Tag Archives: old gravestones

Markers of Famed Albanians ‘Rescued’ in 1945

hookerinknicknewsAbove:  George E. Weisenforth, at left, and Harold W. Littlejohn, employees of Stephen A. Scullen, Loudonville contractor, raise the headstone of Philip Hooker, famed Albany architect, in long neglected section of Albany Rural Cemetery, now being improved. Headstones will be cleaned and replaced in a two-acres area of the cemetery.

Seventy-five years after thousands of graves were relocated from the State Street Burying Grounds to the Church Grounds lot at the Rural Cemetery, the condition of this final resting place had deteriorated to the point that a contractor was assigned the task of clearing the badly overgrown field, locating hundreds of historic headstones to be cleaned, identified, and set in rows.   An article in the October 29, 1945 edition of The Knickerbocker News gave some details of the project. Markers of Famed Albanians ‘Rescued’ By Francis P. Kimball Burial places of Philip Hooker, noted architect, Gen. Peter Gansevoort, Revolutionary hero, and other famed Albanians, neglected and virtually lost for more than half a century, are being “rescued” and identified as a result of a reconstruction project covering two acres in Albany Rural Cemetery. Work on the project has just been started under a contract awarded to Stephen A. Scullen, Loudonville, on recommendations of Charles B. Heisler, cemetery superintendent. In a special report to the cemetery association, Mr. Heisler asserted the area had fallen into such neglect as to become a “wilderness.” Continue reading

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The Phelps Stone

DSC00844Unlike many stones in the Church Grounds which have broken or suffered other damage since being transferred to the Albany Rural Cemetery, this one was damaged prior to its removal from the State Street Burying Grounds.  The entry for it in the Common Council’s inventory of graves places it in the First Presbyterian Church’s lot and notes “”stone broken and gone.”

Exactly how the stone was damaged or when is not known, but it would have occurred prior to 1868 when the inventory was compiled.  The breakage may have happened when the grave was moved from its original location Most likely this headstone was first placed in the First Presbyterian Church’s graveyard and probably moved to the congregation’s section of the municipal burial ground just south of modern-day East Capitol Park before being moved yet again to the State Street Burying Grounds after 1806.  With so many relocations, it’s easy to see how the stone could have been broken prior to its final move to the Rural Cemetery.

Burial records from this church only begin in 1786, but at some point after the death of this unknown Phelps as I have not yet been able to locate any information on this woman beyond what is carved on the stone.  She would have been born around 1726, but her first name, maiden name (assuming that Phelps is her marriage name), and other information remain unknown at this point.  Evidently, whomever commissioned the stone was prosperous enough to afford one of the more elaborately-carved markers from this period and lot.  The tablet is surrounded by a border of bold scrollwork and it is very possible a stone like this would have featured some sort of soul effigy or other decorative element at the top.  The inscription includes a short epitaph:  Death is a debt to nature due:  Which I have paid and so must you.

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The Oldest Stones

In general, the majority of the stones in the Church Grounds section date from the late 18th-century through the 1840s when the newly-established Rural Cemetery replaced the State Street Burying Grounds.  However, there are also quite a few stones which are much older.  In fact, some of these stones predate the State Street cemetery by as much as eighty years.  These stones originated in small churchyards in downtown Albany, especially the Dutch Reformed Church’s burial ground which was located at the corner of State Street and Broadway. Continue reading

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