James Megeath

James Megeath

James Gabriel Megeath (born November 18, 1824, Loudoun County, Virginia, died November 9, 1906, Salt Lake City) was a pioneer of Omaha who will be remembered by the people of that city through his agency in the establishment of its most popular and beautiful park known as Hanscom park of over two fifths of which he was the magnanimous donor.

Megeath, a native of Virginia, was descended from one of the early families of the Old Dominion. He was born at the home of his maternal grandfather. His father was Joseph Pritchett Megeath who was born in 1800 in the same county and reared on the farm of his father Gabriel Megeath who lived and died in that county. As he neared his majority Joseph Pritchett Megeath left the parental farm and was engaged for some time in trading operating teams as far away as Ohio Afterwards he engaged in general merchandizing owning and operating a farm meantime for about twenty years when he retired in comfortable financial circumstances and died at Philomont Loudoun county Va in 1857 James G Megeath's mother was Elizabeth Cochran who was also born in Loudoun county Va in 1803 She was a daughter of James Cochran who lived for many years in that county appointed to examine them reported that he was ineligible inasmuch as he held the office of brigadier general of volunteers in the United States army and the report was sustained by the house by a vote of 19 to 18. So the counties named were without representation at this session.

James G Megeath could not secure living accommodations in that city and was compelled to cross the river to Council Bluffs. He remained in the latter city all winter but voted in Omaha on the day of his arrival from the East. He returned to Virginia in 1855 but two years later again went to Omaha which was his home until his death. In the latter year he purchased a one third interest in the general merchandise business of Megeath & Co which had a store for a time on the south side of Farnam street a few doors east of 14th and later on the north side of Farnam upon the site of the present Megeath building.

Megeath subsequently sold out his general merchandise business and embarked as the head of a company in the commission and forwarding business operating from the changing terminus of the Union Pacific railway until the latter road made its connection with the Central Pacific at Monument Point. This company did an enormous business. It handled 90 per cent of the freight of the Union Pacific to be forwarded.

Megeath early acquired large real estate interests in Omaha which was the means of greatly augmenting his large fortune. For a number of years on account of ill health he led a life of quiet retirement but during later years he was engaged in the active real estate business In 1872 he joined with Andrew J Hanscom in deeding to the city the property now known as Hanscom park comprising 57 acres of natural park land the gift being conditioned solely upon its being retained for park purposes by the city and being improved to the extent of $25,000.

Megeath and Peter E Her many years ago bought the McCoy distillery and with it formed what has since become the Willow Springs distillery property. After a few years however Mr Megeath disposed of his interest to the Hers. In 1860 he was a member of the city council. In 1866 he was speaker of representatives and during the same year was a member of the state senate at the special called for the election of two United States. He was also a member of the board of commissioners in the same year and in 1877 reelected to membership in the city council. In all of these responsible positions he rendered intelligent and effective service. He was an active democrat all his life. From the year 1848 he was an active member of the Masonic order and was the very early members of Capitol Lodge No organized in Omaha in 1857.

In 1854 in Fauquier, Virginia he was married to Miss Virginia Carter daughter of George Carter and granddaughter Ambrose Walden who was a lieutenant in the Revolutionary war. Mrs Megeath was born in 1833 in Fauquier county and died in 1898. The issue of this union included Mrs Beatty Robinson wife of Major EB Robinson 9th United States infantry born in Virginia in 1853 George Windsor born in Virginia in 1856 Joseph P born in Nebraska in 1857 and Samuel A born in Baltimore in 1870.

Megeath died at the home of his son Joseph P in Salt Lake City in 1906.

References

"Illustrated History of Nebraska" by Julius Sterling Morton, Albert Watkins, George L. Mille 1911


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