From The Books – Early Authors and The Church Grounds

The Albany Rural Cemetery was the subject of at least three early books, Churchill’s Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery (published in 1859, it pre-dates the establishment of the Church Grounds), Fitzgerald’s A Hand Book for the Albany Rural Cemetery, and Phelps’ Albany Rural Cemetery:  Its Beauties, Its Memories.

The latter two books touch only very briefly on the Church Grounds, devoting just a few paragraphs each to this section and without mentioning its significance to early Albany history or any of the noteworthy burials there.  If anything, they paint a somewhat forlorn (and, in Fitzgerald’s case, even slightly dismissive) image of the section.

If we desired to leave the Cemetery here, we might do so by taking the westerly continuation of this avenue, past DAVIS, WHARTON, ROY, and the BOYDS, and on by the western entrance.  Near the entrance are the church grounds, where lie the re-interred dead of the abandoned grave yards of Albany. 

Whenever you feel like devoting a half day to the object, we would advise you, — especially if you are a bit of an antiquarian — to go among these transplantations of the great Reaper, and read — if you can — the old inscriptions upon some of the recumbent stones.  There you will find samples of the characteristic phraseology and orthography of the last century.  You will find hackneyed churchyard epitaphs — some appropriate and affecting; in spite of repetition; some evidently homebrewed and thoroughly unimpressed, and some unequivocally absurd.  The many inscriptions in German will recall your historical gleanings of the days of Fort Orange and Rensselaerwyck; and the instructive, practical contrast between these crude landmarks of the past and the evidences of the modern innovations of art and taste so near by.

Edward Fitzgerald, A Handbook for the Albany Rural Cemetery,  With An Appendix On Emblems, Albany, Van Benthuysen Printing House, 1871.

One of the gravestones which Fitzgerald would have undoubtedly dismissed as “a crude landmark of the past.”

Beyond the lodge on the right are the church grounds as they are called.  Here are interred the remains that were removed from the old State street burial ground.  This was accomplished in 1868, preliminary to the laying out of Washington park, and was largely due to the efforts of Peter M. Carmichael, who as a member of the common council was very active in the movement which may be said to have originated with him in 1866.  It took considerable time to get the churches to consent to the arrangement, but they did so at last and the bodies were removed by contract, the total expense to the city, including the cost of the grounds in the Rural and St. Agnes Cemeteries, being $48,315. 

There are few monuments here, but there are many slabs that have been laid horizontally.  The inscriptions are some of them curious, and more are sad, read as they are now amid the evidences of neglect and forgetfulness, common to the graves of those whose friends are also all beneath the sod, as is the case with the great majority of those who lie in this part of the Cemetery.

— Henry P. Phelps, The Albany Rural Cemetery:  Its Beauties, Its Memories, Albany, Phelps and Kellogg, 1892.

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