Suicide, though technically a crime, is more readily described as personal tragedy. In 1910 citizens throughout Daviess County were shocked to learn of the suicide of “Squire” J.G. McVeigh, found dead in his office inside the Daviess County courthouse in Gallatin, MO.

The weapon used was a .38 revolver, the ball passing through his heart and causing instant death. McVeigh was alone in his office, located in the southwest room on the first floor. He was seated at his desk when he fired the fatal shot, and upon discovery the only change in his position was the leaning of the body toward the desk. The fingers of the left hand were powder scorched and it is evident that he opened his vest and held the pistol in position with his left hand and pulled the trigger with his right hand.

The Daviess County Courthouse in Gallatin, MO, as it stood in 1911.

The shot was heard by Ray Hockensmith who was doing some plumbing work in the lavatory. But the tragedy was not immediately discovered. The clothing of Squire McVeigh caught fire, and the odor caused the courthouse janitor to investigate further. The janitor, Hillman, found the old gentleman dead; he extinguished the flames and then sounded alarm.

The Gallatin Democrat reports the following: “The usual methodical habits of Mr. McVeigh showed in his preparations to take his own life. On his desk was a neatly folded package of papers with a letter laying on top addressed to John Leopard. A sharp knife and razor were convenient and it is presumed he intended to use them if the revolver failed him.”

The message left to Mr. Leopard indicated a few debts and an insight to the direst extremity — old age, sickness, and physical infirmities. His invalid wife was thus left to fight the battle of life alone; the couple had no children.

J.G. McVeigh, 74, was a native of Augusta County, Va., and graduate of the University of Virginia who came to Gallatin in the early 1890s and for several years served as superintendent of public schools. He previously taught school at Carrollton, Cameron and other places and was once a candidate for the Democratic nomination for state superintendent of public schools. He was elected Justice of the Peace of Grand River Township in 1897, the position he held at the time of death. He was a member of the Daviess County Bar.

Burial of Job G. McVeigh was at the Brown Cemetery, north of Gallatin, under the auspices of the AF&AM Lodge, of which McVeigh was a member.

— reprinted from the Gallatin Democrat, April 28, 1910.