Edward Creighton was born in Ohio in 1820, to James and Bridget Creighton, the fifth of nine children. His parents had both emigrated from Ireland. Creighton attended country schools, but found that his education was lacking and pushed himself to learn as much as he could on his own.
He was a childhood friend of Phillip Sheridan, who would gain fame as a general during the Civil War. When Creighton turned eighteen, his father gave him a wagon and team of horses and the young man traveled to Cincinnati to start his own freight business.
In 1847, Creighton secured a contract to transport telegraph poles that would be planted along the railroad from Toledo, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois. In 1856, he and two brothers and a cousin moved to Omaha, Nebraska where he won contracts to build telegraph lines between Omaha and St. Joseph, Missouri, and Omaha to Fort Smith, Arkansas. During that same year, he married Mary Lucretia Wareham.
He was instrumental in the building of the first transcontinental telegraph line. Creighton became the general superintendent of the Pacific Telegraph Company, which ran lines from Colorado to California.
Through the years, Creighton continued his Omaha businesses. He was president of the First National Bank in Omaha from its founding in 1863 until his death in 1874. He had hoped to build an institution of learning in Omaha, but died before this was accomplished. However, his widow, Mary Wareham Creighton, after inheriting her husband’s wealth, drafted a will providing $100,000 as a memorial to her late husband “to purchase the site for a school in the city of Omaha, and erect buildings thereon for a school of the class and grade of a college.” That school is now known as Creighton University.