Tag Archives: african methodist episcopal church

Historic African-American Burials In Albany

A brief overview of historic African-American burials in Albany, including the State Street Burying Ground and Albany Rural Cemetery.

A Brief Overview of Historic African-American Burials In Albany

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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 – Alfred Wellington Watson

167Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc.:  A very small stone,  plain design, inscription is worn, but still more or less legible.

Inscription:  Alfred Wellington Watson Son of Charles A. and Phebe Watson, Died June 6, 1848, Aged 13 months and 16 days

Census records from 1850 list Charles Watson as a “mulatto” born in Pennsylvania ca. 1798.  His occupation is given as a cook and his residence was in the Third Ward.  Other members of his household at the time of the census included his wife, Phebe, and two children, Samuel and Georgianna (ages 5 and 1).

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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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Without Stones


A comparison of the Common Council’s 1868 inventory of graves removed from the African Methodist Episcopal section of the State Street Burying Grounds prior to the old municipal cemetery’s rebirth as Washington Park and the actual headstones in the A.M.E portion of the Church Grounds shows a substantial discrepancy. Continue reading


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Featured A.M.E. Gravestones – Two Broken Stones

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  Brown sandstone (both)

Misc.:  These are fragments of two different broken headstones laid together.  The upper stone has little damage above the break, some wear to the lettering, and some dark lichen or moss growth.  The lower stone is broken at both the top and the bottom, some wear to the lettering (especially at the bottom), and heavy lichen growth obscuring a portion of the  inscription.

Inscription (top):  Flora Lansing Grandmother of John Titus, who died Feby 14th, 1802, aged 82 years, and her children.

Inscription (bottom):  Memory of Nicholas Smith Who Departed ___  ___ ___ 

The last part of the year on Fora’s stone is hidden by grass in this photo and I will copy the correct year on my next visit to the Church Grounds.  It appears to be one of the older graves here.  The age indicates that Fora may have been a slave for part of her life.  There were Lansing slave owners in Albany during her era; Flora may have belonged to them and taken their name upon being freed.  I have not found any additional information on her or her grandson, John Titus.  The fact that John Titus is mentioned on her stone hints that he may have paid for his grandmother’s burial and marker.

Nicholas Smith’s stone appears to be older and the style of the letters is a little cruder.  More detailed photos may aid in transcribing the visible portions of the text.

Neither was transcribed in the Common Council inventory.

Edited June 26, 2013 – A search of the Cemetery’s burial cards shows a match for Nicholas Smith and a transcription of his epitaph.  This stone did not originally come from the Negro section of the State Street Burying Grounds, but from the Potter’s Field.  His stone reads:  In Memory of Nicholas Smith who departed this life 11th Dec. 1819, aged 4 yrs, 9 months, and 5 days.  Sleep on, sweet babe, and take your rest, for God has done as he thought best.  The same epitaph is found on the headstone of Merit Ogden.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone – Hager Van Vankren

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc:.:  Plain, but large and well-carved stone with a crack near the lower right corner.

Inscription:  Hager Van Vranken Wife of David Van Vranekn Departed this life the 28th day of Feby. 1844 in the 53rd year of her life.  Remember this as you pass by; As you are now so once was I  As I am now so you must be; Remember God eternally.

There is little information on Hager.  The Common Council list omits the space in her surname.  There are several David Van Vrankens in the 1860 census, one of who may have been her widower.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone – Mary McCany

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  Brown sandstone

Misc.:  Well-carved with deep, clear lettering.  Very little damage beyond wear to edges and minor lichen spots.

Inscription:  In Memory of Mary McCany; Who departed this life, June 7th, 1811, Aged 32 years, 11 months, And 7 days.  Teach me to do thy holy will, And lead me to thy holy hill, Let the good spirit of thy love, lead me to thy courts above.

This is one of the oldest stones in the A.M.E. lot and is in very fine condition.  There is, once again, little biographical data for this woman.  This stone appears in the Common Council list as McCanny.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestone – Robert Sandford

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc.:  Medium-sized stone with some discoloration and lichen, has a vertical crack on the left and some chipping along the bottom.  This is one of only two decorated stones in the A.M.E. lot and features an urn surrounded by deep-carved stylized vines.

Inscription:  In memory of Robert Sandford, who died Sept. 2nd, 1825, in the 45th year of his age.  Go home my friends and dry up your tears, My dust lies here until Christ appears, Repent in time what time you have, There is no repentance in the grave.

This stone is listed in the Common Council inventory, though the name appears in the list as “Sandtford.”  I have not yet been able to locate any census data or other records for him.  He was born before emancipation in New York State, but it isn’t known if he was born a slave or free.  By the time of his death, he or his relatives were able to afford this handsomely carved stone.  As noted above, it is one of only two gravestones in the A.M.E. lot to feature such decorative carving.

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Featured A.M.E. Gravestones – The Initial Stones

Section:  African Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc:  Two very small stones with some erosion, lichen, and minor chipping of edges

Inscription:  J.M. and F.L.L.

Both of these little stones are included in the Common Council list, but there is apparently no other information on them.  It isn’t known if these were markers for individual graves within a family lot with a central gravestone, footstones to match now lost headstones, or gravestones for individuals whose families could not afford large markers with full names inscribed.

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