James McDermott, of Winfield, Kan., is the nestor of the Cowley county bar and is also one of the most successful legal advocates that county has ever had. He was born in New York City June 6, 1841, son of Hugh McDermott and his wife, whose maiden name was Catherine Kennedy. Both the father and mother were natives of Ireland and immigrated to America with their respective parents when very young. Hugh McDermott first located in New York City, where he engaged in the mercantile business, but later he engaged in the contracting business, his operations being principally in Louisiana and other southern parts, especially along the Mississippi river, where he constructed levees and ditches. The youth James was employed as a newsboy in New Orleans during 1852 and 1853, and in the latter year his father took him to Concord, Ky., where he was employed in railway construction on the Maysville & Big Sandy railway. In the fall of 1853 he was bound out to a farmer in Lewis county. He received a common school education and taught one year of school prior to enlisting in the army in 1861. He enlisted as a private in Company I, Fourth Kentucky infantry, but was immediately made first sergeant and subsequently was promoted to be second lieutenant, then first lieutenant, and finally acting captain, in which capacity he served during the last year of the war. Just before the close of the war, however, he performd[sic] the duties of regimental adjutant. The Fourth Kentucky regiment was one of three which President Lincoln authorized Lieut. William Nelson of the navy, a native of Mason county, Kentucky, to raise in that state in the early summer of 1861. It became a part of the First Brigade, First Division, Army of the Ohio. Its first participation in actual hostilities was at the battle of Mill Springs, Ky., and from thence it marched via Coffey's mill, Danville, Lebanon and Bardstown to Louisville, where it embarked on boats for Nashville, arriving there March 4, 1862. It took part in the advance on Corinth, Miss., and after the evacuation of that place pursued the enemy as far as Booneville, Miss., and then returned to Corinth, marching via Iuka to Tuscumbia. It next joined Buell's march from Nashville, Tenn., to Louisville, Ky. This regiment took part in the Tullahoma, Tenn., campaign and was in action at Hoover's Gap, Concord church and near Tullahoma. It went into action at Chickamauga with nineteen officers and 360 men and lost thirteen officers and 160 enlisted men in killed and wounded; and Company H, owing to the wounding of its captain, was commanded during this engagement by Lieutenant McDermott, losing nineteen men out of twenty-three. Lieutenant McDermott was struck three times in this battle and received one serious wound which detained him in a hospital two months. He recovered, however, in time to participate in the battle of Missionary Ridge, where he fought under General Thomas. In this battle the Fourth Kentucky ascended the hill at the extreme left of the Army of the Cumberland. Early in January, 1864, the regiment reënlisted and on the 29th returned to Kentucky on veteran furlough. Having received orders to be mounted, the regiment on May 16 again marched to the front, the scene of its activity being Georgia, where it joined the army advancing on Atlanta and had a sharp skirmish at Mason's church and participated in the McCook raid, forty-five out of sixty men of Company I being captured. On its return to Marietta, Ga., the regiment was so weakened by the capture of its members that Lieutenant McDermott was the ranking officer and in command for several days. He also served for a time as provost marshal on the staff of Major Root, commanding the brigade. The regiment was ordered back to Tennessee, however, and there participated in the campaign against Forrest. When the Confederate General Hood crossed the Tennessee, the Fourth Kentucky was in a sharp fight at Shoal creek, where it held a position enabling the Union command and artillery to fall back safely. The regiment moved with the cavalry in the battle before Nashville and took part in pursuit of Hood. Captain McDermott was mustered out Dec. 30, 1864, having seen hard service in some twenty-five different engagements. After the close of the war he returned home and in the fall of 1865 taught one term of school. During the following winter he was engaged in hauling cooperage material to market and then, in the spring of 1866, began farming on a rented farm in Lewis county, Kentucky, being thus engaged one year. In August, 1866, a full county ticket was to be elected. Friends of Captain McDermott persuaded him to be a candidate for the office of assessor. He was nominated for the office over seven other candidates and was duly elected for a term of four years. While serving in that capacity he took up the study of law with Judge Thomas, of Vanceburg, Ky., and by diligent and earnest study was prepared for his admission to the bar, which took place in Lewis county in December, 1867. He began the practice of his profession in the office of his preceptor, Judge Thomas, and there continued until 1870, when he responded to the call of the West and came to Kansas. He located in Cowley county and took a claim of 160 acres on the site of Dexter, of which town he is the founder and which now includes within the town limits sixty acres of Captain McDermott's original claim, the remainder of which he still owns. He was one of the firm of B. S. Tyler & Company, who operated the first store in Dexter. He remained on his claim until January, 1877, when he removed to Winfield and took up the duties of county attorney, having been elected to that office in the fall of 1876. In 1872 he was elected a member of the state legislature and served one term, being defeated for reëlection by the strong farmers' movement in the next campaign. He is an ardent Republican and has always taken a lively interest in the work of his party, having served as the first chairman of the Cowley county Republican central committee. He also served as chairman of the county temperance convention in 1880. Captain McDermott had as a law partner, A. P. Johnson, with whom he was associated in practice from 1880 until 1901. The firm was the oldest and most firmly established in the county and for over thirty years enjoyed a large and lucrative practice. Captain McDermott is recognized as a lawyer of exceptional intellectual vigor and skill, with great resourcefulness of mind and a thorough knowledge of legal precedent. His success, however, has been won by untiring and honorable effort, so that today, when more than three score years and ten, he is eminently worthy of the respect and esteem he commands, both as a legal advocate and as a citizen. He is serving his fortieth year as notary public, having held eleven commissions.
Captain McDermott has been married twice. His first wife, whom he wedded in 1874, was a Miss Mary E. Bertram, daughter of Adam Bertram, who was a native of Scotland. She bore him four childrena son and three daughters: James A. is now court stenographer in Cowley county; Isabella C. is the wife of J. G. Davidson, of Manitou, Colo.; Mary B. is at home with her father, and Elizabeth died in infancy. The mother of these children died in 1883, and in 1884 Captain McDermott married Miss Tirzah A., daughter of Joseph Henderson, of Dexter, Kan. To this second union were born two sons and one daughter: George T., who is a law partner of Robert Stone, of Topeka, and is a graduate of the law department of the Chicago University; William F. is city editor of the "Evening Free Press," of Winfield, and reported the proceedings of the state legislature during the session of 1911; and Margaret died in infancy. Captain McDermott is proud of his children, as he well may be, for each of them is striving to make his or her life count for good and usefulness, and they command the respect of all who know them. He is a member of the Blue Lodge, Chapter, and Commandery of the Masonic order, and has served as worshipful master of the lodges at Dexter and Winfleld, and as high priest of the chapter at Vninfield. He also served as senior deacon in the Kansas Grand Lodge one year. He associates with old comrades in arms as a member of Siverd Post, No. 85, Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Kansas, at Winfield, and has served as its commander. He is also a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Captain McDermott and his family are members of the Baptist church.Pages 1297-1300 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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