Saturday, March 6, 2010
The Postmaster Who Made Money
John Henninger Reagan was born October 8th 1818 in Gatlinburg, Sevier County, Tennessee, the son of Timothy Richard and Elizabeth [Lusk] Reagan. He left Tennessee for Texas when he was nineteen, where he worked as surveyor from 1839 to 1843. Reagan studied for the law and began a practice in 1846. He was elected to Congress in 1857 where he mildly supported the Union until it became clear that Texas would secede and Reagan resigned.
Reagan participated in the secession convention in Austin, Texas. When Texas voted to leave the Union they voted Reagan to the Provisional Confederate Congress. Jefferson Davis didn't let him serve, instead appointing him to lead the Confederate Postal System. Reagan sent an agent to Washington with letters to certain heads of the United States Post Office asking them to come to work for him, and most did. Reagan had the Confederate Post Office up and running smoothly in only six weeks. Despite the difficulties of moving mail during the war, the Confederate Post Office actually turned a profit. When Richmond Virginia fell to the Union Army on April 2nd 1865, Reagan left with the rest of the Confederacy‘s government, he was captured May 10th 1865 near Irwinville, Georgia. He was imprisoned in Fort Warren in Boston, Massachusetts with Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens. Reagan was released late in 1865 and he went home to Palestine, Texas.
Reagan help the effort to have the republican governor Edmund J Davis removed from office. Then Texas sent him back to Congress, where he served from March 4th 1875 to March 3rd 1887. The state elected him to the Senate in 1887 and he served there until 1891, when he resigned to become the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. Reagan wrote a memoir, and was one of the founders of the Texas State Historical Society. He died of pneumonia at his home in Palestine, Texas March 6th 1905. He was the last member of the Confederate government to die.