Mayor of Allegheny 1878-1881
Thomas Megraw was born in Grange, county Down, Ireland in 1835. His parents immigrated to the United States in 1842, settling in in Allegheny City. Megraw attended the public schools of the city and he and his brother also apprenticed with a stone mason. Megraw would later set up shop as a stone cutter.
Megraw enlisted at the beginning of the Civil War, becoming a first sergeant in Company A of the 102nd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. He was wounded in the battle of Fisher’s Hill in September of 1864. A month later at Cedar Creek he was shot through the chest, the bullet passing through his right arm. As a result, Megraw lost use of that arm. When the regiment was mustered out in June of 1865, Megraw was still hospitalized, recovering from his wounds.
Upon returning to civilian life in Allegheny, Megraw married Harriet Gray of Pittsburgh. He was elected street commissioner of the city, a position he held until 1874 when he left to partner with his brother, a general contractor. Within a year or two of this partnership Megraw’s health began to fail, a fact many blamed on his constant inhalation of stone dust from his days as a stone cutter as well as complications from the wounds received at Cedar Creek. He retired to a farm near Vanport, Beaver County but returned to Allegheny in 1877, at which time he received the Republican nomination for Mayor and was elected to that office for a term that began in 1878.
Megraw served three years as mayor before succumbing to the “painful and lingering illness” that had manifested three years earlier [“Obituary: Death of Ex-Mayor Thomas Megraw of Allegheny City” The Pittsburgh Evening Chronicle, Aug. 23, 1881.]
Several newspaper accounts of Megraw’s death noted that he was conscious and of sound mind until his last moments. Aware that his death was near, Megraw left specific directions for his own funeral: he wanted no more than 25 carriages to accompany him to his final resting place; the hymns, “Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Savior” and “Gathering Home” were to be sung at his services by Miss Annie Myler. Hon. W.H. Graham, Major W. W. Tyson, Major J.M. McLaughlin, Mayor Lyon, John Dalzell, and “Postmaster Myler” were his choices for pallbearers. He selected Spencer and Wilson as his undertakers, chose the clothes he wished to buried in and requested Post 88 G.A.R. to oversee the arrangements as dictated. Subsequent accounts of the funeral note that his wishes were carried out to the letter.
A brief biography of Mayor Megraw that appeared in the 1886 publication, Recollections of Seventy Years and Historical Gleanings of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, praised Megraw for his fine Christian character, concluding that, “his loving friends and comrades may indulge in the melancholy pleasure upon the return of each succeeding Decoration Day, of strewing his grave with flowers as an outward evidence of the inward truth, ‘Though dead, he is not forgotten,’” Megraw left a widow but no children. He was 48 years old at the time of his death.