Monthly Archives: February 2012

Featured A.M.E. Gravestones – Two Broken Stones

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  Brown sandstone (both)

Misc.:  These are fragments of two different broken headstones laid together.  The upper stone has little damage above the break, some wear to the lettering, and some dark lichen or moss growth.  The lower stone is broken at both the top and the bottom, some wear to the lettering (especially at the bottom), and heavy lichen growth obscuring a portion of the  inscription.

Inscription (top):  Flora Lansing Grandmother of John Titus, who died Feby 14th, 1802, aged 82 years, and her children.

Inscription (bottom):  Memory of Nicholas Smith Who Departed ___  ___ ___ 

The last part of the year on Fora’s stone is hidden by grass in this photo and I will copy the correct year on my next visit to the Church Grounds.  It appears to be one of the older graves here.  The age indicates that Fora may have been a slave for part of her life.  There were Lansing slave owners in Albany during her era; Flora may have belonged to them and taken their name upon being freed.  I have not found any additional information on her or her grandson, John Titus.  The fact that John Titus is mentioned on her stone hints that he may have paid for his grandmother’s burial and marker.

Nicholas Smith’s stone appears to be older and the style of the letters is a little cruder.  More detailed photos may aid in transcribing the visible portions of the text.

Neither was transcribed in the Common Council inventory.

Edited June 26, 2013 – A search of the Cemetery’s burial cards shows a match for Nicholas Smith and a transcription of his epitaph.  This stone did not originally come from the Negro section of the State Street Burying Grounds, but from the Potter’s Field.  His stone reads:  In Memory of Nicholas Smith who departed this life 11th Dec. 1819, aged 4 yrs, 9 months, and 5 days.  Sleep on, sweet babe, and take your rest, for God has done as he thought best.  The same epitaph is found on the headstone of Merit Ogden.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone – Hager Van Vankren

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc:.:  Plain, but large and well-carved stone with a crack near the lower right corner.

Inscription:  Hager Van Vranken Wife of David Van Vranekn Departed this life the 28th day of Feby. 1844 in the 53rd year of her life.  Remember this as you pass by; As you are now so once was I  As I am now so you must be; Remember God eternally.

There is little information on Hager.  The Common Council list omits the space in her surname.  There are several David Van Vrankens in the 1860 census, one of who may have been her widower.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone – Mary McCany

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  Brown sandstone

Misc.:  Well-carved with deep, clear lettering.  Very little damage beyond wear to edges and minor lichen spots.

Inscription:  In Memory of Mary McCany; Who departed this life, June 7th, 1811, Aged 32 years, 11 months, And 7 days.  Teach me to do thy holy will, And lead me to thy holy hill, Let the good spirit of thy love, lead me to thy courts above.

This is one of the oldest stones in the A.M.E. lot and is in very fine condition.  There is, once again, little biographical data for this woman.  This stone appears in the Common Council list as McCanny.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone – Robert Sandford

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc.:  Medium-sized stone with some discoloration and lichen, has a vertical crack on the left and some chipping along the bottom.  This is one of only two decorated stones in the A.M.E. lot and features an urn surrounded by deep-carved stylized vines.

Inscription:  In memory of Robert Sandford, who died Sept. 2nd, 1825, in the 45th year of his age.  Go home my friends and dry up your tears, My dust lies here until Christ appears, Repent in time what time you have, There is no repentance in the grave.

This stone is listed in the Common Council inventory, though the name appears in the list as “Sandtford.”  I have not yet been able to locate any census data or other records for him.  He was born before emancipation in New York State, but it isn’t known if he was born a slave or free.  By the time of his death, he or his relatives were able to afford this handsomely carved stone.  As noted above, it is one of only two gravestones in the A.M.E. lot to feature such decorative carving.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestones – The Initial Stones

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc:  Two very small stones with some erosion, lichen, and minor chipping of edges

Inscription:  J.M. and F.L.L.

Both of these little stones are included in the Common Council list, but there is apparently no other information on them.  It isn’t known if these were markers for individual graves within a family lot with a central gravestone, footstones to match now lost headstones, or gravestones for individuals whose families could not afford large markers with full names inscribed.

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Featured Gravestone – Harriet Ostrander

Section:  Dutch Reformed

Material:  White marble

Misc:  Marble has darkened due to exposure, but is in very fine condition with no visible damage and a crisp inscription.

Inscription:  In Memory of Harriet, Daughter of Capt. William and Lucy Ostrander, who departed this life Novr. 15th, 1830, Aged 18 years and 10 days.

There is little biographical information on this young woman, though it is known that her father was the son of a Revolutionary War veteran.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone -Thomas Jefferson

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc.:  Very simple, but nicely sized stone in very good condition with just one large chip to the base.

Inscription:  Thomas Jefferson died May 22, 1852, aged 29 Years. “Therefore, be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”

As with many stones in this section, there is very little historical and biographical information available about the deceased.  In this case, the 1850 census record shows a probable match;  a Thomas Jeferson who was born in Maryland.  He appears as a porter in Albany’s 5th Ward at the address of Bernerd Pullet, a French-born dancing master.

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Update – Reburial of The Schuyler Slaves

This afternoon, an informational meeting was held at the Albany Public Library to discuss the reburial of skeletons discovered near the Schuyler Flatts. The remains are of fourteen people who were undoubtedly slaves owned by the Schuyler family from the early 18th to early 19th centuries. The speaker was Paul Stewart of the Underground Railroad History Project; representatives from the New York State Museum, St. Agnes’ Roman Catholic Cemetery, and Albany Rural Cemetery were present, along with the Town of Colonie’s historian.

Some background information on the discovery of the skeletons and proposals for reburial were discussed. Continue reading

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Reburial of Schuyler Slaves

The Times Union has a very fascinating article on the reburial of the remains of slaves discovered near the Schuyler Flatts.  The Flatts, a large farm which belonged to the Schuyler family for over two centuries, is now a park and is located just across Broadway from the main gate of the Albany Rural Cemetery.

Input Sought On Schuyler Slaves Reburial

One site proposed for the reburial of these remains is the Church Grounds.

“Peter Hess, the president of Albany Steel and the owner of some of the land on which the bones were discovered in June 2005, said he would like to see them returned not far from where they were found.

Hess is a past president of nearby historic Albany Rural Cemetery and suggested that might be an appropriate final resting place. He noted that a section of Albany Rural was devoted to the relocation of 18 cemeteries from the city of Albany, including two belonging to black churches.

“These are not arrowheads. They didn’t find some strings of wampum. These are human remains,” Hess said. “There should be some kind of a ceremony, and they should be put to rest and not left in some cardboard box on a shelf forever. I just think, ‘How would I feel if this were my family?'”

In the past, it has not been uncommon for historic remains unearthed by construction projects to be reburied at the Rural Cemetery.  When the Alms House burial ground just off New Scotland Avenue was excavated, the bodies removed from that site were interred in a section of the Church Grounds and the spot marked with a large granite monument.

At this point, I agree that the Church Ground would be a very appropriate resting place for these remains.  It is close to their original burial place and there is precedent for such interments here.  Another possible section, if there is sufficient space, would be the North Ridge lot purchased by one Ellen Jackson in the 19th-century for the burial of Albany’s black residents.

I will be following this story with interest and post updates as they become available.

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The Oldest Stones

In general, the majority of the stones in the Church Grounds section date from the late 18th-century through the 1840s when the newly-established Rural Cemetery replaced the State Street Burying Grounds.  However, there are also quite a few stones which are much older.  In fact, some of these stones predate the State Street cemetery by as much as eighty years.  These stones originated in small churchyards in downtown Albany, especially the Dutch Reformed Church’s burial ground which was located at the corner of State Street and Broadway. Continue reading

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