John E. McFadden was born on November 1, 1862 in Gananoque, Ontario, the son of Edward and Bridget (Malone) McFadden. Like James A. Cruise, his parents were Irish immigrants. The family moved from Ontario to Michigan, and in 1871 settled on a farm in Jackson County, Kansas. John McFadden attended Lane University in Lecompton, then taught school in Jackson County. In November, 1887, he entered a law office in Kansas City, Kansas to further his study of the law. He was admitted to the Kansas bar in 1889, and following his marriage entered into a partnership with his father-in-law. John and Emma McFadden subsequently had one daughter, Margaret Scroggs McFadden, born on November 28, 1892. Margaret grew up in the Scroggs house, and in turn was married there in 1916 to T. P. Palmer.