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Clerks of the Court (Historical)

Colonel Alfred Wagstaff

WagstaffColonel Alfred Wagstaff
Clerk of the Court: 1896 - 1921
Born: March 21, 1844
Died: October 2, 1921

Colonel Alfred Wagstaff, a sportsman, military leader, politician, attorney, and public servant, was born in Manhattan in March of 1844. He was a man of imposing appearance at 6 feet 6 inches in height. At age 19, Wagstaff acquired the title Colonel when in command of the sixteenth New York militia regiment that helped suppress the Brooklyn draft riots.

In 1864, he was commissioned as First Lieutenant of the 91st New York Veteran Volunteers, and later promoted to Major. In 1866, Colonel Wagstaff graduated from Columbia Law School and was admitted to the New York State Bar. He then joined the Liberal Republican Party in 1872 and supported Horace Greeley for President. Afterwards, he became a Democrat. From 1867 to 1873, Wagstaff served in the New York State Assembly, and from 1876 to 1878 he served in the New York State Senate. For many years he was a partner in the firm of North, Ward and Wagstaff.

In 1896, he gained the position of Clerk of the Appellate Division First Department, a position he held until his death in 1921. Continuing his job as Clerk of the Court, he also became the President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1906. Things started to get controversial when Jefferson Seligman and Leonard E. Opdycke attempted to oust Colonel Wagstaff as President. They believed that Wagstaff was giving more of himself to the Court than to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and wanted him to give up the Court position.

However, Wagstaff fought back and maintained both positions. He continued to work until he became ill.  His illness led to his death on October 2,1921 at his estate near Babylon, NY. Colonel Wagstaff was survived by his wife Mary A. Barnard, four sons and one daughter. Although Wagstaff worked hard at his jobs, he knew how to enjoy life.  He was an expert fisherman and enjoyed spending time with his family. For forty years he served as senior warden of Christ Church in Babylon, NY and President of the Southside Hospital there.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Obituary, New York Times, October 3, 1921, p. 10.
Obituary, Forest and Stream, December 1921, p. 544

*This biography was written by Abigail Butcher in August of 2016.  At the time of the writing, Ms. Butcher had recently graduated from High School for Law Advocacy, and Community Justice in Manhattan and was soon to begin college at the State University of New York at Oswego.