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Below is a family biography included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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J. W. Magill, engineer and manufacturer, who is closely connected with large engineering enterprises south of Galveston, Texas, has maintained his beautiful home in Topeka since 1887. He was born in 1838 on the Hudson River, at Poughkeepsie, New York, and is a son of John and Sarah Ann (Mulcox) Magill.

On the paternal side the ancestry is Scotch and on the maternal it is English and Irish, while on both sides the families have been engaged in manufacturing. The Magill family controlled the manufacture of linen at Glasgow, Scotland, prior to the Revolutionary War, and the Mulcox name is connected with the manufacture of the famous Cheshire cheese of Chester, England.

Our subject received an academic education in New York. He inherited a love of mechanics in which he took four years of training, becoming a skilled engineer, and through experience became possessed of a thorough knowledge of wool and cotton manufacturing. For some years he was connected with the largest manufacturing company of the city of New York, Garner & Company, which operated factories, in which 7,000 looms were kept running. Mr. Magill was manager of a plant for some time and then purchased it, converting it into a factory for the manufacture of merino and knit underwear. He continued the operation of this immense industry until 1887, when his wife’s failing health caused him to seek a home in another climate. Topeka being the advised locality, he came hither, deciding to open up a large manufacturing business here which would give employment to a force of 1,000 workmen. He drew up the plans and specifications and subsequently erected the building, but just at this time the panic came upon Topeka’s industrial life and the great factory, with its 150 looms, was obliged to remain idle.

Although this entailed immense financial loss, Mr. Magill had ideas and courage left and turned his attention to other enterprises. He became interested in Texas land and was assistant under Dr. Savin at San Antonio in the Texas land department. Later he associated himself with Col. John Willett in the construction of a sea-wall and iron-pier harbor in Southwestern Texas, 250 miles south of Galveston, and since the death of Colonel Willett has continued the project with the latter’s son. They are much interested in securing a much needed harbor and have bright prospects.

Mr. Magill has never sought political honors, although he has been on friendly terms with many men in public life, one of these being the present honored President of the United States. In 1861 he assisted in raising Company B, 57th Reg., New York Vol. Inf., and was made its sergeant but did not remain long on the field as he contracted rheumatism. He has always been known as a patriotic, outspoken, loyal citizen.

At Little Falls, New York, in the diocese of Bishop Potter, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Mr. Magill was married by Dr. Rogers to Maria Cottam, who was born in England and in childhood accompanied her father, Matthew Cottam, to America. He was an English manufacturer and later became one of the head managers of Garner & Company, of New York. Six daughters and three sons have been born to this union. Mrs. Magill has obtained much benefit from the climate of Topeka and enjoys, with her family, the comforts of the beautiful home at No. 200 Western avenue. Mr. Magill is a Knight Templar Mason. The family belong to the Protestant Episcopal Church and are members of the congregation of Grace Cathedral, Topeka.

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This family biography is one of 206 biographies included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  For the complete description, click here: Shawnee County, Kansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

View additional Shawnee County, Kansas family biographies here: Shawnee County, Kansas

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