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Memorable Manitobans: John M. Egan (1848-1923)


Born at Springfield, Massachusetts on 26 March 1848, one of seven children born to Irish immigrants Michael and Ellen Egan, his family moved to Amboy, Illinois in 1857. He entered railway service in May 1862, as a machinist’s apprentice on the Illinois Central Railroad. Between 1867 and 1871, he filled various clerical positions on the Illinois Central and on the Northern Missouri Railroad, becoming subsequently assistant engineer, division engineer and chief engineer’s assistant. Moving to the Southern Minnesota Railroad in January 1877, he filled the posts of chief engineer, assistant superintendent and superintendent before leaving to join the Canadian Pacific Railway, for which he was General Superintendent of the Western Division from 1882 to 1886. [1] He attended the driving of the last spike at Craigellachie, British Columbia on 7 November 1885.

From 1886 to 1888, he was General Superintendent of the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway, from 1888 to 1890 the General Manager of the Chicago, St. Paul and Kansas City Railway, and from 1890 to 1894 was President and General Manager of the same road. He represented the General Managers Association—an organization of the 24 railroad companies with terminals in Chicago—as the “Strike Manager” during the Chicago Railroad Strike of 1894. He hired private detectives to identify the railroad workers who were supporting the boycott, and had them fired and replaced with workers recruited in the East. The whole affair became a cause célèbre when it emerged that the Association intended not just to break the boycott, but also to fix wages and eliminate the American Railway Union. The strike was broken after officers of the Union were jailed for defying an injunction, and the Union collapsed. [2]

In May 1895, he was appointed receiver of the bankrupt Oregon Short Line and Utah Northern railroads. A member of the American Railway Union was said to have stated that “Egan’s life would be insecure if he stopped in Oregon. I predict that if he stays there as receiver, he would be killed within a few months.” [3]

He was later Assistant to the President of the Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railway at Marquette, Michigan (1896); Vice-President of the Central of Georgia Railway (1896-1900), President of the Central of Georgia Railway (1900-1903), President of the Union Depot Bridge and Terminal Railway Company of Kansas City, Missouri (1904), Vice-President of the Trans-Brazilian Railway (1907-1909), and President and General Manager of the Metropolitan Street Railway and Kansas City Light and Power Company (1910-1916). He retired from active business in 1916.

He returned to Amboy, Illinois in 1904 after his father’s death. He was president of the Amboy Milk Products Company, Amboy Public Hospital Board, and the Lee County Tuberculosis Sanitarium Board. [4] He died at Amboy on 9 May 1923. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Minnesota. [5]

See also:

John M. Egan, A Railway Officer in Winnipeg, 1882-1886: An account of Canadian Pacific’s first years in the Manitoba capital by Omer Lavallee
MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 33, 1976-77 Season


1. “Pioneer Railway Contractor Dies [E. C. Egan]” Newspaper clipping dated 15 April 1924. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B8]

2. “The Debs Case: Labor, Capital, and the Federal Courts of the 1890s” by David Ray Papke, Marquette University Law School. Federal Judicial Center, Federal Judicial History Office, 2008. [$file/InreDebs.pdf, accessed 25 January 2010]

3. Rochester NY Democrat & Chronicle, 27 March 1859; datelined Omaha, Nebraska, 26 March 1895. [, accessed 25 January 2010]

4. Amboy [Illinois] Newspaper, 25 May 1923. [, accessed 5 March 2010]

5. “Amboy woman mourned by all she knew”, Dixon Evening Telegraph, 2 May 1925. [, accessed 5 March 2010]

We thank Stephanie Stokes for providing additional information used in this profile.

This profile was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough with assistance from Harry Duckworth.

Page revised: 12 February 2012

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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