Henry Frederick MacGregor

MacGregor Park was a gift to the City of Houston by the estate of Henry F. MacGregor.
MacGregor (1855–1923) was a native of Derry, New Hampshire, and a descendent of the Reverend James MacGregor, who settled Derry with a group of 16 Scotch-Irish families who emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland, in 1718–19.7 As a youth, Henry attended the Pinkerton Academy in Derry and graduated in 1871 from the Bryant and Stratton Commercial College in Manchester, New Hampshire.8 He then spent two years traveling throughout North America, Mexico, and Europe.

Henry MacGregor traveled by steamer to Galveston in 1873, at the age of 18, and made his way to Houston, where he found employment checking cotton on the barges operating on Buffalo Bayou for the Houston Direct Navigation Company.10 At the time, the 80-mile-long Buffalo Bayou was the only reliably navigable waterway in Texas, and as a result, much of the state’s cotton crop came via the Bayou to Houston, where it would be transferred to barges or boats headed to the international port at Galveston. (Eventually, part of Buffalo Bayou would become the Houston Ship Channel.)

A few years later, MacGregor moved to Galveston, Texas, and joined the Galveston City Railroad company, which operated the island city’s streetcar system. He became the company’s secretary in1879 or 1880 and in 1883, with company president William H. Sinclair, bought out the Houston Railroad System of streetcars. MacGregor moved to Houston, assumed the roles of vice-president and general manager, and spearheaded an extensive program of expansion and improvement. In 1903, he left the railroad company to focus on real estate and a variety of other interests. MacGregor lobbied for the improvement of the Houston Ship Channel, which made possible Houston’s growth as a major port during the 20th century. He (along with editor Rienzi M. Johnston and G. J. Palmer) managed the Houston Post following owner J. L. Watson’s death in 1897 until Watson’s son Roy was able to assume control in 1918. He was also involved with the Bay and Bayou Company, the Houston Printing Company, and the South Texas Commercial
National Bank.

Henry MacGregor married Elizabeth Stevens in 1885. She was the daughter of Otis Erastus Stevens of Vermont and his wife, Mary (Abbott) Stevens, a native of Michigan. The Stevens family moved to Texas in 1859, and Elizabeth, their fifth child, was born in Houston. She was educated at Houston’s first high school and graduated from the Huntsville Teachers’ College; before marrying Henry, she taught for two years in Kansas and in the Houston public schools. They had no children.

Henry and Elizabeth were active in civic and social affairs. Elizabeth was particularly deeply involved with the construction of the Young Women’s Christian Association building in 1920, and Henry was a member of the Z. Z. Club, Thalian Club, Country Club, Caldeonian Society, and the Houston volunteer fire service (Hook & Ladder No. 1). He was also a leader of the Republican Party in Texas.18 According to deed records, MacGregor was also a trustee of the George H. Hermann estate, which oversaw the development of Hermann Park and dedicated land for Hermann Hospital following George Hermann’s death in 1914.

In addition to all of his other interests, Henry MacGregor was a real estate investor, and he had built several subdivisions in the South Main Street area by 1900.20 Off North Main, just north of Buffalo Bayou, his Glen Park Company sold the land for the Glen Park neighborhood, a community of 85 Craftsman bungalows, constructed in the 1920s.21 At the time of his death, he was planning the development of a 40-acre parcel in the Calumet-Binz area, just across Brays Bayou from Hermann Park.