A notation on a burial card for Section 98 leads to the final resting place of the last documented slave at the Schuyler Flatts.
Today’s Times Union has a short article on the effort to rebury the bones of slaves exhumed during sewer work not far from the Albany Rural Cemetery and the Schuyler Flatts.
In the event that this item is vetoed, perhaps it would be possible to raise the money for the reburial without state funding. $4,000 is not an impossible amount for fundraising with enough public interest and support from local companies.
This afternoon, an informational meeting was held at the Albany Public Library to discuss the reburial of skeletons discovered near the Schuyler Flatts. The remains are of fourteen people who were undoubtedly slaves owned by the Schuyler family from the early 18th to early 19th centuries. The speaker was Paul Stewart of the Underground Railroad History Project; representatives from the New York State Museum, St. Agnes’ Roman Catholic Cemetery, and Albany Rural Cemetery were present, along with the Town of Colonie’s historian.
Some background information on the discovery of the skeletons and proposals for reburial were discussed. Continue reading
The Times Union has a very fascinating article on the reburial of the remains of slaves discovered near the Schuyler Flatts. The Flatts, a large farm which belonged to the Schuyler family for over two centuries, is now a park and is located just across Broadway from the main gate of the Albany Rural Cemetery.
One site proposed for the reburial of these remains is the Church Grounds.
“Peter Hess, the president of Albany Steel and the owner of some of the land on which the bones were discovered in June 2005, said he would like to see them returned not far from where they were found.
Hess is a past president of nearby historic Albany Rural Cemetery and suggested that might be an appropriate final resting place. He noted that a section of Albany Rural was devoted to the relocation of 18 cemeteries from the city of Albany, including two belonging to black churches.
“These are not arrowheads. They didn’t find some strings of wampum. These are human remains,” Hess said. “There should be some kind of a ceremony, and they should be put to rest and not left in some cardboard box on a shelf forever. I just think, ‘How would I feel if this were my family?'”
In the past, it has not been uncommon for historic remains unearthed by construction projects to be reburied at the Rural Cemetery. When the Alms House burial ground just off New Scotland Avenue was excavated, the bodies removed from that site were interred in a section of the Church Grounds and the spot marked with a large granite monument.
At this point, I agree that the Church Ground would be a very appropriate resting place for these remains. It is close to their original burial place and there is precedent for such interments here. Another possible section, if there is sufficient space, would be the North Ridge lot purchased by one Ellen Jackson in the 19th-century for the burial of Albany’s black residents.
I will be following this story with interest and post updates as they become available.
Section: African Methodist Episcopal
Material: Brown sandstone
Misc.: A small, but thick stone, it is in very good shape for its age with some chipping around the edges and a small spots of lichen. It predates the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Dick does not appear in the massive list of graves inventoried by the Albany Common Council prior to the removal to the Rural Cemetery. However, that list is not complete. There are quite a few graves now in the Church Grounds that were not printed in the inventory, perhaps omitted by mistake as the stones were transcribed. He may have originally been buried in the previous municipal cemetery which stood just off Eagle Street south of the State Capitol. This cemetery received burials from around 1789 to 1799, the same year Dick died or he may have been buried in one of the small graveyards identified on period maps as “Negro Burying Grounds” There is also a possibility that he was buried in a family plot at the Dutch Reformed Church’s graveyard and was among the headstone found in later excavation, then placed in the vault of the Madison Avenue Reformed Church prior to being moved to the Church Grounds.
Inscription: DICK Slave of John F. Pruyn, Died Nov’r 15, 1799 aged 16 Yrs, 8 mos.
Nothing is known about this young man beyond the inscription on his gravestone. John F. Pruyn, a well-known skipper and merchant, was the owner of at least six slaves whom he began to gradually emancipate not long after Dick’s death. Exactly why Dick was provided with a headstone in an era when most slaves and even freed blacks were buried in unmarked and now lost graves is also unknown.