Texas Pioneer Mexican-American War Veteran
James Pettigrew was born in Washington County, Missouri in 1816. Soon thereafter, his family moved to Arkansas where he grew up before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1836. His time in the service was mostly spent fighting against native people in the Alabama area, including the forced removal of Creek Indians from their historic homelands under General Winfield Scott. Pettigrew himself relocated and settled in Victoria County, Texas in 1837 right after the Texas Revolution. He immediately began service as a Texas Ranger defending local villages from Indians raids.
When his father died in 1843, Pettigrew temporarily returned to Arkansas to see to the estate but was back in Texas as soon as possible, this time in Red River County. There, he married Margaret Lattimer in 1846 and together, they moved to Corpus Christi. About that time, the Mexican American War broke out and Pettigrew went off to serve. In 1851, the Pettigrews again moved, this time to the new village of Waco, making James Pettigrew one of its very first residents. His primary source of income in Waco during those early years was a carpenter. Pettigrew made his home on the block of 5th Street stretching from Washington Avenue to Bridge Street(presently Austin Avenue). The original cabin was on the northeast corner of the lot under some large trees for shade at 4th and Washington. It was there, in a front room of the cabin, that fellow Waco 92 member Tom Padgitt opened a shoe shop that eventually grew into one of the largest leather companies in the United States. Pettigrew joined our lodge not long after arriving in 1851. As Waco grew, so did Pettigrew’s cabin. His carpentry skills made sure of it. By the 1860s, it was a two-and-a-half story building. Eventually, though, the building was torn down to make room for a parking lot and his son sold the whole property about 1907.
As Waco’s first carpenter, Pettigrew was a primary builder for most of the early town’s structures, including our own meeting halls. It was Pettigrew that did the woodwork on our famous Masonic Hall on the Square. In addition to his role as a carpenter, Pettigrew was also Waco’s coroner for a number of years.
Bro. Pettigrew was very active at the lodge and held a number of offices. The first was as Tyler in 1854. Then, he was Junior Deacon for the next two years. He again served as Tyler during the Civil War when many of the members were gone and yet again, from 1884 to 1886.
James Pettigrew died June 27, 1892 and was buried in our lodge cemetery on First Street.