Category Archives: People

Featured Gravestone – Thomas B. Heermans

DSC00809Section:  First Presbyterian

Material:  White marble

Bottom edge of stone is embedded in the ground below the last line of the inscription.  Inscription is deeply carved and very legible.  Upper portion of the stone features an open book (likely the Bible) with a saw-tooth border above and fan-shaped insets in the upper corners.  Some darkening, but decorative carving is generally intact.

Inscription:  In memory of Thomas B. Heermans who died April 4 A.D. 1830 aged 33 years 6 months

Heermance was, along with Erastus Corning, Joel Rathbone, and John T. Norton, a partner in a firm which offered hardware and cutlery, as well as stoves and iron sheet work to order.  About a month before his death, a notice appeared in the Albany Argus which announced the dissolution of the firm Rathbone, Heermans, & Company by “mutual consent.”  The company retained the same name for some time after under the sole leadership of Rathbone.

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Onondiyo, known to the Dutch and English at Albany as Captain John, was an Oneida sachem respected as both a fine orator and a warrior who had served as a scout to the Americans during the Revolution.  He was described by white contemporaries as “a young Chief of first abilities” in his nation.

Along with Skenandoah (Shenandoah), he was a member of a delegation of Oneida sachems who had traveled to Albany to negotiate a treaty between their nation and New York State.  While in Albany, Skenandoah and Onondiyo both fell seriously ill, possibly from smallpox.  Skenandoah recovered, but Onondiyo died on September 12, 1795.   The Oneida delegation remained in the city to honor him with their own rites according to a September 15 death notice printed by Joel Munsell in Volume 3 of his Annals of Albany.

Capt. John, one of the Oneida sachems, and the principal orator and public speaker of the nation, died and was interred in the Presbyterian cemetery. The deputation of chiefs and sachems of the Oneidas, then in this city, attended the funeral, and performed the solemnities thereof, according to the custom of their nation.

Onondiyo was a Presbyterian convert and, as noted above, buried in that church’s cemetery.  The Presbyterians had recently acquired a section of the municipal burial ground just off Eagle Street and immediately south of the present East Capitol Park.   The remains in this early municipal cemetery were removed to the State Street Burying Grounds after 1800, and, ultimately, reburied in the Presbyterian portion of the Rural Cemetery’s Church Grounds.  Among the many remains interred here without any record or headstone are those of the eloquent Onondiyo.

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The Book of Burials – The Vault

Below is a chronological list of burials in the vault of the First Dutch Reformed Church which stood on Broadway at the foot of State Street hill until 1806.

Many of these burials were removed to the Second Dutch Reformed Church where they were placed in a vault beneath the bell tower.  Later, some were moved to the Madison Avenue Reformed Church and, eventually, to the Church Grounds (see Albany’s Dutch Stones and Not The Right Stones). 

See The Book of Burials master post for further details on the list.

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Featured Gravestones – Samuel and Mary Hill

DSC02692Location:  St. Peter’s Episcopal (both stones)

Material:  White marble (both stones)

A matched pair of stones for a husband and wife.  Both feature a willow-and-urn motif and oval tablets surrounded by wreaths of foliage.  Both feature inscriptions below the tablets and a twisted-rope border near the base.  Samuel Hill’s stone has typical darkening.  Inscription is deeply carved and very legible.  There is a large break at the base on the right side and some wear to the finials, especially on the right.  Mary Hill’s stone is in comparable condition.

Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Samuel Hill who departed this life May 12, 1819 in the 52nd year of his age.  Friends nor physicians could not save This mortal body from the grave Nor can the grave confine me here When Christ commands me to appear.

Inscription:  Sacred to the memory of Mary Hill who departed this life January 15, 1816 in the 44th year of her age.  Behold we see while here we look The dearest ties of friendship broke The grief and sorrow pierce the heart The dearest friends we must see part.


Samuel and Mary’s son, Thomas B. Hill, is also buried in the Church Grounds and featured in this post.  His headstone also features a willow-and-urn motif, but in a different style, more ornate style.

Samuel Hill was a prominent Albany merchant whose brick mansion (designed by Philip Hooker) still stands as the Fort Orange Club on Washington Avenue.  More on Hill can be found here.  His wife, Mary, was the daughter of Thomas Barry, an Irish-born merchant whose business contacts included Sir William Johnson and who was a founding member of Albany’s first Catholic Church, St. Mary’s.

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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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Tillie Boehm


This small headstone of black granite stands out among the uneven rows of flat stones in the Church Grounds.  It is unusual, not only because it is one of only a few upright stones in this lot, but because it is also much newer.  It was not among the scores of old stones brought to Albany Rural Cemetery from the State Street Burying Grounds when the Common Council cleared the old graveyard to make way for Washington Park, but was placed here over twenty years after the massive transfer of remains.

On September 10, 1893, a woman’s hat was found on the edge of Washington Park Lake.  A short time later, the body of Tillie Boehm was pulled from the water.  She was twenty-three years old and the newspapers reported that no motive could be assigned to her suicide.  The papers also noted that she was the adopted daughter of Professor William Boehm.  The German-born Professor Boehm was a music teacher, organist at Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Albany’s Ten Broeck neighborhood, and organizer of The Mozart Singing Society, a local musical club.

Tillie was short for Matilda and the 1880 census lists a ten-year old daughter by that name in the household of William and Louisa Boehm.  The census lists another daughter, Amelia, as the same age; it is possible that she was Tillie’s twin sister.  The other children in the family were listed as William (age five) and Kate (age three).  The 1892 census adds another child, Gertrude (age four), but Matildia/Tillie is not listed as residing with the family at this time, but appears on the census for the town of Bethlehem.

The records, unfortunately, give few hints as to why Tillie drowned in the Washington Park Lake or why she was buried among the much older graves in the Church Grounds.

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Featured Gravestone – Sarah Carls

029Section:  see below

Material:  White marble

Inscription:  In Memory of Sarah, Wife of John D. Carls, Died March 13, 1845 in the 29th year of her Age.  A faithful wife, a loving mother, A Christian true this stone does cover.  Patient in suffering, strong in love, Dead to this world, but lives above.  And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me write blessed are the dead with die in the Lord, henceforth, yea, saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labours and their work do follow them.

Misc.:  A large, simple stone with only minor chipping.  Surface is heavily discolored, but inscription is generally legible (and transcribed on the burial index card at the Cemetery office).  Lower portion is partly embedded in the ground.

The Common Council inventory lists Sarah Carls as originally buried in the Baptist section of the State Street Burying Grounds.  However, the burial card on file at the Cemetery office lists Garretson Station Methodist Episcopal.   The 1855 census shows John D. Carls as an iron worker living in Albany’s 10th Ward with a second wife (unfortunately only identified as “Mrs. J.D.”) and the following children:  Emma (age 8), John (age 4), and Charles (age 1).  A Lydia Green, age 20, is also listed with the Carls, possibly a servant.  None of the children listed is old enough to have been Sarah’s child.  Since the stone refers to her as a mother, it is very possible that she had a child who died sometime between 1845 and 1855.

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Ellen and Anna Baltimore


As previously noted in Without Stones , the number of headstones currently present in the African Methodist Episcopal section of the Church Grounds does not correspond to the number of known burials there.  Presumably, many of the stones are lost as the list of names in the Common Council’s inventory of graves to be removed from the State Street Burying Grounds was transcribed directly from the gravestones (and, conversely, there are several stones present in the A.M.E. lot that were not listed in the inventory and one that was originally located in the Potter’s Field, but placed with the A.M.E. stones). Continue reading


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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone – Samuel Mando

152Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc.:  A small stone with a rounded upper edge; the deceased name follows the contour of the curved edge.  Large patches of the stone have darkened, but some white still shows.  Half of the epitaph at the bottom is almost illegible, though the remainder of the inscription is legible (though eroded in places).

Inscription:  Samuel Mando Died Feb’y 15, 187 In his 52nd Year, Louis infant daughter of Samuel and Hannah Mando, Aged 10 mos.  Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord.

Samuel Mando’s stone does not appear in the Common Council inventory.  However, the inventory does list a stone for a Charlotte Mando who died on February 8, 1842 at the age of 19.  The inventory, compiled from the actual headstone inscriptions, notes that she was the “wife of Samuel” so it is likely that the Hannah Mando mentioned on Samuel’s own stone is his second wife or third wife.  Census records from the 1850s list his wife as Ann Mary.

Samuel Mando appears in the 1855 Albany census as residing in Albany’s 8th Ward with Ann and three children, Abraham (10), Hellen (3), and Emma (2).  While his headstone indicates he would have been born around 1819, this particular census estimates his birth year as 1810 and lists Rensselaer as his birthplace.

The census records also list Samuel Mando’s occupation as a waiter.  It was while working as the headwaiter on the Hudson River Day Line steamer Chauncey Vibbard in  September 1865 that he became the victim of an assault that was undoubtedly racially motivated.  Two men from Kentucky, George Merriweather and George H. Williamson, had been drinking heavily and shouting pro-Confederate mottoes in an attempt to cause a chaos as a distraction for attempted pickpocketing of fellow passengers.  During the disruptive scene, Merriweather quarreled with and then stabbed Mando in the chest with a sword-cane.

More on Samuel Mando, his family, and the 1865 assault can be found here.


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The Clawson Family Stones




Returning to the A.M.E section for African American History Month.

Shown about are three stones bearing the name Clawson and belonging to members of a single family;  Mary (wife of Robert), John, (son of Robert and Mary), and Robert A. (presumably the son of Mary and the elder Robert), as well as a Charles Ferdinand, a grandson of Robert and Mary.

These stones represent one of the few intact family plots transferred together from their original locations in the State Street Burying Grounds to the Church Grounds.  The stones of most families originally buried together were separated or otherwise lost at some point between the time the transcript of graves was published by the Common Council and the present.  In the Episcopal and other sections of the Church Grounds, it’s possible to find a few stones from a single family laid together, but it is generally not very common.  Some family graves were  moved privately before the mass transfer and are located together elsewhere in the Cemetery, but many  were simply lost (see Without Stones) or mixed with other burials.

Census records for 1850 show a Robert Clawson residing in the household of John Troter, a physician, and was probably employed as a servant of some type.  The census lists him as a black male born around 1790.  The headstone for Robert A. Clawson, likely his son, notes that the young man died of consumption.   Census records from 1855 show the elder Robert Clawson residing at the home of his son-in-law, William P. McIntyre , a barber who had married Robert’s daughter, Mary.

All three stones are marble, modest in size, but with epitaphs.  Mary’s stone notes that she died on June 7, 1846 at age 58 and reads, And Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.  John’s stone notes that he died at the age of 21 on February 22, 1846 and reads, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.  The stone of the younger Robert notes his cause of death at the age of 23 on May 18, 1853 and the same Biblical text as John’s stone.  Charles Ferdinand shares as stone with his uncle, having died just a month later on June 21, 1853 at the age of 4.  His epitaph reads, Suffer the little children to come unto me.

There is, unfortunately, no stone here for the elder Robert Clawson.  The Common Council’s report does not list him.  He may have been buried elsewhere, buried without a stone, or his stone may have been lost prior to the 1868 inventory.

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