The Common Council Report

In 1866, the Albany Common Council published a Report of A Special Committee On Burial Grounds to address the deteriorating condition of  the State Street Burying Grounds (now the northeast corner of Washington Park).  Established to replace a municipal burial ground just off Eagle Street (just south of modern-day East Capitol Park), the State Street site had declined after the Albany Rural Cemetery was consecrated in 1844.  Its fences were in disrepair, headstones were damaged, and it wasn’t uncommon for neighbors to let livestock wander and graze among the graves.  New burials were rare as more people chose the new Rural Cemetery as the final resting place for their departed and some families had already removed their lots from the State Street Burying Grounds and relocated them to the Rural Cemetery.

In the opinion of the Common Council, the decay and desecration of the State Street Burying Grounds was a serious discredit to Albany.

A resolution was adopted by the Council provided for a committee of five to be appointed by the Mayor to address the issue.  The Burying Grounds were divided into lots owned by various Albany churches, each of which would be contacted to obtain permission for “the removal of the remains of the neglected dead to cemeteries where they can be properly interred and cared for in a suitable manner.”

Letters were drafted and sent to each of the churches owning lots in the State Street Burying Ground.

         We respectfully present the forgoing resolutions for your considerations, and would be greatly obliged if you would favor us with your views upon the subject, and state in writing, as early as convenient, whether your society will release the grounds now used by them as a cemetery, within the above-mentioned bounds, and will consent to the removal of the remains therein deposited, provided the city will furnish a suitable resting place in the Albany Rural Cemetery, or elsewhere, as may be agreed upon for their reinterment.

While seeking permission from the various churches for the removal of the remains, “competent persons” were hired to copied names and dates from all headstones at the State Street Burying Grounds.  Their purpose was to identify all burials, ensure that tombstones were matches with the proper burial, and inform members of the public of the planned removal so that family members could take steps to remove their relatives burials in advance of the mass transfer.

The result of their work, a list containing names and dates of death arranged alphabetically and by congregation, was published in a booklet along with the Council’s resolutions and the letters from the various churches agreeing to the removal.  In some cases, only initials or a first name appeared on the stone.  In other cases, there was no name at all, only an epitaph such as “A kind and affectionate Husband and kind Parent.”  For a few, there are additional notes identifying service in the Revolutionary War or place of birth and/death.  One notes that it was the very first burial at State Street.

Despite the efforts of the transcribers, there are a number of stones whose inscriptions were not copied.  stones are perfectly legible, even today, so it is not clear why they were not included in the inventory of graves.

Permission was eventually obtained from all congregations involved which allowed the Council to move forward with arrangements for the removal of all graves not relocation by the families concerned to the section of Albany Rural Cemetery now known as the Church Grounds.

Engraving of a monument in the old State Street Burying Grounds

– from Joel Munsell’s “Annals of Albany”


Filed under Articles, History, Uncategorized

2 responses to “The Common Council Report

  1. Very interesting article. Good to know that “competent persons” has the same meaning then as now.

  2. Pingback: Beyond The Church Grounds | albanychurchgrounds

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