An article published on my personal site recently takes a look at the locations of the early Dutch Reformed burial places of Albany from the 17th-century to the removal of graves to the Church Grounds at the Rural Cemetery. Included is the rarely mentioned first burial ground on the north side of Fort Orange.
Tag Archives: state street burying grounds
On September 15, 1869, the Albany Morning Express reported quite briefly that “Six hundred and eighteen bodies have been interred in the Albany Rural Cemetery from the 1st of April to the 13th of September, 1869.”
While the news brief does not specify, this may refer to bodies being removed from the State Street Burying Grounds to the Church Grounds lot. Certainly, it would represent a good percentage of the remains to be transferred and these reported burials occur at a time when such exhumations and reburials would have very likely been underway as the Burying Grounds had closed and work had yet to begin on landscaping Washington Park.
The clipping above from the Albany Argus in 1813 is a Report of Interments made during a typhus epidemic. The burials were made in the various church-owned sections of the State Street Burying Grounds, as well as the Potters Field. The causes of death include Consumption, Typhis, Old age, Pleuresy, and unspecified diseases.
Among those who passed away during the reporting period was Colonel Henry Quackenbush.
From the June 27, 1868 edition of the Albany Express, an advertisement from John W. Brasure offering his services for the removal of remains from the State Street Burying Ground for those families who wished to arrange for the transfer of their loved ones graves before the mass removal as the land was cleared for Washington Park.
Taking Up of the Dead from the Burial Ground on the Hill. John. W. Brasure, Undertaker, and Manufacturer of Coffins and Caskets, No. 104 Madison Avenue, one door east of Pearl street, would respectfully announce to the public that he is prepared to disinter the Dead on the Hill, in the old Burial Grounds, and convey them to any place of burial desired, on the most reasonable terms.
The following activities of the Common Council regarding the removal of the State Street Burying Grounds were reported in the September 8, 1868 edition of the Albany Morning Express.
The Special Committee to whom was referred the matter of removing and reinterring the bodies from the burial grounds west of the Parade Grounds, reported that they had purchased from the Trustees of the Albany Rural Cemetery two acres of ground for which they have agreed to pay the sum of $5,000. The Trustees of the St. Agnes Cemetery have yet failed to make any communication in regard to the matter. The Committee believe that the number of the bodies to be removed will be 11,000 to 14,000 and they have ordered 8,000 boxes in which to deposit the remains to be removed. The price of each box is $1. The contract for the removal of the bodies was awarded to W.A. Phillips, and he immediately proceeded to the discharge of his duty.
Though not quite accurate in scale, features, or general layout, the State Street Burying Grounds were still enough of a prominent landmark to warrant inclusion on an 1868 map illustrating proposed expansions to the Albany City Water Works.
Within a year, the Burying Grounds ceased to exist as the graves were removed to the Rural Cemetery and the land cleared for Washington Park.
The full map can be viewed here.
Source: New York State Archives. New York (State). State Engineer and Surveyor. Survey maps of lands in New York State, ca. 1711-1913. Series A0273-78, Map #505.
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.