James Kennedy Moorhead

James Kennedy Moorhead (1806 – 1884)

Born in Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on September 7th, Moorhead attended the common schools, and served an apprenticeship at the tanner’s trade. He pursed a different vocation and became a canal contractor involved with the Juniata Canal. Later he would establish the first passenger packet line on the Pennsylvania Canal in 1835. In 1838 Moorhead was appointed adjutant general of Pennsylvania. But soon Moorhead was again engaged in the canal business (Monongahela Navigation Canal). Later Moorhead would be president of the Atlantic & Ohio Telegraph Co. which later became Western Union Telegraph.

As a Republican, Moorhead was elected to the US congress consecutively from March 1859 – March 1869. Though he was unsuccessful for a Pa. senate bid in 1880, Moorhead was The Lincoln Log shows numerous encounters involving the President and Congressman Moorhead. One incident was accounted by Joseph G. Cannon of Danville, Illinois, who remembered several congressmen were unhappy with the treatment of rebel leaders. Moorhead was making a second attack against the President when Lincoln leaned across the table, shot out an arm and pointed a long finger saying “Mr. Moorhead, haven’t you lived long enough to know that tow men may honestly differ about a question and both be right.

General Grant was shy, and was embarrassed at Willard’s Hotel in Washington when people were gathering around and looking at him. It was congressman Moorhead who took Grant in hand and introduced him to a mob of admirers and curiosity seekers after he had eaten at Willard’s Hotel.

There are numerous incidents demonstrating that Moorhead did not hesitate in asking President Lincoln for assistance in helping those in Moorhead’s district. On February 6, 1863, Moorhead interviews Lincoln relative to Charles Heintzelman and West Point, but gets no promise. Next on January 15, 1864, Moorhead writes “President Lincoln, The bearer Mrs. Fagan a distressed mother will present her own case – if you will relieve her anxiety with a regard to the public service you will oblige. Respectfully Yours, J. K. Moorhead.

Moorhead then is the main spokesman for the saving of Private Peter Gilner from being executed. Gilner of the 62nd Pa. assaulted an officer and was ordered to be shot. Lincoln makes an honest mistake in this matter as recently revealed in a new discovery.

Moorhead was an unsuccessful candidate for the US Senate in 1880. He was president of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce 1877 and deeply involved in the affairs of Pittsburgh and Allegany County. Moorhead died in Pittsburgh on March 6, 1884 and is interred in the Allegheny Cemetery.

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