Adams County Biographies - Edward McPherson

Submitter: Margaret Gonzalez, email:

From: Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of the Nineteenth Congressional District Pennsylvania Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the District Together with an Introductory Historical Sketch, Edited by Samuel T. Wiley, Esq.

EDWARD McPHERSON, LL.D., a distinguished citizen of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is a descendant in the fourth generation of Robert and Janet McPherson, who settled on Marsh creek, Adams county (then Lancaster) in the year 1738. Robert McPherson died in 1749 and his wife in 1769.

Col. Robert McPherson, his great-grandfather, was educated in the academy located at New London, Chester county, Pennsylvania, and was for thirty years an active and influential citizen and filled many important positions in York county. He was auditor in 1755 and 1767; commissioner in 1756; sheriff in 1762 and assemblyman in 1765 to 1767 and 1781 to 1784. He was a member for York county of the provincial conference of committees which met in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, June 18, 1776, and was also a member of the Constitutional Convention which in July, 1776, formulated the first Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania. He was captain in Gen. Forbes' expedition to reduce Fort Duquesne in 1758 and served as colonel in the Revolutionary army and after the expiration of his term as an assistant commissary of supplies. His wife was Agnes Miller, of the Cumberland Valley, by whom he had nine children, six daughters and three sons. Of the former two died in infancy. Janet married David Grier, of York; Mary married Alexander Russell, Esq., of Gettysburg; Agnes married Dr. Andrew McDowell, of Chambersburg, and Elizabeth married James Riddle, of Chambersburg. The eldest son, William married, first, Mary Carrick, of Maryland, and after her death Sarah Reynolds, of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Robert died unmarried and John married Sarah Smith, of Frederick, Maryland. Col. Robert was one of the chartered trustees of Dickinson College. He died in 1789.

Lieutenant William McPherson, grandfather of Edward, served honorably in the Revolutionary war, having been a lieutenant in 1776 in Miles Rifle Regiment, and was captured by the enemy at the battle of Long Island and kept a prisoner of war for nearly two years. On his return to civic life he discharged many public trusts, and for nine years represented York county in the Legislature as the special champion of the bill for the creation of Adams county, which division was made in 1800. He died in Gettysburg August 2, 1832, in his seventy-fifth year.

John B. McPherson, grandson of Col. Robert McPherson, by Mary Carrick, of Frederick county, Maryland, and father of Edward, was born near Gettysburg, November 15, 1789, on the farm on which his great-grandfather settled in 1738. John B. McPherson lost his mother when quite young and spent several of his earlier years with his grandfather, Capt. Samuel Carrick, of the neighborhood of Emmitsburg, Maryland. He subsequently returned to his home, where he spent his youth. He received a fair education at the academies of Gettysburg and York, subsequently spent several years of his life in Frederick City, Maryland, with his uncle, Col. John McPherson, and for a year was a clerk in the Branch bank located in that place. He was married in Frederick, April 5, 1810, to Catharine, daughter of Godfrey Lenhart, Esq., and grand-daughter of Yost Harbach (now spelled Harbaugh), all of York county. Early in 1810 he removed to Gettysburg with a view to entering the mercantile business, but on the 26th of May, of that year, was elected cashier of the bank of Gettysburg, then recently chartered and organized. He continued in that position until his death, a period of nearly forty-four years. He had superior business ability and courteous manners, combined with strength of character and a high sense of personal and official honor. He participated actively in municipal and county affairs and filled many posts of trust. He was a highly intelligent and well read man, a patron and efficient friend of Pennsylvania College, of whose board of trustees he was president at the time of his death. His widow survived him about one year. They left several children. A grandson, Dr. J. McPherson Scott, has twice represented his native county of Washington, Maryland, in the Legislature, is a physician of high standing and was a district delegate to the republican National Convention of 1884.

Hon. Edward McPherson, youngest son of John B. and Catharine McPherson, was born in Gettysburg, July 31, 1830, and was educated at the public schools of the borough, and at Pennsylvania College, graduating from the latter as valedictorian of his class in 1848. He early developed a taste for politics and journalism, but at the request of his father began the study of law with Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, at Lancaster, which, however, he abandoned on account of failing health and for several winters was employed at Harrisburg as a reporter of legislative proceedings and a correspondent of the Philadelphia North American and other newspapers. In the campaign of 1851 he edited in the interests of the Whig party the Harrisburg Daily American, and in the fall of that year he took charge of the Lancaster Independent Whig which he edited until January, 1854. In the spring of 1853, he started the Inland Daily, the first daily paper published at Lancaster. His health proved unequal to such exacting labors and he relinquished them as stated, except for brief periods at Pittsburg, in 1855, and at Philadelphia from the Fall of 1878 to the Spring of 1880, since which time he has not had active connection with the press. The first important public service rendered by Mr. McPherson was the preparation of a series of letters, ten in number, which were printed in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in the year 1857 and afterward in pamphlet form, their object being to prove the soundness of the financial policy which demanded the sale by the State of its main line of public improvements. The letters analyzed the reports of the canal commissioners for a series of years, proved the falsity of conclusions drawn from them, and demonstrated the folly of State ownership and management. The letters were never answered, and they formed the test from which were drawn the arguments in favor of the sale which was accomplished in 1858. The next year he prepared a like series on the sale of the branches of the State canal which had a like reception. Both series of letters were published ananymously, but were signed "Adams," after his native county. In 1856 he published an address on "The Growth of Individualism," which was delivered before the alumni of his alma mater, of whose board of trustees he had been for years an active member. Another was published in 1858 on the "Christian Principle, Its Influence Upon Government," and still another in 1859, on "The Family in its Relations to the State," both of which were delivered before the Y.M.C.A., of Gettysburg. In 1863 he delivered an address before the literary societies of Dickinson College, on the subject "Know Thyself," personally and nationally considered. In 1858 Mr. McPherson was elected to the 36th Congress from the 16th district of Pennsylvania, then embracing the counties of Adams, Franklin, Fulton, Bedford and Juniata, and was re-elected in 1860. In 1862 he was defeated in the political re-action of that date, the district having been meanwhile changed by the substitution of Somerset county for Juniata. Upon the completion of his Congressional term of service he was appointed in 1863, by President Lincoln, upon Secretary Chase's recommendation, Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue, in which position he served until December, 1863, when he was chosen Clerk of the House of Representatives for the 38th Congress, which office he continued to hold during the 39th, 40th, 41st, 42d and 43d Congresses, again in the 47th congress, and again in the 51st Congress, being the longest continuous service and the longest service in that post of any similar official from the beginning of the government. During the administration of President Hayes he served as chief of the Bureau of Engraving of the Treausry Department for 18 months, during which time he re-organized and reformed its administration and obtained from congress an appropriation of $325,000 for the erection of its present fire-proof building in Washington city. The entire cost of it was met out of one year's appropriations made for the bureau and an equal amount was left unexpended in the treasury. During his service in Congress the principal speeches of Mr. McPherson were on "Disorganization and Disunion," delivered February 4, 1860, in review of the two months' contest over the election of a Speaker in the 36th Congress; "The Disunion Conspiracy," delivered January 23, 1861, in examination of the secession movement and the arguments made in justification of it; "The Rebellion; Our Relations and Deuties," delivered February 14, 1862, in general discussion of the war; "The Administration of Abraham Lincoln and Its Assailants," delivered June 5, 1862. During and since his incumbency of the clerkship he published "A Political History of the United States During the Rebellion," extending from the Presidential election of 1860 to April 12, 1865, the date of Lincoln's death; "A political History of the United States During the Period of Reconstruction." extending from 1865 to 1870; "Hand Book of Politics for 1870 and 1872;" Hand Book of Politics for 1872 and 1874; also similar hand books at intervals of two years up and including 1894. These latter volumes are editorial compilations of the political records of men and parties during that eventful period, and have received a high place in the confidence of all parties for completeness, fairness and accuracy. During the Summer and Fall of 1861 oiur subject served as a volunteer aide on the staff of Gen. McCall, commanding the Pennsylvania Reserves, with a view of studying the wants and organization of the army, and to fit himself for intelligent legislative action on those subjects. In the 37th Congress he was a member of the military committee of the House and took an active part in legislation respecting the army. He also served as chairman of the committee on the library and as regent of the Smithsonian Institute. He was secretary of the People's State Committee of Pennsylvania in 1857; was a member of the Republican National Committee from 1860 to 1864; was frequently a delegate to State conventions; was a representative delegate to the Republican National convention of 1876, and was permanent president of that body. He actively participated in politics for many years and had been during five campaigns the secretary of the Republican Congressional committee. In 1867 the degree LL. D. was conferred upon him by Pennsylvania College. mr. McPherson was married November 12, 1862, to Miss Annie D., daughter of John S. Crawford, Esq., of Gettysburg, and grand daughter, on her father's side, of Dr. William Crawford a native of Scotland, who settled near Gettysburg about 1786, and who for eight years represented that district in Congress, and on her mother's side, of Rev. Dr. William Paxton, who for nearly fifty years served with distinction and ability Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian church. To this union were born five children, four sons and one daughter, whose names are as follows: John B., William L., Norman C., Donald P., and Annie D. McPherson.

John B. McPherson, Esq., was born on October 7, 1863. He received his preliminary education in the private schools of Gettysburg and entered Pennsylvania College in the year 1879, from which he was graduated in 1883. He subsequently became a student at the University of Pennsylvania, from whose law department he was graduated in the class of 1888. After graduation he returned to his native palce and became editor of the Star and Sentinel a position which he held from that time until 1896. In the latter year he sold his interest to Guyon H. Buehler, Esq., and retired from journalism. He immediately associated himself with his brother, Donald P. McPherson, under the firm name of McPherson & McPherson, in the practice of law. In 1896 he was elected vice president of the Gettysburg National Bank and a trustee of Pennsylvania College.

Donald P. McPherson is a graduate of Pennsylvania College, class of 1889, and of Harvard Law school, class of 1895. Like their father before them, the McPhersons are loyal Republicans, and take an active interest in the politics of their county and State.

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