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Eugene Magevney

Memphis entrepreneur and Catholic leader Eugene Magevney was born in 1798 in County Fermanagh, Ireland. He studied for the priesthood but changed his mind and became a school teacher. In 1828 he immigrated to the United States and settled in Memphis in 1833. Magevney supported himself by teaching in a small private school, where he accepted land as payment from cash-strapped families.

Within a few years, Magevney's land acquisitions had become large enough to permit him to leave teaching and concentrate on real estate development, where he made his fortune. Soon recognized as a community leader, he served as an alderman and in 1848 led the fight to establish public schools. Always ready to defend his fellow Irishmen, Magevney wrote editorials in the local newspaper protesting the prejudice to which they were subjected.

A devout Catholic, Magevney helped to establish the city's first Catholic church and parochial school. In 1839 the first mass was celebrated in Magevney's house on Adams Avenue, where the first marriage (his own) and the first baptism (his daughter Mary) were also celebrated. Magevney was also one of those responsible for the founding of St. Peter's Catholic Church, located next to his house. In 1941 the Magevney heirs donated the house to the City of Memphis. It is now part of the Memphis Museum System and open to the public.

Suggested Reading

Charles W. Crawford and Robert M. McBride, "The Magevney House, Memphis," Tennessee Historical Quarterly 28 (1969): 345-55.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010