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The McGills
The Passing Away of the Pioneers, February 11th, 1832


Patrick McGill was not blind to the consequences of the changed conditions brought to his doors by the sudden influx of a population foreign in all respects to the habits and culture of his race. It came upon him like an avalanche from the mountain slope, but did not stir him from his well established moral base. He saw the fountains of purity contaminated—the avenues to intellectual development obstructed—and the hand of achievement palsied for generations to come.

The incubus of the Holland Land Company villainy was just being raised—the opening of the grandest and most fertile valley in the state was at hand—his fond dreams of a homogeneous population of intellectual force and high ideals of life seemed about to be realized, when this mass of ignorance, superstition and stupidity was swatted down before him. It was a rude awakening, but he did not foolishly antagonize the inevitable. He reflected that the poor devils were driven to our shores without any volition of their own, and must have some place to stay where they could be nurtured in the ways of civilization and human progress, but it seemed to him a sore dispensation of Providence that his lovely park, the pride of his tender heart, should have been selected as a nursery for the Dutch. He, however, tried to receive the people kindly and courteously-and no man could be more courteous than he-but the Boers did not know what that kind of treatment meant. To them he was a curiosity-a "tam old Irisher" -and they were rude, insulting and abusive to the old man. They soon, however, learned that it was policy to reserve their acts of contumely to times when none of his friends were around, lest bloody noses follow as a consequence. It was thus that our people acquired a dislike for the Dutch and the Dutch did not like our people.

The effect on grandfather was, that always reticent, he retired more and more within himself, and to some extent lost interest in business affairs. He turned his back upon the offending populace and took no further notice of them. He constructed for himself an easy seat under the shade of a beautiful apple tree that he himself had planted more than thirty years before, and there, on pleasant days, he betook himself to his pipe and the study of his books. The Holy Bible he had always with him and spent much time in perusing the sacred pages.

Old age was creeping on-his work was donehis youth and manhood had been expended for his God-his country and his home, and the results were spread out before him, and he was content.

In the course of time he divided his estate among his five children, giving each of his sons one hundred acres-to Nancy fifty and to Maria-the youngest-a farm he owned in Cussewago township.

John, my father, about 1831, when I was three years old, had built a fine frame barn, the first of the kind put up in the neighborhood, and the improvement greatly pleased grandfather. During the summer and autumn preceding his death it be came a custom with him to come up to our place when the weather permitted, and, swinging me upon his back, carry me out to the new barn. There was a spacious threshing floor and plenty of sheepskin rugs. These were spread out on the floor and we would lie down and take an afternoon nap. After the sleep he would again swing me up and carry me to the house, and I presume that I was the last burden the old pioneer ever bore on his back.

Patrick McGill never swerved from the faith of his fathers, always adhering to Calvinistic doctrines and maintaining family devotions as he had been taught on the banks of the Belfast Bay.

Arthur McGill-the Field Marshal of Enterprise - the driving Captain of Industry-the open-hearted, generous soul of hospitality-the happy, laughing child of wit and humor and the tender, sympathetic friend of the lowly and the poor, was nearing the end of his long and useful life. He was probably about 85 years old. The expenditure of his great energies had possibly shortened his days, but taking into consideration the hardships he had encountered and overcome, he had arrived at a ripe old age. Death was hovering over him in the quaint castle he had builded by the big, bubbling spring, but he was not dismayed. The motto of his house - "In Domino Confido" - borne for centuries on the escutcheon of his ancestors, asserted itself in his waning days and he manfully girded himself up for the encounter with the grim monster.

Word was conveyed to Patrick that his brother was seriously ill. It was a bleak, wintry day and he himself was weak and fluttering on the verge of time, but no remonstrance availed to prevent him from going two-thirds of a mile for a last interview. Arriving, they communed together for a long time alone and then parted. No one ever knew what passed between the brothers at this, their last meeting at the end of the long journey they had pursued together.

Patrick returned to his home apparently in cheerful mood, divested himself of his wraps, laid down as if to rest and DIED. This was February 11, 1832.

His remains were accorded a favorable place in the village graveyard and with formal ceremonies and with the deep grief of those who knew him best and loved him most, he was tenderly laid away to await the resurrection of the just.

In a few days after Patrick's interment, Arthur, surrounded by his loved ones, passed away and was interred in the Presbyterian burying ground at the mouth of Gravel Run, four miles distant.

The departure of the pioneers who all their lives had been so closely associated, at so nearly the same time, was an impressive coincidence. It seldom occurs in the history of men's lives that brothers are so closely attached to each other and for so long a period inseparable, without an incident to disturb the harmony of their existence, and at the last hour, each seemed waiting to give the other precedence in their departure for the realms of the unknown, God was good to them and they were not long separated. They were great men, measured by all just standards of greatness.

Their names were not registered high in the annals of fame, nor trumpeted to the generations of men for deeds of high emprise, but they had come forth from the ranks of the oppressed in the Old World with integrity untarnished and manhood unimpaired and ranged themselves in line to hurl back the would-be oppressor of the new. They did not come like driven cattle, at the behest of power, nor were they ticketed across the sea by the hand of charity, but they came of their own volition. They were God-fearing men, educated, intelligent, endowed with all the attributes of a rare and disciplined manhood, and with the persistent energy of their race they became, in their limited sphere, potent factors in planting and building that civic and ethical system that has placed America at the head of all nations of the earth that system with vital roots in the hearts of men propagated at the family altar.

Their homes were models of purity and affection. Honesty, truthfulness and integrity were exacted of every member of the household, and they were taught that falsehood and hypocrisy were low and disgraceful and not to be tolerated under any circumstances. The family government, however, was not austere or repulsive-it could not be-for these jolly old men were the soul of irrepressible wit and humor of that spontaneous kind that sparkles forth when least expected and causes the soul of youth to bound with joy.

Their death was mourned by a very large circle of friends of their own nationality and faith. Old men with white beards and bent forms came from afar and shed copious tears-Ulstermen, whose confidence and respect originated beyond the sea and had abided with them through all the turmoil of eventful years paid this last tribute to departed worth and strewed their graves with the thistle and the shamrock green. No two gentler hearts were ever laid to rest in the lovely vale their hands had rescued from the wild-and yet so strong so brave-so valiant for the right. When the descendants of Arthur and Patrick McGill allow their honored names to sink into oblivion, then, indeed, has the clan become degenerate and is no longer worthy of a place in the history of the passing years.

A very singular circumstance came to light soon after Patrick's death. Among his papers was found a deed for a farm near Waterford, in Erie county, Pennsylvania. None of his heirs had ever heard of such a possession and were at a loss to account for it, but when it was found that one Captain Samuel Magill was the grantor they began to take an interest in the find.

This Captain Samuel Magill put in an appearance in the valley soon after the War of 1812. He claimed relationship to our people through the English branch of the House of Rankeilleur. He was a well built, polite, plausible man, well informed and an entertaining conversationalist, well up in genealogy and family lore. He represented himself as having been a captain in the British Army commanding a company of Irish infantry and that he and his whole company had, some place on the Canadian frontier, deserted and come over to the American forces. Grandfather was much entertained with his talk and treated him very courteously; however, Magill did not secure the entire confidence of the pioneer and his family. The simple fact that he had deserted his colors did not commend him, in their estimation, and he was looked upon as not strictly reliable. He had settled near Waterford and became a quite frequent visitor not altogether unwelcome.

He knew all about the dormant Peerage at Oxford and Causeland and his knowledge was substantially correct, and he was very willing to undertake the management of an effort to recover the title if a suitable heir could be found.

It was reported that he was financially embarrassed, though the reputed owner of the property above mentioned.

Knowing all these circumstances it is not wonderful that the heirs of Patrick were perplexed over the matter. They did not believe that there had been a bona fide purchase of the premises described because they knew that the old gentleman did not have the money to make such a purchase at that time, and furthermore, that he had not visited Waterford since the war and that he would not have bought the property without first seeing it. But here was the deed all in proper legal form and there was nothing to prevent them from ousting the occupants and entering upon possession-but if there was wrong behind this transaction they wanted nothing to do with it. They, therefore, concluded to lay the matter over and await further developments.

Many years afterwards a lady arrived at our gates on horseback. I lifted her from the saddle and took care of her horse. She was the daughter and only living child of Captain Samuel Magill, She at once made known her business. Her parents had been dead for many years and she had been living on the place supposing it belonged to her. She was either married or going to be married soon, and contemplated selling the property when she found that she had no legal right to convey and that the title was in the heirs of Patrick McGill. Father explained the situation and told her that the heirs of Patrick McGill contemplated no wrong, and proposed to shun the appearance of evil and that they would never molest her in the possession of her home. This, however, did not fill the bill, for she wanted to sell and had no power to convey.

It was at my suggestion that the heirs quitclaimed all their interest in the premises, and I myself drew up the document that gave her the land and the next day the poor girl went home happy.

The point in this narrative is, where can you find a parallel case of conscientious regard for the right? By no possible means could those heirs prove that the Waterford place did not belong to them, but there was a suspicion that their father had not contemplated holding it against Samuel’s heir, and they would not touch it. It was a gracious act, worthy of the sons and daughters of the pioneer, and shows how deeply he and his wife had instilled into their minds the doctrines of personal righteousness.

There never lived a man who was more respected and venerated by his family than Patrick McGill. He was far the superior of any of his local contemporaries in learning, literature and intellectual culture and was withal modest and unassuming, never arrogating to himself any assumption of superiority, or claim to deference above his fellowmen.

Five years later, April 27th, 1837, Anna Maria, his faithful coadjutor, companion and comforter through all the strenuous years of life’s battle for the right, died and was laid by the side of her beloved in the old graveyard.

The date of the death of Mary (Logue) McGill, the wife and sturdy partner of Arthur, I have been unable to learn. Arthur’s family, at an early date, with the exception of Henry, went out from the ancestral home and made for themselves habitations in far away lands, and the consecutive history of them and theirs is thus impaired for want of definite and specific information upon which to build the story.

But, having followed the trail, often dim, of our American ancestors from the banks of Belfast to their last resting place in the beautiful valley, we will come forward from the obscurity of tradition into the light of active history and record some events that have taken place since 1832.


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