JUDGE MOSES PEARCE MCGEHEE.
With the passing of Judge Moses P. McGehee in 1883, Saline county lost one of her earliest pioneers and most valuable citizens. Judge McGehee was early in life thrown upon his own resources and he had to struggle along in the best way he could. He was, however, full of the true spirit of the pioneer, the spirit that went forward no matter what the odds, sustained by the vision of the great and glorious country which was to rise on the foundations of which the pioneers were the builders. He could turn his hand to almost anything from blacksmithing to acting as a judiciary. This versality, together with the wisdom which he had gathered during his long life and the common sense which had been Nature's gift to him, made him a very popular member of the community and he was in demand on all occasions.
Moses Pearce McGehee was born in Montgomery county, Tennessee, in 1823. He was the descendant of an old and honored Virginian family which had migrated to Tennessee. His parents were Pyrant and Jemima Pearce McGehee, who left Tennessee in 1832, and came to Gallatin county, Illinois. In 1838 Judge McGehee was left an orphan, and finding that he would have to shift for himself he bound himself as an apprentice to A. Mitchell and learned the blacksmith trade. He plied his trade for several years on the western frontier and then returned to Illinois and settled in Galatia, Saline county, in 1847. The following year of 1848 witnessed his marriage to Mary Priscilla Davis. She was a native of White county and a daughter of Dr. Robert Davis. Judge McGehee lived in Galatia until 1856, and then he moved his family to Harrisburg, where he spent the remainder of his life with the exception of two years, 1876-77, when he lived at Carrier Mills.
Shortly after his arrival in Galatia, in 1850, he and Dr. Harvey
Pearce opened a general merchandise store. They also had the first steam saw and grist mill in the county. The location of this mill was about one and one-half miles southeast of Galatia. Since there were no railroads in those days the machinery had to be hauled overland from St. Louis, and created more excitement than a circus. In 1858 this mill was moved to Harrisburg, Illinois. In 1849 he was elected justice of the peace and from 1853 to 1856 he served as associate justice. He was a clear thinker and was truly desirous of giving each man his due, and his worth is deeply felt by the people of the county. This was proven when they elected him county judge in 1856, to serve four years. He was again elected to this office in 1865, serving until 1873. He was a staunch Democrat, and was a loyal believer in fraternal societies. He was a charter member of Harrisburg Lodge, No. 325, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and he was the first senior warden of the Lodge. He died in 1883 and was buried with the Masonic ritual. His widow is still living in Harrisburg, at the age of seventy-nine. The Judge and his wife were the parents of the following children: Martha Louisa, who is the widow of Daniel Stiff, and with whom Mrs. McGehee makes her home; Sarah, who died in infancy; Thomas, who also died in babyhood; Robert Solen; Nora, who married H. Thompson; Axel, who died as a baby; and Davis A.
The business ability of Judge McGehee was inherited by his children and grandchildren. His grandson, Dennis B. McGehee, of Harrisburg, is the assistant to the general manager of mines of the O'Gara Coal Company, the most important enterprise in this section of the country and which was organized in 1905, with T. J. O'Gara as its president, and its officers and directors were all men of excellent business ability and of executive capacity. It was incorporated under the laws of the state of New York with a capital of six million dollars, with headquarters in Chicago, in the Marquette building. This company owns or controls thirty thousand acres of coal land, enough to keep its mines in operation for fifty years yet to come. The twelve mines it is now working have a capacity for an output of seven million tons of coal each year, and if fully worked would necessitate the employment of six thousand men. Its monthly pay roll now amounts to $250,000, with a royalty for coal of $10,000. The O'Gara Coal Company's entire investment in lands and plants in Saline county, alone approaches $10,000,000, a vast sum of money which yields very satisfactory returns. Mr. H. Thomas, as general manager of mines, and Mr. McGehee, his assistant, so handle the works, the men and the business as to make this organization of the utmost importance not only to Harrisburg and to Saline county, but to Southern Illinois placing it in the foremost rank among the substantial industries of the state.