James F. Legate was a leading citizen of Leavenworth for nearly forty years, and during the active period of his life few men in the state were better known in legislative affairs. He was a native of Massachusetts, born in Worcester County, November 23, 1829, in the house built by his paternal ancestor five generations preceding him, and on land deeded to that ancestry by the Engilsh government in the reign of George H. His father was a captain in command of a privateer in the War of 1812, and on both maternal and paternal sides were numerous representatives of the patriot cause.
After a short course in law Mr. Legate went to Mississippi, where he taught school, entered politics and in 1852, as a member of the State Legislature, espoused the cause of Senator Foote against Jefferson Davis.
In 1854, while in Washington, Mr. Legate met Mr. Davis, then secretary of war, who gave him a letter to Col. E. V. Sumner, stationed at Fort Leavenworth, but when he arrived in Kansas in July and “looked around” he decided to make Lawrence his home. He was active in his espousal of the freestate cause, and was elected to the First House of Representatives under the Wyandotte constitution. In the following year he was appointed United States assessor, and in November, 1863, he moved to Leavenworth, which remained his home city until his death, August 4, 1902. In addition to his service in the Legislature of 1861, he was a member of the State Senate of 1865 and 1866, and of the House in 1871, 1875, 1879, 1881 and 1889. In 1867 and 1868 he was United States mail agent for Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and Indian Territory, and did much for the service in those sections of the country, then on the western and southwestern frontiers.