James Andrew McGonigle, a contractor and builder of Leavenworth, was born at Hagerstown, Md., Feb. 8, 1834, and is one of eight childrensix sons and two daughtersborn to James and Susan (McLaughlin) McGonigle, both natives of County Derry, Ireland. James McGonigle, the father, was born within four miles of the historic Giant's Causeway on July 3, 1786. When he was sixteen years of age he began an apprenticeship at the weaver's trade in the town of Londonderry, where he spent five years in learning to weave carpets, bedspreads, linen and woolen cloth. On May 10, 1813, he took passage on an old-fashioned sailing vessel from Londonderry and landed at Baltimore, Md., on August 10 following. From Baltimore he took the stage to Hagerstown, where he arrived on August 27 and soon after found employment at his trade. A few years later he embarked in business for himself and continued actively engaged until a few years before his death, which occurred on Nov. 28, 1858. He was a man fine appearance, strong-minded, possessed of a keen sense of humor, a good citizen and a kind husband and father. Susan McLaughlin was born in County Derry on June 3, 1805. Her father, John McLaughlin, came to America in 1823 and settled at Hagerstown, Md., where James McGonigle and Susan McLaughlin were married on May 1, 1829. She died on Dec. 14, 1885, aged eighty years. She was a fine looking woman, intelligent and charitable, and had a host of sincere friends.
James A. McGonigle received his education in the old subscription schools, as the public school system was not introduced in Maryland until after the Civil war. He began going to school when he was seven years of age and continued to go at intervals until he was seventeen. The course of study embraced what is generally called "the three R's," grammar, geography, and sometimes algebra and geometry. His father often declared that he wanted to give each of his sons a good educaton and a trade, saying that no one could take a trade from them. Hence, when James was seventeen years old he left school and began learning the trade of house joiner. At that time all sash, doors, etc., were made by hand, and during his apprenticeship Mr. McGonigle became an expert mechanic along those lines. After learning his trade he worked as a journeyman for two years in Hagerstown, receiving the highest wages paid at that time$1.12 1/2 a day, paying his own board and during the summer months often worked fourteen hours a day. He then decided to take Horace Greeley's advice and go west. On April 26, 1857, he severed his old home ties and started for Leavenworth, where he arrived on May 6, taking six days to get to St. Louis, and the remainder of the time was spent on a Missouri river packet to Leavenworth. The day after his arrival he began work at $3.00 a day, with only ten hours a day. On Aug. 1, 1857, he began business as a contractor on his own account, and with the exception of the time he was in the Union army in the Civil war he has followed that vocation to the present time, having his home and headquarters in Leavenworth.
In the spring of 1861 Mr. McGonigle and Daniel McCook, a lawyer of Leavenworth, raised a company which was mustered in on May 31, 1861, as Company H, First Kansas regiment, of which company McCook was made captain and Mr. McGonigle first lieutenant. Captain McCook belonged to the celebrated fighting McCook family, and Mr. McGonigle relates how his captain remarked at the beginning of the war that he would either wear a colonel's shoulder straps or fill a soldier's grave. He realized his ambition, for before he was killed in battle in Tennessee he had risen to the rank of brigadier-general. A little while after the regiment was mustered in it was ordered to Missouri. On account of the illness of Captain McCook Lieutenant McGonigle was in command of the company until after the battle of Wilson's creek. The First and Second Kansas regiments marched through Kansas City, accompanied by two companies of infantry and two of cavalry, and at Grand river formed a junction with Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, who there took command of the entire army. The objective point was to meet the Confederate forces under Generals Price and McCulloch in Southwest Missouri. After marching south as far as Fayetteville, Ark., and fighting the engagement at Dug Springs, Lyon fell back to Springfield, Price and McCulloch going into camp at Wilson's creek, twelve miles southwest of that town. On the evening of August 9 General Lyon called a council of his officers and it was decided to attack the next morning. This brought on the battle of Wilson's creek, in which the Union forces numbered about 4,800 men and the enemy numbered from 10,000 to 13,000. The battle began about 5:30 in the morning and lasted until 11:30. The main part of the army was commanded by General Lyon in person, while Gen. Franz Sigel, with a detachment, was to attack the enemy in the rear. Lyon secured possession of a hill which overlooked the Confederate encampment, a position from which the enemy tried in vain to force him. Lyon was killed in the action and Lieutenant McGonigle's company lost nineteen killed and twenty-three wounded, he himself being among the latter. He had the satisfaction of knowing that he was wounded while in the discharge of his duty, being in command of the company. After being carried to the rear he was captured and taken to the Texas hospital, where he received careful treatment. From there he was taken to Springfield and when he was able to leave he was allowed to go to Rolla, where his regiment was stationed. Mr. McGonigle relates how he and another Kanas man called on General Price the day before he left Springfield, and how Price told them it was his intention to wipe out Kansas from one end to the other. Lieutenant McGonigle resigned from the army and resumed his building business. He served in the city council in 1860, before the war, and in 1865 he was again elected to a seat in that body. He was a member of the second state legislature which met in January, 1862, and has always taken an interest in questions of public policy, but he prefers his business interests to a political career.
Mr. McGonigle has erected buildings in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Mexico. Among the principal buildings he has erected may be mentioned the Montezuma hotel in New Mexico; the railway stations at Pueblo and Denver, Col., and Atchison, Kan.; the Leavenworth cathedral; some of the college buildings at St. Marys, Kan., and Creighton College at Omaha; the Santa Fe office building at Topeka; part of the Kansas state capitol building; the postoffice building at De Moines, Iowa; the insane asylum at Topeka, and the union depot at Kansas City, Mo., built in 1877. He also built the machinery and floral halls for the Columbian exposition at Chicago in 1893, as well as a number of state and foreign buildings on the fair grounds. One office building at Uniontown, Pa., only 125 miles west of his old home at Hagerstown, cost $732,000. He also built the United States postoffice and court-house at Houston, Tex. His territory has extended over a distance of 1,800 miles from east to west, and in all the work he has done he has been a careful and painstaking contractor, believing that a contract once entered into should be lived up to in good faith. Prior to 1896 Mr. McGonigle was a consistent advocate of the principles of the time-honored Democratic party, but since that time he has voted for two Republican candidates for president. He is a member of the Roman Catholic church and belongs to the Knights of Columbus. He is also a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion and was for one term commander of the commandery to which he belongs.
On Feb. 2, 1864, Mr. McGonigle married Miss Margaret Gelson, whose parents came to Kansas in 1860 from Pittsburgh, Pa. This union has been blessed by eight children, viz. Mary Susan, James Vincent, Stella, Margaret, Blanche, Edward, Grace, and James A., jr. Mr. McGonigle's domestic life has been a happy one. His wife has been a helpmate in every sense of the word and a kind mother to her children, which have been brought up to fill useful places in the world.Pages 425-428 from volume III, part 1 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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