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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Cagger

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[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 559-561 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

Peter Cagger was honored in the city of Albany as one of the foremost lawyers of his day, and that this was due to his intellectual attainments redounds to his enduring fame. He was of Irish descent. His parents came to Albany early in the nineteenth century. His father gave up a somewhat extensive business which he had been conducting in Ireland, and they first settled in New York City. There they remained for a brief period, and in the vaults of the old St. Patrick's Cathedral in Mott street several of the family are buried.

Mr. Cagger was born in Albany, November 10, 1814, and in that city he received his early education. He went later to Canada, and entered the College of Chambly, from which he graduated. On deciding to enter the legal profession, he began the study of law in the office of Marcus T. Reynolds, Esq., then recognized throughout the country as a leader in his profession. When only twenty-one years of age he formed a law partnership with Samuel Stevens, one of the most eminent attornies of that time in Albany, and the firm became a power in legal circles throughout the state. After a successful practice of some years Mr. Stevens yielded to the strain of excessive labor, and on his death Mr. Cagger formed a partnership with Nicholas Hill, who had until then held the office of state reporter. Later John K. Porter linked his name with theirs, the firm assuming the name of Hill, Cagger & Porter. This firm of unusually brilliant minds had a widely extended practice, and its fame is destined to go down to posterity as one of the most remarkable combinations of ability in the several departments of a great law office ever known in the annals of the state. The great intellect of Hill shone in the court of last resort, where his genius flashed, in which his professional learning, and the unbending integrity of his character, secured the reverence of the bench. The persuasive eloquence, the penetrating mind, and admirable sagacity of Porter, took easy precedence of all others at "Nisi Prius," and the extraordinary administrative talent of Cagger, ready at once and at a moment's notice for abstruse pleadings, alert for the minutia of litigation, with its inexhaustive fund of device and ingenuity; intuitively prepared for all combinations of finance or of politics, and perfectly at home in important business negotiations. All these combined to make this trio remarkable. Mr. Porter was the survivor of the firm, and was traveling in Europe when the news of Mr. Cagger's death reached him. On the death of Nicholas Hill, which occurred May 1, 1859, when he was only fifty-three years old, Judge Samuel Hand became associated with the firm.

Mr. Cagger was in politics a strong and staunch Democrat, a party leader in every campaign, and although frequently urged to accept public office, always resolutely refused. He was often a delegate to conventions, and many times exerted himself in shaping the course of his party. He was a warm friend of John VanBuren, Edwin Croswell and Samuel Tilden. Many youthful aspirants to the legal profession read law in his office and have since become eminent. He was a Catholic of the Catholics, his very name a tradition among those of his faith, for he had identified himself largely with the early history of the Catholic church in Albany. While he was an earnest, conscientious and faithful believer, he had a host of friends and close associates among those of other creeds, and he was the confidant, trusted friend and adviser of many, whose religious bias might have suggested other counsel.

Mr. Cagger met his death in New York City, July 6, 1868, by an accident while driving in Central Park. The said occurrence was long remembered by Albanians, and plunged the whole city in mourning. When the startling news was received, it spread with lightning rapidity to all classes, creating profound sorrow, which is the best indication of the strong hold this distinguished citizen had on the whole community. He had been stopping at the Worth House, on Fifth Avenue, while a delegate to the National Democratic Convention, which assembled in that city on July 4th to nominate the Hon. Horatio Seymour for president of the United States. He left his hotel about six o'clock in the evening with his friend, George Evans, also of Albany, for a drive through Central Park. After driving together for some time they met John E. Develin. He stopped them, and asked Mr. Cagger to get in his carriage with him, and go with him to see a Mr. Fay, a merchant residing in Manhattanville. The invitation was accepted. They made their call, and left Mr. Fay's residence at eleven P. M., desirous of being back for a conference at midnight. Mr. Develin was driving his spirited but well-trained team through the Park when a forward wheel snapped in turning a short curve. The horses took fright, ran away, dragging the overturned carriage at break-neck speed, until it was dashed into fragments, but the beasts still continued on with only the pole and traces. Mr. Cagger had fallen out and struck the ground with the back of his head. When a policeman approached he was immovable, and had evidently expired immediately. His friend, Mr. Develin, lay on the other side of the road, bleeding from a severe cut on the temple and almost insensible, so that it was some time before he could give their names for identification. Mr. Cagger's body was taken to St. Luke's Hospital, not far from the southern entrance to the Park, and the examining physician declared that death had come without pain. The remains were transferred the next night by boat to Albany, and taken on the morning of the ninth to his late residence, No. 174 State street. The funeral was held in St. Joseph's Church on the 10th of July. Archbishop (afterwards Cardinal) McCloskey and Bishop Conroy, both of whom had been his intimate friends, officiated. The burial was in the family lot in St. Agnes Cemetery. Flags upon the City Hall, State House and other public buildings and institutions were lowered to half mast out of respect to his memory, and a public meeting of the citizens of Albany was held in the rooms of the Board of Trade. The Democratic general committee appointed a committee of three to prepare suitable resolutions, and these were drafted by Chairman Thomas Kearney, the secretary. The following autumn there was a meeting of the bar, and John Meredith Read, Esq., among others, paid a glowing tribute to Mr. Cagger.

Mr. Cagger was for a time a director of the National Commercial Bank, where his suggestions were always considered and exerted a great influence. He was a trustee of the Atlantic Mutual Life Insurance Company, and his counsel was often of inestimable value in the conduct of its affairs. It would be no easy matter to recount or detail his innumerable benefactions, for his charitable deeds were numberless, and not often made known to the public. Truly of him can be said, that the poor, the widow, the orphan, the needy, the sick, or the friendless never appealed to him in vain. St. Peter's Hospital is the joint gift of Mrs. Cagger and Miss Mary C. Cagger to his memory, his devoted wife and daughter, who understood his inclination.

As a friend he was loyal and true, never found wanting. He was a man of winning temperament, possessed of a large heart, amiable in disposition, genial and buoyant in character. His life, it is said by one who knew him well, was a "Series of happy antitheses." A Democrat of the Democrats, bold, sagacious, and widely known as a partisan, on some occasions almost the sole daring manager of the interests of a great party. He was an absolute controller of its local, state and national destiny. As a leader he could attract without effort. In seasons of fierce political excitement he became the most potential among those of antagonistic sentiment, and he numbered among his friends his most bitter political opponents. His brother-in-law, William Cassidy, editor and proprietor of the Albany Argus, penned the following graphic estimate of him, which appeared on July 8, 1868, as a portion of an editorial, and which is the truest sketch anyone can draw.

"Familiar to mind and heart from pleasant associations of early manhood, a bold, true and powerful friend and ally in the bitter partisan conflicts which are part of our State and National history, and finally endeared to us by sacred social ties and sympathies, we cannot disguise the shock communicated by this sad event. Friend and political foe, for his only foes were such, poor and rich alike, were paralyzed, as it were, by the awful dispensation, and as memory recalled the cheerful countenance, the unflagging, delightful gayety of manner, and withal the sterling good, the kindly heart, and the powerful intellect that lay concealed beneath these appearances, more than one sympathizing tear fell from 'eyes unused to weep.' Arrived at that sedate and fortunate maturity, when judgment succeeds passion, and impulse yields to reflection; blessed with a devoted family, and surrounded with affectionate and admiring friends, possessed too of a vigorous physical constitution, and a uniformly happy temperament, he might seemingly have justly claimed a little longer lease of life. With an administrative capacity absolutely marvelous, with a power of accomplishing with amazing facility the most diverse business, once out of his office, he was essentially a domestic man, and gracefully relinquished all traces of the annoying cares of active life. Admired by his friends, respected by his opponents, a public-spirited citizen, a true-hearted gentleman."

Mr. Cagger had an elder brother, Michael, who was a young man of great promise, of a thoughtful, philosophic turn of mind. Brilliant in his speech, he attracted the attention of many distinguished men, who discovered in him unmistakable elements of future greatness, but he died in the prime of life at Liverpool, where he had gone in a sailing vessel for his health. Another brother, William, was for a time engaged in business in Albany, and afterwards employed in the New York custom house. While holding that position he died.

Mr. Cagger's first wife was Maria Maher, daughter of James Maher, who for a considerable period held the position of state librarian. In the war of 1812 he was the gallant captain of the company styled the "Irish Greens," a military organization originated in Albany, and which bore a prominent part in the famous conflict at Sacketts Harbor. His daughter by his first wife, Mary C. Cagger, was born in Albany. Miss Cagger has made her home for many years in the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood, near Albany. The religious quiet of the place and its beautiful location created an atmosphere entirely suited to her temperament. It is there she was living in 1910.

Mr. Cagger married for his second wife Elizabeth Cassidy, a sister of William Cassidy, prominently known for a long time as the versatile editor of the Albany Argus, and likewise its proprietor. Six children were born to them:

  1. Elisabeth, born in Albany, died in Heidelberg, Germany, and buried in Rome, Italy. Over her grave and that of her mother in the cemetery of San Lorenzo the remaining family have erected a beautiful chapel in which Mass can be said. The cemetery is in charge of the Capuchin Monks, and extends over the catacombs of San Lorenzo outside the walls of Rome.
  2. Frances, born in Albany, died there an infant.
  3. Margaret, born in Albany, died in infancy.
  4. Susanna, died in Montpellier, France, and buried there.
  5. Peter, born in Albany, died in Paris, and buried in the cemetery of Pere-la-Chaise.
  6. William C., the youngest, born in Albany in 1867, and living in Aix-les-Bains, France, in 1910. He married Jeanne, daughter of Doctor Guilland, a celebrated French physician, and has three children, Jean Pierre, Louise Elisabeth and George.

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