28 September 2014

Gravestone Cleaning Video

Earlier this afternoon, my wife and I were at Albany Rural Cemetery and we created a short video on how to clean a gravestone. We went to a relative's lot and chose a stone within it and I began to clean the stone and also described why and how to clean it while Michele filmed the demo. The video will be at the end of this blog entry.

I must mention that I am not a professional gravestone conservator; simply a genealogist and descendant from my ancestors who is caring for his ancestors and relatives gravesites as best as he can. I have cleaned numerous gravestones of my relatives and have uprighted and leveled half-dozen others.

I admit that some stones have cleaned up better than others. But whether one gravestone comes out better than the next; they all are in much better condition that before I started.

A picture of the gravestone pre-cleaning is below.

A picture of the gravestone post-cleaning is below.

In two weeks, I will come back to this plot to check whether the gravestone has brightened. The lichens that were growing on the stone were removed and the stone is obviously cleaner than before. Time will tell how it comes out.

Below are two photos where the outcome was great with only one cleaning application.

The original video was shot in HD and was crystal clear but unfortunately the video had to be compressed in order to be uploaded on this blog.  Video quality and clarity were lost.

26 September 2014

Murder at Cherry Hill

Another annal October tour at one of Albany's historic gems will be held in a few weeks at Cherry Hill located at 523 1/2 South Pearl Street on the outskirts of the South End. A description from Cherry Hill's web page states:

On May 7, 1827, a notorious murder occurred at Cherry Hill that resulted in two sensational trials and Albany’s last public hanging. Come relive that night! Meet the historical players, walk in the footsteps of a murderer, and revel in harrowing titillation during this annual event!

$18/$12 for members

Friday, October 24 at 4:00, 5:30, and 7:00 pm

Saturday, October 25 at 4:00, 5:30 and 7:00 pm

Pre-registration and payment are required to guarantee your spot. Contact Education Director Becky Watrous at (518) 434-4791; becky@historiccherryhill.org

Historic Cherry Hill is open for tours April through December. Closed Christmas Eve through March.

Adults: $5
College Students and Seniors: $4
Children: $2

Historic Cherry Hill is located at 523 1⁄2 South Pearl Street in Albany, just off Exit 2 of Interstate 787. From the North, take Exit 2. At the light, turn left, and look for Historic Cherry Hill immediately on your right. From the South, take exit 2, and follow the ramp straight to the end. At the light turn left. Under the overpass, take anther left onto Route 32 South. Bear right onto 787's exit ramp. At the light, turn left, and look for Historic Cherry Hill immediately on your right.

24 September 2014

Capitol Hauntings Tours at the Capitol

With the Fall upon us now the annual Capitol Hauntings Halloween Tours at the New York State Capitol will be beginning soon. These tours highlight ghost stories and reported ghostly sightings connected to the New York State Capitol.

All tours are FREE.
Tours begin on the first floor of the Capitol at the Senate Staircase.
Register online HERE

Schedule of Tours

Monday, October 6: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 7: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 8: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 9: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Friday, October 10: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Monday, October 13: Columbus Day—No Tours

Tuesday, October 14: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 15: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 16: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Friday, October 17: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Monday, October 20: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 21: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 22: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 23: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Friday, October 24: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Monday, October 27: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 28: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 29: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 30: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

Friday, October 31: 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m.

16 September 2014

Half Moon at the Corning Preserve

Something fun that I found on the net:

On Friday, September 19th, come down to the Hudson Riverfront at the Corning Preserve at noon to witness the arrival of the replica of Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon! This annual tradition is not only a great way to celebrate history, but it’s also an educational opportunity for students from the Netherlands and the local area to live aboard the ship and take part in educational activities that are not unlike the days of Henry Hudson and his Dutch crew.

Half Moon

11 September 2014

Historical Talk at the East Greenbush Community Library

Life Speeds Up: Robert Fulton and and Changing New York
Sunday, October 5 at 2:00 PM

NYS Archives retired career public historian Robert W. Arnold III will explore the legacy of Robert Fulton, the creator of the first commericially successful steamboat.  His achievement helped catalyze the expansion of steam power into the energy source of the Industrial Revolution.  He devised canal locks that were eventually used in Britain, designed the workable submarine, and more.  Registration began September 7.

Programs at the East Greenbush Library are free; however registration is required.
The Library is located at
10 Community Way
East Greenbush, NY 12061

08 September 2014

Albany Rural Cemetery incident

Yesterday Sunday afternoon I was enjoying the beautiful weather and took a ride to Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands to finish photographing and cleaning my ancestor's graves. The day was perfect.  Not too hot nor too cold.  The cemetery had numerous visitors.  Some families, couples, walkers, and bicyclists all over the place.

Unfortunately sometime shortly after I left the cemetery, a 911 call was placed to the historic cemetery.  A tombstone tipped over onto a four year old child critically injuring him.  The child was just behind the rest of the family when the accident occurred.  Very few details have emerged yet aside from the parents hearing a noise behind them and turning and finding the stone on top of their child.

This is a very unfortunate accident.  I always stress to my girls that when we are in a cemetery never ever climb on the stones for fear of this happening to them.  I am not stating that the child was climbing on the stone; since I was not there.  But it is very easy for a stone to topple over if someone attempted to climb one.  Over time the ground around the tombstone can sink causing the stone to become un-level.  After a stone starts leaning the forces of gravity will continue to pull on it where any adhesive or pinning of a top stone to a lower stone can become weakened.  With just a little force it could go over.

Parents please keep a watchful eye out for your kids in cemeteries.  My girls are teens and I still warn them everytime they are with me.  No one wants an accident like this to occur.

Below is a story from Channel 10 News:

Boy injured from falling tombstone at Albany Rural Cemetery

Posted: Sep 08, 2014 7:11 AM EDT Updated: Sep 08, 2014 07:50 AM
By Lindsay Nielsen

COLONIE, N.Y. - A young child has been treated at the hospital for serious injuries after a tombstone fell on him Sunday.

Colonie Police say the a four-year-old boy was taken to Albany Medical Center after suffering a serious head injury after a tombstone fell on him at Albany Rural Cemetery.

"The child was approximately ten feet behind the parents and one of the grandparents when this occurred they did hear a noise which we believe was the tombstone falling over," said Colonie Police Lt. Robert Winn.

According to Winn, the family rushed over and found the four-year-old boy underneath the tombstone around 4:30 p.m. Family members quickly removed the boy and called 911 for help.

Officials say it was difficult to locate the child due to the vast size of the cemetery. It took police about 12 minutes to locate the boy with the help of 911 operators and the family. Authorities say the caller was giving names on nearby tombstones to try and help officers locate the family.

"The child had sustained obvious head injuries that was observed at the scene [he] was unconscious but still breathing, [he was] transported to Albany Medical Center [and] was in surgery when our officers left the hospital. The family is with him," said Lt. Winn.

Authorities are unsure why the tombstone fell over.

"It was an older tombstone and an older section of the cemetery. We do not know at this time what led to that tombstone falling," continued Lt. Winn

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the incident, although they say it seems to have been just a tragic accident.

For the news video see:

06 September 2014

Historical Talk at the East Greenbush Community Library

On Sunday, September 14th at 2:00 PM, P. Thomas Carroll, Executive Director of the Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway will give a historical talk presented by the Greenbush Historical Society on A 19th Century Silicon Valley- the Hudson Mohawk Region.

An announcement reads, "join Carroll for a fascinating program on the Hudson Mohawk region.  As the place where two majestic rivers meet, this area has been blessed by nature and enhanced by engineering genius with generous water resources.  The water-powered mills enabled the region to grow into a major manufacturing and industrial center."

Programs at the East Greenbush Library are free; however registration is required.
The Library is located at
10 Community Way
East Greenbush, NY 12061

01 September 2014

Gibbonsville Burying Grounds

The Gibbonsville or Arsenal Burying Grounds were originally located on property now owned by the Watervliet Arsenal.  From viewing old maps of West Troy, I believe that this cemetery was located just north of the present day Valente's Restaurant which is just south of the Arsenal, today.

An early settler of that area, James Gibbons, sold a parcel of land to the United States government for the creation of the Arsenal in 1813; to support the fight against the British during the War of 1812. As time passed the Arsenal grew in size and as they needed more land the Arsenal acquired the land on which the "old burying grounds" were located.

The grave stones and bodies were removed and re-buried in section 100 of the Albany Rural Cemetery. Approximately 300 bodies were re-interned around 1918.  The majority of the stones were laid flat on the ground with only a handful being re-installed upright.  Over the years the ground has reclaimed just about all of the stones that were laid flat.  They have sunk into the ground and have been covered with dirt, grass, and leaves over the years.

About twenty years ago my wife and I took it upon ourselves to locate the grave site of one of my ancestors, Samuel Hitchcock, who was originally buried in the Arsenal Burying Grounds.  All of the stones were buried over with grass but with using a plot map from the cemetery we were able to pull the sod up and locate the grave stones.
Site of Samuel & Mary Hitchcock's gravestones

I recently went back to Albany Rural Cemetery with a plan to reclaim my ancestor's grave stone.  After twenty years, the ground again had covered the grave stones.  Twenty years ago is quite a while and my memory did not let me recall how deep the grave stones had actually sunk into the earth.  The lower part of them were at least six to seven inches deep.
Initial excavation of grave stones

It would be unsafe for the stones and for anyone walking over them in the condition that were.  Unlevel and with a huge divot missing from the ground.  Therefore I decided to completely remove the stones and place the earth which was on top of them underneath them.  I also brought out some leveling sand to make sure that the were level. The stones were placed back into the ground so that they were about 3/4" of an inch below the grade level.
Cleaned, raised, and leveled grave stones

As time passes, they will again be covered over with dirt but not to the extent that they were previously. The stones were cleaned with D/2 cleaning solution and rinsed with water.  The stones look almost brand new considering they are from the late 1820s & early 1830s.
Samuel & Mary Hitchcock
On an ending note, in between the time that I did the initial excavation of the stones and re-laid them, which was 3 days.  Someone came with the same intentions that I had regarding uncovering a stone.  The only difference was they left clumps of sod all over the place.  It looked terrible and I am sure that the cemetery would not be appreciative of their efforts.  I removed and disposed the sod that was left.  Anyone who attempts a project such as this, please make sure that the grounds are in the same condition as before you started.