Constable Madison Gage died in the line of duty following an incident in the village of Rockton in August 1883. Rockton was annexed by the city of Amsterdam in 1901.
According to city historian Robert von Hasseln, Gage was a Town of Amsterdam Constable, but lived in the then village of Amsterdam. He was enforcing the orders of an Amsterdam judge when he died.
Von Hasseln wrote that Gage was trying to arrest an individual near the intersection of Forest Avenue and Lyon Street, “This person resisted being manacled and fought the constable and an assisting civilian. Gage was suddenly stricken and collapsed during the struggle and the wanted man escaped.”
Gage was taken inside a store on Forest Avenue which had one of the few telephones in the area so a doctor could be called. That store was probably located where Tuman’s Tavern is today.
Von Hasseln said Gage later died of a cerebral aneurism, “The perpetrator was soon apprehended by local citizens, including trustees of the village of Rockton, whose most difficult task was preventing the culprit’s lynching.”
Gage lived on East Main Street in Amsterdam. He once rescued a young girl from flood waters in Port Jackson, now the city’s south side, and saved a mother and daughter from a runaway team of horses on East Main Street.
In 2012, his name was added to the State of New York’s police officers memorial at Empire State Plaza in Albany.
The other police officer who died in the line of duty in Amsterdam was Patrolman Joseph Hyde. Hyde, 39, died November 14, 1891 because of complications from a gunshot wound in his elbow sustained two days earlier in pursuit of a burglar.
Two burglars were being chased in the dark of night by Hyde and another officer. Hyde and one of the burglars exchanged gunshots and Hyde did not realize at first that he had been injured. The shooter and his accomplice escaped because of a heavy fog.
Hyde died from pneumonia caused by an infection of the gunshot wound. The thieves had taken $1.25 from a shoe store and three dollars from a wallpaper establishment in downtown Amsterdam.
A native of Ireland, Hyde was one of the original six officers appointed to the Amsterdam Police Department when the city charter took effect in 1885. He left behind his wife Mary and a two-year-old son named William.
Hyde’s name is inscribed on the police officers memorial in Albany and a plaque at the Amsterdam Police Department. And the name “Hyde” in recent years was used for the police department K-9. K-9 Hyde retired from the force in 2014 after eight years of service.
An Amsterdam city firefighter lost his life in the line of duty in 1907, the year the city disbanded its volunteer fire departments in favor of a paid service.
Firefighter William Sullivan died battling a blaze at Amsterdam Broom Company. A wall fell on Sullivan, burying him under a pile of debris in the waters of Bunn Street Creek. Sullivan was 29, a native of Rockton and had served as a firefighter for three years.
It would be 73 years before another Amsterdam firefighter died in the line of duty. Lieutenant Frank Marciniak, a 29 year member of the fire service and a World War II veteran, died of a heart attack an hour after returning from an early morning apartment blaze on Bigelow Avenue in 1980.
The names of Sullivan and Marciniak are etched in stone on the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or [email protected].