Tag Archives: washington park

The Chicago City Cemetery & Lincoln Park

Like Albany’s Washington Park, Chicago’s Lincoln Park was previously used as a large cemetery.  The site below is a fascinating look at a project exploring that history:

The Chicago City Cemetery & Lincoln Park

 

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Taking Up of The Dead

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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.

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From the Albany Express – September 8, 1868

1868b

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.

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The Cost of Removing A Burial Ground

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Above:  Crews at work laying out the new Washington Park ca. 1869.

When the Common Council authorized the removal of 4,000 graves from the State Street Burying Grounds in advance of its redevelopment as a park, it allocated $30,000 for the project.  However, this was not sufficient and an addition $15,000 was added.

A breakdown of expenses:

For removals from

United Presbyterian ground…… $638.03
Methodist Episcopal…… 818.75
First Presbyterian…… 2,103.95
Garretson Station M.E….. 983.20
Dutch Reformed…… 3,369.00
Friends…… 624.90
Universalist…… 1,119.90
Lutheran Ebenezer…… 1,534.35
Third Presbyterian…… 1,194.90
Baptist….. 998.85
Second Presbyterian….. 368.10
St. Mary’s…… 2,514.15
Potter’s Field…… 3,702.25
African Church (estimated)…… 3,814.00
Saint Peter’s (estimated)…… 2,500.00

To grounds in Rural Cemetery…… 4,000.00
To grounds in St. Agnes Cemetery…… 3,000.00
To boxes, large and small…… 8,947.00
To insurance, clerks, sextons, etc……. 2,795.97

The total cost of the project was $42,373.05 or a little over $11 per body.  It’s interesting to note that the most expense sections to remove was the African Church at an estimated $3,814 which hints that the number of burials there far exceeded the number of graves recorded in the Common Council inventory.  The inventory lists forty names, but as the list was compiled from headstones present in 1868, it is likely that many graves there were unmarked. By averaging the cost of the individual burials, it is possible to estimate that the Potters Field and African lots contained approximately 330 and 340 bodies respectively.

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The Grave-Digger of Other Days

Monuments in former State Street Burial Grounds

This story from the September 8, 1905 edition of the Albany Evening Journal provides a few details about the old State Street Burying Grounds, its gravedigger, and a crime thwarted by fire.  A few words of the scanned article are illegible and indicated byunderlined spaces.  Hopefully, an alternate copy will provide the missing words.

Old Jack The Grave-Digger of Other Days”

Man who Dug the Graves in Cemetery Where Washington Park is

Attempt To Rob Vault

Who remembers “Jack the Grave-digger?”

There are Jacks of other trades and callings, and Albany has had a good share of them in her day. But none were so well known as “Jack the Grave-digger.”

“Jack the Grave-digger” lived in the days of yore in a little frame dwelling on the northwest corner of State street and Sprague place, where today stands the mansion of Benjamin W. Arnold. He dug many graves in the old cemetery occupying what is now a portion of Washington park. The Presbyterians purchased “Jack the Grave-digger’s house and grounds for site of Sprague chapel and, as there was no more graves for him to dig in the old cemetery, which had been transformed into park grounds, he betook himself to other parts.

Dominies Buried There

The old burying ground was made such in 1800 and it was used for a half a century. Its boundaries extended along State street on the north, along where Englewood place is on the west, Hamilton street or Hudson avenue on the south and on the east along a line about 50 yards west of and parallel to Northern Boulevard. In the mound included in what is called the children’s playground some of the dominies of the Dutch Reformed churches were said to have been buried.

There were numerous receiving vaults in the old cemetery, most of which extended almost in a line opposite Sprague place. Many of them were private vaults, owned by rich Albanians.

James H. Kelly, a former city detective, tells of an adventure which he had some years ago in the old cemetery. There was a report common among the citizens of Albany that a certain wealthy person had been buried in one of the vaults with a fortune in jewelry, etc. upon the body.

Mr. Kelly got wind one day of a plan to break into the vault under consideration and rob the corpse of his valuables. He reported the matter to his superiors and received permission to attempt the capture of the would-be vandals alone. He said he preferred going along on such a case.

Attempt to Rob Vault

Mr. Kelly had gotten the tip straight, and he knew the night on which the attempt to break into the vault would be made. Accordingly, he made preparations to be on hand to receive the grave robbers. On the appointed night, Mr. Kelly concealed himself in the bushes whence he could command a view of the vault. He carried a stout iron bar. It was his intention to slip the bar through the handles of the doors of the vault when his quest had entered and then he would have them in a trap of his own choosing and he would be able to keep them there until he could obtain help to lodge them in the station house.

The detective waited through the stilly night in his place of concealment and his presence was finally rewarded by the sight of approaching object through the gloom which proved to be men. They advanced cautiously to the door of the vault, and while one kept watch the other set himself to work at the lock.  ___ ___ ___ to carry out their ___ ___

Sky Illuminated

Suddenly the sky was ___ the sound of an alarm of the ___ ___ upon the stillness of the night. The vandals were startled out of there work and they stood gazing at the sky. Mr. Kelly was likewise excited by the sudden light and the noise of the thunder. Every instant the sky grew ___ and it was evident that a great fire was raging in the ___ far away. Soon he could see the flames leaping above the tops of the trees. The area in the vicinity of the vault was almost as bright as day. Shouts could be heard in the distance and the citizens were fast awakening.

The vandals gathered their tools together as quickly as they could and disappeared. Mr. Kelly made no attempt to apprehend them as he was sure that he would be able to catch them the next day at a “job” they had scheduled.”

The fire which had so suddenly interrupted the game of the vandals and likewise the detective destroyed a large oilcloth factory in the West End.

___

See also:  The Albany Vault Company

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Not The Right Stones

From one of the companion blogs, a post about two Church Grounds stones and a mistake on an interpretive sign in Washington Park.

Not The Right Stones

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Albany’s Dutch Stones – John Wolcott

This article originally appeared in the short-lived Washington Park Spirit on July 29, 1971. ALBANY’S DUTCH STONES by John Wolcott Albany has one of the most interesting and unique histories of any community of Colonial foundation, in America.  But in terms of physical vestiges of its early heritage, the City has virtually nothing to show.  The following is a quotation from a Hudson River Guide published in 1867: “the ambition of the people of Albany seems to be to get rid of, as far as possible, of everything that can make their town venerable or betray its connection with the past.” This statement still holds true today.  The list of historic monuments destroyed down to this year, even after the establishment of the Tulip Festival, the Mayor’s Historic Sites Commission and the associated publicity given to local history, is too long to be mentioned. One type of historical monument that has escaped our insensitive materialism is found in the old tombstones of early Albany.  One must go outside the City to see these interesting, sepulchral monuments, but not far out.  The form that “progress” took here, unlike in other cities, died not even let the dead rest. Continue reading

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