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.
When the Old Dutch Church relocated to a Phillip Hooker-designed edifice on North Pearl Street, the graves were removed from its vault and churchyard and relocated to the congregation’s section of the new State Street Burying Ground. Graves from later burial grounds along South Pearl Street near Hudson Avenue and Beaver Street were also relocated there, though a large number of graves were left behind and not discovered until construction crews uncovered them in the 1980s.
Not all graves in these downtown burial grounds were marked with headstones and a number of headstones were lost prior to the removal to the Church Grounds. In 1836, for example, the 1711 headstone of Albany’s second Mayor, Johannes Abeel, was found by workers along South Pearl Street and simply discarded. It is believed that the Abeel stone was not the only one discovered and thrown away at that time (updated – further research reveals that the stones believed discarded were not – see the Jeremiah Field headstone and link below).
Still, some early stones did survive their various journeys from their original resting places to the Rural Cemetery. There are several stones in the Dutch Reformed section of the Church Grounds which can be positively dated to the 1720s and several which, while very worn and difficult to decipher, appear to be slightly older.
Unlike Elyse’s ornate and legible stone, many of these oldest stones are very badly worn and difficult to read. The carved surfaces of the markers are not only eroded, but portions of the stone has flaked away and left large blanks in the inscriptions. At least one stone is face down, making it impossible to identify. Also, almost none of these 18th-century gravestones were included in the Common Council’s inventory which makes it even harder to match partial inscriptions to known burials.
Old stone with a worn inscription and a badly eroded soul effigy – this has now been identified. See Jeremiah Field And The Headstone That Was Not Lost.
These stones, which are difficult to read and identify, may be among the oldest surviving gravestones in Albany. The area’s oldest known gravestone was found in Schenectady and dates to the late 1600s.
This stone is missing pieces of its inscription due to flaking, though the year at the top is most likely 1721. I believe this is the gravestone of Catlyna (also spelled Catlina or Catalina) Schuyler Bogert. Born in 1686 – the year Albany received its charter – Catalina married Jacob Bogert. Little else is known about her (including the exact date of her death, though it is known that Jacob died in 1725)but she appears to be the only match for this gravestone based on birth and marriage records (burial records of this era are extremely scanty). It is the oldest stone I have been able to identify so far, even tentatively.