Little is known about the early years of David Gregg, including the year of his birth. But it is clear that the State Library grew substantially during his three years as Secretary of State from 1850 to 1853.

Gregg came to Joliet, Illinois, from Albany, New York, in his early 20s and practiced law before becoming editor of the first newspaper in Will County, the Courier. The paper had not found financial success until Gregg took over, and he soon became co-publisher. 1

A man who found success in many areas, Gregg’s political ambition was equal to his business acumen, and he was elected to the Illinois House in both 1842 and 1844. Gregg subsequently served as U.S. District Attorney in Chicago and was one of the most active delegates in the 1847 Illinois Constitutional Convention. 2

He was appointed Secretary of State on April 2, 1850, to fill the vacancy left by the death of Horace Cooley. Although Cook County eventually wielded great influence on Illinois politics, that was not the case in Gregg’s day, and he was the first man from Cook to hold the office of Secretary of State. 3

Gregg married on September 1 of that year to Rebecca Eads, daughter of one of the original founders of the first settlement at Peoria. An able administrator, he was a contender for the gubernatorial nomination in 1852, but lost to Joel Matteson. It is widely believed that Gregg’s candidacy was doomed due to his Roman Catholic faith. Although he continued to support his party loyally, Gregg denounced the “knaves” and “bigots” that “sought to stir up religious prejudices.” Ironically, Matteson left his mark in one of the most scandal-ridden administrations in state history. 4

Gregg did not seek re-election as Secretary of State and left Illinois the following year, when President Franklin Pierce appointed him Commissioner to the Hawaiian Islands. He later served as minister and advisor to King Kamehameha IV, who died in 1863. President Lincoln then appointed Gregg as Receiver of Public Moneys in Carson City, Nevada, where he died on Dec. 23, 1868. 5

  1. Howlett 63.
  2. Howlett 63, 65; Moses I-450, II-555, II-1172.
  3. Howlett 65; Moses II-582.
  4. Howlett 65-67.
  5. Howlett 67.