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The McGills
The Descendants of Arthur the Pioneer—Arthur, the Son of Arthur


There was no son of the Pioneers ever attained the distinction of their fathers. It was no fault of theirs—no lack of natural ability and enterprise, but was the result of their environment—their limited opportunities and the insurmountable barriers that circumscribed their means of developing the best that was in them.

It must be remembered that these sons of the Pioneer first saw the light of day in the midst of the primitive forests of the western slope of the Appalachian Range, far remote from civilization and the influences and advantages of institutions of learning and the associations of older settlements. Rude dwellings were their habitations and patient toil their grinding lot. The Pioneers came out from a land of culture and light and plunged into the wilds, but these sons came forth in the wilds to fight their way to higher life and better conditions. The act of the fathers was an act of voluntary selfabnegation and sacrifice for the benefit of their posterity, but for the sons there was no volition—it was fate—and right well did each perform his part, and handicapped as they were death found each man under his own ample roof-tree surrounded by the growing generations.

Arthur-son of Arthur-was born in Northumberland county, Pennsylvania, at Duncan's Island, on the Susquehanna, about A. D. 1790; and at the age of four years was brought to the French Creek country. We have seen the kind of schooling he received. When quite young he was on horseback carrying the mail between Pittsburg and Erie. His education was gathered up on rough roads among rougher men. He became connected with the Passenger Stage Coach and Mail business, and I think continued some kind of association with it as long as he lived. He was a great humorist, and the following clipping from the Western Press by the facile pen of Archie Blakely will serve to illustrate some of his amiable traits and irrepressible love of fun:

THE WESTERN PRESS.
(From the Butler Eagle.)
ARTHUR McGILL OF THE ERIE AND
PITTSBURG STAGE COMPANY.

I was chairman of the Republican Executive Committee of Butler County in 1856-our committee, hearing that Cassius M. Clay, of Kentucky, was on a speaking tour North, and would be in Pittsburg, instructed me to go to Pittsburg and arrange for Clay to come to Butler. The best I could get done was to have Mr. Clay brought out during the early part of the night, after he had spoken in Pittsburg, and then we were to take him back the next night.

Joseph Knox, a bachelor-member of the Pittsburg bar, living at the Monongahela House, having to make a business drive to Clarion, agreed to bring Mr. Clay out, and we were to take him back. The plank road was then new and in fine condition and good moonlight for the contemplated drive.

We arranged for quarters at the Klingler, now the Lowry House. Mr. Clay slept late, and I was there in waiting to see him when he came down. I expressed the hope that their night ride had not been unpleasant. He said, No, excepting that they had struck a toll-gatherer (he called him) on the way, who had been very insolent and insulting. I asked him at what point, and he answered that Mr. Knox said it was the Glades or something of that kind.

I saw Knox, and he said that when they approached the toll-gate at Glade Mills it was about midnight, but the moon was bright and clear, and the pole which constituted the gate was drawn across the road. This was right in front of a dwelling house, and he called several times and a man came out on the porch with nothing on but his shirt, and answered

"What in h-l do you want?"

Knox answered : "We want to go to Butler." The man replied : "Then, why in h-l don't you

go?"

Knox answered : `We can't go until the gate is opened."

The man answered : "I don't propose to open the gate after midnight for every fool, jail-bird, night-hawk, sheep-thief or d-d black Republican that comes along."

Knox then asserted his legal rights in the matter. The man on the porch answered : "You have no legal rights until you pay your toll."

Knox then asked him to come out to the carriage and get his toll. The man on the porch swore he wouldn't go to the carriage, as they might murder or kidnap him. Knox then got out and paid the toll, when the pole was raised and they passed through.

When I remembered that Arthur McGill was the toll-keeper, I could understand the whole thing and told Knox and Clay that he was a decided character, evidently knew who they were and was having some fun.

Mr. Clay spoke the next day and it fell to my lot to drive him to Pittsburg that night. We struck Glade Mills about 10 o'clock. The pole was down and all was as quiet as the grave. I halloed and yelled and screamed and made all kinds of noises. After awhile McGill came and called out: "What in h-1 is the matter with you?"

I answered that we wanted to get through the gate.

McGill said: "Oh, is that all; I thought you had the toothache," and added, "I can't let every foolkiller through who comes along at this time of night until he pays his toll."

I answered, "Here is your toll; come out and get it."

His house was on the right side of the road, passing down, and I sat next the house, with Clay on my left. McGill came out, and as I handed him the toll, he exclaimed :

"Oh, h-1, is this you, Archie? I'll never throw a straw in the way of Lewis Blakely's white-headed boy if I can help it."

Mr. Clay spoke up and said: "You insulted me, sir, when I passed through here last night."

Mr. McGill replied : "Insult and be d-d to you."

Mr. Clay drew a revolver very deliberately from his side pocket, saying, "How do you fight, sir?"

McGill, reaching out his hand, said: "Give me your hand ; you're Cassius M. Clay, I thought I could smoke you out."

He called a man to take charge of the team and had us both get out, took us in, introduced us to his wife and daughter, and passed out to a large porch running the entire length of the house, covered with vines, the moonlight streaming through them, the valley of Glade Run running away westward-the foliage all bathed in the richest moonlight I ever saw.

They had the great family table set with snow-white tablecloth and napkins, and as fine a supper as I ever tasted, and whiskies and wines galore. The play of wit and repartee between Clay and McGill was one of the richest treats of my life.

In the first year of the Civil War I met Gen. Clay in Kentucky and introduced myself, and he immediately asked for the old toll-gatherer of the Glades.

I met General Clay again in Washington, after his return from the Court of St. Petersburg, where he had been serving as Minister from our Government, and his first question was for the old toll-gatherer of the Glades, and amongst other things said that moonlight scene was the richest he had ever seen.

I have spoken of McGill's business methods, and should therefore add that he was Sheriff of the County for three years, and if any one ever lost by him in his official capacity, I never heard of it.

His kindness to the poor and needy of the world was proverbial. He would see no one suffer if he had the means to help him.

ARCHIBALD BLAKELY.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, soon after the War, I was introduced to a number of very distinguished gentlemen from Western Pennsylvania and the mention of my name immediately recalled that of Arthur of the Glades, and many amusing incidents in the career of the old humorist were related, and I learned that he was widely known and held a high place in the esteem of many political leaders of the time. Among many incidents mentioned was a clash of wits which occurred at the Capital between McGill and the distinguished Thaddeus Stevens in which that king of satire and "man of infinite jest," did not come out ahead.

It was told of him that when Sheriff of Butler county, there was admitted to the bar a pale young man, who had fought his way through privation and want and reached the goal of his ambition, but he had also reached the crackers and cheese stage of the profession. A troubled look was on his face, and something that seemed to speak of hunger in his eyes when the Sheriff met him in the corridor slipped a fifty-dollar bill into his hand and whispered: "You can pay me when you get started."

When in the Stage Coach and Hostelry line of business, he was, one stormy day, making his way over execrable roads between Pittsburg and the Glade Mills with an empty coach-and-four, and came across two Irishmen by the wayside.

"Boys, jump in and take a ride."

"Thank ye, Mr. McGill," came the ready response; "we can't; we're in a hurry to get beyant."

"Whoa." The coach stopped.

"Now climb in," and they did. He took them to the Glades; bade them clean the mud off their boots and clothes - gave them an excellent supper - a warm, clean bed and a hearty breakfast. Then chucking a bottle of whisky into one of their pockets, he said: "Now, d-n you, be gone."

A neighbor called and asked the loan of a farming implement. "No, sir; I don't lend my tools. There is nothing in lending," was the gruff response. The man turned away with a look of disappointment on his, face. "Hold on," said Arthur, impressively, "I want to tell you something; when you see any implement or tool about my place that you want to use - take it - use it, and bring it back when you are through with it, and don't bother me about it. I have no time to waste lending tools to my neighbors. I don't lend."

A few days ago an old gentleman from Lynn, Mass., a sea coast town near Boston, who in his youth lived in Butler County, Pennsylvania, said to me: "If Arthur McGill, in his youth, had been afforded the advantages of a liberal education, he would have ranked high among the greatest humorists of the age."

The versatility of the man was wonderful-his wit was spontaneous and original. No stale jokes, nor hackneyed tales found lodgment in his active brain. The humorous side of life appealed to him and kept him always in a happy mood. He could be rough when with rough men, gentle when with gentlemen, kind with kindred and friends and had no enemies on earth.

His business led him away from the ancestral home and he never returned after his permanent settlement in Butler county, save once-when he passed through on the wing. It was when he was Sheriff. His nephew, James D. McGill, was in the mercantile business in Saegerstown. He was called to the door, and there in his buggy sat Uncle Arthur. "Get off-Get off!" cried James.

"No, I cannot. Is Charlie at home?" "I think he is," was the answer. Snap went the whip and away he whirled to the old Patrick McGill home.

John E. was in front of the house. "Tell Charlie to come out here quick." Uncle Charles came limping over the old porch. "Hurry up, Charlie, I just have time to shake hands. I have a warrant for a man who is ahead and I must catch him before he gets into Erie. If I miss him I will stop when I come back;" and the whip cracked and he was never again seen in these parts.

It is a matter of sincere regret that we know so little of this man, nothing of his wife and family—for he had children. Perhaps some of his descendants are yet living, but they seem to be lost to us.


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