09 January 2018

Tombstone Tuesday : Slingerland Vault Update

In March of 2017, an article was posted on the Slingerland vault. That blog post can be found here. It appears that more people are interested in rehabbing the vault now; including a direct descendant of the Slingerlands. Last week the Times Union posted an article on these new developments with the desire for the vault restoration. Below is the Times Union article by Larry Rulison.

Saving the Slingerlands Vault
DNA kit kick start's direct descendants mission to rescue an abandoned treasure


On a small mound of earth behind the old Mangia restaurant in Slingerlands, hidden from view, sits a monument to local history, the Slingerland family burial vault.

Inside the 1852 structure are former congressman and famous anti-slavery champion John I. Slingerland and his brother William Henry, Slingerland's first postmaster, along with several of their family members, including their father, John A. Slingerland.

While the structure is one of the most important historical artifacts in Albany County, it has become so run-down it could be mistaken for a pile of rocks in a stand of trees, not the sacred final resting spot of two of the most important local civic leaders of the 19th century.

And no one may be feeling more angst these days over the condition of the vault than Sue Virgilio of Niskayuna. Virgilio, who visited the vault for the first time this past summer, is a direct descendant of John I. Slingerland and is part of a small movement to have the vault restored.

"It broke my heart to see the condition of the vault," Virgilio said. "And that's why I wanted to be involved."

Virgilio discovered just within the past year that John I. Slingerland is her great great great grandfather. She figured out the connection after her mom got her an AncestryDNA kit last Christmas and she began looking into her family's history on Ancestry.com.

Her mom's maiden name is Slingerland. But Virgilio and her mom never knew their exact connection to the Slingerland family after several male relatives, including Virgilio's grandfather, who was an only child, died young.

John I. Slingerland, in addition to serving in both Congress and the state Assembly and helping to ensure that the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad was built through the town of Bethlehem, was also a leading voice in the anti-slavery movement in the decades leading up to the Civil War. Slingerland supported an early version of the Homestead Act, the law that President Lincoln signed in 1862 granting federal land to small family farmers. Southern slave owners viewed the act as a threat to their existence. Slingerland also gave three-quarters of an acre of land in his will to a man believed to have been a family slave, and he supported the rights of farmers

Virgilio is now part of a committee trying to save the vault and raise money from the public for its repair. Others on the committee are Susan Leath, the town historian, Virgilio's mom, other Slingerland family descendants and neighbors who live near the vault, which isn't just a symbol of the Slingerland brothers, but also the rest of the Slingerland family and the community itself.

Virgilio met Bob Mullens, a Slingerland family member and carpenter from Feura Bush who grew up knowing he was part of the Slingerland family and joined the committee after taking a walking tour with Leath.

Mullens has also researched John I. Slingerlands extensively and worries his story and those of other important figures can easily be lost through time.

The Slingerland family traces its local roots back to a Dutch trader named Teunis Slingerland, who came to Albany around 1650 and later purchased 10,000 acres along Onesquethaw Creek in present-day New Scotland, Bethlehem and the town of Coeymans from the Mohawks.

Today, descendants like Mullens still make their home on the same land, and Virgilio spent her early years there, with some of her most cherished memories visiting her grandmother's mid-1700s farm house in Coeymans Hollow.

What would become the future hamlet of Slingerlands, however, was not part of that original Teunis Slingerland tract. John A. Slingerland, the father of the congressman John I. Slingerland, built a home around 1790 at what is now 1575 New Scotland Road on land leased from a Van Rensselaer patroon, the ancestral landowner who controlled much of the land in Albany County until the breakup of the manor in the mid-1800s.

John I. Slingerland died at that house on Oct. 26, 1861, just months after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln and the breakout of the Civil War, long after the last patroon died, setting off the anti-rent wars that led to the breakup of the patroon manor and more widespread land ownership.

In 2012, the Slingerlands Historic District, consisting of roughly 100 buildings, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The hamlet was originally named Normanskill before being renamed Slingerlands in 1870 in honor of the Slingerland family. The Slingerlands had spurred an era of growth and development, including bringing the Albany & Susquehanna railroad that connected it to the city of Albany in 1863.

Despite this rich history, the Slingerland burial vault has not been well preserved. For decades there has been worry over what to do with the burial plot, a 60-by-85-foot piece of land that is owned by the town of Bethlehem but is in desperate need of repair and landscaping.

Although the vault is accessible from the former Mangia parking lot by foot, it actually sits directly behind the property of Georgia Fishburn, whose home was built in 1890, nearly 40 years after the vault was erected.

When the vault was built, there was nothing blocking the view of the structure from the road, and there likely were no trees around it like today, making it an impressive monument that rose from the ground for all to see coming through Slingerlands. That's not the case now.

"Most of the residents of Bethlehem are sadly not aware of the Slingerland family vault," said Fishburn, who is a member of the group. "It is hard to see from the road especially during the summer months. I would like to see this vault restored and protected for our future generations."

Committee members also worry about the future of the Mangia site. In September 2016, the owner of the property showed town planners an informal proposal to build apartments and a bank on the former restaurant site. However, the project has yet to move forward and the Mangia building has since been filled with two new tenants, including a dance studio.

Noting that the soil above the burial vault is sinking, Leath said much restoration work would be needed at the site, although she declined to reveal the estimated cost. The hope is that private funding from the public will pay for the work.

"It's not too bad, but we'd like to get it restored, a nice fence around it and a historical marker, all those things," Leath said. "You know it costs money of course. There's such a large extended Slingerland family, and I'm not so much worried about the money, frankly. The town can only do so much. They have their limitations. So it will take the community coming together with donations, and it's going to be a long-term thing. And then there's just the long-term maintenance of the area as well."

07 January 2018

Greenbush Historical Society Meeting

Greenbush Historical Society Meeting

Join the Greenbush Historical Society to explore more local history at our next program on January 21st, at 2PM, at the East Greenbush Library. Jim Cochran will speak about the "Fabulous Cushing Boys." This program will examine the lives of four area brothers and their exploits before, during, and after the Civil war. One brother was relatively nondescript; one was much more brave and daring. (In fact, he earned a Medal of Honor after the Battle of Gettysburg.) The third brother led a virtual suicide mission with some men from Albany and Rensselaer to became the "American idol" of his day. Two of the brothers are buried locally - in the Albany Rural Cemetery and the Beverwyck in Rensselaer. Our presenter for this spellbinding story - Jim Cochran - is a retired literature teacher and part-time American Historian. Our meeting Jan. 21 will also be a great opportunity to purchase your 2018 North Greenbush Historical Calendar for only $10. (Currently available at the Wynantskill Town Clerk's office.) The program itself is free and open to all, but we do ask that you register with the Library by calling 518.477.7476. Light refreshments will be served.

31 December 2017

End of 2017

2017 is only hours away from ending. How did your genealogical pursuits fare? Did you get everything done that you set out to do? Did you break through that brick wall? These are some questions that many genealogists will sit back and think about.

My pursuits went well this past year. A big find for me was discovering a family branch that was included in a Palatine German genealogy. Now for 2018 I must check the work of the previous researcher for accuracy. We do not simply take the word of others. Sources are listed which will make it easier for me.

Another goal that I recently started and will continue into 2018 is to research my Albert line from Albany's South End. During this initial research I have been in contact with numerous distant cousins and plan to corroborate with them in this search. Unfortunately there are numerous sloppy genealogies out there with most of them missing the big picture. The goal here is to tie all of these South End Albert families together for an all encompassing tree.

Last year I made it to the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium in Springfield. That was an excellent experience for a first time conference. 2018 will bring me to two new conferences. The first, RootsTech in February and second, later in the year to the New York Family History Conference in Tarrytown.

2017 had me visiting numerous libraries and archives; as most of know that all of your genealogical research cannot be completed online. On site research will only increase this coming year. Back to the good old days of visiting old, dark, dusty vaults and shelves and viewing microfilms.

My thought when setting your goals for the upcoming year is not to set them too high. Actually set them relatively low as most resolutions fail within the first few weeks of the new year. The goal should be to set goals that are realistic and not outrageous and bound to fail.

30 December 2017

Saturday's Society : Unterstützungverein

Unterstützungvereine. Say that word three times fast! What does that mean? Unterstützungvereine were German benevolent aid societies that aided the poor and also recent immigrants. A brief history of these German benevolent groups follows.

A subdivision of Germans immigrants was the Kirchendeutschen, or church Germans.  Their common value was their strong commitment to religious principles.  They paid little attention to secular affairs occurring in their community.  The church was the center of their social lives.

Organizations created among Kirchendeutschen included numerous parish benevolent groups and the Germania Council, No. 110, of the Catholic Benevolent Legion, hereafter CBL, founded on May 6, 1885, with seventeen members. The CBL acted as a health insurance company. By 1897 membership numbered 162 individuals, and its treasury totaled $1128.82. Membership contributions depended upon the amount the individual was insured for- $500 to $5,000.[1] The group met monthly at Eintracht Halle, until the closing of the Halle. 

The Order of Saint Francis, or OSF, was a religious society that included many various lodges. Germans in Albany who evidently believed in left-liberal principles named a lodge after Robert Blum (1804-1848), a pacifist left-liberal radical member of the German Parliament in Frankfurt. Blum was also a journalist who advocated religious freedom for believers of German Catholicism, and democracy through the popular sovereignty of a republic. He supported mass education, freedom of the press, and the right of free assembly. Blum was executed as a revolutionary in 1848 for taking part in the revolution in Vienna. The only OSF lodge in Albany was the Robert Blum Lodge, No. 38, OSF. It was organized on March 29, 1868. By 1872 the lodge numbered thirty members.[2] As time passed, lodge membership increased; by 1897 its total membership included seventy-five individuals. Its treasury amounted to $3,763.30. Members paid quarterly dues of $1.30, which provided them with sick benefits of $4.00 per week and a death benefit for their spouse amounting to $130.[3] In 1876 the lodge met at the saloon of Martin Lehmann, located at 206 Washington Avenue. The Blum lodge dissolved around 1901. 

Other societies included the Erster Deutscher Protestanischer Verein, or the First German Protestant Society, which was organized on May 13, 1873, with one hundred twenty members. By 1897 the group consisted of fifty-nine members who paid quarterly dues amounting to $1.30. The treasury totaled $2,128.16, and the membership met monthly at 60 Alexander Street. Societal benefits paid $75 to the wife of a deceased member.[4] The Verein appeared in city directories between 1874 and 1882. The Federation of German Catholic Societies was another outlet for church Germans. The group met at 48 Phillip Street in 1919.

During the week of September 15, 1895, the Katholic Kirchendeutschen or German Catholic Churches celebrated with a glorious conference in Albany. It was estimated that upwards of five thousand visitors from all parts of the United States attended the fortieth convention of the German Roman Catholic Central Verein in Albany. Delegates representing fifty thousand members of German Catholic societies gathered “to assist in deliberations and to discuss and devise means by which all may be benefited, that the sick may be assisted and to work for the mutual benefit of all [German Catholic societies.]”[5] This objective was to be fulfilled by bringing the societies “together in body and spirit and thus further promote by this unity the objects for which they have been formed.”[6]

The most popular of all Deutsch Vereine were the Unterstützungvereine. The main purpose of these societies was the raising of money for the relief of the sick, the poor, and families of deceased members. Typically they were the largest societies in the German-American community. Usually members paid an initiation fee of $2.00 or $3.00 and a monthly payment of $.125 to $.25 a month. Members were given payments of $2-3.00 per week if they became sick and up to $15 towards their funeral. The Unterstützungverein functioned as a savings bank, and in time of need; it provided insurance money for its members.[7] Therefore it provided its members with cheap mutual assistance. Also if the deceased was a member of a fraternal organization whose insurance benefits were as simple as its ritual was elaborate, the procession might be modestly spectacular.[8] An example of a sizeable funeral can be read in the Times Union:

One of the largest funerals that has left the South End in some time was that of John Albert, which took place this morning from his late home on Second Avenue, and later from Our Lady Help of Christians church…His body was reposed in a solid oak casket, with gold extension bar handles, which was hidden from view by numerous floral tributes. Iron Molders’ union No. 8, of which he was a member attended…[9]

To aid workers who came ill and could no longer work the Workmen’s Compensation Group was established in 1884. Another society created to benefit sick workers was the Arbeiter Kranken und Sterbekasse, or Worker’s Sick and Burial Fund. The group was organized on July 26, 1894. Its membership was divided in different classes. First class members included thirty individuals who benefited from weekly sick payments of $9.00. Ten second class members were granted weekly sick imbursements of $6.00. The group also included three women. The burial fund amounted to a single $250 disbursement.[10]

In 1828 Albany’s first Unterstützungverein was organized- the Wohlthätigkeitverein or charity society. The group was also known as the German Benevolent Society. Its objective was to aid recent immigrants in providing for themselves. The Albany Daily Advertiser reported that at the annual meeting of the German Benevolent Society of the City of Albany held in the Lutheran Church on January 11, 1832, it was noted,

That from the 1st of January 1831, to the 31st of December ensuing, 628 families of German emigrants, consisting of 3413 souls, have arrived in this city, most of whom have passed on westward and northward, and to whom the agent [Daniel Pohlman] has in many instances rendered essential services.[11]

Other German benevolent societies included the Bethesdaverein. It was organized on August, 15, 1848. The group consisted of 180 members in 1872, but its numbers shrank to seventy-two members by 1897. Sick members were given a weekly payment of $4.00 per week. They met at Laventall’s Building, and its treasury amounted to $4,742.80 in 1897.[12] A Jünglings und Männer-Verein or Young Men’s and Men’s association was created on December 20, 1883. The Verein numbered eighteen members who paid quarterly dues of $1.00 and received sick payments of $3.00 per week. In 1897 the group’s meeting locale was 60 Alexander Street.[13] The Deutscher Wohlthätigkeitverein, or German charity society, was established in March 1889. In 1897 its 125 members met at Strempel Halle and paid quarterly dues of $1.00 for the benefit of weekly sick payments of $4.00 and a $50 death benefit. Its treasury amounted to $2134.[14] The Deutsche Hospital Gesellschaft, or the German Hospital Association, came into existence on February 28, 1895, after a group of Wohlthätigkeitvereine met and decided to form a German hospital association. On April 18, 1895, the German Hospital Association was founded. After one year membership included 144 members who paid yearly dues of $3.00 and twenty-seven Vereine that paid yearly dues of $10.[15]

The Orden der Hermannsoehne, or the Order of the Sons of Herman, hereafter OdHS, was organized in America circa 1869. The order was a benevolent society with the objective of aiding its members and their families in times of death, distress, or illness. It also fostered the continuance of the German language and customs. The order’s namesake was a Germanic folk hero who, according to embellished legend, defeated three Roman legions at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in A.D. 9. Germans in Albany quickly established two OdHS lodges- first the Wilhelm Tell Lodge, No. 25, OdHS in 1869. The lodge had twenty-five members in 1872, and the Germania Lodge, No. 100 OdHS was organized in 1874. [16] Both of these lodges appear to have dissolved around 1893.

The Order of Chosen Friends, or OCF, was a secret benevolent society. Its members united in bonds of fraternity, to aid and protect its members. The order was instituted on May 28, 1879. Albany gained its first OCF lodge on February 20, 1887, when the Stern Counsel Lodge, No 72 OCF was formed. The lodge totaled ninety-five members in 1897 but was short lived, dissolving soon afterwards.[17]

The Knights of Honor, or KOH, was another men’s benevolent society that was first organized in 1873 at Louisville, Kentucky. Albany gained a German KOH lodge on May 27, 1881 with the formation of the Beethoven Lodge, No. 2487. The lodge had thirty-six founding affiliates. By 1897 membership increased to sixty-three individuals that met at Besch’s. The state of Kentucky also chartered another fraternal benevolent society in 1878- the Knights and Ladies of Honor or K. & L. of H. The objective of the K. & L. of H. association promoted benevolence and charity to its members who were males and females over the age of eighteen, of any reputable profession or occupation, by establishing a death relief fund. Albany’s German K. & L. of H. lodges included the Victoria Lodge, No. 445, founded on September 19, 1881, with forty-seven members. The lodge grew to 176 members by 1897. The Central Lodge, No. 1441 was formed on August 24, 1889, with thirty-nine members. The lodge increased to eighty-five affiliates by 1897. The Homestead Lodge, No. 1828 was established on October 10, 1893. Fifty-nine members met at Liederkranz Halle.[18]

As mentioned earlier, most German women did not work outside the home; therefore, they aided themselves by establishing numerous benefit and charitable societies, such as the Erster Deutscher Frauen-Hilf Verein, or the First Women’s Aid Society. The Verein was created on February 11, 1864. By 1897 the society numbered sixty-two members who met at the school hall of the Protestant Evangelical Church. Dues of $.25 per month enabled payees to a sick benefit of $3.00 per week and a $50 death benefit.[19] 

On February 14, 1864, the Frauen Unterstützungverein No. 1 was established with seventeen members. Three years later the group changed its name to the Wohlthätigkeitverein. In 1897 the society totaled ninety affiliates and met at Liederkranz Halle. Its treasury amounted to $1,800. Members paid $.25 monthly dues for $3.00 weekly sick imbursements and a $50 death benefit.[20] 

On August 10, 1865, the Deutsche Frauenbund No. 2 der Stadt Albany, or German Women’s Federation Number 2 of the City of Albany, was organized. Towards the turn of the century, the group consisted of eighty women who met at Henry Besch’s and paid $.25 monthly dues for $3.00 weekly sick payments and a $50 death benefit. The group’s treasury amounted to $2,257.64 in 1897. 

The Bethesda Unterstützungverein was founded on May 1, 1874, with 134 members. By 1897 the Verein consisted of fifty-four members who paid quarterly dues of $1.25. Their assets totaled $2,793.92.[21] The Harmonia Frauen-Verein was established on September 1, 1878. By 1897 the society consisted of eighty affiliates that met at Liederkranz Halle. Members paid $.25 monthly dues that granted them a sick benefit of $3.00 per week and a $50 death payment. As of 1897 the Verein paid out $8,398.30 in expenditures, and its treasury totaled $2,531.38.[22] 

The Deutscher Frauen-Verein Eintracht, or the United German Women’s Society, was established on December 11, 1878. Ninety members paid dues amounting to $.25 per month for the imbursement of a $3.00 weekly sick benefit and a $50 death disbursement.[23] 

On October 23, 1879, the Albany City Frauen-Verein, or Albany City Women’s Society, was created. Seventy-seven members met at Besch’s, paid $.25 monthly dues and received a $3.00 weekly sick benefit and a $50 death payment.[24] 

The Germania Frauen-Verein No. 1 was founded, on November 20, 1887. One hundred members met at Strempel’s Halle. Their treasury totaled $1,750. Monthly dues of $.25 gained affiliates weekly sick payments of $3.00 and a $50 death benefit. The society felt it was becoming too large; accordingly on November 20, 1894, the Germania Frauen-Verein No. 2 was created. By 1897 the new Verein held eighty members that also met at Strempel’s Halle and received the same compensation as its older sister Verein.[25] Another women’s aid society was organized on September 26, 1895, as the Frauen Hilfs Verein, or Women’s Aid Society.[26]

[1] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, pp. 217-219.
[2] Ibid., p. 133.
[3] Ibid., p. 217.
[4] Ibid., p. 189.
[5] Times Union, September 16, 1895, 1:6.
[6] Ibid., September 14, 1895, 1:6.
[7] Dolan, The Immigrant Church: New York’s Irish and German Catholics, 1815-1865, p. 80. Nadel, Kleindeutschland: New York City’s Germans, 1845-1880, pp. 228-230.
[8] Mann, “The Furor Teutonicus: Upper Mississippi Abteilung,” The Yale Review 60(2): 316.
[9] Times Union, March 28, 1899, 5:5.
[10] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, pp. 190-191.
[11] Albany Daily Advertiser, January 18, 1832, December 12, 1828. Rowley, Albany: A Tale of Two Cities, 1820-1880, p. 131.
[12] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, pp. 69-71, 133.
[13] Ibid., p. 190.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid., pp. 185-187.
[16] Ibid., p. 133.
[17] Ibid., p. 219.
[18] Ibid., pp. 209-213.
[19] Ibid., pp. 197-199.
[20] Ibid., p. 199.
[21] Ibid., pp. 189-190.
[22] Ibid., p. 203.
[23] Ibid., p. 205.
[24] Ibid., pp. 203-205
[25] Ibid., pp. 205-207.
[26] Ibid., p. 187.