In our first 193 years, no St. Paul’s rector has been a native of Albany, and very few have maintained their connections to this city after leaving Albany for retirement of for their next assignment. And, as far as I knew, the only rector to be buried in Albany was J. Livingston Reese – St. Paul’s rector for a record 27 years – who is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.
I was corrected a few weeks ago in a post by Paula Lemire, the Albany Rural Cemetery historian, about a second St. Paul’s rector resting there: Thomas Albert Starkey, our rector from 1854 until 1858. I was surprised: of our rectors in the 19th century, he was among those with the weakest ties to this city. He was rector at St. Paul’s for four years, and for at least six months of that period was on sick leave and not living here. True, he was also rector at Christ Church, Schenectady for four years. Most importantly, he left St. Paul’s under difficult circumstances, with the congregation in turmoil over his “high-church notions” and hopelessly divided over selection of his successor. Since he went on to become the bishop of Newark, I assumed that he was interred there.
All in all, Thomas Starkey seems one of the least likely of our early rectors to have been buried in Albany. But I had forgotten that his second wife, Julia Rathbone, was an Albany native, and member of a prominent local family. Her brother, John Finley Rathbone, was founder and president of the Rathbone Stove Works. Mr. Starkey’s grave is in the Rathbone plot of the cemetery, next to his wife, and surrounded by other prominent members of the family. Following his funeral in East Orange, New Jersey, Starkey’s remains were brought to Albany, where graveside services were conducted by Bishop William Croswell Doane. Among the assisting clergy was our rector, William Prall, whom Bishop Starkey had ordained to both the diaconate and priesthood.
A brief biographical sketch of Bishop Starkey
Thomas Albert Starkey was born in 1818, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was educated as a civil engineer, and worked in that profession in the Pottsville, Pennsylvania area. In 1844, Starkey married Sophia Elizabeth Jackson and the couple had one child, Kate. He was ordained in Pottsville in 1848, and served as a missionary in that region for the next two years.
Thomas A. Starkey was next rector of Christ Church, Troy from 1850 until his call by St. Paul’s, Albany in 1854. Starkey seems to have been troubled by poor health. He twice requested leaves of absence for that reason while at St. Paul’s. The first was withdrawn at the request of the vestry; the second request for leave, and his resignation six months later, were both granted on grounds of his poor health. He later served at churches in Detroit, Washington D.C. (that appointment also ended by his poor health), and New Jersey.
Thomas Starkey was elected the second bishop of Northern New Jersey 30 October 1879 and consecrated at Grace Church, Newark on 8 January 1880, serving that diocese (renamed the Diocese of Newark in 1886) until his death in 1903. Sophia Jackson Starkey died in 1869. He married Julia Rathbone (the widow of James C. Kennedy) in 1877, and she survived him, dying in 1916.