While the actual removal of the graves from the State Street Burying Grounds did not take place until the late 1860s, the call for such a removal was recorded in the Albany newspapers and was brought to the Common Council as early as the 1840s. The letter below appeared in the Albany Argus less than a year after the consecration of the Albany Rural Cemetery. The Boyds are an example of the earliest families to remove the remains of their kin to the new Cemetery.
(The author of this letter refers to the new Rural Cemetery as “Towasentha.” During the first few years of its existence, the name of the new Cemetery was a matter of some surprisingly spirited debate and Tawasentha, meaning “Place of Many Dead,” was among the names proposed. )
REMOVAL OF THE DEAD TO THE NEW CEMETERY
It appears by the report of the proceedings of the Common Council on Monday evening, a resolution was introduced, and laid, by consent, on the table, for the appointment of a committee, “ to consult with the Trustees of the several churches,” possessing burial-places, within the tenth Ward of the city, on the propriety of removing the remains therein interred to the new Cemetery, TOW-A-SEN-THA, in the town of Watervliet; and to report to the board what measures may be within the competence of the Common Council to promote a removal so loudly called for by the health and convenience of the increasing population of the tenth ward.”
Alderman PRUYN deserves commendation for introducing this resolution. The opportunity of the measure suggested will not be denied. The propriety of a general removal of the remains of persons interred in their burial grounds has begun to be agitated in some of our churches. Many members, it is known, have expressed the intention, and are about to make arrangements, to transferr the remains from friends from their present, it may be almost said, desecrated resting places, to the more solemn and suitable depository at TOWASENTHA. It may be safely assumed that the instances will multiply when once the example shall have been set, or the season permit.– The grave-yards of several churches will consequently be almost wholly broken up, and defaced beyond restoration, except at an expence which no prudent body of trustees will be disposed to encounter, in view of the growing disposition of their inhabitants of the tenth ward to insist on their right to as pure an atmosphere as their neighbors, and to apply for a law interdicting the burial of the universal dead of the city in their midst.
It is therefore a question whether it be not wise in our Common Council to prepare the way for a measure which their duty as guardians of the health of the city, and of equal rights of its citizens, must lead them to encourage and must soon oblige them to urge.
Where the beautiful parks of the Capitol and Academy now refresh and delight citizen and strange, was within recollection of many, a vast burial spot, as unseemly and out of place, as the grounds now occupied by the churches in the luckless tenth ward. The Common Council of those day was as little prone to disregard ‘rights,’ probably, as its successors in times when the expression of the public will is apt to be less equivocal and its influence more potent. Yet it was by their actions, as ungracious as it was liberal, that the removal of the ancient grave yards was made to their present site; and the heart of our town from a jumble of shapeless sepulchres and neglected graves, offending sense and corrupting health, has been changed into a square not to be surpassed in the world for spaciousness, wholesomeness and beauty.
With such a precedent in their favour, and supported by the opinions of all enlightened medical men, and the practice of every civilized nation, except the English, the inhabitants of the 10th Ward, cannot be rebuked for impatience or encroachment, but should rather be praised for their forbearance, since they have waited to agitate a measure so nearly concerning themselves, until the the removal, they desire and will certainly claim, could take place to a more appropriate, save, and inviting spot. But for this, peradventure, they would have appealed to a grand jury before they would have consented to allow State-street to be graded along the grave-yards as low as the usual level of the coffins.
A RESIDENT OF THE 10TH WARD
Albany Argus, July 17, 1845