Historic Vale CemeteryVale Cemetery opened in 1857 as a non-denominational, not-for-profit cemetery and a classic example of the Rural Cemetery Movement. The Rural Cemetery Movement envisioned cemeteries as public places with parks, lakes, meandering paths, scenic vistas, and exotic trees - places where people might go to enjoy nature or learn about history while visiting deceased loved ones.
Originally on the outskirts of the city, Vale Cemetery today incorporates 100 acres with 40 acres designated as Vale Park. Vale contains nine cemetery areas. More than 33,000 people at rest at Vale represent a broad cross section of Schenectady's community over three centuries. One section, designated as the First Reformed Church burial ground, was moved to Vale from the Stockade area between 1859 and 1879. Another, the African-American Ancestral Burial Ground, was moved here from Veeder Avenue beginning in 1863. Among those interred at Vale are veterans from the French and Indian War (1754-1763) through the Vietnam War, civic leaders, inventors, industrialists, notable women, African-Americans, early colonists, and Union College faculty members.
Vale Cemetery is listed on the New York State and National Register of Historic Sites.
Founders & Builders
Since its founding by Dutch
agent Arent Van Curler in 1661, Schenectady (possibly derived from the Iroquois Scag-Nac-Ta-De, meaning "Place beyond the Pines') has grown from a small settlement to the city that it is today. More than fourteen generations of men and women have built this community with their labor and their lives. Here are images of just a few of them, including founders, educators, scientists, industrialists, politicians, and war heroes, interred at Vale in the nine sections marked on the Historic Vale map. Many other notables may also be found in the cemetery's general population. For more information, see the pamphlet Biographies of Notables at Vale Headquarters or visit the Schenectady County Historical Society's website.
1. Helena Van Eps Peters (1721-1758) Daughter of Jan Baptist Van Eps and Helena Glen, survivors of the 1690 Schenectady Massacre, Helena died in 1758 at age 37. Her portrait is one of the oldest in the Schenectady County Historical Society collection.
2. Christopher Yates (1737-1785) A captain in the French and Indian War, he became Chairman of Schenectady's Committee of Correspondence and resigned to fight in the Revolutionary War. He was one of the founders of St. George's Masonic Lodge.
3. The Rev. Dr. Dirck Romeyn (1744-1804) An important Reformed minister in the Hackensack Valley during the Revolution, Romeyn later moved to Schenectady in 1784, founding the Schenectady Academy in 1785 and Union College in 1795.
4. The Rev. Dr. Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866) President of Union College for 62 years, from 1804 to 1866, Nott developed a faculty of national stature, was an admired orator, and the inventor of the Nott Stove.
5. Urania Sheldon Nott (1804-1886) The third wife of Eliphalet Nott, she founded the Home for the Friendless, a woman's charitable institution that also provided burials for its residents.
6. Moses Viney (1817-1908) A runaway slave from Easton, Maryland, Viney settled in Schenectady to work for Eliphalet Nott. He later became a livery cab owner and respected Schenectady businessman.
7. Col. Fritz Elias Peissner (1825-1863) Emigrated from Bavaria to Schenectady in 1849 to teach. Joined the Union Army and was later killed in the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863.
8. Capt. William Horsfall (1816-1862) Civil War captain and commander of the 18th New York Infantry, who was killed on September 14, 1862 at the Battle of South Mountain.
9. John C. Ellis (1836- 1884) The eldest of three sons of the founder of the Schenectady Locomotive Works, which later became the American Locomotive Company, builder of the first locomotive to cross the line linking East and West. His family established Ellis Hospital.
10. Ernst Julius Berg (1871-1941) Brilliant mathematician and electro-physicist, Berg was a pioneer in the development of the radio, succeeding Charles Steinmetz as head of the electrical engineering department at Union College
11. Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923) Eminent electrical engineer, scientist, mathematician, educator, philosopher, and political activist, Steinmetz was a prolific inventor who helped lay the groundwork for modern electrical engineering.
12. Christian Steenstrup (1873-1955) Designer of turbines and recipient of over 100 patents, Steenstrup designed the GE Monitor Top refrigerator that made the appliance affordable to the average American.