Sound Teeth

The soundness of the teeth was remarked by all who saw the skulls. In two of the skulls, the teeth were perfect. The Italian workmen were careful not to touch the bones with their hands. They would force the bones from the grasp of Mother Earth with a pick and then toss them upon the embankment with a shovel. When the bones were discovered, the tan-colored Italians jabbered less than usual and seemed more awe-stricken that the few spectators of the scene.

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Featured Gravestone – Donald McDonald

137Section:  Third Presbyterian Church

Material:  White marble

A small stone with a very stylized willow and urn motif.  Uneven darkening of the stone with some streaking and erosion of carving.  Lettering below the tablet is more difficult to read that the lettering within the tablet.

Inscription:  In memory of Donald McDonald from the Shire of Inverness Scotland Died Jan. 29 1824 Aged 76 y 3 m.  Peace to the ashes & the virtuous mind of him who lived in peace with all mankind.

Census records show a Donald McDonald residing in Albany as early as 1790 and, according to genealogical records, McDonald had at least one child – a daughter who married a Paul Cushman around 1802. The Common Council inventory of State Street Burying Ground interments also lists a Frances Stubbs (died June 15, 1815 at the age of forty-seven) as the wife of one Donald McDonald and an Elizabeth as a daughter of Frances and Donald. She died July 1, 1800 at the age of two. However, their listings could refer to a different Donald McDonald as Elizabeth is noted as being “of the city of London, England” at a time when the McDonald interred here was already a resident of Albany.

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Featured Stone – The Morrow Children

DSC02677Section:  St. Peter’s Episcopal

Material:  White marble

A very small double headstone with two stylized willows.  Inscription is very legible.  Stone is darkened with two large sections broken at the bottom.

Inscription:  Erected by Joseph & Margaret Morrow in memory of their children Mary Ann Morrow who died July 3, 1835 aged 18 months.  Also Samuel Morrow who died January 8, 1836 aged 4 years.

The fragments of two unidentifiable headstones are located below the Morrow stone.

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Featured Gravestones – Samuel and Mary Hill

DSC02692Location:  St. Peter’s Episcopal (both stones)

Material:  White marble (both stones)

A matched pair of stones for a husband and wife.  Both feature a willow-and-urn motif and oval tablets surrounded by wreaths of foliage.  Both feature inscriptions below the tablets and a twisted-rope border near the base.  Samuel Hill’s stone has typical darkening.  Inscription is deeply carved and very legible.  There is a large break at the base on the right side and some wear to the finials, especially on the right.  Mary Hill’s stone is in comparable condition.

Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Samuel Hill who departed this life May 12, 1819 in the 52nd year of his age.  Friends nor physicians could not save This mortal body from the grave Nor can the grave confine me here When Christ commands me to appear.

Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Mary Hill who departed this life January 15, 1816 in the 44th year of her age.  Behold we see while here we look The dearest ties of friendship broke The grief and sorrow pierce the heart The dearest friends we must see part.


Samuel and Mary’s son, Thomas B. Hill, is also buried in the Church Grounds and featured in this post.  His headstone also features a willow-and-urn motif, but in a different style, more ornate style.

Samuel Hill was a prominent Albany merchant whose brick mansion (designed by Philip Hooker) still stands as the Fort Orange Club on Washington Avenue.  More on Hill can be found here.  His wife, Mary, was the daughter of Thomas Barry, an Irish-born merchant whose business contacts included Sir William Johnson and who was a founding member of Albany’s first Catholic Church, St. Mary’s.

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Featured Gravestone – Margaret Livingston

068Section:  United Presbyerian

Material:  White marble

Small stone with a carved border of what appears to be raspberry vines.  Stone is darkened and embedded in the grass, but visible portions are legible.

Inscription:  Margaret Livingston Died May 16, 1858 Aged 7 years 10 months and 9 days.  Erected by her father Peter Livingston.

According to census records, Margaret was mostly likely the daughter of Peter, a farmer in New Scotland, and his wife, Mary.   She is listed as one of six children in the household in 1850.

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Featured Gravestone – Robert Kerr

DSC02729Section:  St. Peter’s Episcopal

Material:  White marble

While the carving on this stone remains very legible, a large portion of the lower left corner is broken and missing.  The surviving portion of the bottom edge is decoratively carved.  The tympanum is finely carved with a willow tree arching over an obelisk-style monument.  Unfortunately, a substantial portion of this carving is broken.  Despite this, it is one of the best documented stones and interments in the Church Grounds.

Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Robert Kerr, Esq.  Judge of the Surrogate Court and an Active Magistrate for the District of Niagara in Upper Canada.  Descended from an ancient family in North Britain, he faithfully served his Kings as Surgeon to the forces and on the Staff for upwards of forty six years.  His social habits and kindness of heart endeared him to his acquaintance.  His loss will long be felt by those who knew him as a distinguished Mason and a Deputy Grand Master of the province.  The honors paid to his remains by the Ancient Fraternity and by several honorable members of at Albany in the State of New York where he died in the 69th year of his age on the 25th February 1824 are gratefully acknowledged by his sorrowing friends. 

The History of Freemasonry In Canada (published in 1900) contains the complete inscription as the stone was not broken at that time and was described as “in a fair state of preservation.”

Kerr died in Albany at Cruttenden’s (later Congress Hall) and his funeral was held from there.  It was reported that the funeral was attended by numerous Albany citizens and many members of the State Legislature who came to honor a man described as “this respectable stranger.” Records indicate that he was buried in the lot of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church “situated near the State Capitol.”  This refers to the church’s section of the old municipal cemetery formerly located just yards east of the Capitol off Eagle Street.  The remains were later moved to the State Street Burying Grounds and, eventually, to the Rural Cemetery.

The History of Freemasonry also reprints several newspaper death notices, observing that Kerr had a reputation for”liberal hospitality” and “uniform kindness” towards the American army during the  War of 1812.

A descendent of Sir Robert Kerr, Duke of Roxburgh, Robert Kerr served as a surgeon in the British army in Canada and settled in Niagara in the late 1780s.  He was also known as the “boxing magistrate” for his athletic interest and skill with as a boxer.  He had moved to Albany less than a year before his death.

His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1794 at the age of 32 and is buried in Niagara.  She was a daughter of Sir William Johnson.

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