The Genesis Of Albany’s Rural Cemetery

Albany, New York was first settled as a trading post in 1614. The fur trade brought in a population that settled around Fort Orange and founded a village called Beverwijck. The English took over and renamed the city Albany in 1664, in honor of the then Duke of Albany, the future James II of England and James VII of Scotland. It is one of the oldest surviving settlements from the original thirteen colonies, and the longest continuously chartered city in the United States. It was officially chartered as a city in 1686 and became the capital of New York in 1797.

The earliest burials in Albany, New York were at the church ground of the Dutch Church, Albany’s first church. The church was located in the middle of the street at the intersection of what is today State and Broadway. Some notable personages were interred inside or under the church. The first cemetery may have been behind the church near what is now the D&H Plaza or SUNY Plaza. First interments here occurred between 1656 and 1676. Prior to that time,burials occurred on private property at family burial grounds.

As other churches were founded in Albany, many of them started their own burial ground. The Dutch Church started a second cemetery on Beaver Street in 1676, as their first one was reaching capacity.

By the 1780’s church cemeteries were nearly full and the city created a municipal cemetery at State and Eagle Streets. By 1801, the city opened a new cemetery just off State Street (State Street Burial Ground) at the eastern end of what is now Washington Park.

Most churches were given their own sections of the municipal cemetery and many of the interments from previous church grounds and the city cemetery at State and Eagle were moved here. Since most early interments were in pine boxes that had disintegrated, bodies had decomposed,many headstones were broken or missing and burial records were imprecise, it was hard to maintain accurate records. Suffice it to say, that it was the intention, which was carried out as best as possible, to move each of those interred to the new location.

In 1841, in response to a growing problem with flooding at the State Street Burial Ground, and continued deterioration of church cemeteries, a public movement was undertaken to purchase and develop a “Rural Cemetery,” beautifully landscaped and safely outside the city. This led to the incorporation of Albany Rural Cemetery on April 2, 1841.

On October 7, 1844, a dedication celebration was held with the Governor as
an honored guest. The celebration began in downtown Albany and thousands of
marchers proceeded out to the cemetery led by the Albany Republican
Artillery, the Van Rensselaer Guards and the Albany Burgesses Corps. All
churches, fraternal and civic groups in the city participated. Thousands
gathered at the Cemetery’s Consecration Lake to participate in the dedication.

For the next 40 years, families moved ancestors to new family plots at Albany Rural Cemetery.

In 1866, the Albany Common Council passed a resolution authorizing the
disinterment and transferal of all remains still located in the State Street Burial Grounds and Albany church cemeteries to the new site. A section at Albany Rural called the “Church Ground” was set aside and marked out by church to receive these remaining interments.

In 2002, due to the development of Sage Colleges, the burial ground of the
Albany Poor House was moved to this same section of Albany Rural Cemetery. The burial ground for the Albany Poor House may also have included interments from the Albany Orphanage, Albany Jail, unclaimed deceased from Albany Hospital and unclaimed bodies recovered from the city and Hudson River.

Chester A. Arthur,  the 21st President of the United States, is buried here.

Albany Rural Cemetery

Here is a slideshow of Albany Rural Cemetery:

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