Montgomery County

Amsterdam constable’s 1883 death gets recognition

Overdue recognition is being bestowed on an Amsterdam crimefighter whose death in the line of duty 1

Overdue recognition is being bestowed on an Amsterdam crimefighter whose death in the line of duty 130 years ago fell from local memory.

Research by Amsterdam Historian Robert von Hasseln uncovered the death of Amsterdam Constable Madison Gage in 1883 — more than a year before the village of Amsterdam was incorporated into a city.

Gage’s name will be added this week to the list of more than 1,300 other police officers who died on the job during a ceremony at the Police Officers Memorial at Empire State Plaza.

Gage’s name faded from memory but von Hasseln said the former constable for the town of Amsterdam who lived in what’s known today as the city of Amsterdam’s East End will now be etched into history.

“He certainly wasn’t forgotten at the time,” said von Hasseln, who found 19th century news articles depicting Gage’s death during an arrest.

According to von Hasseln’s research, Gage was trying to make an arrest on Aug. 15, 1883, when the perpetrator resisted being placed in handcuffs near the intersection of Forest Avenue and Lyon Street.

Though armed with both a revolver and a knife, Gage didn’t pull either. He fell, stricken from an aneurism, and died on the scene.

“He deserves to be recognized because he did die in the line of duty and he should be credited to the Amsterdam Police Department,” von Hasseln said.

He continues to search for a photograph of Gage, a local businessman who ran a livery service and saved lives.

One article von Hasseln found told of Gage rescuing an 8-year-old girl from raging Mohawk River flooding on the city’s South Side.

In another, Gage is hailed for capturing a team of horses that broke free before they ran over a family paralyzed with fear in the middle of a mud-lined Main Street.

Von Hasseln said the man Gage was trying to arrest got away, but not for long. Crowds of citizens von Hasseln describes as carrying pitchforks and torches captured the man, John Maxwell, but held their anger, he said.

“Probably the biggest problem for the posse was resisting the urge to hang the guy on the spot,” von Hasseln said.

He said he continues to search for ancestors in hopes of learning more about Gage and getting a photograph of him.

There are 1,340 names engraved on the Police Officers Memorial, and more names are added during the annual ceremony coordinated by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

DCJS spokesman Walt McClure said it’s not unusual for new names dating back to the 1800s to be honored on the list. There’s another mid-1800s police officer to be added this year, he said.

The State of New York Police Officers Memorial Remembrance Ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

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