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Below is a family biography included in the History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania published in 1889 by A. Warner & Co.   These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JAMES K. MOORHEAD. Gen. James Kennedy Moorhead was born in Dauphin county, Pa., in 1806, and was the son of William Moorhead, who emigrated from the north of Ireland to this country in 1798, settling in Lancaster county, Pa., where he was married. In 1806 the senior Mr. Moorhead purchased a farm on the Susquehanna, twenty miles above Harrisburg, long known as Moorhead’s Ferry, where his son, James K., was born. Mr. Moorhead was not only an enthusiastic and successful farmer, but also a cultivated and refined gentleman. He was active in politics, and was by President Madison appointed a collector of internal revenue. In 1815 he removed to Harrisburg, where he died two years later, leaving his widow and six children nearly penniless. They removed to the old farm at Moorhead’s Ferry.

James K. Moorhead had no educational advantages, in the way of schools, after he was eleven years of age. At fourteen he had charge of the farm, and won quite a reputation in that capacity. He was apprenticed to a tanner in Lancaster county, completing his apprenticeship in September, 1826. He worked at his trade some time, and two years later took the contract to build the Susquehanna division of the Pennsylvania canal, in which he was successful, and saved therefrom a capital of three or four hundred dollars.

In December, 1829, he was married to Miss Jane Logan, and removed to Huntingdon, Pa. For the next ten years he was engaged in work connected with the canal, especially the Pioneer line of packet-boats, which proved a greater success than had been anticipated. In 1836 he removed to Pittsburgh, and three years later he became connected with the Monongahela Navigation company, organized to construct dams and locks on the Monongahela river. This work was completed in 1841. In May, 1846, Mr. Moorhead was elected president of the company, and held the position for thirty-eight years consecutively. He was engaged in the construction of locks, dams, bridges, reservoirs and similar work in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky, and won a wide reputation for this class of work. In 1840 he united with others in establishing the Union Cotton factory in Allegheny City, of which he was chosen manager, and he settled with his family in that locality. He held the position of manager until the spring of 1849, when the factory was destroyed by fire, as was Gen. Moorhead’s residence. The next year he became a partner in the Novelty works, at Pittsburgh, and built himself a new house, which was burned to the ground in 1853. Gen. Moorhead was among the first to become interested in telegraphic communication, and largely directed the construction of lines between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and between Pittsburgh and Louisville, and was for some years’ president of the companies owning these lines. He was one of the leading spirits in telegraphic enterprises in this country. From the beginning of his residence in Pittsburgh, Gen. Moorhead took rank as a leading and public-spirited citizen. In early life he was a democrat, but aided in the formation of the republican party, being a strong protectionist. In 1858 he was elected on the republican ticket member of the XXXVIth Congress. So well satisfied were his constituents that he was four times reflected, and would have been chosen for the sixth term but for his positive declination. His large experience in business affairs, his thorough knowledge of public interests, his unswerving integrity, and his sterling good sense made Gen. Moorhead a valuable representative. He served three years as chairman of the committee on manufactures, and was a member of the committees on ways and means and on naval affairs. Much of the complexion of our present tariff is due to what was known as the Moorhead tariff bill.

Gen. Moorhead was at one time post master at Pittsburgh and at another time state adjutant-general. Jeremiah S. Black owed his first appointment to the friendship of Gen. Moorhead, whose influence with Gov. Porter was very great. During the rebellion Gen. Moorhead’s advice was frequently sought by Secretary Stanton, and even by President Lincoln. It is said that Mr. Moorhead personally prevented the removal of arms from the Pittsburgh armory by Secretary Floyd. He took an active and influential part in politics, and in 1869 and in 1880 was a prominent candidate for United States senator, and was also strongly recommended for an appointment in Gen. Grant’s cabinet. He was chairman of the republican county committee in the Garfield campaign of 1880. Early in 1882, after a short visit to Washington, Gen. Moorhead began to show signs of failing health, and took a brief trip to Old Point Comfort. He started in May, to attend the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church at Saratoga, to which he had been a chosen delegate. He was unable to proceed farther than Philadelphia, when his physician ordered his return home. Here his health was very poor, confining him to his house the greater part of the time. The end gradually approached, and on the 6th of March, 1884, Gen. Moorhead breathed his last, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

At the time of his death he was president of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, president of the Monongahela Navigation company, chairman of the executive committee of the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, trustee in the Western University and in the Western Theological Seminary, president of the Ohio River Commission, member of the board of trustees of the Pennsylvania Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, trustee in the People’s Savings Bank, etc. Gen. Moorhead was as prominent in religious as in temporal affairs, and for many years was a ruling elder in the Third Presbyterian Church. His death was felt to be a great loss to the entire community. All the corporations and institutions with which he has been connected passed resolutions of regret and condolence upon the event. His monument is found in many of the leading business industries of Pittsburgh with which he was identified. The Monongahela Republican said of him:

The breadth of his mind was only equaled by the breadth of his charity; the strength of his judgment by the tenderness of his emotions; the earnestness of his zeal by the warmth of his sympathies; the energy of his will by the gentleness of his spirit; the faithfulness with which he adhered to his own convictions by the tolerance which he accorded to those of others.

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This family biography is one of 2,156 biographies included in the History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania published in 1889 by A. Warner & Co.

View additional Allegheny County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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