Rensselaer County Farm (Almshouse) Cemetery records

Christopher Philippo filed this request with the Rensselaer County Clerk of Rensselaer County, NY.
Tracking # 2014-125
Status
Completed

Communications

From: Christopher Philippo

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the New York State Freedom of Information Law (1977 N.Y. Laws ch. 933), I hereby request the following records:

Records pertaining to the Rensselaer County Farm Cemetery, which might include but not be limited to: cemetery map(s), list(s) of interments, cemetery markers, reinterments (if any), property ownership and management, photographs, aerial photos, what was done with the skull found in 1954, etc.

Some information pertaining to the cemetery is below, should that help with locating such records as are requested.

"The first alms-house of Rensselaer county was erected in 1821 on the county farm, on the south-east side of the city, south of Spring Avenue. The institution was then called the House of Industry. The farm, now a part of the sixth ward of the city, has an area of one hundred and sixty acres. The brick buildings were erected in 1882. They include the keeper’s house, two apartment-buildings, two hospitals, a dining-hall, a kitchen, and a laundry."
Weise, Arthur James. Troy's One Hundred Years, 1789-1889. Troy, NY: William H. Young, 1891. 243.

"Leasing the County Farm and Stone Quarry on the Same.
"THE COMMITTEE APPOINTED by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Rensselaer for the purpose of leasing for the term of three years the County Farm and the Stone Quarry on the same, to the highest responsible bidder, do hereby give public notice that they will receive sealed proposals for the lease of said County Farm and the Stone Quarry connected therewith, together or separately, for the period of three years from the first day of March next. In the lease of said farm there will be reserved out of same the Poor House and ground and all the outbuildings, except the barn on south side of the highway leading to the Stone Quarry, and the open shed on the east end of the Poor House ground; also reserving THE BURYING GROUND AND THE LAND BETWEEN THAT AND THE POND; and also reserving the garden in front of the Poor House, and also the lot adjoining the garden, on the south side of the highway leading from the city to the Poor House, and containing ten acres of lands be the same more or less.
"Such proposals to be opened at the Supervisors’ Room on the 13th day of February, 1869, at 12 o’clock at noon. Bids may be delivered to either of the undersigned: JOEL B. PECK,
"ELISHA S. BAUCUS,
"MICHAEL J. GRADY, JR.
"MARTIN P. DEFREEST,
"ABRAM BULSON,
"Special Committee.
"Dated February 1, 1869" (capital emphasis added).
Troy Daily Whig. February 8, 1869

In 1881 there were at least fifteen interments in the County Farm Cemetery, two of them born in Ireland:
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyrensse/troybur5.htm Interments continued on into the 20th century:

"An occupant of the County Almshouse for thirty-four years, of whom nothing is known except what he gave when he was admitted February 14, 1884, died there yesterday and will be buried in the ALMSHOUSE CEMETERY. He gave his name at that time as Willie Sherman, said he was born in Troy, was twenty-four years old and a voter in the thirteenth ward. He gave his occupation as baker and said his father, Patrick, was a peddler" (capital emphasis added).
“Thirty-four Years in Almshouse.” Troy Daily Times. November 4, 1918: 8 col 3.

“A human skull was found yesterday by youngsters playing near Griswold Heights.
“Investigation by police revealed that the skeleton had probably been unearthed from the old burial ground once located near the south side of Griswold Heights and east of the rear entrance to St. Joseph’s Cemetery. A resident of Griswold Heights notified police of the discovery and Patrolmen Thomas O’Brien and Paul Spenard of the radio patrol went to the scene.
“The skull was later turned over to Coroner Anthony E. Matera.”
“Children Find Skull At Griswold Heights.” Times Record [Troy, NY]. September 23, 1954: 7 col 2.

“Children playing near Griswold Heights in Troy one day last week found a human skull. Police believe that the skeleton had probably been unearthed from the old burial ground that was once located near the play area. The skull was turned over to Coroner Anthony E. Matera.”
“Children Find Skull Bones.” Salem Press [NY]. September 30, 1954: A5 col 3.

The burying ground seems to have been somewhere around where the Paper Mill Pond had been (which later became called Smart’s Lower Pond then simply Smart’s Pond), east of St. Joseph's Cemetery, and south of (and/or under) Griswold Heights, north of the Wynants Kill. Google Satellite shows much of that area to be fairly heavily wooded.

Some counties in New York appear to have kept better records than others, like Suffolk which has a finely-drawn map http://dlib.info/home/mptakacs/cemeterymap.html and interment records http://dlib.info/home/mptakacs/deathandcemetery.html Warren County’s in Bolton has markers with names and dates and a historical marker from the local historical society http://boltonhistorical.org/cemetery/alms.html

County Almshouse Cemeteries seem to have a tendency to be overlooked and used for other purposes than a final place of rest, e.g.:

“Albany has a case of body snatching. […] Graveyard ghouls have been rifling the graves in the Almshouse cemetery at Albany.”
“New York State News.” Evening Telegram [NY]. October 24, 1878: 1 col 2.

"The cemetery is an ill-kept spot, which has been once filled with bodies and is now being dug up the second time. There are no suitable markers. The city of Albany needs a better morgue and the almshouse should provide more decent burial.”
Annual Report of the State Board of Charities for the Year 1909. Vol 1. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Co., 1910. 477.

Carol Raemsch of Hartgen Associates: "These [people buried at county almshouse cemeteries] were poor people who didn't matter much back when there weren't a lot of rules about building. Construction was done right on top of them.''
Benjamin, Elizabeth. "Forgotten in life, interrupted in death." Albany Times Union. April 19, 2000. (Quoted in http://www.poorhousestory.com/ALBANY.htm )

“flooding of the Chenango River throughout this century is reported to have washed away hundreds of burials from the Broome County poorhouse cemetery in Binghamton, New York"
Nowrocki, Stephen P. "Human Taphonomy and Historic Cemeteries: Factors Influencing the Loss and Subsequent Recovery of Human Remains."
http://archlab.uindy.edu/documents/CemeteryTaph.pdf

“Major infrastructure improvements necessitated the salvage excavation of human skeletal remains associated with the Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery Site (A02940.02949, UB 2756) in the City of Buffalo, New York, on what is now the Main Street or South Campus of the University at Buffalo (UB)."
Perrelli, Douglas J. and Jim Hartner. "Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery Site (UB 2756) excavation methods and results."
http://meeting.physanth.org/program/2014/session25/perrelli-2014-erie-county-poorhouse-cemetery-site-ub-2756-excavation-methods-and-results.html

"A group of volunteers from People Inc. and Buffalo State College walk through a field of overgrown bushes and vines searching for what is known as the Niagara County Almshouse Cemetery. [...] Most of the stones on the property are covered, and the problem is how many stones are there, and where does the cemetery end?"
Dougherty, Jon. "Rediscovering a nearly forgotten [Niagara County Almshouse] cemetery in Lockport." Time Warner Cable News. June 12, 2012.
http://buffalo.twcnews.com/content/news/587803/rediscovering-a-nearly-forgotten-cemetery-in-lockport/?ap=1&MP4

“Eighty bodies from Onondaga County Poorhouse reburied as part of OCC renovation […] The bodies were removed during the winter of 2010-11 as the poorhouse transformed into H-1 Hall, now known as the John H. Mulroy Hall at OCC. […] Seib said the burials at that part of the poorhouse grounds ended in 1840, when the plot was full and they moved gravesites to another location on the grounds."
Dowty, Douglass. "Eighty bodies from Onondaga County Poorhouse reburied as part of OCC renovation." syracuse.com. September 26, 2012.
http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/remains_of_80_bodies_from_onon.html

"The area that was the site of the County Poorhouse (demolished in 1985) and the associated cemetery (still there though mostly unmarked) is now home to the County Fairgrounds and Public Pool"
"Ulster County Poorhouse Project - Aerial Photos."
http://ulstercountyny.gov/poorhouse/photos/aerial

If my request is too broad or does not reasonably describe the records, please contact me via email so that I may clarify my request, and when appropriate inform me of the manner in which records are filed, retrieved or generated.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Christopher Philippo

From: Christopher Philippo

N.Y. PUB. OFF. LAW § 89 (3) (a): "Each entity subject to the provisions of this article, within five business days of the receipt of a written request for a record reasonably described, shall make such record available to the person requesting it, deny such request in writing or furnish a written acknowledgment of the receipt of such request and a statement of the approximate date, which shall be reasonable under the circumstances of the request, when such request will be granted or denied, including, where appropriate, a statement that access to the record will be determined in accordance with subdivision five of this section."

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Christopher Philippo

I hereby appeal the denial of access regarding my request (by failure to even acknowledge the request).
"If neither a response to a request nor an acknowledgement of the receipt of a request is given within five business days [...] a request may be considered to have been constructively denied [see §89(4)(a)]. In such a circumstance, the denial may be appealed in accordance with §89(4)(a), which states in relevant part that:
"'...any person denied access to a record may within thirty days appeal in writing such denial to the head, chief executive, or governing body, who shall within ten business days of the receipt of such appeal fully explain in writing to the person requesting the record the reasons for further denial, or provide access to the record sought.'"
http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/explanation.html
The records that were denied include: Records pertaining to the Rensselaer County Farm Cemetery, which might include but not be limited to: cemetery map(s), list(s) of interments, cemetery markers, reinterments (if any), property ownership and management, photographs, aerial photos, what was done with the skull found in 1954, etc.
As required by the Freedom of Information Law, the head or governing body of an agency, or whomever is designated to determine appeals, is required to respond within 10 business days of the receipt of an appeal. If the records are denied on appeal, please explain the reasons for the denial fully in writing as required by law.
In addition, please be advised that the Freedom of Information Law directs that all appeals and the determinations that follow be sent to the Committee on Open Government, Department of State, One Commerce Plaza, 99 Washington Ave., Albany, New York 12231.

Sincerely,

Christopher K. Philippo

From: Pechenik, Stephen

Dear Mr. Philippo:

Peter Kehoe of my Office acts as the Records access officer for Rensselaer County. Unfortunately, we never received your Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request until this morning. Unfortunately, while our county is in the process of setting up receipt of and response to FOIL requests via e-mail, we are still at least 30 days shy of being able to do so.

Thus, my Office requests (and will send correspondence to you via U.S. Postal Service mail tomorrow,) that you withdraw your appeal while we address the request.

I await your advice. Thank you.

Very truly yours,

STEPHEN A. PECHENIK
Rensselaer County Attorney
[cid:image003.jpg@01CF8F04.C1F53EF0]
Stephen A. Pechenik
Ned Pattison County Government Center
1600 Seventh Avenue
Troy, New York 12180
Voice: (518) 270-2950
Fax: (518) 270-2954
E-Mail: spechenik@rensco.com<mailto:spechenik@rensco.com>

From: Rensselaer County Clerk

An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.

From: Christopher Philippo

"my Office requests (and will send correspondence to you via U.S. Postal Service mail tomorrow,) that you withdraw your appeal while we address the request"

That should be fine as long as long as the county genuinely intends to provide records.

"Last week it was discovered that some one, anxious no doubt to dissect an octogenarian, had removed the body of David Berry from the county house burial ground, where it was deposited November 9, 1876. Barry, who died at the Marshall infirmary, was 81 years of age. The discovery was made by his relatives, who went to remove the remains to the new Mount Ida cemetery."
"City Notes." Troy Daily Times. June 4, 1877: 3 col 1.

Sincerely,

Christopher K. Philippo

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Pechenik, Stephen

Dear Mr. Philippo:

Due to vacation schedules, the Rensselaer County Clerk has not yet searched his records. My office will contact you once we have a page count.

Very truly yours,

STEPHEN A. PECHENIK
Rensselaer County Attorney

Stephen A. Pechenik
Ned Pattison County Government Center
1600 Seventh Avenue
Troy, New York 12180
Voice:  (518) 270-2950
Fax: (518) 270-2954
E-Mail:  spechenik@rensco.com

From: Christopher Philippo

For Rensselaer County to grant vacations that run from June 23, 2014 through August 20, 2014 seems pretty generous. I look forward to learning of a page count for the requested records as soon as possible.

Records pertaining to the Rensselaer County Farm Cemetery aren't necessarily only held by the County Clerk; some, for example, might be held by the County Coroner and maybe the Rensselaer County Sheriff's Office, judging from two 1954 articles. The FOIL request may have been directed to the County Clerk only because a County FOIL officer doesn't seem to be identified on the county's website. The request was not made specifically for only the County Clerk's records.

“A human skull was found yesterday by youngsters playing near Griswold Heights.
“Investigation by police revealed that the skeleton had probably been unearthed from the old burial ground once located near the south side of Griswold Heights and east of the rear entrance to St. Joseph’s Cemetery. A resident of Griswold Heights notified police of the discovery and Patrolmen Thomas O’Brien and Paul Spenard of the radio patrol went to the scene.
“The skull was later turned over to Coroner Anthony E. Matera.”
“Children Find Skull At Griswold Heights.” Times Record [Troy, NY]. September 23, 1954: 7 col 2.

“Children playing near Griswold Heights in Troy one day last week found a human skull. Police believe that the skeleton had probably been unearthed from the old burial ground that was once located near the play area. The skull was turned over to Coroner Anthony E. Matera.”
“Children Find Skull Bones.” Salem Press [NY]. September 30, 1954: A5 col 3.

From: Rensselaer County Clerk

An interim response, stating the request has been delayed

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2014-125.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2014-125.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2014-125.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2014-125.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2014-125.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 15, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2014-125.

Thank you for your help.

From: Rensselaer County Clerk

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: Rensselaer County Clerk

A cover letter granting the request and outlining any exempted materials, if any.

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