Monthly Archives: August 2014

Bones In A Sugar Barrel

A brief article in the August 2, 1888 edition of the Albany Evening Journal recounts the discovery of remains at the former site of the Dutch Reformed burial ground on Beaver Street near South Pearl Streets.  A previous article appeared on July 31 – see Ancient Albanians and The Burying Places.

THE CRUMBLING REMAINS OF ALBANY BURGHERS EXPOSED 

Excavations at the Old Churchyard on Beaver Street – Italian Workmen Avoid Contact With the Relics

The four human skeletons that were unearthed today on the site of the old Dutch church burying ground on Beaver street were placed in a sugar barrel. The barrel was about half fill when the last skull was dropped in. The bones were found about 8 ½ feet below the surface, after the three feet of filled-in earth had been removed. The skulls of the four skeletons were towards the west. They were laid out very regularly, the back bones of the arms and legs being held as if in a mould in the grasp of the light loam soil. Under two of the skeletons evidence of the cedar bottom of a coffin was found. There was nothing left, however, of the sides or top of the coffin. The decayed bits of wood were so very small and decayed that even if there had been a cover and sides to the casket, the shovels and picks of the Italian workmen would have scattered them before the bones of the dead were reached.

They Had Sound Teeth

The soundness of the teeth was remarked by all who saw the skulls. In two of the skulls, the teeth were perfect. The Italian workmen were careful not to touch the bones with their hands. They would force the bones from the grasp of Mother Earth with a pick and then toss them upon the embankment with a shovel. When the bones were discovered, the tan-colored Italians jabbered less than usual and seemed more awe-stricken that the few spectators of the scene.

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Featured Gravestone – Donald McDonald

137Section:  Third Presbyterian Church

Material:  White marble

A small stone with a very stylized willow and urn motif.  Uneven darkening of the stone with some streaking and erosion of carving.  Lettering below the tablet is more difficult to read that the lettering within the tablet.

Inscription:  In memory of Donald McDonald from the Shire of Inverness Scotland Died Jan. 29 1824 Aged 76 y 3 m.  Peace to the ashes & the virtuous mind of him who lived in peace with all mankind.

Census records show a Donald McDonald residing in Albany as early as 1790 and, according to genealogical records, McDonald had at least one child – a daughter who married a Paul Cushman around 1802. The Common Council inventory of State Street Burying Ground interments also lists a Frances Stubbs (died June 15, 1815 at the age of forty-seven) as the wife of one Donald McDonald and an Elizabeth as a daughter of Frances and Donald. She died July 1, 1800 at the age of two. However, their listings could refer to a different Donald McDonald as Elizabeth is noted as being “of the city of London, England” at a time when the McDonald interred here was already a resident of Albany.

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