Peter Cagger – Founder of St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands
From the “Stories of our Dearly Departed” series from Kelly Grimaldi, Historian and Director of Education and Program Development for Albany Diocesan Cemeteries.
In January, 2019, Albany Diocesan Cemeteries launched “Stories of our Dearly Departed”, a series featuring stories and photographs of those who are buried within our 19 upstate NY cemeteries.
Our hope is that people will enjoy reading about the lives of our community members just as much as we enjoy learning about them from the families we serve and in the information we find throughout our archives. There are so many fascinating stories buried within these Sacred Grounds!
Mr. Cagger’s story will also be one of four skits that will be acted out by Albany Civic Theater actors graveside on Founders’ Hill – the very land he gave us, at the Menand House Garden Party Event, September 19, 2019.
Peter Cagger was a force to be reckoned with in mid-nineteenth century Albany. His law practice was one of the most successful firms in the area at the time. Mr. Cagger was much more than just a sharp-minded, prominent attorney – his benevolence was well-known making him a much-loved figure in the community. He was also known for his quick wit and wonderful sense of humor. Based on the countless articles published in newspapers all over the country, we can surmise that his influence was not contained to his hometown of Albany. Cagger was well-known and respected on a national level.
When he died tragically on July 6, 1868 at the age of 53, newspapers all over the country wrote in detail about the man who would leave his family and his community in deep mourning. He is described as beloved citizen, loving husband and father and a devote Catholic. His widow, Elizabeth Cagger partnered with Mary Cagger, Peter’s daughter from his first marriage, to found a much needed hospital in memory of her beloved husband. Hence we now have St. Peter’s Health Partners – one of the largest health organizations in the state.
Among Peter Cagger’s benevolent gestures was the founding of St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands. He purchased the original 50 acres for $20,000 – a tidy sum in 1867 – and donated the land to the Albany Diocese for the establishment of a much-needed rural Catholic cemetery. His vision to create a beautiful, park-like cemetery was realized in a year. St. Agnes Cemetery opened for burials in late June of 1868. The vibrant, successful Cagger could never have imagined he would be among those first interred in the sacred ground he founded. What must have been thinking as he ascended into heaven after having been thrown to his death from a horse-drawn carriage as it made its way through Central Park in New York City? We will never know for sure but perhaps we can assume he was shocked to know his life was over just as he hit his prime. He would be missed.
Mr. Cagger’s story is featured in one of four skits that will be acted out by Albany Civic Theater actors graveside on Founders’ Hill – the very land he gave us, at the Menand House Garden Party Event, September 19, 2019. Rather than belaboring the sad circumstance of his death, we feature him as he was; sharp, sophisticated, driven, kind and very human. Our skits are meant to showcase the lighter side of the decedent’s life on earth.
His story along with photographs is also featured in our beautiful 160 page coffee table book “These Sacred Grounds: 150 Years of St. Agnes Cemetery” by Historian and Author Kelly Grimaldi, and is now on sale for only $35. Click here for book information.
Do you have a story of an ancestor and/or loved one buried in one of our cemeteries that would be interesting to highlight?
We are looking for stories of those buried within the following 19 cemeteries:
St. Agnes, Menands • Most Holy Redeemer, Niskayuna • St. Anthony’s, Glenville • Our Lady of Angels, Colonie • Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick’s in Watervliet • Our Lady Help of Christians and Calvary in Glenmont • St. Agnes, Cohoes • St. Patrick’s, Coeymans • St. Jean de Baptiste, St. John’s, and St. Mary’s in Troy • Sts. Cyril & Method and Holy Cross in Rotterdam • St. Joseph’s, Waterford • St. John the Baptist and St. Mary’s in Schenectady • St. Mary’s, Coxsackie
If you have a story for us, contact Kelly at 518-350-7679 or [email protected].