Lee County Biography



It is always interesting to note the career of those who have emigrated from foreign lands for the purpose of establishing homes in the United States; and to trace the steps by which they have exchanged their poverty for an honorable independence. In the life of Mr. Egan there is much to interest and instruct. Although for years he has been a naturalized citizen of our country, he has never lost his love for Old Ireland, nor his hatred of England. His knowledge of a multitude of subjects with which his versatile ability has made him conversant, is well known, and his retentive memory enables him to recite prose or poetical selections of rare licnuty and great length. From youth he has always been an active and powerful man, temperate in his habits, frank and honest in his speech, and as such has commanded the highest respect, even of his political opponents.

In Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland, Mr. Egan was born, September 26, 1821, and is the son of John and Susanna (Meskel) Egan, both of whom died in their native land. Michael learned the trade of a mason from his father, to whom he served an apprenticeship of seven years, and afterward was employed in the public works. In the spring of 1846 he came to the United States, and in New York City engaged to work for Matthias & Frevman, contractors, on a bonded warehouse. At the expiration of twenty months he removed to Springfield, Mass., where he pursued his trade for seven years in the employ of Charles McClcllan. While in that city he became a naturalized citizen of the United Stales. During the winter of 1852-53 he was employed by J. B. Wyman to come West and work on the Illinois Central Rail road.

Arriving in Illinois in February, 1853, Mr. Egan at once commenced to work on bridges and culverts south of LaSalle, and in the following June came to Amboy and began the erection of the railroad buildings, whose construction he superintended until their completion. He continued in the employ of the company until 1876, and for four years thereafter was contracting and building on his own account. In 1880 ho resumed work for the railroad company, and was made purchasing and disbursing agent of cord wood and cross-ties, and at different Limes superintended the work in quarries in the southern part of the State, employing two hundred men. Through overwork and exposure, be becamee ill with malarial fever, and resigning his position, has since given his attention to private affairs.

As Mr. Egan somewhat regained his health, he was in 1885 elected Justice of the Peace, and is now (1892) serving his second term, being also Notary Public. In early life he attended school, and had good common-school advantages, but when elected Justice he knew nothing about law. He at once applied himself to legal studies, and by close application has become familiar with the duties of his position, and his decisions are characterized by broad knowledge and shrewd judgment His interest in Irish affairs has never flagged, and he receives Irish papers weekly, thus keeping himself well posted in the latest news from his native land. He is n prominent member of the society known as the "Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood."

In 1844 Mr. Egan was married to Miss Ellen, daughter of John and Bridget Morrissy. After twenty-five years of wedded life, Mrs. Ellen Egan died January 27, 1869, at the age of forty-five years. She was the mother of eleven children, four of whom are deceased, while the surviving ones are as follows: John M., born March 25, 1848, at Springfield, Mass., is now President of the Maple Leaf Railroad, and resides at St. Paul, Minn.; Peter Paul, who was born .June 13,1851, at Holyoke, Mass., is State Boiler Inspector at Denver, Col.; Michael Francis, whose birth oc- curred February 26, 1853, at Holyoke, Mass., is Assistant Division Superintendent of the Union Pacific Railroad and is located at Denver, Col.; Alfred H., born January 27, 1855, at Amboy, resides in Kansas City, Mo., and has charge of the Belt Line Railroad; Joseph, born May 12, 1857, at Amboy, is Train Dispatcher at Mojave, Cal.; Mary, born February 2, 1860, is clerk for her brother at Dubuque, Iowa; Benjamin F., born April 28, 1862, is Division Superintendent of the Maple Leaf Railroad at Dubuque, Iowa.

In 1872 Mr. Egan was united in marriage with Mrs. Helen (Stewart) Barrie, the widow of James Barrie, and of this union two children have been born: Helen S. and William A. S. When Mr. Egan arrived in this country lie naturally became a Democrat, because Whigs were opposed to homerule in his native land,but when he became better informed on political matters, he joined the ranks of the Republican party, to which he has since adhered. In whatever he says be is very emphatic, frank and open. His fellow-citizens have bestowed upon him the highest gift within their power: election as Mayor of Amboy, in which capacity he has served several terms. Me is also City Treasurer, a member of the Board of Aldermen, and at present serving on the Board of Education. In his religious belief he is a firm and devoted member of the Roman Catholic Church, and the first services of that church in Amboy were held at his house. In whatever position he has been placed, he has served with characteristic zeal and devotion, while his record as a public spirited citizen makes him a worthy member of the social and business circles of the community.

Portrait and Biographical 1892

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