Thacher family- An Adirondack Love Of Mystery And Intrigue In The 1880’s

Posted on December 2, 2021 by Albany Diocesan Cemeteries under Historic St. Agnes Cemetery, Stories of our Dearly Departed, Uncategorized
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From the “Stories of our Dearly Departed” series from Kelly Grimaldi, Historian and Associate Director for Albany Diocesan Cemeteries.

Albany Diocesan Cemeteries’ “Stories of our Dearly Departed” is a series featuring stories and photographs of those who are buried within our 20 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!

The Thacher Angel, St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands, NY

The Thacher Angel in St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands, NY

Our offices receive dozens of phone calls and visits every day from people looking for information about burial locations for their ancestors.  We are happy to oblige and can usually find locations with ease depending on the date range.  Older burials may be noted in our records but the recorders of the nineteenth century often excluded the section and lot number of the burial making locating the gravesite impossible without walking each section looking for a gravestone.

When Thomas Thacher called me looking for his ancestors, I did not need a section or a lot number to find them.  His family erected a huge, beautifully carved figure of the Angel Gabriel seated serenely on a pink granite pedestal and located on a large corner lot in section 24 of St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands.  The Thacher Angel is among the most beautiful memorials within the 114 acre cemetery.  Detailed wings arch at the figure’s back but it is the perfectly carved features of the face that draw the viewer into its serene beauty.  It is peaceful to look at.  If that is what the sculptor had in mind when he carved this angel in memory of a two year old Gabrielle Mary Thacher Morris, he succeeded.  Little Gabrielle died on September 13, 1894 of meningitis leaving her parents, Dr. John and Mary (Thacher) Morris to mourn her deeply.  The magnificent figure of the Angel Gabriel watches over the remains of Gabrielle and her parents as well as members of her extended family.

I am so glad Thomas inquired about his ancestors and took the time to visit their graveside. In a story included in his blog and e-book “Fifty Acres of Beach and Wood”, Thomas shares stories and research on his family’s history and connection to Indian Point of Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks.  His family story is definitely intriguing, and we thank him for agreeing to share it with our readers!  – Kelly Grimaldi


“Thank you so much for your book [These Sacred Grounds, Celebrating 150 Years of St. Agnes Cemetery] and showing me the Thacher’s Angel Gabriel.   Here is the chapter of my book which relates the story of how Eliza Toomey became Elizabeth Thacher, the matriarch of George Hornell Thacher Sr’s secret second family.” – Thomas Thacher



by Thomas Thacher

“One mystery remains which my research has never fully solved. Why did the last two generations of our family have no knowledge of the original Thacher cabin? And why are there no photos or drawings of the cabin? Most importantly, why did the cabin disappear? Here is one surprising theory that could shed light on these questions.

The Thacher and FitzPatrick families are proud of our Irish heritage thanks to the courage of our grandfather Kenelm R. Thacher (KRT) choosing to marry Catherine Callahan.   Family lore is that this act labeled KRT as the black sheep of the family given the unfortunate bigotry toward Irish Catholics by blue blood Protestants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.   My Aunt Ellen spoke of certain Thacher family members crossing the street in downtown Albany, rather than conversing with her parents.  It turns out that my grandfather was not the first Thacher to marry an Irish Catholic, nor was the resentment toward him the result of societal bigotry alone but rather a reflection of personal experiences.

After the death of our great-grandfather George Hornell Thacher 2nd (GHT2), his properties (including Thacher Island at Blue Mountain Lake, his summer residence in Manchester, VT, the mansion in Albany, NY, and the family business) were divided among his five sons. Our grandfather was given the least valuable undeveloped lands at Raquette Lake with its one room cabin and lean-to. We have often believed that our present day enjoyment of the beauty of Indian Point is the result of this bigotry.

Given this family lore, it was most surprising when my research discovered three facts completely contrary to a perceived bias against Irish Catholics.

  • Reverend Henry Gabriels, President of St. Josephs’ Catholic Seminary in Troy, NY served Catholic mass at the Thacher Camp on Indian Point on July 11-14 in 1878.
  • Mayor George Hornell Thacher Sr. (GHT1) secretly donated $100 dollars (about $3,000 today) each year for the construction of a new St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Albany from 1866 to 1869.
  • In July 1887, after GHT’s death in February, Mrs. George Hornell Thacher hosted Reverend Henry Gabriels at Thacher Island in Blue Mountain.

Why would GHT1 have a strong personal connection to Reverend Henry Gabriels and so generously support the construction of St. Mary’s? GHT1 had attended the Princeton Seminary and served as a Presbyterian Minister from 1843 to 1847.   Hardly a non-religious man, he was even less likely to find friendship with a Catholic.

The mystery began to unravel as I was researching another line of investigation regarding John Boyd Thacher 1st .”

Visit Tom’s blog here to read the rest of this story.

Do you have a story of an ancestor and/or loved one buried in one of our cemeteries that would be interesting to highlight in our “Stories of our Dearly Departed” series?

We are looking for stories of those buried within the following 20 cemeteries:

St. Agnes, Menands  •  Most Holy Redeemer, Niskayuna  •  Holy Sepulchre, Rensselaer  •  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. Anthony’s, Glenville  •  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 to share, contact Kelly at 518-350-7679 or [email protected].

Albany Diocesan Cemeteries

Albany Diocesan Cemeteries are operated for the religious and charitable purposes of the Roman Catholic Church through the burial and memorialization of the faithful departed.

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