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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: TWO GIANTS OF THEIR TIMES

Sunday, April 19, 2009


By Bob Hurst

Madison, Florida is a small, picturesque, prototypical Southern town of the variety that, thankfully, still exists throughout our beautiful Southland. The town has many fine old homes (some antebellum), a splendid courthouse in the middle of the town square, historic buildings lining the square and an attractive downtown park with an impressive Confederate monument as one of the focal points. All of this is in an idyllic setting surrounded by some of the finest agricultural land in the state and some magnificent rivers.

In this modern Florida in which we now find ourselves, though, Madison does not rank among those places that are considered a leader in the economic well-being of the state nor as a place that is looked to for leadership in the government and business sectors. This has not always been the case, however. During the period stretching from the 1830's right into the early 20th century, Madison was a prominent player in state affairs and supplied a number of outstanding individuals who provided leadership to this, then, small and very agrarian state.

Two of those outstanding individuals were Judge John C. McGehee and Captain John L. Inglis.

John C. McGehee was one of the giants of Florida during the period from 1835 to 1865. He was a planter, judge and statesman who became one of the most prominent figures of the Confederacy in Florida during the War for Southern Independence.

John McGehee was born in Abbeville, South Carolina on September 6, 1801 and grew to manhood there. As a young man he served an apprenticeship in the law office of the great John C. Calhoun where he was strongly influenced by that magnificent Southerner and became a strong advocate of States' Rights. In 1831 McGehee and his wife moved to Florida and settled in Madison.

Through diligence and hard work, he acquired a vast estate where he grew cotton, corn, cane and potatoes. It was said that his plantation house, "Cheuleotah", was the handsomest in all of Florida. John McGehee was a voting delegate to the Port Saint Joseph Convention which drafted Florida's first Constitution in 1839. In 1841 he became Judge of the Court of Madison County.

When Governor Madison Starke Perry called a convention in Tallahassee in 1861 to decide if Florida should secede from the Union, Judge John McGehee was chosen to represent Madison County. From the group of assembled delegates, comprised of the finest sons of Florida, John McGehee was chosen president of the convention. This convention eventually passed the Ordinance of Secession for the state. McGehee was appointed by Governor Perry to serve as one of four Counselors of State to advise the chief executive on matters of critical concern.

After the war, the federals placed a bounty on Judge McGehee and he fled briefly to Mexico. He returned to Madison in 1866 and was involved in railroad construction until his death in 1881. His obituary in the Savannah (GA) NEWS described him as "a true type of the cultivated southern gentleman, courtly and distinguished in manner as he was cordial and generous in hospitality". John McGehee was a devout Scotch Presbyterian and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Madison County.

John Livingston Inglis was one of Florida's most successful industrialists in the latter part of the nineteenth century during the period immediately following Reconstruction. His business acumen was invaluable to the inhabitants of Madison and surrounding areas of north Florida and south Georgia.

John Inglis was born in Liverpool. England in 1838. He arrived in Florida in 1860 and had business interests in Newport when hostilities began between the North and the South. He entered the service of the Confederate States of America as a 1st Lieutenant in the Wakulla Guards. He was soon promoted to Captain. As Captain of Company D, 3rd Florida Infantry Regiment, he commanded his company in a number of major engagements throughout the western campaign and sustained several injuries. He was captured at the Battle of Nashville and was held as a prisoner of war for five months at Johnson's Island, Ohio.

After the war, he moved to Madison and married a daughter of one of the town's founding families. It was in Madison that he became, rather than a captain of troops, a captain of industry.

After operating sawmills and cotton gins for several years, in 1882 he obtained financial backing and organized a major facility known as Madison Cotton Ginning Co. (M.C.G.Co.). In 1889 this facility was converted into the largest cotton ginning establishment in the world. This facility was so large that 50 gins (with expansion potential to 75) could run simultaneously. The facility also included a refinery for the production of cottonseed oil and, also, a fertilizer factory. Captain Inglis' mammoth enterprise not only provided employment to many people in the Madison area but also provided a means for farmers throughout the region to market their cotton. His impact on the economic revitalization of the region after the desolation of Reconstruction was incalculable. In that year the Madison newspaper wrote that Captain Inglis " at the head of one of the most magnificent establishments in the South... we need more Inglises here...".

The last years of his life were spent in Jacksonville where he enjoyed traveling, yachting and collecting objects of beauty. He was an active member of the Robert E. Lee Camp, United Confederate Veterans, in that town. He died in 1902 and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Madison County. He truly was a man whose "courage knew no bounds and his heart no fear."

Judge John MeGhee and Captain John Inglis were dedicated Confederates and outstanding members of their community. They truly were bright and shining stars in the Southern galaxy.


Bob Hurst is the Commander of the Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and is 2nd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division, SCV. You can contact him at


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