Constable Madison Gage died in the line of duty in Amsterdam 130 years ago this month.
Last May, Gage’s name was added to the state Police Officers Memorial at Empire State Plaza in Albany.
According to research by 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 a village judge within what is now the city when he died in 1883. Amsterdam became a city in 1885.
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 that had one of the few telephones in the area so a doctor could be called. That store was probably what is today Tuman’s Tavern.
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.”
Constable Gage lived on East Main Street in Amsterdam. He once rescued a young girl from floodwaters 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.
The only other police officer to die in the line of duty in Amsterdam was Patrolman Joseph Hyde. He died Nov. 14, 1891, because of complications from a gunshot wound in his elbow sustained two days earlier during the 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 reportedly died from pneumonia caused by an infection of the gunshot wound. The thieves had taken $1.25 from a shoe store and $3 from a wallpaper establishment in downtown Amsterdam.
According to a 2002 Daily Gazette story when a plaque was installed at police headquarters in Hyde’s memory, the officer was 39 when he died. A native of Ireland, he 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 2-year-old son, William.
Hyde’s name is inscribed on the police officers memorial in Albany and lives on in other ways. The department’s K-9 is named Hyde, handled by Officer Stephen Pasquarelli. In February, when Amsterdam police and fire personnel rescued a young deer that was impaled on a wrought iron fence, they brought in wildlife rehabilitator Sarah McDaniel Austin of Johnstown. Because of the police department’s humane response, McDaniel Austin named the deer Hyde to honor the officer who died in 1891.
A quiet city
In 1889, two years before Officer Hyde was killed, a Board of Trade report remarked on the city’s peacefulness.
“Amsterdam is a remarkably quiet city, with a peaceful, sober and industrious population. Consequently, the demand for police protection is comparatively slight and the patrol system yet to be introduced. For the present, by the exercise of great vigilance, all required service is efficiently performed by the police officers under the able command of Chief Charles Kline.”
The report concluded that the police force was successful in its “true object”— the prevention of disorder and crime.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.