James Hagan was not only a stonecutter but a real-estate dealer, state senator, community leader, and politician. He lived and worked in New Orleans not only in a time of great social change but a period of high craftwork and architecture in the city’s cemeteries. Among his signed works are some of the most ornate in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, all marked by detailed stonework and expensive marble cladding.
Mary Henderson was also Irish-born. By marrying into her family, James Hagan became part of a class of immigrants more powerful than the historically-impoverished communities along Tchoupitoulas Street. His brother-in-law, John Henderson, was a successful real-estate dealer and liquor distributor in the Fourth District, an area where real-estate speculation boomed in the 1850s and 1860s. James Hagan partnered with Henderson in property transactions for decades, even after the death of Mary Henderson.
James Hagan and his brother John were both stonecutters by 1858, although neither would own their own marble yard until after the Civil War.  While documentation suggests Peter Hagan may have died in service to the Confederacy, none of the other three Hagan brothers appear to have joined the Southern cause. It was after the war ended in 1865 that James Hagan truly distinguished himself as a craftsman, entrepreneur, and politician.
In 1866, James Hagan was appointed sexton of Lafayette Cemeteries Nos. 1 and 2.  Within three years, he would own two marble yards: one on Washington Avenue and Franklin Street (present-day Loyola Avenue) and, later, one on the northeast corner of Prytania Street and Washington Avenue. Said the Daily Crescent of his business on January 9, 1869:
The community of funerary craftsmen to which James Hagan belonged was tied to the stylistic period of the 1850s to 1860s, an age in which high-style motifs were borrowed from European cemeteries such as Père Lachaise in Paris. Hagan and his contemporaries D.F. Simpson, Anthony Barret, H. Lowenstein, and Creole/French stonecutters Florville Foy and Paul Hyppolyte Monsseaux, borrowed design attributes from their French counterparts. Sarcophagus tombs with canted sides, massive cross-gable roofs, inverted torch symbolism, scrollwork, and acroteria signified their work. This style is directly attributed to New Orleans architect Jacques Nicolas Bussière de Pouilly, who designed many such tombs in St. Louis Cemeteries Nos. 1 and 2. Hagan’s more distinctive tombs in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 – the VanBenthuysen, Sewell, Peirce, Randolph, and Auch tombs – exemplify this style.
Like many other stonecutters and tomb builders in New Orleans, James Hagan additionally sold building supplies like flagstone, lime, cement, and plaster from his marble yard. He became, as many of his contemporaries did, a contractor for new building projects. In 1874, he oversaw the construction of St. Patrick’s Hall on Lafayette Square, where he eventually moved his marble office. In 1880, he was elected the Democratic state senator for Orleans Parish. Over the course of his single term of service, he mostly served on committees concerning the restoration of the state Capitol at Baton Rouge. He is remembered in documentation as having fought obstinately against nearly all decisions made on the project; he eventually completely abstained from voting.
In his last years, James Hagan suffered a long illness and was cared for by his daughter, Mary Clara, who appears never to have married. He died on February 27, 1908, at the age of seventy-eight, having survived his two wives, his brothers (Patrick died of yellow fever in 1878, John died in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1891), and one of his sons. His son by Mary Rebecca, named Randolph, returned from his home in New York to handle James Hagan's funeral and burial in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, where he rejoined many of his family members that went before him. At some time in the 1920s, the closure tablet that bears his name was re-carved and replaced by then-sexton Edward Alfortish.
James Hagan’s life was an illustration of the Irish immigrant experience in New Orleans, representing aspects of Reconstruction politics and the development of the city’s geography and cultural identity in the second half of the nineteenth century. His work remains as some of the most visually stunning in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. That his own tomb remains so distinctive within the cemetery’s landscape is fitting. It represents the end of a long and productive life of service to the city and its cemeteries.
 “James Hagan’s Death,” Times-Picayune, February 28, 1908; Frank Bordelon, Descendants of John Hagan (n.p. 2013).
 Parish of Orleans, Office of Conveyances and Mortgages, Abstract Book 118, Page 818; City of New Orleans, Notarial Archives Division, Bendernagle, Vol. 15, Act 297; Parish of Orleans, Office of Conveyances and Mortgages, Abstract Book 135, Page 521; Book 122, Page 736; Book 99, Pages 648-649; Book 103, Page 287; Book 104, Page 311; Book 103, Page 325; Book 129, Page 289; Book 135, Page 521, to cite a few of Hagan and Henderson’s transactions.
 Gardener & Wharton’s New Orleans Directory for the Year 1858 (New Orleans: Wharton’s Steam Book and Job Printing, 1858), 143. In this year, James and John lived together on First Street, between Dryades and St. Denis (present day Danneel Street).
 “Names of the Drafted,” Daily Picayune, April 29, 1865, 6.
 Gardner’s New Orleans Directory for 1866 (New Orleans: True Delta Book and Job Office, 1866), 210; Parish of Orleans, Office of Conveyances and Mortgages, Abstract Book 91, Page 75; Louisiana State Board of Health, Biennial Report of the Louisiana State Board of Health, 1883-84, 40; Graham’s Crescent City Directory for 1867 (New Orleans: A. Graham, 1866), 571.
 “Lafayette Marble Works,” New Orleans Crescent, January 9, 1869, 2.
 D.F. Simpson was active as a craftsman in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 from 1863-1868; Anthony Barret 1855-1874; H. Lowenstein 1861-1869; Florville Foy 1841-1902; P.H. Monsseaux 1851-1873. Based on a survey of historic directories.
 Ann Merritt Masson, “The Mortuary Architecture of Jacques Nicolas Bussiere de Pouilly” (MA Thesis, Tulane University, 1992), 48-52.
 “All Saints Day,” Daily City Item, November 1, 1878, 1.
 “Laying of the Corner Stone of St. Patrick’s Hall,” The Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, March 22, 1874, 5; “St Patrick’s Hall, Opening Night – General Description, the Founders and Builders of the Hall,” The New Orleans Times, December 12, 1874, 3; Soards’ New Orleans City Directory for 1879 (New Orleans: L. Soards Publishing Co., 1879), 329; Soards’ New Orleans Directory for 1880 (New Orleans: L. Soards & Co. Publishing, 1880), 362; Soards’ New Orleans Directory for 1882 (New Orleans: L. Soards & Co., Publishing, 1882), 302.
 Arthur E. McEnany, Membership in the Louisiana Senate, 1880-Present (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Senate, January 2012), 66.
 “The Other Side: The Report Adopted by the State-House Commission Respecting the Work Done,” Louisiana Capitolian (Baton Rouge, LA), August 28, 1880; Carol K. Haase, Louisiana’s Old State Capitol (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2009), 18, 22-23; Louisiana Capitolian (Baton Rouge, LA), August 21, 1880, 5.
 Times-Picayune, March 16, 1904.
 “James Hagan’s Death,” Times-Picayune, February 28, 1908.