In October, 1846, certain citizens perceiving
the public need of an eligibly situated and extensive
burial-ground, subscribed to an agreement to advance severally
seven hundred and fifty dollars to purchase and lay out
the land approved by the majority as suitable for a cemetery,
and to loan the money until a sufficient number of burial
lots were sold to liquidate the indebtedness of the association
formed by them. In attempting to accomplish the undertaking,
they found it impracticable as they had planned it.
They then determined to form an association
under the general act passed by the Legislature authorizing
the incorporation of rural cemeteries. On September 9th,
1848, a meeting was held at the office of Isaac McConihe,
where the Troy Cemetery Association was formed by the
election of John Paine, D. Thomas Vail, Isaac McConihe,
George M. Tibbits, Stephen E. Warren, and John B. Gale
as its trustees. A committee was appointed to select a
site for the cemetery, which, having viewed some of the
most eligible grounds of easy access, reported in favor
of the purchase of a tract of land, commanding extensive
prospects of the surrounding country, situated near the
north-eastern limits of the city.
On September 5th, 1889,
the trustees purchased about one hundred and fifty acres
of land there, which were in part laid out into burial lots,
walks, and roads, by J. C. Sidney, an experienced landscape
engineer. On October 16th, 1850, the officers of the association,
the members of the Common Council, the ministers of the
churches, and a large body of citizens, preceded by the
Watervliet Arsenal Band, and escorted by the military companies
of the city, commanded by Captains Brintnall, Jones, and
Dexter, marched in procession from the court-house to the
grounds, under the direction of Colonel A. H. Pierce, chief
On reaching them, the large concourse
of people surrounded the temporary platform erected for
the services of the occasion, which began with a prayer
by the Rev. Nathan S. S. Beman, D. D.,. L. L. D. of the
First Presbyterian Church. A selection of scripture was
then read by the Rev. Robert B. Van Kleeck, of St. Paul's
Episcopal Church, which was followed by the singing of
a dedication hymn, composed for the occasion by the Rev.
John Pierpont, of the First Unitarian Church. An address
was then delivered by the Hon. David Buel, jr., who, in
closing it, declared the grounds consecrated under the
name of Oakwood Cemetery and the authority of the officers
of the association. The exercises were ended by a benediction
pronounced by the Rev. George. C. Baldwin, D. D., of the
First Particular Baptist Church.
In 1884-1885, the finely-built keeper's
lodge, at the western entrance to the grounds, on Cemetery
Avenue, was erected. The massive granite pillars of the
iron gates, - the attractive bronze bust of the Hon. John
Paine, deceased, the first president of the association,
- the pretty distribution of ornamental shrubs and choice
trees,- and the rise of the broad avenue from the verdant
sweep of the lateral lawns are delightfully associated
to greet the eyes of those entering the cemetery on the
The most conspicuous of the numerous monuments
adorning the beautiful necropolis is the stately monolith
seventy-five feet in height, marking the grave of the
distinguished soldier, Major-General John Ellis Wool,
who died in Troy, on November 10th, 1869. The finely-sculptured
sarcophagus, the tomb of the valiant officer, Major-General
George H. Thomas, "the Rock of Chickamauga,"
is seen in another part of the extensive grounds.
The beautiful Romanesque architecture
of the Gardmer Earl Memorial Chapel is exceedingly imposing.
The richness of the colors and tints of the ornate windows
of the chapel, its choice marbles and elaborate sculpture,
the artistic configuration of the mosaic floor, and the
harmonious designs of the foliated arches in other parts
of the handsome building give an enduring expression of
the love of the bereaved parents, William S. and Hannah
M. Earl, for their only son, Gardner, who died on March
3d, 1887, to whose memory they reared the costly structure.
It is one of the few mortuary shrines in the United States
that ennoble the fame of their architects.
The erection of the building
was begun on April 12th, 1888, under the superintendence
of Fuller & Wheeler, architects, and with its various
appointments, completed in November, 1889. Built on a rise
of ground three hundred feet above the level of the Hudson
River, which it overlooks, it affords a charming and wide-sweeping
prospect of the valley and the high land bordering it on
the east and west. The tower at the south end of the building
is ninety feet high. The loggias connecting it with the
chapel is twenty-six by forty feet, and the chancel sixteen
by twenty-six feet. The length of the building is one hundred
and-six feet, with a width of seventy feet , at the north
end. The crematory, on the west side of the chapel, is provided
with incinerating apparatus of the most approved construction.
Within the secluded precincts of Oakwood
Cemetery are the graves of many of the early inhabitants
of Troy. Among them is the tomb of the "the Patroon
of Troy," Jacob D. Van der Heyden, "who departed
this life, Sept. 4th, 1809, aged 50 years, 10 months,
and 12 days;" also that of Matthias Van der Heyden,
who "died August 17th, 1825, aged 65 years;"
that of Samuel Gale, M. D., born March 3, 1743, died January
9, 1799;" that of Benjamin Covell, who "died
December 24th, 1840, aged 85 years and 4 months;"
that of the Rev. Jonas Coe, D. D., who "died July
21, 1822, in the 64th year of his age," and that
of Emma Willard, who died at Troy, on April 15th, 1870.
The first president of the Troy Cemetery
Association, John Paine, performed the duties of the office
from September 9th, 1848 until his death, on February
7th, 1852. William F. Page, who succeeded him in 1852,
held the office until his decease, on October 22d, 1870.
The present president of the association, A. R. Smith,
was elected on November 1st, 1870. By his unrelaxing efforts
and supervision Oakwood Cemetery has been made one of
the most beautiful burial-places in the country. The superintendent
of the grounds, John Boetcher, whose effective landscape-work
has so charmingly changed the original features of the
cemetery, took charge of the grounds on May 1st, 1871.