An 1868 View of The State Street Burying Grounds


Though not quite accurate in scale, features, or general layout, the State Street Burying Grounds were still enough of a prominent landmark to warrant inclusion on an 1868 map illustrating proposed expansions to the Albany City Water Works.

Within a year, the Burying Grounds ceased to exist as the graves were removed to the Rural Cemetery and the land cleared for Washington Park.

The full map can be viewed here.

Source: New York State Archives. New York (State). State Engineer and Surveyor. Survey maps of lands in New York State, ca. 1711-1913. Series A0273-78, Map #505.

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A City Vault


The December 19, 1828 edition of the Albany Argus contained the following letter:

It has been suggested by several of our citizens that a large public building, for the deposit of our dead be erected in some convenient place contiguous to the city. An edifice of this kind, of a neat, durable and secure shape, having separate tenements or apartments for the various sects or societies, might be put up, at an expense easily defrayable. Each “friend” of the deceased, by interment in the vault, would save the expense of digging, sodding, and tomb, and therefore, could afford to pay $3 or $5 for each niche or coffin; and this (with the poor gratis) would shortly pay for the building. It might be done by individuals, the churches in union, or the corporation; perhaps the latter would be better owners, to prevent collisions or difficulties. Its benefits are obvious. The waste of ground and the other needless expense would be saved — The rattling of the rope, the thump of the sod, and the sight of the coffin sunk in the cold watery pit, may be prevented. The horrid burial before death will not occur, and the feeling friend, husband, or child my visit the sepulchre and see the coffin, knowing his wife or mother is there.

The letter was signed “BURIED ALIVE.”

The 19th-century fear of premature burial prompted the formation of a Society for its prevention, as well as the invention of various alarms, burial vaults with escape hatches, and other devices designed to prevent “burial before death” or to aid its supposed victims.  The vault as proposed in this letter (not too unlike modern community mausolea) was not built, though various churches and the city did maintain receiving vaults at the State Street Burying Grounds.

It’s interesting to note the emphasis placed on the description of the grave as watery at a time when the Albany Burying Ground was indeed troubled with flooding of newly opened graves as described in court testimony in 1840.

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Historic African-American Burials In Albany

A brief overview of historic African-American burials in Albany, including the State Street Burying Ground and Albany Rural Cemetery.

A Brief Overview of Historic African-American Burials In Albany

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New Facebook Page

A new Facebook page has been created to compliment the blogs.  It will be a way to revisit older posts, share photos that might not fit the blogs, and a place share updates and news.  It will cover Albany Rural Cemetery and the Church Grounds (see today’s photo post about the gravestone of S.C. Erambert).

Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond The Graves

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Schuyler Flatts Remains To Be Reburied Next Summer

It has been announced that the remains (believed to have been slaves discovered during excavations on land that was once part of the Schuyler Flatts will be reburied with ceremonies on June 18, 2016 at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Cemetery.

Details will be posted to as they become available.

Click here for past posts on the Flatts burials.

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Featured Gravestone – Jane Wendell

202Section:  Dutch Reformed

Material:  Brown sandstone

A small stone with a heavy amount of lichen on the surface.  Carving is partly obscured by the lichen, but otherwise legible.  Bottom of stone was broken, possibly at time of transfer.

Inscription:  In memory of Jane Wendell daughter of John and Cathalina Wendell who departed this life November 24, 1795 aged 1 year, 9 months and 21 days.

She was the daughter of John H. Wendell

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Featured Gravestone – Mary and Pamelia Pells

DSC04846Section:  Garretson Methodist Episcopal Church

Material:  White marbl

A double stone, there is a complete diagonal break beginning at the top between the two halves and continuing downward through Mary’s half of the stone.   Upper part of Mary’s section is also partly embedded in the earth.  Stone has darkening from exposure, but text is generally legible.

Inscription:  In Memory of Pamelia C. Pells who died Sept. 30 1831 aged 2 years 2 months.  In Memory of Mary J. Pells who died Oct 1, 1831 aged 9 months.  Gone is the flowers sweet buds of early spring Thy ruthless Death cold finger rudely press’d Yet ah grim tyrant pointless is thy sting They fading fell to ripen with the blest.  Parents to you this cheering hope is given They sank to Earth to freshly bloom in Heaven.

The stone makes no mention of the parents’ names, however, burial records show an Ebenezer Pells, age twenty-six, also buried in this lot.  He died approximately seven months after these two little girls and the epitaph from his widow is written in a similar tone to that of these children making it possible that he was the father of Pamelia and Mary.

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