Let's Learn From the Past: James Scott Negley

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A scholar, Civil War general, congressman and businessman, James Scott Negley was one of the most prominent Pittsburghers of the 19th century.

Born in 1826, James grew up in East Liberty, a Pittsburgh neighborhood first settled in by his great-grandfather Alexander Negley and founded by his grandfather Jacob Negley. The wealthy Negley family used its fortune to improve East Liberty, building the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in 1819 and establishing the neighborhood as a commercial center in Pittsburgh.

Due to his family's status, James Negley was well-educated and attended the Western University of Pennsylvania, now the University of Pittsburgh. Following graduation, he enlisted in the military and served with the First Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Mexican War (1846-48). After his service ended, he returned to Pittsburgh and studied horticulture, eventually becoming one of the most successful farmers in the region.

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Negley enlisted in the Union Army and was appointed as a brigadier general for the Pennsylvania Militia.

Later that year, Negley commanded the 7th Brigade of the Army of the Ohio and led a successful expedition against Confederate forces during the Battle of Murfreesboro in Tennessee.

After Negley's Civil War service ended in 1865, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, representing Pennsylvania's 22nd Congressional District from 1869-75 and again from 1885-87. While serving in Congress, Negley worked to improve navigation on Pittsburgh's three rivers and secured funding for various projects in the city. He spent his final years in the railroad business as president of the New York, Pittsburgh & Chicago Railway Co.

On Aug. 7, 1901, Negley died at age 74 at his home in Plainfield, N.J., and is buried in the Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville. Negley Avenue in Shadyside is named in honor of Gen. Negley and his family's contributions to Pittsburgh.

Visitors to Heinz History Center can learn more about James Negley and other prominent Western Pennsylvanians during the 19th century as part of the new "Pennsylvania's Civil War" exhibition. On Sunday, visitors can see Civil War-themed re-enactors and bring in their family heirlooms to be professionally appraised for monetary and historical significance as part of the Pittsburgh's Hidden Treasures event. For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

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