Stephen Van Rensselaer Cruger (1844-1898)

Colonel S. Van Rensselaer Cruger of New York City & "Idlesse" Bayville, Long Island

He was born in New York City and was named for his maternal grandfather, "The Old Patroon" Stephen Van Rensselaer, Lieutenant-Governor of New York and recognized as one of the ten richest men in U.S. history. He was schooled at home until he was fourteen when he was sent to continue his studies in Europe, returning to New York three years later in 1861. The following year, he quit school to sign up with the Union Army and the New York Volunteers as 1st Lieutenant of the 150th Regiment.

As part of the Army of the Potomac he fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. In 1863, his regiment was placed under the command of General Sherman and participated in the critical Atlanta Campaign. At the Battle of Resaca (May, 1864) he was so seriously wounded that he was discharged from the army but within three months was back with his regiment in time to take part in the March to the Sea. He had his horse shot from under him at the Battle of Averasborough  (March, 1865). He was a Captain by the time the war concluded and he was afterwards brevetted Major and Lieutenant-Colonel, "for gallant and meritorious conduct during the campaign through Georgia and the Carolinas".

After the war, he returned to New York where he went into property management and his character saw him secure management of several large estates. His interest in the army remained and he was an active member of the New York National Guard before being made Colonel of the 12th Regiment. He was a Member of the Rice Post, Grand Army of the Republic, and Military Order of the Loyal Legion. In 1880, he was made a Vestryman and Comptroller of Trinity Church, placing him in full control of the management of all its real estate. In 1883, he was elected a trustee of the Mutual Life Insurance Company and in addition he was made a director of the New York Life Insurance & Trust Company; the Illinois Central Railroad; and, the United States Branch of the Commercial Union Trust Company. He was also a trustee of the Astor Library, the American Bible Society, Treasurer of St. Stephen's College and the New York Protestant Episcopal Public School.

He was Chairman of the Republican County Committee but initially refused to allow his name to be used in connection with public office. In 1888, he ran for Lieutenant-Governor on the same ticket with Warner Miller and although defeated by the Democrats made a credible showing. In 1894, he was nominated as a Republican candidate for Mayor of New York City and in the following year he was elected Park Commissioner of New York and President of the Department of Public Works in which position he died.

In 1868, he married Julia, daughter of Thomas Wentworth Storrow, of Paris. Stephen was a "Patriarch," they were members of Mrs Astor's "Four Hundred" and Mrs Cruger became a famous author writing under the pen name "Julien Gordon". They may have had two daughters, but if so they both predeceased their parents. They lived between their four-story townhouse at 112 East 35th Street in New York City and "Idlesse" their country home at Bayville on Long Island that was built in 1890 but was destroyed by fire just three years later. The house was one of the finest on Long Island with a frontage of 200-feet. Nothing was saved except for a few paintings and a little furniture. Aside from jewellery, works of art and furniture, also lost were some of Mrs Cruger's valuable manuscripts.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 07/03/2023 and last updated on 07/03/2024.