Albany Burgesses Corps…

When John(2) Brooks (John1) died in 1898 in Burlington, Vermont, his obituary appeared in two cities, his hometown of Albany, New York and his adopted home of Burlington.

It was only recently that I found John’s Albany obituary and in it were several very interesting items. Neither mention anything about his parents (too bad), but the Albany paper did have this to say:

John Brooks, a former tobacco merchant of this city and the last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps., died in his home in Burlington, Vt., Tuesday morning, aged 83 years.

“Last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps.” What on earth was that?

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The Albany Burgesses Corps was organized in October of 1833 as an independent, volunteer member, quasi-military unit (militia), complete with elaborate uniforms. The name ‘Burgesses’ was in honor of the original governors of Albany. The organization participated in civic ceremonies and acted as parade escort to visiting dignitaries. They were, for many years, a familiar site in the Albany city parades. Its membership consisted of many of the local merchants and professionals, several of whom held political office. The organization was similar to modern service organizations, in that it raised money for various causes all the while providing political connections for merchants.

Th following was found in the Annual Reports of the War Department, United States. War Department: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1908:

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If John was a charter member then he joined in October of 1833 when they first organized or shortly thereafter. He would have been about 18 or 19 years old at the time. And his membership is confirmed in a February 1838 issue of a local paper:

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February paper The Albany Evening Journal, unknown page, unknown date.

In the above notice from the Albany Evening Journal, John Brooks is mentioned as one of the managers of the upcoming 3rd Annual Ball being given by the Burgesses in honor of George Washington’s birthday.

The first parade the Corps participated in was July 4, 1834 their contingent consisted of 45 muskets and 5 officers. On July 25th of the same year, the Corps assisted in the torchlight obsequies of General Lafayette. The pall-bearers were his revolutionary war companions. The ordinance captured by Lafayette from Yorktown was also in the procession.
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The Albany Burgesses Corps uniform, which was changed from blue to scarlet in 1841 (apparently after much lively debate). I don’t know how those boys kept those things on their heads.

Although the Corps spent much time entertaining visiting Corps and dignitaries, and visiting other corps themselves, they were, for all intents and purposes, a militia organization. It was in this capacity  that they were used to help quell the anti-rent riots in 1839. The Corps along with several other military companies from Albany and Troy marched to Helderberg Mountain, under command of Major Bloodwood. The formidable appearance of the troops in their colorful uniforms had the desired effect of intimidating the rioters. The Corps also participated in the 2nd Helderberg War.

In 1844 the Corps acted as escort at the dedication of Albany Rural Cemetery, where several of our ancestors are now buried. There is a whole section in an Albany History book on the Corps many activities through the years. On a fun side note, the Corps also had a song commissioned as a tribute for its officers and many members.

 

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The Brooks family left Albany for Burlington around 1852. But John did return to his home town in 1883 to help celebrate the “Semi-Centennial” of the Corps, which occurred October 8th and 9th. There were balls, parades and banquettes, even Governor Grover Cleveland attended with his staff. Maybe they played the quick step.

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Source:
Bi-centennial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N. Y., from 1609 to 1886, edited by George Rogers Howell, Jonathan Tenne: W. W. Munsell & Company, 1886 – Albany (N.Y.). Vol. 4, Page 714-716.
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