John G. Bergen

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John G. Bergen
Born (1814-12-04)December 4, 1814
South Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died July 8, 1867(1867-07-08) (aged 52)
South Brooklyn, New York
Resting place Greenwood Cemetery
Nationality Norwegian-American
Other names John C. Bergen
Occupation Public servant and member of the Board of Police Commissioners
Employer New York City Police Department
Known for Appointed to the first Board of Police Commissioners; co-led the NYPD with Thomas Coxon Acton during the New York Draft Riots.
Political party Republican
Parent(s) Garrett Bergen
Relatives Peter Bergen, brother
Teunis Bergen, brother

John G. Bergen (December 4, 1814 – July 18, 1867) was an American public servant and New York City Police Commissioner. A member and treasurer of the Board of Police Commissioners, he and Thomas Coxon Acton assumed command of the NYPD during the New York Draft Riots after Superintendent John Kennedy was injured at the hands of a mob.

Early life[edit]

John G. Bergen was born in South Brooklyn on December 4, 1814. Born into one of the few Scandinavian families to settle in New Netherland, he was a descendant of Michael Hans Bergen, one of eight children born to Hans Hansen Bergen, a native of Bergen, Norway, and his wife Sarah Rapelje, the first child of European parentage born in New York State. John G. Bergen was one of three sons born to Garrett Bergen who became prominent public servants. His brother Peter Bergen was a noted judge in Brooklyn and Teunis Bergen became a US Congressman from the Second District of New York.[1]


In 1848, Bergen became supervisor of the Eighth and Ninth Wards in Brooklyn and would again hold the position in 1849 and 1850. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Kings Co., 1st D.) in 1854; and Supervisor of Brooklyn's Eighth Ward in 1858.[1]

Board of Police Commissioners[edit]

Upon the establishment of the Metropolitan Police Department, Bergen was appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners by Governor Edwin D. Morgan along with Thomas Coxon Acton and Superintendent John Kennedy in May 1860.[1] He and Acton took charge of the NYPD when Superintendent Kennedy was severely injured by a mob during an inspection tour. Bergen oversaw the police in Staten Island and Brooklyn while Acton directed police and military forces in Manhattan.[2] Bergen held his post until his death and was reportedly "always prompt, indefatigable and conscientious in the performance of his duties". He was also a strong supporter of the Republican Party but did not engage the intense political rivalry within the city government at that time.

Illness and death[edit]

Being accustomed to an active life outdoors however, his health suffered during his later years as a result of the time spent at Metropolitan headquarters. His condition gradually worsened and, by 1866, he began complaining of severe indigestion. His digestive organs became rapidly weaker over the next year, but he chose to remain at his post and continued attending meetings with the other commissioners until early July 1867. Confined to his Third Avenue home during his last few days, Bergen died with his family at his side on the evening of July 17, 1867. Police Commissioners Acton and Kennedy were also present and Kennedy later ordered the flags at all precincts lowered at half-mast until his burial.[1]

His funeral, held at the family home, was one of the largest police gatherings in the history of the NYPD. Among those in attendance were Superintendent Kennedy, Commissioners Acton, Benjamin F. Manniere and Joseph S. Bosworth, Inspectors John S. Folk, James Leonard and George W. Dilks, Precinct Captains Brown, Elanson Wilson, Cornelius Woglom, Francis C. Speight, Theron S. Copeland, James Powers, John J. Williamson, Enoch Jacobs, George R. Rhodes, Olives B. Leich, Joel Smith and countless sergeants and other officers. The New York Fire Commissioners, Board of Surgeons and other prominent New York citizens, such as Thurlow Weed, were also present. The services were held by the Dutch Reformed Church and the eulogy performed by Reverend J.H. Manning and Reverend N.P. Pierce, and Bergen was interred at the family plot at Greenwood Cemetery.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d "Police Commissioner Bergen". New York Times. July 19, 1867. Retrieved 2011-05-01. Last evening, at 7 o'clock, John G. Bergen, a member and the Treasurer of the Board of Police Commissioners, died at his residence in Thirty-eighth-street, near Third-avenue, South Brooklyn, after a long and very painful illness. Mr. Bergen was born on 4 December 1814, in the same neighborhood where he passed and ended his life. 
  2. ^ Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. (pg. 119) ISBN 1-56025-275-8
  3. ^ "The Late John G. Bergen. Funeral Services Yesterday. Action of the Boards of Health and Police Commissioners". New York Times. July 21, 1867. Retrieved 2011-05-01. The funeral services over the remains of the late John G. Bergen, one of the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police Board, took place at the residence of the family in Third-avenue, near Thirty-eight-street, Gowanus, yesterday afternoon. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernstein, Iver. The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Cook, Adrian. The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.
  • Costello, Augustine E. Our Police Protectors: History of the New York Police from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. New York: A.E. Costello, 1885.
  • Hickey, John J. Our Police Guardians: History of the Police Department of the City of New York, and the Policing of Same for the Past One Hundred Years. New York: John J. Hickey, 1925.
  • McCague, James. The Second Rebellion: The Story of the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. New York: Dial Press, 1968.
New York Assembly
Preceded by
Nicholson P. O'Brien
New York State Assembly
Kings County, 1st District

Succeeded by
Augustus H. Ivans