31 October 2015

General Respect & Patriotism in Albany circa 1918

This blog post is not meant to be soap-box oration. However with the way our culture and society has changed and disrespect appearing to become the norm and many issues becoming overblown with the need for politically correctness. I dug out a scrapbook that I created from photocopies of old newspaper articles from Albany newspapers when I was writing my Masters Thesis.

It is pure shame that an individual/s would desecrate a mausoleum in Albany Rural Cemetery this past summer and just recently the Vietnam Memorial in LaFayette Park was defaced by graffiti. Fortunately both memorials were cleaned and restored. Last year the Tri-County Council of Vietnam Era Veterans raised $250,000 to refurbish the 23-year-old memorial and added new features including benches and a 30-foot lighted flagpole.

During my thesis research numerous articles were copied and saved which detail the American fervor for patriotism after American entry into World War I in April 1917. The Capital District was no different than other American cities. A patriotic wave swept the Nation where all things German became hated. Germany was now our enemy and the "Hun" had to be defeated. This fervor also morphed an over excited American population where any citizen could bring charges of not being patriotic against anyone.

An example of this below comes from the Albany Evening Journal dated 17 April 1918;

If you ever, on the street, or in a trolley car, should hear some soft-shell pacifist or hard-boiled but poorly camouflaged pro-German, make seditious or unpatriotic remarks about your Uncle Sam you have the right and privilege of taking that person by the collar, hand him over to the nearest policeman or else take him yourself before the magistrate.

You do not require any official authority to do this and the only badge needed is your patriotic fervor. The same thing applies to women. Every American under provisions of the code of civil procedure, has the authority to arrest any person making a remark or utterance which "outrages public decency."

Attorney general Lewis wrote an opinion to this effect today, after F.J. McCarthy of Silver Creek, arrested a man he heard make a seditious remark promptly took him before a justice of the peace and had him imprisoned for three months, all inside of three hours. ...McCarthy was standing in the lobby of a hotel when he overheard the remark which was to the effect that "it is a shame to send our young men across to Europe to be slaughtered."

One week earlier on 8 August 1918 the Albany Evening Journal reported;

Benjamin F. and Earle Bullis, brothers, 22 and 20 respectively, who were arrested in Proctor's Fourth street theater, Troy, last night, for failing to rise when "The Star Spangled Banner" was played were summarily discharged from the Watervliet arsenal, at which they were employed, face a charge of disrespect to the flag for which they were arraigned before United States Commissioner Sipperly and committed to jail without bail to await a hearing later, and will be arraigned in Police Court tomorrow on the charge of disorderly conduct.

Colonel Monroe commandant at the arsenal, issued a statement today giving notice that he had discharged the men and would deal similarly with any like case in the future. The brothers are from Amsterdam and were given a deferred classification for being arsenal workers.

The next day the Bullis brothers' fate was reported again in the Albany Evening Journal newspaper dated, 9 August 1918; 

A mother's tears nor the eloquent plea for leniency by a prominent lawyer from Amsterdam failed to prevent Judge Byron in Troy Police Court today, passing sentence on B. Fay Bullis and Earle Bullis, brothers, of Amsterdam, for being the cause of the disturbance in Proctor's Fourth street theater in Troy Wednesday night, when they refused to stand while "The Star Spangled Banner" was being played. The court sentenced each to the county jail for six months, and there is also a charge under the espionage act pending against them before United States Commissioner Slipperly, besides which they have been discharged from their lucrative positions at the Watervliet arsenal and recommended for immediate induction into the army.

Yes, times have changed greatly. This should be food for thought for the disrespectful and for them to be grateful that times have changed.

New Mount Ida Cemetery Veterans' Monument Restoration

In September, a restoration project was undertaken at New Mount Ida cemetery in Troy. The focus of the project was to restore the grave sites of Civil War veterans who are buried in the cemetery. This venture was undertaken in the name and memory of Ed Dodge. Ed was a fellow cemetery enthusiast who passed away recently. Mr. Dodge was implemental in getting grave stone replacements for missing and damaged grave markers for veterans at the old Lansingburgh burial grounds. Ed researched, found, and photographed old abandoned Rensselaer county cemeteries. He posted his findings and photos on Find a Grave. Joe Ferrannini from Grave Stone Matters was secured and lent his expertise at preserving and conserving gravestones. 

Upwards of 24 stones were marked for restoration. Volunteers that helped in this venture included members of the Boy Scouts, members of the Sons of Union Civil War Veterans organization, and other interested parties. I brought two unwilling participants, my daughters, to help. It was thought that it would be a good lesson in sacrifice. The day was beautiful and why not have the girls give up some hours to help restore the grave sites of others who sacrificed so much more than a few hours. Grave stones of fallen Civil War soldiers not much older than my girls were found including one for a young man who died at the Battle of Gettysburg. I can only hope the girls learned a lesson about true sacrifice.

The three photos below were taken during the restoration. Notice the condition and how unlevel the stones are aside from also being broken.

The photo below is of another stone that was re-purposed for another reason. Perhaps something was incorrect with the stone or carving. Instead of discarding the stone, it was used as a base and placed under the stone and buried. Notice how clear the carving is. It almost looks brand new. The newly found stone was reburied under the tombstones after the ground was leveled.

Taken a few days later, the photo below of the semi-complete stone restoration. The stones were cleaned, re-leveled, and epoxied. The large stone needs re-mortaring where it was broken.

Forest Park Cemetery Tour

After a short hiatus from any blog posts, due to unexpected things that life holds in store for us. I am now playing catch-up on writing about events and other topics that I planned on delving into.

Forest Park receiving tomb
Last Saturday afternoon was the yearly Forest Park cemetery tour. It was led by Brunswick town historian Sharon Zankel . She mentioned that after ten years of hosting this event that this afternoon's tour might be the final tour. Although the day was a little chilly, there were over 50 attendees, including myself. This year was my first tour of the cemetery. Sharon began the tour with a welcome and an informative talk about the history of the cemetery and stated that this year's tour was dedicated and in memory of Edmund Dodge. Ed was a fellow cemetery enthusiast who researched, found, and photographed old abandoned Rensselaer county cemeteries. Mr. Dodge passed away while doing what he enjoyed most; discovering a long forgotten cemetery. Another project a couple of weeks earlier at the New Mount Ida Cemetery was also completed in Ed Dodge's name. That project will be the focus of my next blog entry.

Sharon discussed how the cemetery was created in the late 1890s by a group of wealthy Troy business men. The cemetery began with 220 acres and was designed by RPI graduated Garnet Baltimore. The goal of the cemetery was to imitate the "rural cemetery" movement from decades earlier. 

Enlarged map of cemetery layout

The cemetery financially fell on hard times filing for bankruptcy numerous times. The cemetery board also agreed to sell 200 acres of its undeveloped land to the Troy Country Club to help stay solvent. Ornately created shares of stock in Forest Park were also sold. An example of a stock certificate is below.

Stock certificate for Forest Park

As the tour began we walked to the famous headless statue at the Hollister lot where the head of the angel is missing. Horror stories about bleeding tombstones surround this moment. Vandals damaged the momument years ago as they have ruined other momuments in the cemetery also.

Headless Hollister momument

As we circled through the cemetery stopping at various lots; the tour ended at the formerly ornate receiving tomb which is now in ruins. The building was errected at a cost of $90,000 if I remember correctly. After the cemetery fell into disrepair and became overgrown and the receiving tomb vandalized; the building, which originally had a copper dome roof which was removed and scrapped by theives. The tour concluded with the rise of urban legends and ghost stories about the cemetery which was interesting. Below are photos of the ruins today.