The Mossop Obelisk

With very few exceptions, almost all of the stones in the Church Grounds are flat slab-style headstones laid directly on the ground.  There are a few variations, such as the vault covers of Captain Winne and Reverend Ellison, and a couple of obelisks like the one shown here.

The obelisk was a very popular style of gravestone in the early to mid-1800s and the rest of the Albany Rural Cemetery is filled with examples, ranging from small and slender to very large ones which tower over the surrounding memorials.  Tiny obelisks were even carved beneath the stylized willows on early 19th-century stones such as A number of the older, smaller obelisks in the Cemetery predate its 1844 consecration and were moved from the State Street Burying Grounds.  The weathered Charles Webster gravestone on the South Ridge is typical of these relocated obelisks, most of which were relocated to private family plots newly purchased in the Cemetery when the State Street site was closed in the late 1860s.  This particular obelisk of white marble was brought to the Church Grounds from the Episcopal lot at the State Street Burying Grounds, undoubtedly because the deceased had no descendants or other kin in the area to take charge of moving the grave in advance of the mass transfer of graves by the Albany Common Council.

The inscription on this stone is weathered, but still legible enough to decipher (with the aid of a transcription included in Joel Munsell’s Annals of Albany).

George Maffit Mossop, native of Dublin, Ireland, who died Oct. 8th, 1849, aged 34 years.  This tribute of affection is inscribed by his widow.

It should be pointed out that the Common Council’s inventory of relocated graves erroneously lists Mossop’s age as 94.

George Maffit Mossop was an Irish-born actor who was described by contemporaries as “a light, trim-built young fellow, ambitious of a distinction in music and Irish comedy which he never reached.”

Henry Phelps, who would author one of the most extensive histories of the Albany Rural Cemetery, wrote of Mossop’s death in his Players of A Century, saying:

On the 8th of October,  Mr. Mossop died suddenly, at his residence, corner of Broadway and Van Tromp street.  He was supposed to be in good health, and was advertised to perform that evening.  He was an Irish comedian of merit and a sweet singer. 

At the time of his death, George Mossop had been married only a few months to Louisa Lane, an English-born actress who had been appearing on stage since early childhood.  Both were part of a theatrical company associated with the Albany Museum.  Prior to her 1848 marriage to George Mossop, Louisa Lane had married and divorced another actor named Henry Blain Hunt.  It was said she was attracted to George’s wit, despite being seven years his senior, and saw in him a born actor (despite his chronic stutter when not on stage). The year following George’s death, his widow married a third actor, John Drew.  The marriage to Louisa Lane was also not George Mossop’s first; he had previously been married to Eliza Kent, the widow of yet another performer, a comedian named Harry Knight.  Knight had died from complications after losing his leg in a railroad accident.  This marriage ended in a divorce.

The Mossop obelisk is currently positioned upright, but it is detached from the base and resting against it.  As of last year, it lay face down.  While the marble is weathered, it remains fairly clean and white compared to other stones of its ages in the Cemetery.

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