McCullough, General John
as found in
HISTORY OF
BENNINGTON COUNTY, VT


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.

EDITED BY
LEWIS CASS ALDRICH
1889



McCULLOUGH, GENERAL JOHN G. The subject of this sketch was born in Welsh Tract near Newark, in the State of Delaware. His ancestry is of Scottish blood on the paternal, and of Welsh extraction on the maternal side of the house. His early educational advantages were of a meager character, but such as they were he diligently utilized them with considerable credit to himself. His father died when John G. was only three, and his mother when he was only seven years of age; but friends and relatives extended kindly and considerate care to the youth, whose pluck, persistence and unwearied industry placed him in command of the resources of a good education before he had attained his legal majority. His scholastic career ended in Delaware College. where he graduated with the first honors of his class before he had reached his twentieth year.

Selecting the profession of law, Mr. McCullough began to prepare for its practice immediately after his graduation. Repairing to Philadelphia he entered the law office of St. George Tucker Campbell, who for many years was one of the brightest and most successful jury lawyers at the Philadelphia bar. There he zealonsly prosecuted the necessary studies for the next three years, and also attended the law school of the University of Pennsylvania. From the latter institution he received the diploma of L.L.B., and was also admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1859. Thus thoroughly equipped for the contests of the courts the young lawyer found himself apparently doomed to exclusion from them by the declining condition of his health. Of naturally weak constitution he was now seized by a grave pulmonary complaint, and was obliged to turn aside from the pleasing local prospects before him. The preservation of life itself demanded speedy change of climate and surroundings. Having tried and won by his maiden effort the first and only case intrusted to his management in Philadelphia, he sailed for California. The outlook was not promising. More dead than alive, the probabilities of the health, fortune, and fame, of which he was in eager quest, were neither numerous nor flattering.

When Mr. McCullough landed in San Francisco he was unable to remain there because of the severity of the winds. He at once went forward to Sacramento. There he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of California. But physical necessity was upon him, and be again moved onward to the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, in order to profit by the dry and exhilarating air of the mountains. When the stage stopped at the end of its long route, in Mari- posa county, he disembarked, and stood face to face with all the new and untried possibilities of the situation. This was in 1860. Opening an office for the transaction of business, he rapidly acquired a full share of legal practice. The fame of a patriot rather than that of a legist was, however, what awaited him in his new and unaccustomed home. Before he had established any c;ose and extended acquaintance with the people he was unwittingly swept into the thickest of the forensic fight for the preservation of the national union. The outer currents of the eddying war-storm that bad gathered over the Cotton States, and that threatened destruction and death to all who stood in its pathway, made themselves felt in the remote coasts of the Pacific. There in Southern California the Secessionist from Alabama lived in close proximity to the Unionist from Vermont. It was by no means certain that the State would not become the theater of internecine war. The arrival of General Sumner on the scene was remarkably opportune. By a coup d'etat he superseded Albert Sidney Johnston in command of Fort Alcatraz, and thus frustrated the scheme of the Southern sympathizers to separate California from the Union. He found a ready and efficient supporter in the young McCullough, whose heart was too hot, intellect too swift, and eloquence too effective to permit him to be an inactive spectator of passing occurrences. Stranger as he was, he ascended the stump, and from that popular rostrum did splendid service for American nationality and freedom. Although barely qualified according to local law, he received the nomination for the General Assembly. A coalition of the Republicans and Douglas Democrats triumphantly elected him, despite the efforts of Secessionism, and sent him to Sacramento in 1861.

In the Legislature of California Mr. McCullough so manfully and successfully advocated the cause of the Union that in 1862 his constituents returned him to the Senate. The Senatorial district was large, and composed of many counties, and had for many years previously been under the control of the Democrats. Senator McCullough displayed such legal acumen and such judicious vigor in shaping Legislation, that, notwithstanding the fewness of his years and the recency of his citizenship, he was nominated in the following year by the Republican State Convention for the office of attorney-general, and was elected at the polls by an overwhelming majority. This office he continued to hold for the next four years, in which he resided at Sacramento. Much important litigation, in which the commonwealth was interested, thus fell to his management, and was so skillfully and satisfactorily conducted that he was again nominated by his, party in 1867. But popular sentiment had veered. In the election his name stood at the head of his ticket in the reception of general favor, but nevertheless both himself and co-aspirants failed of success.

After the close of his official career General McCullough settled in San Francisco, and there established a law firm, of which he was the head. From the commencement of its operations, and throughout the more than five years of his residence in that city he was a prominent member of the bar, which included men of the keenest and most cultured intellect from every State of the Union. His practice was highly remunerative, and his reputation with court, counsel, and client that of a practitioner who is scrupulously precise in statement and in action, and who is always governed by the nicest sense of professional honor. In 1871 he visited the Eastern States and Europe, and returned in company with a gifted and accomplished lady, whom he had espoused in Vermont. The latter auspicious connection was the controlling cause, aided by the fact that he had already acquired an ample fortune, of his permanent removal to Vermont in 1873.

In the full prime of manhood, and endowed with a restless, energetic, and self-controlled temperament, General McCullough could not content himself with the enjoyment of what he had so nobly and honorably won. Although he has not again taken up exclusively legal labors, he has distinguished himself in commercial, banking, and railroad affairs. For the past twelve years be has been vice-president and manager, in great measure, of the Panama Railroad Company. He is now the president and directing genius of that corporation, having consented to bold such relation at the urgent solicitation of M. De Lesseps and its French owners. He is chairman of the board of directors of the Erie Railway Company. He is also the president of the First National Bank of North Bennington, president of the Bennington and Rutland Railway Company, and a director of several banking and other institutions in Vermont and New York. Belonging to the Bennington Battle Monument Association, he was an active member of the committee charged with the selection of a design for the fitting memorial of that celebrated engagement.

Politics, as an applied science, have never failed to enlist the warmest sympathies of General McCullough. Whether on the Pacific or the Atlantic slope of the continent he has exhibited the liveliest interest in all the public questions of the day. No political campaign since 1860 has passed away without having heard his voice, ringing out in no uncertain tones, in advocacy of the principles and men that challenged his support. Under ordinary conditions the better and more fruitful portion of life is still before him. His beautiful home in Southern Vermont is the abode of elegant and cordial hospitality, and the center whence radiate the manifold energies which class him with the ablest and most influential Citizens of the Green Mountain State.

John Griffith McCullough was married in 1871 to Eliza Hall, the oldest daughter of Trenor W. Park, and grand-daughter of ex-Governor Hiland Hall. Four children, named Hall Park, Elizabeth Laura, Ella Sarah, and Esther Morgan, are the fruit of their union.


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