Featured Gravestone – Robert Kerr

DSC02729Section:  St. Peter’s Episcopal

Material:  White marble

While the carving on this stone remains very legible, a large portion of the lower left corner is broken and missing.  The surviving portion of the bottom edge is decoratively carved.  The tympanum is finely carved with a willow tree arching over an obelisk-style monument.  Unfortunately, a substantial portion of this carving is broken.  Despite this, it is one of the best documented stones and interments in the Church Grounds.

Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Robert Kerr, Esq.  Judge of the Surrogate Court and an Active Magistrate for the District of Niagara in Upper Canada.  Descended from an ancient family in North Britain, he faithfully served his Kings as Surgeon to the forces and on the Staff for upwards of forty six years.  His social habits and kindness of heart endeared him to his acquaintance.  His loss will long be felt by those who knew him as a distinguished Mason and a Deputy Grand Master of the province.  The honors paid to his remains by the Ancient Fraternity and by several honorable members of at Albany in the State of New York where he died in the 69th year of his age on the 25th February 1824 are gratefully acknowledged by his sorrowing friends. 

The History of Freemasonry In Canada (published in 1900) contains the complete inscription as the stone was not broken at that time and was described as “in a fair state of preservation.”

Kerr died in Albany at Cruttenden’s (later Congress Hall) and his funeral was held from there.  It was reported that the funeral was attended by numerous Albany citizens and many members of the State Legislature who came to honor a man described as “this respectable stranger.” Records indicate that he was buried in the lot of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church “situated near the State Capitol.”  This refers to the church’s section of the old municipal cemetery formerly located just yards east of the Capitol off Eagle Street.  The remains were later moved to the State Street Burying Grounds and, eventually, to the Rural Cemetery.

The History of Freemasonry also reprints several newspaper death notices, observing that Kerr had a reputation for”liberal hospitality” and “uniform kindness” towards the American army during the  War of 1812.

A descendent of Sir Robert Kerr, Duke of Roxburgh, Robert Kerr served as a surgeon in the British army in Canada and settled in Niagara in the late 1780s.  He was also known as the “boxing magistrate” for his athletic interest and skill with as a boxer.  He had moved to Albany less than a year before his death.

His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1794 at the age of 32 and is buried in Niagara.  She was a daughter of Sir William Johnson.

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Filed under Featured Gravestones, History, People

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