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Friends of the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery

If you’re interested in helping restore what is likely the oldest cemetery still existing within the city lines of Albany, please visit the new blog below:

Friends of the Evangelical Protestant Cemetery

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A City Vault

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The December 19, 1828 edition of the Albany Argus contained the following letter:

It has been suggested by several of our citizens that a large public building, for the deposit of our dead be erected in some convenient place contiguous to the city. An edifice of this kind, of a neat, durable and secure shape, having separate tenements or apartments for the various sects or societies, might be put up, at an expense easily defrayable. Each “friend” of the deceased, by interment in the vault, would save the expense of digging, sodding, and tomb, and therefore, could afford to pay $3 or $5 for each niche or coffin; and this (with the poor gratis) would shortly pay for the building. It might be done by individuals, the churches in union, or the corporation; perhaps the latter would be better owners, to prevent collisions or difficulties. Its benefits are obvious. The waste of ground and the other needless expense would be saved — The rattling of the rope, the thump of the sod, and the sight of the coffin sunk in the cold watery pit, may be prevented. The horrid burial before death will not occur, and the feeling friend, husband, or child my visit the sepulchre and see the coffin, knowing his wife or mother is there.

The letter was signed “BURIED ALIVE.”

The 19th-century fear of premature burial prompted the formation of a Society for its prevention, as well as the invention of various alarms, burial vaults with escape hatches, and other devices designed to prevent “burial before death” or to aid its supposed victims.  The vault as proposed in this letter (not too unlike modern community mausolea) was not built, though various churches and the city did maintain receiving vaults at the State Street Burying Grounds.

It’s interesting to note the emphasis placed on the description of the grave as watery at a time when the Albany Burying Ground was indeed troubled with flooding of newly opened graves as described in court testimony in 1840.

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Jeremiah Field and The Headstone That Was Not Lost

004One of the older sandstone slabs at the edge of the Dutch Reformed section of the Church Grounds and previously pictured in the post, The Oldest Stones, can now be identified as a gravestone long assumed to have been discarded after it was discovered during mid-19th century excavations near the site of the old Dutch Reformed burial ground on Beaver Street near South Pearl.  The article posted yesterday, Ancient Albanians, provided the needed details to identify the stone which was described as “thrown out” along with that of Albany’s second Mayor, Johannes Abeel.

Jeremiah Field and The Headstone That Was Not Lost at gardenalley.net

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Tillie Boehm

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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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Ellen and Anna Baltimore

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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 Gravestone – Nancy Jamieson

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Section:  Methodist Episcopal

Material:  White marble

Misc.:  Very discolored stone with lower portion embedded in the earth and a good deal of wear to the inscription.  Features two willow trees framing an urn-style monument and a swag of vine-like foliage carved above the inscription.

Inscription:  Nancy Wife of W. Jamieson

While the date on the stone is not visible, cemetery records indicate Nancy died in 1838.  She is not included in the Common Council inventory; this could be one of a number of mistaken omissions or she may not have originally been buried in the State Street Burying Grounds.  There is no W. Jamieson listed in the inventory (only a child named Edward Bradstreet Jamieson, son of James and Elizabeth).

Edited June 26, 2013:  The Cemetery burial card was copied from the stone while it was more legible and read Nancy, Wife of W. Jamieson, died July 3, 1838, AE 59 years.

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Featured Gravestone – Missouri Strevell

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Section:  First Presbyterian

Material:  White marble

Misc.:  Simple, large marble headstone.  With the exception of the first name, inscription is very worn and almost impossible to read in person.  It can, however be deciphered with the help of the Common Council inventory.

Inscription:  Missouri (rest not legible – see below)

As noted above, the stone is very difficult to read in person, but matching the name with the Common Council listing (which was transcribed directly from the stone in 1868) shows this is the gravestone of Missouri Strevell, daughter of William Strevell and his wife, Elizabeth.  Missouri died on September 25, 1847, aged 2 years, 10 months, and 8 days.  William was born in Albany in 1817, but moved to Berne in the Hilltowns where he married Elizabeth Zeh in 1838.

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