Biography of Judge Malcolm G. McGregor
Jasper County, MO Biographies





Judge Malcolm Gramme McGregor, a distinguished lawyer and jurist of Jasper county, whose influence and efforts have been most potent in the development and upbuilding of this section of the state, was born at Wadsworth, Medina county, Ohio, January 15, 1843, the youngest in a family of nine children whose parents were John and Isabella (Brock) McGregor. The father and mother were both natives of Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. When a boy the father was always able to recite more verses from the Bible than any other pupil in the Sunday school of his native town and thus he attracted the attention of the Rev. Alexander Fletcher, a leading Presbyterian clergyman of London, who was visiting Hamilton and induced the lad's parents to allow him to take young John back with him to London. He bore all the expenses of the journey and of an educational course in that city. After his return to Scotland John McGregor, with the assistance of his parents, completed his education in Glasgow University, and upon again locating in Hamilton he worked at the weaver's trade in a factory there. At the same time he engaged in teaching a night school for the benefit of his fellow workmen.

About the year 1827 John McGregor came to America, leaving his wife and four children in Scotland, owing to a lack of means wherewith to bring them with him. For a short time he resided in Canada and soon secured money enough to pay the passage of his family to the new world. Soon after the arrival of his wife and children he took up his abode in the United States, settling in Vermont, where he worked at his trade and during the winter seasons also acted as the village schoolmastere. About 1835 he joined some of his neighbors and emigrated to the west, settling in Medina county, Ohio, about thirty miles from Cleveland, in the Western Reserve. That part of the state was then a dense forest, but was soon settled, mostly by people from New England, who cleared and improved the land. Aside from doing much manual labor in developing a farm Mr. McGregor established a private academy at Wadsworth and became an educator of considerable note and prominence. He conducted the academy with success up to the year of his death, which occurred in 1848. Shortly prior to his demise he and his eldest son, Archibald McGregor, purchased a newspaper at Canton, Ohio, and the father had arranged to remove his family from Wadsworth to Canton when, in the fall of 1848, he died suddenly of heart disease. After his demise the arrangements for the removal to Canton were carried out by his widow, who in 1849 went to live with her son, Archibald McGregor, who was married and was conducting the Stark County Democrat, which he and his father had purchased the previous year. Here also Malcolm found a good home.

Malcolm McGregor attended the public schools of Canton and as soon as old enough assisted in the work of the printing office. His first duty was the delivery of the papers about the town, and at the age of sixteen he abandoned the schoolroom entirely in order to give his attention exclusively to his duties as an employe in his brother's printing office. He was thus engaged for nearly five years, and during the greater part of the time acted as foreman of the office, having the management of the mechanical department. In the fall of 1863, a short time before attaining his majority, he went to Maquoketa, Iowa, to visit his brother, John, and his sister, Mrs. Emma Jenkins, who was just older than himself. After arriving in that state he decided to remain and during the winter engaged in teaching school. The next summer he acted as a salesman in his brother's store and during the succeeding autumn and winter he taught in the public schools of Maquoketa, Iowa.

In the spring of 1865 Mr. McGregor entered the law office of Charles M. Dunbar as a student, and in the fall of the same year he went to Kansas City, Missouri, where he continued his preparation for the bar in the office and under the direction of his brother in law, Colonel J. W. Jenkins, who had removed from Iowa to Missouri after the close of the war. In February, 1866, Mr. McGregor was admitted to the bar before Judge John A. S. Tutt, at Lexington, Missouri, and on the 26th of the same month he left Kansas City by stage for Fort Scott, Kansas, in search of a favorable location in which to begin the practice of law. On reaching his destination he left his grip at the hotel, for there were no public conveyances to carry him further, and walked first to Lamar, Missouri, a distance of forty miles, taking two days to make the trip. He remained over Friday in Lamar, and on Saturday, the 3d of March, he walked to Carthage, about twenty five miles, where he located and has since made his home. When he left Kansas City, he had never owned any firearms, he did not think of equipping himself with anything of that nature, but his sister insisted that he should not go without buying a revolver, believing no doubt that it was a necessary equipment for practicing law in southwestern Missouri in those days. Notwithstanding he rode over the country on horseback and alone, and visited other county seats, often collecting large sums of money, which he was compelled to carry with him, there being no banks or safes in the country, he was never molested. On his walk from Lamar to Carthage he met only one person on the way, a man walking, like himself, but in the opposite direction. After leaving Pettis creek, about five miles south of Lamar, where were two or three farm houses, he passed no other house on the road until reaching the ford of Spring river, one mile from Carthage. Having walked until about two o'clock in the afternoon without anything to eat since an early breakfast, he saw a small log house some distance off on the prairie without any enclosure or anything to indicate at that distance that the place was inhabited. Thinking, however, there might be a chance to get something to eat, he walked to the house and found there a woman and some children, and was told by the woman that she had some cornmeal and salt and a little bacon, and could prepare him some dinner from these. The meal, of course, to a hungry man tasted fine.

The future judge waded Spring river at what was then known as Dawson's ford. Although his sister had insisted that if he did not find the prospect good he should return to' Kansas City, he did not return until the fall of 1868, when, accompanied by his wife, he went on a visit, riding on a railroad train from Fort Scott to his destination - a means of travel in marked contrast to the manner in which he made the outward trip. Soon after his arrived in Jasper county Judge McGregor entered upon a good law practice, and in many ways aside from his profession he was prominently identified with the substantial growth and development of this portion of the state. At that time no postoffice had been reestablished in Jasper county after the war and he wrote the letter to Washington that was the means of establishing a postoffice at Carthage, and secured the appointment of George Rader as postmaster. He continued in the active practice of law, his clientage being of an important character, and was thus engaged until the fall of 1880, when he was elected judge of the circuit court for the circuit comprising Jasper, Newton, McDonald and Lawrence counties. So acceptably did he fill the position that at the end of his first term of six years he was reelected to that office, serving in all for twelve years. When a town school was organized in 1867 he was elected a member of the first hoard of education, and continued to serve as such almost continuously until his election to the bench. At that time he was also serving as president of the school board of Carthage and as city attorney of the city, and resigned both these positions to accept the judgeship. He fully sustained the dignity of the law, and with a broad and comprehensive knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence and familiarity with precedents, he based his decisions upon the points in litigation, the facts presented and the law applicable to them, and thus his decisions were models of judicial soundness and perspicuity.

In May, 1868, Judge McGregor was united in marriage to Miss Olive Stephenson, of Carthage, who died in 1882. He has two living daughters: Mrs. Ora DeWees, of Malvern, Ohio, and Miss Anna, who is living with her father in Carthage. After coming to the west Judge McGregor acted with the Republican party, but was never a strong partisan, and with the exception of the time when his name was on the ticket in connection with the judgeship he has never been a candidate for a lucrative public office: Each time he was an independent candidate for the bench and not the nominee of a party convention. He was opposed by the candidate of the Democracy and supported by the mass of the Republican and Greenback parties and by numerous independent Democrats. In 1896 and 1900 he supported William J. Bryan for the presidency, and since 1896 has been a Democrat of the Bryan school, opposing the financial and expansion policy of the Republican party.

In the fall of 1872 Judge McGregor united with the Methodist Episcopal church and in 1892 was elected a lay delegate from the St. Louis conference to the general conference of that church, which met at Omaha, Nebraska, in May and attended the sessions of that body. As a citizen he has ever manifested a public spirited interest in everything pertaining to the welfare and progress of the community, and his efforts have been of marked benefit to the locality. He is now the senior member of the Jasper county bar. The lawyers living in the county in ante bellum days left here during the war and never returned to reside, and when Judge McGregor took up his abode here in March, 1866, there were only two lawyers in the county. These were James Allison and William J. Cameron, who had recently settled here, coming to Missouri from Illinois. Later both removed from the county, thus leaving the Judge as the oldest member of the county bar in years of continuous connection therewith. He has seen the county expand from a population of perhaps less than one thousand to more than eighty four thousand, and has witnessed its development from a purely agricultural district, more than one hundred miles remote from railroads, to one of the richest counties in natural productions in the United States, with more miles of railroad than any other county in Missouri. Judge McGregor stands today among the most distinguished and honored citizens of his section of the state, yet it is not because of special prominence in public affairs that he has, and is justly entitled to, the respect and confidence of his fellow men, but because his personal qualities are such as to make men esteem and honor him.

From:
The Biographical History of Jasper County, Missouri
By Hon. Malcolm G. McGregor
The Lewis Publishing Co.
Chiago 1901


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