The African Methodist Episcopal Section

Very close to the wooded edge of the Church Grounds is the small African Methodist section.  It consists of a two short rows of gravestones transferred from the A.M.E. Church’s lot at the State Street Burying Grounds (though it is possible that at least one grave might have originally come from a different burial ground as it predates the establishment of the State Street cemetery by a year).

The stones in this section, while generally smaller than those in the rest of the Church Grounds, are in very good condition compared to the other sections.  Very few are broken and almost all are legible.  It it interesting to note that at least nine stones were not transcribed for the Common Council’s inventory of graves at the State Street Burying Grounds.  Also, a number of stones transcribed in the Common Council report are not found in the Church Grounds; it is difficult to say whether these stones were lost or damaged during the transfer to Albany Rural Cemetery or if they were lost or destroyed after being relocated here.  Either way, nearly twenty stones transcribed in the Common Council list are not present.  Among the missing stones is that of Benjamin Lattimore, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and found of the A.M.E. Church (now located on Hamilton Street).

Prior to the establishment of the State Street Burying Grounds, many of the city’s early African community, were believed to have been buried outside the old Albany stockade  in a graveyard near Pinkster Hill (now Capitol Hill in the vicinity of Academy Park and City Hall).  A poem celebrating the African-American Pinkster celebration held on the hill until 1811 makes mention of the festival’s proximity to such a burial ground.  The municipal burial ground which predated the State Street Burying Grounds was located near Eagle and State Streets and did not include a section for the black community.  In rare cases, slaves – such as a woman named Nancy who now rests in the Quackenbush plot on the Rural Cemetery’s South Ridge – were interred with the families who owned them.   The 1790  map of Albany by the State Surveyor Simeon DeWitt also shows a “Negro Burial Ground” on the long ridge over looking Fox Creek (now Sheridan Hollow) along what is now Elk Street.

There is are at least two stones in this section of the Church Grounds which was apparently laid here by mistake.  The sandstone marker of twenty-year old Walter Johnson (a native of Edinburgh who died in Albany in 1821) and the small marble stone of Ebenezer Brown were both originally located in the Potter’s Field section at the State Street Burying Grounds.  In fact, they are the only two Potter’s Field burials listed by name in the Council report.

Memory of WALTER JOHNSON who died Aug. 22, 1821 in the 26th year of his age A native of Scotland from Edinburgh

Erected by Alex. Campbell to the memory of his father-in-law Ebenezer Brown who died 5th June 1851 Aged 66 years

Over the next few weeks, there will be posts featuring each of the gravestones in the A.M.E. lot, as a list of the known burials here compiled from the Common Council inventory and inscriptions from the surviving stones.

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