Tipperary native among the earliest heroes of the FDNY

Daniel J. Meagher was born in Roscrea, County Tipperary, on November 22, 1843, two winters before the onset of the Great Famine, and he came to the United States sometime prior to the outbreak of Civil War. He enlisted May 20, 1861, giving his age as 18 (though he was 17) and was mustered in as a private in Company H, 5th New York Volunteer Infantry (Duryée's Zouaves).

Left: Our Firemen, by Augustine E. Costello, 1887
Daniel J. Meagher

Meagher's enlistment papers describe him as 5 feet 6 and one half inches tall, with blue eyes, light hair, and light complexion. The papers list his occupations as plumber's apprentice and soda water manufacturer; presumably he worked two jobs. He served through the entire two year term of service of the 5th New York, and was mustered out with his company on May 14, 1863. (His brother, James F. Meagher (1841-1915) served in Company K, 69th New York. )

Daniel Meagher married Mary A. McKeon on May 29, 1869. They had four children, several of whom died in infancy.

Meagher's post-war service in the Fire Department of New York was a distinguished one, and by the 1870s he was Foreman of Ladder Company 3. He was a member of the New York-based Fifth New York Veterans Association.

The firefighter lived in New York City until August, 1902, when he moved to Albany, residing at 32 Chestnut Avenue there. He died in Albany on February 22, 1919, and his remains were interred at Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, Queens.

Augustine E. Costello, in his 1887 history of the New York Fire Department, described Meagher's heroism in saving the life of a woman trapped in a burning building. The former soldier won the James Gordon Bennett Medal for Valor for the deed, described in Costello's book, excerpted below:

Daniel J. Meagher, foreman, Hook and Ladder Company No. 3, on the second of May, 1878, at No. 28 East Fourteenth Street, acted promptly on seeing Mrs. Sarah Freeman hanging out of a fourth-story window. A ladder raised was found to be too short, although held by hooks and stood on the stoop. Ordering the ladder to be raised quite erect, and away from the building, Meagher went up, stood on the top rung, told her to be calm and hold her limbs rigid, and then to drop. As she fell he caught her, and passed her safely to John P. Flood, fireman of his company, who despite a sprained foot, aided in the rescue.


-- Brian C. Pohanka
(This was first published in 2001)

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Tags: Diaspora History, NYC, New York, United States


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