James W. McGhee, the well known register of deeds of Mitchell county, is a Pennsylvanian by birth. He was born August 24, 1844, at Salona, Clinton county, Pennsylvania, and is a son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Driesbach) McGhee, both also natives of the Keystone State. The father was born on a farm in Clinton county, Pennsylvania, in September, 1808. His father and mother were natives of Ireland and Scotland, respectively. Thomas McGhee was engaged in the mercantile business in Clinton county in early life and later entered politics and was elected to the office of prothonotary (clerk of the district court), serving in that capacity four years, when he was elected registrar of wills and recorder of deeds. He also served four years as sheriff of Clinton. He was a Thirty-second degree Mason, an Odd Fellow and a member of the Methodist church. He died April 10, 1878. His wife, to whom he was married at Lock Haven, Pa., was also a native of that State and was born in Carbon county in 1824, of German ancestors. They had fourteen children, four of whom are living, as follows: Mary M., born in 1838, now the widow of John L. Doty, Lincoln, Neb.; Ella, born in 1840, married M. M. Trout, Canton, Pa.; James W., born August 24, 1844, and Robert H., born in 1846.
James W. McGhee was educated in the public schools of Clinton county, Pennsylvania, and while yet a mere boy enlisted in Company C, One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, which served in the army of the Potomac, under Generals McClelland and Hooker. He participated in the battles of Fredericksburg, South Mountain, Crampton's Gap, Chancellorsville, Antietam and a number of minor engagements. At the close of the war he received an honorable discharge, and in 1867 he enlisted in the regular army and served in Company D, Thirty-first United States infantry, for two years, when he was discharged on account of disabilities received in the service. He served in various Indian troubles on the plains and was in the campaign against the Sioux Indians in Dakota. When he received his discharge from the army he returned to Lock Haven, Pa., where he clerked in a store for a short time, when he entered the employ of the Pennsylvania railroad as brakeman and later as locomotive fireman. He fired on the construction train that hauled the material to build the railroad from Harrisburg to Erie, and was the brakeman on the first train run into Lock Haven over the Bald Eagle Valley branch of the Pennsylvania railroad. In 1871 Mr. McGhee came to Kansas and took a homestead on Government land in Mitchell county two miles northwest of Cawker City, which was a wild and unbroken prairie at that time. He experienced a great deal of frontier life in his day. The two years that he spent in camp and on the trail as a soldier in the United States army, followed by an early settlement on the frontier, brought him into contact with the great plains of the Middle West at a time that tested men's mettle and developed the quality of self-reliance, so indispensable to those who blazed the way of civilization. There were still some buffaloes, elk and deer in Mitchell county when he settled there. In the winter of 1872-3 he killed two buffaloes on the ground where Cawker City now stands, and in 1873 he was a member of a hunting party that killed 138 buffaloes within three weeks' time in the counties of Osborne, Rooks and Russell. In 1873 he was appointed postmaster of Cawker City. The emoluments attached to the position at that time were twelve dollars per year. He held the office twelve years. He was also engaged in the mercantile business in Cawker City, and at the same time acted in the capacity of public auctioneer. He served as clerk and treasurer several times and in 1883 was elected mayor. In 1898 he was appointed deputy county treasurer of Mitchell county and removed to Beloit, where he has since resided. He was elected registrar of deeds in 1905, re-elected in 1907, 1910, and 1912, in which capacity he is now serving.
Mr. McGhee was united in marriage March 3, 1873, to Miss Naomi, daughter of James G. Closon, of Osborne county, Kansas. She was born April 2, 1856, at Binghamton, N. Y. She came to Kansas with her father in 1872, her mother having died in their eastern home before the father came west. The father died in 1897. Mr. and Mrs. McGhee have two children: Frank J., born February 23, 1882, and Helen M., born February 3, 1895. Mr. McGhee is a Knight Templar Mason and has served as high priest of Beloit Chapter No. 48, and is a noble of the Mystic Shrine. He is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and has served two terms as post commander of Reynolds Post, No. 145, of Cawker City, and two terms as post commander of Beloit Post, No. 145, and is the present adjutant of the latter post. He assisted in the organization of the first Masonic lodge and the first Grand Army of the Republic post in Mitchell county. Since he came to Kansas he has taken an active interest in everything pertaining to the welfare of his adopted State and is a thorough Kansan.Pages 331-333 from a supplemental volume 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 October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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