John C. McGehee was a very influential figure in the state of Florida from 1835 to 1865. He was a planter, a judge, a statesman and a prominent figure of the Confederacy in Florida during the Civil War. McGehee was born in South Carolina on September 6, 1801 and attended a small school in Cambridge; after leaving this school, McGehee began to study law and practiced it in Cambridge.
In 1831, McGehee and his wife moved to Florida and settled down in Madison County. He acquired a beautiful estate for his wife and much of the furniture in the mansion was made from the wood on his plantation, which was cut in a saw mill built near the house itself. At his estate, McGehee grew cotton, corn, cane and potatoes. The land he owned was named “Cheuleotah,” an Indian word meaning pine hill.
McGehee found success shortly after he moved to Madison. He became a voting delegate to the Port Saint Joseph Convention, which drafted Florida’s first Constitution in 1839. Just two years later, in 1841, he became Judge of the Court of Madison County.
A fervent secessionist, McGehee was chosen to represent Madison County when Governor Madison Starke Perry called a meeting for the Florida Secession Convention in Tallahassee in 1861 in order to decide if Florida should secede from the Union. McGehee was also chosen as president of the convention, which eventually passed the Ordinance of Secession for the state. McGehee was appointed by Governor Perry to serve as one of the four counselors of the state to advise the chief executive.
McGehee was a devout Christian and a member of the Presbyterian Church; he was a spiritual advisor to many of the slaves he owned and often read passages from the Bible to them in their cabins.
The Civil War’s end brought a heavy blow to McGehee, as the federals put a price upon his head at the closing of the war. McGehee fled to Mexico and returned to Madison in 1866. After his return, McGehee built 15 miles of railroad between Greenville and Madison; he was involved in the railroad industry until his death in 1881.
According to an article published Oct. 22, 1881 in the Madison Enterprise-Recorder (then named the Madison Recorder), he was buried beside his beloved wife in the Old Oakland Cemetery in Madison located near the site of the historical marker placed on County Road 158 in his memory.