Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918


James McDermott

HON. JAMES McDERMOTT. The career of James McDermott, now a retired resident of the City of Winfield, has been one remarkable in many ways, and his life story contains many interesting chapters. From newsboy on the streets of New York to leading lawyer and member of the Kansas Legislature, his active career led him through many of the most important battles of the Civil war, as well as through the struggles of political life, and through it all he has maintained a reputation for courage, fidelity and absolute fearlessness.

Mr. McDermott was born in New York City, New York, June 6, 1841, and is a son of Hugh McDermott, who was a native of Ireland and who became an extensive contractor in this country. He was taken to Kentucky when about twelve years of age. It was here that he attended his first term of school, and completed his education largely by private study until he qualified as a teacher and taught in several schools in Kentucky. When the Civil war threatened the destruction of the Union and the families of his neighborhood were rent by dissenting political opinions, he cast his lot with the Union, and in July, 1861, became a member of Company I, Second Regiment, Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, of which he had been one of the organizers. At the time of the organization of the company he was made orderly sergeant, and later he was promoted second, and then first lieutenant, and during the last three years of active service commanded his, and incomplete fragments of other companies. Mr. McDermott participated in the battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, and Fort Donelson; arrived too late to get into action at Shiloh; was in the Vickburg campaign, and then took part in the engagement at Chickamauga, where he received a severe gun-shot wound through the groin, from which he has ever since been a sufferer. In November he had recovered sufficiently to rejoin his command, and although he was compelled to be carried to the front by soldiers, fought as commander of his company in the severe engagement of Missionary Ridge. He continued under the command of General Thomas thereafter until the close of the war. After the battle of Chickamauga, his command was mounted, and from that time forward he had under his orders 250 men employed in scout duty. Later Mr. McDermott fought in the battles of Franklin and Nashville, his last, and received his honorable discharge when peace was declared.

Returning to Kentucky, Mr. McDermott began the study of law at Vanceburg in the office of George Thomas, then a judge and later a congressman. After being admitted to the bar he practiced at Vanceburg until the spring of 1870 when he moved to Kansas, took up a claim near Dexter, and engaged in practice at Winfield. He was married in Vanceburg to Miss Mary Bertram and to this marriage there were born three children: James A., county attorney of Cowley County and city attorney of Winfield; Catherine, who is now Mrs. John G. Davidson; and Mary. Soon after his arrival in Kansas, Mr. McDermott became interested in politics, and was recognized to be constructed of official timber. He was sent to the Kansas Legislature and was county attorney for Cowley County and city attorney for Winfield. Mr. McDermott built up a large law practice, but in 1912, owing to declining health and advancing years, retired from the active practice of his profession and was succeeded by his son, James A. Mr. McDermott's first wife died in 1883, and he subsequently married Miss Tirzah Henderson, by whom he became the father of two children: George Thomas and William F.

Mr. McDermott is one of the stalwart republicans of Kansas, and by religion is a Baptist. He is a man of undoubted integrity, of very aggressive views and with courage that has been proven in actual battle and in legal and civic strife. His predominating characteristics are, perhaps, his uncompromising honesty and his antagonism to anything savoring of double dealing or chicanery.

George Thomas McDermott a son of James McDermott by his second marriage, was named after the Union general and the man under whom his father read law. He is himself one of the rising lawyers of Kansas, and is now a member of the well known Topeka law firm of Stone & McDermott.


Transcribed from volume 4, page 1794 of A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; originally transcribed 1998, modified 2003 by Carolyn Ward.

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