Rediscovering the Past
By Jacqueline Citriniti, Lead Educator
They say “it takes a village”. Well, this project truly would not have happened without the support of many individuals. The Friends of the Pine Bush Community generously support intriguing staff projects. Back Yard Fence-owners Jerry and Melissa Haley, bigheartedly donated the fencing and materials to protect the gravesite. Casale Rentals donated the use of heavy equipment for staff to clear the area around the gravestones. Our stewardship staff worked diligently to clear and remove vegetation and debris around the gravesite and lastly Christopher White, a local genealogist/historian/conservator repaired and cleaned gravestones.
Photo above: Visible from King’s Road in the Town of Colonie, a historic marker erected by the Pine Bush Historic Preservation Project marks the vicinity of the Truax burial grounds.
It was a sunny, warm, spring day when our education staff decided to venture out to find the historic Truax burial grounds that are located here in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. “They must be here somewhere” we kept calling out to each other as we walked through a tall thicket of shrubs, vines, fallen trees, roots and stumps.
In the mid to late 1700s, the Truax family operated taverns along the Kings Highway. These taverns provided rest and refreshment to those traveling between Albany and Schenectady, NY. Although the tavern buildings are now gone, the history of the Truax family is preserved thanks to the years of effort by local historians, conservationists and government officials. Our search that spring day was for the gravestones of tavern keeper Isaac Truax and his family.
After walking for quite some time, we came upon an overgrown area that had two upright gravestones in their original placement and two gravestones obviously broken, leaning against two separate trees. We realized right away that if something was not done to preserve the burial grounds, this important piece of history might be lost. This began my year-long project to restore the Truax burial grounds and help preserve the history of this family and a piece of Pine Bush history.
This was just the beginning. After many months of internet research, phone calls, emails, reaching out to local individuals, I finally had enough information to move forward with the project. First, I approached the Friends of the Pine Bush to help financially with the purchase of a fence. Once that was in place, I reached out to a local fencing company, Back Yard Fence, had both a deep adoration for the Pine Bush because their children grew up visiting the preserve and wanted to help us with the project. They generously donated any amount of fencing that we would need for enclosure of the gravestones. We were now ready…
In the fall of 2018, the Albany Pine Bush stewardship team began an arduous month of clearing brush, cutting down trees and removing stumps. Once that was all finished they were ready to install the fence. I had tried many times in the previous months to find someone who had expertise in cleaning and restoring gravestones. So I gave one last attempt and thankfully the Albany Rural Cemetery, gave me the name of Christopher White. Within two days of my call, Chris came out to the site, evaluated the area and left us with a proposal on moving forward with the gravestones. He worked diligently, fighting against the cold, snowy weather, to complete the following tasks; uprighting the two gravestones, finding the bases of the gravestones that were broken off, making new bases and putting them back in place. He also found and repaired a footstone of one of the graves, repaired the gravestone that was broken into three pieces, clean and restored all four stones and give us a list of names of the names that were on the four gravestones.
The project was now complete.
But wait… If you look closely at the photo, you will notice a gravestone laying on its side against the gravestone in the foreground. This was uncovered, literally under a foot of soil, while the stewardship staff was installing the fencing. Therefore, Chris White will be coming back in the spring of 2019 to search the entire area for possibly more Truax family gravestones. Now with the gravestones back in place, visitors can see the Truax burial grounds are more than the historical marker.
This has been an exciting undertaking and I am honored to be part of this historical venture.