Of Andrew R. McGill it may be safely
said, without awakening a pang of jealousy or sounding a note of dissent,
that he was the brightest and most distinguished representative of his
family and people that has lived during the last two hundred years.
We would make no invidious comparisons
between him and other conspicuous characters of his time; and we would
detract nothing from the fame of his compeers, or his competitors; we only
seek to tell the simple story of his works and ways, leaving comparisons to
posterity after history has matured, and the analysis of time has separated
the pure gold from the glittering tinsel, and weighed achievements in the
scales of Eternal Justice.
He became one of the distinguished men
and the Chief Executive of the State of Minnesota, which compared to many of
the little kingdoms of the old world, is an Empire in extent.
How much of this success in life was
due to his ancestry—the blood and breeding of his race?
Andrew R. McGill did not build upon a
submerged strata; nor did he spring from the loins of any degenerate people.
More than five hundred years
ago the great House of McGill of Rankeillour was founded in Scotland, from
material that for a thousand years had been accumulating and maturing on
Caledonian Hills. Rankeillour gave Scholars, Statesmen, Jurists and Warriors
to the nations, and sent out, as proven by history and heraldry, branches
into England, Ireland and Wales, that wielded influence and power wherever
they were established. From Rankeillour came the House of Ramgally in
Scotland, of Viscount of Oxenford in England and Ballynester in Ireland-all
with armorial bearings that show their derivation from the ancient clan; and
from this house came also a large contingent of the colony in Ulster,
Ireland, founded by James I. of England and VI. of Scotland, in 1602-1610.
With this emigration into
Ireland came the ancestors of the Pennsylvania branch, who in 1608 obtained
leases from the London-Belfast Company, on the banks of Belfast Bay, County
Antrim, Province of Ulster, Ireland. A lease in Ulster was a vested right
that descended by primogeniture, and the proprietary rights thus secured may
yet be in possession of the older branches of the family.
One hundred and sixty-two
years from the date of obtaining landed interests in Ireland the McGills
appear in America. In 1770, Patrick McGill, the grandfather of Andrew R.,
then a youth of seventeen years, came to this country, participated in the
operations of the Revolutionary War, married Anna Maria Baird, of Maryland
nativity, and settled in Northumberland county, Pennsylvania.
In 1792 Patrick located lands
in Western Pennsylvania, which he proceeded to occupy in 1795, and for which
patent was issued by the State in 1802, the same year in which Charles
Dillon McGill, the father of Andrew, was born, and on the same premises in
1840 Andrew Ryan McGill first saw the light of day.
On the father's side the
lineage was good for more than five hundred years, always found in the front
rank of civilization and occupying a high place among the old, distinguished
families of the ancient Scotch Celtic race.
Andrew McGill's mother was
Angeline Martin. She was of a race of people more prominent in the turbulent
times of the past than were the McGills. The Martins, of Galway, in Ireland,
occupy a distinguished place in the history of the Emerald Isle. All over
the Kingdom they were celebrated in song and story for knightly deeds of
high emprise in defense of an oppressed people. Romance has woven garlands
and twined them around their brows and immortalized the name forever. They
were a proud intrepid race who disdained the wiles of the oppressor and with
sword in hand stood ever ready to defend the right.
Gen. Charles Martin, of
Revolutionary celebrity, was tile grandfather of Angeline. It `has been said
that he was born in England; that may be so, but the name of Martin belongs
to Ireland; and when the opportunity came he quickly proved his Galway blood
by turning the point of his sword toward the hereditary enemy of his race. I
personally knew four brothers of Angeline-Charles, John E., Samuel and
Manning. They were men of character, affable and genteel, educated and
intelligent; proud men with high instep and lofty bearing.
Angeline herself grew to
beautiful womanhood, not only as to feature and form, but she was endowed
with all the graces and goodness of her sex. That she left the impress of
her gentle soul on the mind of her youngest son is not to be doubted. She
died in 1848, when he was eight years old.
It is seen by the foregoing
that Andrew R. McGill did not derive from any ignoble strain. The blood of a
long line of manly ancestors coursed through his veins. Yet it must be
remembered that the plunge of his forbears into the wilderness, behind
mountain ranges, had isolated his people from intercourse with the world and
greatly abridged the means of intellectual culture and the development of
those faculties that tend to make men great. He was not surrounded by
affluence or wealth; the board at which he sat was laden with plenty, yet
the starvation of the soul was not arrested by ready means to gratify its
longing for higher and better things.
His ancestry had given him
its blood and racial trend, but nothing more. If he would mount higher it
must be by forces within himself, unaided by any outward propulsion or
His career began at the age
of eight years, when the gentle guiding hand of his mother was removed and
for all purposes of mental and moral growth he was thrown upon his own
His father, up to that time,
had been a lively, dashing kind of man, enjoying life with considerable
zest, but he now became stem and austere, secluding himself from the family
circle, and like his father Patrick retiring within himself. He did not
intend to be unkind, and had no thought of the effect such course must have
on the tender sensitive natures of his gentle brood. He had not been
schooled to hardships as had his older brothers, and when calamity smote him
he forgot that there were other souls bereaved. He allowed his selfish grief
to blind him to the manifest duties of parental trust, and though all of
Angeline's children were successful in life, some even brilliant, it was due
more to the inherent stamina of the race than to the care and solicitude of
the father. The two older brothers took to mechanical pursuits as soon as
they could be apprenticed. The period of eleven years that the boy spent
beneath the ancestral roof after the death of his mother was not by any
means one of ease and indulgence. His, however, was a buoyant nature.
Andrew was an upright boy and
a filial son. Among his playmates he was a spirited young fellow, who could
give and take hard thwacks upon the playground with the best of them. He
seemed born with an instinct to seek uplifting influences. He was keenly
desirous of attending school, and while there pursued his studies with a
diligence that made his record as good as the best in his class and
oftentimes excelling all others. Yet as a matter of fact, after he was
twelve years of age, going to school was an incident in his life rather than
a plan. His older brothers had left the home roof to follow their chosen
avocations. The boy Andrew was thus left to become the chief assistant and
man of all work on the farm. His father did not look upon an education and
schooling as nearly so essential as that the farm work should and must be
done. After he was twelve years old he did a man's work on the land that
comprised the homestead farm, for which his grandfather Patrick had received
the patent from the Commonwealth of Pennslyvania and which had passed to his
father, Charles D. McGill.
He took care of the stock the
year round. He plowed, sowed, planted, cultivated, dug, mowed, reaped and
hauled in the season when these operations were due. When the harvest was
garnered, (See Note 1) and that part stored that supplied the needs of the
inmates of the household and barn and the surplus sold, then, and not till
then, could attendance at school be given a thought. So it was that only
when Winter's snows were on the ground that Andrew's footsteps would turn
toward the "Old Brick." Then there was no time stolen from hours of study.
He learned early to read for a purpose. He aimed for higher things than the
routine drudgery of the farm-made more distasteful to him because of his
father's unsympathetic attitude-and became earnest in his pursuit of that
which would prove more congenial to his ideas of life.
To a casual observer he was a
contented, happy young man, taking work as it came, performing his various
duties efficiently, cheerfully and with alacrity, but there was setting in
an undercurrent in his channels of thought that was to lead him away from
the farm into a larger sphere of action. A hunger was beginning to gnaw that
the monotony of rural life failed to satisfy.
Before the final home-leaving
Andrew went to Edinboro and lived for a few months with his sister and
brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob L. Hites. The latter was carrying on a
wagon-making business and Andrew tried learning the trade. In later years he
laughed at this experience and said he only learned how to make a
wheelbarrow and quit.
He returns home, but the
spirit of restlessness is working within. The offer of his father to take
the farm and work it for a personal interest in it falls on a heedless ear.
To get out into the world, to cut loose from home ties, to turn towards
fields yet unexplored, to feel responsible only to himself were his
At the age of nineteen years
the wished-for opportunity comes to him in the offer of a position to teach
a village school at Rimersberg, about fifty miles from his native town.
[Note 2 to author.] Andrew was a great favorite with all his sisters, and
his leaving home was an event that made a deep impression on all the members
of the family, for they felt it was to be final and yet were determined not
to manifest the sadness they felt to the verge of tears. When in the
preparations for his going the strain became keenest, the accidental
tripping of one of the younger girls and her falling to the floor caused an
excuse for laughter that all readily seized upon to hide the forbidden
tears. Then Andrew kissed each one a hurried goodbye, climbed into the buggy
and was gone. This was in 1859. Twelve years elapsed ere he again crossed
the threshold. All the sisters had married and were in homes of their own.
The father who had barely given his son a final word at parting now was
proud to welcome back a man whom others had been glad to honor, and then for
the first time in his life gave him the glad hand and exchanged words of
cordial greeting and conversation.
In Rimersberg, Clarion
county, Pennslyvania, was the first test of his ability as a scholar. The
diligence with which he had pursued his studies in the "Red Brick"
schoolhouse was now to bear its first fruit. He was tried and found "not
wanting." Here he was launched in the profession that stood him in good
stead for his further advancement.
But Rimersberg is too
circumscribed. Not yet does he feel that he is in touch with the Genius of
Progress. So after a few months stay in Clarion county he takes passage on a
raft down the Allegheny river to Pittsburg, and thence by river boat to
Covington, Kentucky, on the Ohio river, one of the most progressive cities
of the Southland. Here he remained for nearly two years engaged successfully
in teaching school, when the Civil War came, and educational enterprises
were at an end, and the social atmosphere most unpleasant to a young man
possessed with innate loyalty to the Northern Cause. Fate said he must leave
Kentucky, but where should he go? While in this querying state of mind
chance turned his attention toward Minnesota. An old friend, Turner by name,
had gone to St. Peter, and in a glowing letter urged McGill to follow him.
This was the pivotal circumstance that directed hitherward the Saegerstown
Andrew R. McGill arived in
St. Peter June 10th, 1861, strong in heart and limb, but weak in pocket book
and worldly goods. He was ready to work and rich in now possessing two years
experience in the school room. These, with dignity and pleasantness of
manner, were his aids in opening a select High School on July 7th, 1861, in
less than a month after he had first breathed Minnesota air. The school was
patronized by the best people in the town. His success as a teacher was
phenomenal, and he easily demonstrated his ability and worth.
But again the shifting scenes
of war crossed his pathway, the call of his country became imperative, and
he enlisted August 19th, 1862, in St. Peter. [Note 3 to author.] Of his
vicissitudes in the military line we will quote Gen. J. H. Baker, the author
of the work entitled "Lives of the Governors of Minnesota," in which he says
of Andrew R. McGill: "But the tocsin of war roused his patriotic heart, and
we find him deserting the school room and enlisting as a private in Asgrim
K. Sharo's Company `D' of the Ninth Minnesota regiment, August 19th, 1862,
at the age of twenty-two. He was elected First Sergeant. His service was on
the frontier against the Sioux Indians in their memorable outbreak. He was
posted at St. Peter and was present as a guard at the hanging of the
condemned Sioux at Mankato, December 26th, 1862, where the writer, who was
in command at that most extraordinary execution first knew young McGill.
"He served in the army with
fidelity for one year and was discharged for serious disability, August
18th, 1863; and none too soon, for only nursing and care for weeks and
months brought him back to health, but not to a degree to make it advisable
for him to re-enlist, which was to him, then and afterward, a great regret."
[Note 4] During his short
military career his readiness with his pen brought to him an unenviable
task. His company being among the troops detailed to be present at Mankato
at the hanging of the thirtyeight Sioux warriors sentenced to death for
atrocious massacres in 1862, young McGill was further employed to write an
official account of this unusual and horrible incident for publication-a
duty he reluctantly assumed and to which he ever after alluded as a very
unpleasant recollection. However, he wrote a very full report, which was
printed in "The St. Paul Pioneer" of December 28th, 1862, and records
historically the culminating event of those soul-stirring times of that most
After his recovery from the
illness that terminated his military career, we find him again in the school
room, arranging, classifying and grading his pupils in a way to give the
One of his corps of
assistants was Miss Eliza Evelyn Bryant, a bright, vivacious young lady, who
not only commended herself to him as a teacher but as an assistant in life's
school, and they were married in 1864. Miss Bryant was a daughter of Hon.
Charles S. Bryant, who, with his family, came to St. Peter from Cincinnati
in the early '60's, where he had obtained considerable prominence as a
lawyer. While Mr. Bryant continued to practice law in St. Peter and in St.
Paul, where he later took up his residence, yet it was as an author and as
one devoted to educational matters on which his prominence in Minnesota
Before closing his school
room career we wish to say that former pupils of young McGill, now people
past their prime and on the shady side of life, and who are scattered over
Minnesota and beyond her borders, all testify to his ability as a teacher,
of the respect he inspired and of the elevating influence of his character
even then as a young man.
Responsibilities were now
accumulating and the period in his life from 1864 to 1869 was pregnant with
events bearing on his future, under all of which he stood strong, worthy and
reliable. While still teaching in 1864 he became joint editor and
proprietor, with Martin Williams, of the St. Peter Tribune, keeping his
interest in this paper until January, 1866. In the Autumn of 1865 he was
elected Clerk of the District Court, the duties of which office he assumed
January 2nd, 1866. He was re-elected and served four years.
As a result of his efficiency
in the school room and his ability to direct others he was appointed by the
County Commissioners Superintendent of Schools for Nicollet County in
January of 1866, which office he also held for two terms (four years).
With all these affairs to
make demands on his time, and which were producing very moderate means of
subsistence for himself and a growing family, he found time to read
Blackstone and grapple with points of law in the office of C. S. Bryant, his
father-in-law. He had received permission of the County Commissioners to
remove the office of the District Clerk and County Superintendent to Mr.
Bryant's office that he might pursue his law studies when the duties of
these offices permitted.
From the time young McGill
landed in St. Peter he had determined to eventually become a lawyer, and
soon thereafter began to read, during his spare moments, with that purpose
in view. This he kept up while teaching, while editing and amid the demands
made on him by the affairs of office. His persistence and application led to
his aim being realized, when on May 8th, 1869, he was admitted to the Bar of
Minnesota by Judge Horace Austin of the Sixth Judicial District.
I apprehend that he now began
to see a realization of the dream of his youth, and that the place in social
and business life to which he had aspired was coming within his reach. He
certainly had up to this time no thought of greater preference than to
acquire a permanent and perhaps prominent standing at the Bar, where he
could command a competence and win the respect and approbation of his fellow
But the turning of the wheel
of Fortune decreed that instead of the law and whatever honors might came in
its wake, politics, with its fickleness should engage his expanding
In January, 1870, judge
Austin, of St. Peter, was inaugurated Governor of the State, and knowing the
pleasing personality and legal attainments of his young fellow townsman he
appointed him his private secretary.*
Removing to St. Paul Mr.
McGill took his place in the Executive Office, where he came in contact with
all the leading men and politicians of the State and became familiar with
all governmental business. His keen grasp of affairs, his courteous manner,
his ability and willingness to serve those seeking information, won for him
a wide and favorable acquaintance and many warm personal friends in all
parts of the state.
A few days before retiring
from office Governor Austin further recognized the conspicuous ability and
sterling qualities of his popular young private secretary by appointing him,
December 15th, 1873, to be the successor of Mr. Pennock Pusey as Insurance
Commissioner of Minnesota. Mr. Pusey's attainments were more of a literary
and advisory turn than suited him in wrestling with the mathematical details
of the Insurance Commissioner's office and he wished to retire.
This appointment was most
happy. It occurred at a time when Mr. McGill's life was opening up in its
prime. He brought with him a wide acquaintance acquired in the Executive
Office while his enthusiasm and grasp of the affairs of this office
stimulated his determination that the Department of Insurance in Minnesota,
though so recently established (March 1st, 1872), should be second to that
of no other state. His fitness appealed to Illustrating his character and
loyalty, in 1887 when he became Governor he appointed his old friend, former
Governor Austin, to the important office of Railroad Commissioner. Although
there were many candidates with strong influences for the position, Governor
McGill, unsolicited, tendered it to ex-Governor Austin. Thus he discharged a
political debt of long standing and at the same time made a very wise
appointment, as was generally conceded.
Governor Davis (who followed
Austin), who also appointed him, as did Hubbard, who served for six
Governors, Pillsbury and five years, respectively. Altogether A. R. McGill
held the office of Insurance Commissioner for thirteen years and became
known in insurance circles the country over. He came to be recognized as an
authority in his own state and was quoted in others. His reports were
considered the most able and valuable up to the time of their publication
ever issued on the subject. Taking the lead as he did in getting wise
insurance laws enacted by the legislature, which laws are still on the
statute books, the backbone of all insurance legislation since enacted in
Minnesota, he was instrumental in safeguarding the people's interest in
insurance matters at the time of the state's critical rapid development from
1874 to 1886. He denounced all wild cat insurance concerns and was commended
by stable companies for his invariable justice and wise administration.
In 1882 there was some
question as to whether Governor Hubbard would reappoint McGill to be
Insurance Commissioner. The latter belonged to an opposing faction before
the convention in 1881 when he (Hubbard) received the nomination, and great
pressure was brought to bear upon him to supplant McGill. But he considered
the best interests of the Insurance Department and the State demanded his
reappointment, and retained him as its head, and he himself has since stated
that no other appointment ever gave him greater satisfaction or that he felt
reflected more credit on his administration.
It was while he was Insurance
Commissioner and business and official duties were successfully occupying
his attention that sadness cast her shadow over his home. Twice the Grim
Reaper claimed two of his promising children. Little Harry died in 1870, and
Jessie in 1874, both at the tender and interesting age of two and one-half
years. In February, 1877, he was called upon to mourn the death of her who
walked beside him, his faithful, loving wife, whose going left a sad blight
in heart and home and seemed an unkind stroke from the hand of Fate. The
surviving children were Charles Herbert, born 1866; Robert Clifford, born
1869, and Lida Bella, born 1874.
His long, faithful services
to the people, always unassuming and without ostentation, prompted his
friends to put his name forward for higher honors. After a four-cornered
contest in which C. A. Gilman, of St. Cloud; John L. Gibbs, of Albert Lea,
and Albert Scheffer, of St. Paul, were also candidates, A. R. McGill
received the nomination of the Republican party for Governor of Minnesota on
September 23rd, 1886. The Convention had embodied in its platform a High
License plank and placed the party on record as standing for reform in
better controlling the sale of liquor in the State and dethroning the power
of the saloon in politics.
The campaign which followed
was unique in the annals of the Republican party. Its watchword became "High
License" and its earnest champion the head of the ticket. Theirs was
manifestly against the wide open policy of the Democratic party on one hand
and the entire extermination of the sale of liquor by the Prohibition party
on the other hand.
A. A. Ames, the Democratic
nominee, had been for several terms the popular Mayor of Minneapolis. He had
for some years posed as the friend of the laboring class and had been
repeatedly elected Mayor largely by the labor vote. Also the saloon and
sporting elements of the Republican as well as the Democratic party were
with him unanimously. The liquor interests, wholesale and retail, poured
unlimited wealth into the Democratic coffers to open the way to all possible
influences in their favor.
The Prohibitionists were
supporting a hopeless cause and their votes were naturally taken from the
Republican ranks. What they desired was impossible to obtain. They wanted no
sale of liquor but were unwilling to aid in getting the sale of it under
better control and the revenue to the state increased. They could not
"compromise with crime" so gave it a boost. As this most critical time in
striving for the impossible-prohibition they nearly gave the state over to
the party whose success at that time would have meant a "wide open" policy
and years of retrogression. But good government prevailed and the first
chapter in the High License move was enacted by the Republican ticket being
elected. The majority was small, but the victory great.
Andrew R. McGill became
Governor January 5th, 1887. His inaugural address to the Legislature was all
that could be desired. At its opening he said: "If it has been customary
heretofore for Legislatures to disregard the issues on which they were
elected, let the custom be broken. Honesty and good faith in a political
party are as much to be admired as like attributes in an individual."
Regarding the liquor traffic
his utterances were very forceful and manifested his dominant energy in
leading the members to do their duty. He says:
"You will be called upon at
this session to consider measures looking to the further regulation of the
liquor business in this State. The people have pronounced in favor of `high
license, local option and the rigid enforcement of the laws relating to the
liquor traffic,' and now turn to you in the hope and expectation that you
will, in the form of suitable legislation, give effect to the verdict which
they have found. Outside of the limited number engaged in the liquor traffic
in this State, the people, by a very large majority and without regard to
political parties, favor the measures proposed.
I can see no reason why the
desired legislation should not be promptly enacted. It is undoubtedly true
that while the question of high license does not properly relate to party
politics, it is one of intense interest to the liquor vendors of the State,
and in our cities and large towns has become the predominant issue at every
election. The liquor interests are organized as a compact power for the
avowed purpose of combatting all efforts looking to the further regulation
of the liquor traffic. The effect of such an organization in such a cause
cannot be otherwise than harmful. All questions are made secondary to that
of high license, and every man who stands for office-and more particularly a
legislative office-is required to pledge himself against it, or stand the
brunt of their united opposition, in many cases meaning utter defeat from
the outset. In all candor I submit to you if this is not a pernicious
influence on the legislation of the state. Two years ago a high license bill
was before the Legislature, with every prospect of becoming a law, but was
finally defeated through the organized efforts of the liquor interests. This
organization is much stronger today than it was then, and will no doubt
oppose with a zeal worthy of a better cause the measures proposed. But I
trust this Legislature, elected on the issue of `high license and local
option,' is also stronger on this subject than its predecessor, and that it
has the courage and independence to refuse to be bound and controlled by the
liquor dealers. I have no word to utter against these men-I am willing to
concede that many of them regard the proposed measures as an infringement on
their personal rights and liberty, but in the name of that great body of our
citizens who believe in sobriety, in law and order, and who recognize and
deplore the evils traceable to the liquor traffic, I protest against that
interest being permitted to dominate the Legislation of the State. It is not
only your province but your duty to eliminate as far as practicable these
evils. It is believed that high license and local option will minimize them.
Sharing in this belief and desiring to keep faith with the people, I
recommend the enactment of suitable and efficient legislation to carry the
proposed measures into effect."
All the members of the House
and Senate were equally bound with himself to High License, and yet it was
found that when it came to framing measures looking to its enactment several
members in both houses had visibly weakened and some had even slumped to the
opposition. The vast sums of money and incessant lobbying of the liquor
interests were again giving battle and their success became ominous to the
High License Cause. But Governor McGill, true to every noble instinct within
him, true to the pugnacious instincts of his ancestry, worked in and out of
season to stimulate the High License forces. Had it not been for his
persistent leadership and his untiring efforts it is certain that High
License legislation would have failed to carry. The excitement became very
great as the battle for and against High License was waged. A bill favoring
it was, after an earnestly contested struggle, finally passed and promptly
became a law by the Governor's signature. The wisdom of the law became so
evident that no attempt at its repeal has ever been made and the better
class of saloon men soon became its hearty supporters. The High License law
not only resulted in the better regulation of the sale of liquor and greatly
increased revenue to the State, but completely quelled all domination of the
liquor interests in politics which have never regained their dethroned
power. The effect was that of a social revolution and a noticeable moral
uplift. Minnesota's progressive stand on the liquor traffic was watched with
great interest and the law she adopted served as a model for similar laws in
Other important measures were
placed on the statute books during Governor McGill's term. The tax laws were
simplified, the State Soldiers' Home and State Reformatory were established
and the Bureau of Labor Statistics created.
In September of 1888, when
the State Republican Convention convened it was to work the greatest
injustice that can ever be done to a candidate or party. Governor McGill had
taken the high stand that his administration should speak for him as a
candidate for renomination. The invariable custom had been to bestow a
second term as an indorsement. Governor McGill had made an enviable record
in the Chair, and received the commendations of the best element in his
party. The convention in its platform said: "It points with pride to the
pure and clean administration of Governor A. R. McGill." There were enough
delegates pledged to him to renominate him and yet W. R. Merriam, a moneyed
banker of St. Paul, became the nominee. Various explanations were attempted
at the time. It is unnecessary to say that the reasons concocted were merely
subterfuges that, though acquiesced in, were not endorsed nor believed. If
the glory of being the father of gubernatorial fraud and bribery in
Minnesota that the purchase of the Governorship brought Mr. Merriam was the
ambition for which he contended, then A. R. McGill sought to be no
competitor, and he stepped down and out of office cheerfully, leaving his
record to be balanced with that of his successor for a just public to decree
to each their proper place in the state's history, and his life was
sufficiently long to know that honesty in politics is not a dead letter, to
know that respect and honor grew and increased as the years came and
receded, to know that W. R. Merriam's following diminished to a vanishing
point and his name spoken with derision. "Though the mills of God grind
slowly, yet they grind exceedingly small."
In 1889 A. R. McGill retired
to private life, engaging for seven years in a banking, loan and trust
business in Minneapolis. Subsequently he became interested in the publishing
and printing business of the McGill-Warner Company of St. Paul.
In 1899 he again entered
public life, becoming State Senator from the Thirty-seventh Senatorial
District (St. Paul). His past experience rendered his legislative services
very valuable, and the high esteem and deep respect with which he was
regarded by the people of the State, irrespective of party, made his
influence in the Senate very great. He was placed on important committees
and his expressed opinions were listened to with deference, both on the
floor and in committee room. In 1902 he was renominated and re-elected State
Senator without any opposition, the Democratic party having declined to
nominate any one to run against him.
In 1900 ex-Governor McGill
was appointed Postmaster of St. Paul by President McKinley, who at the
request of U. S. Senator Cushman K. Davis (St. Paul), suspended the
regulation of the Post Office Department that prohibits a postmaster from
also holding a state office. Likewise later, President Roosevelt again
waived this regulation, permitting him to stand for re-election to the
Senate in 1902, and also reappointed him in 1904 Postmaster of St. Paul.
Thus the busy, eventful years
were rounding out a full, active life. A life full of business activities
and teeming with interest in the affairs of the community, the city and the
state of his adoption. He was every ready to give the best in himself for
their benefit. His was always a moulding influence for better conditions,
and his forceful, though unobtrusive personality was invariably leagued only
with that which was honorable, true and beneficial. There was not a page in
his book of life but could bear the strongest light of investigation. Not a
single blur of dishonor could be found.
He had re-married in 1879 and
brought to his little family a lady from near his old home in Pennsylvania.
She was Mary E. Wilson, daughter of a prominent physician of Edinboro, (Pa.)
She was possessed of a superior intelligence and education and was a fitting
companion to her distinguished husband, and endeared herself as well to his
children and friends.
They had three sons, Wilson,
born in 1884; Thomas Martin, born in 1889; and Andrew R., the namesake of
his father, who died in i895 when little more than two years of age.
In 1888 A. R. McGill and
family took up their abode in St. Anthony Park. Though a suburb of St. Paul,
it is equally near and accessible to its sister city, Minneapolis. Here, on
Scudder avenue, in a modest, unassuming house which had been constructed
suitable to their needs, they established a home in which their domestic
relations were most happy. The Governor was a boy with his boys and enjoyed
their confidences no less when they came to youth and manhood. There was
none of that austerity with which his own early life had been familiar and
had left bitter recollections. He ruled them as others through respect and
Theirs was an ideal home from
which sorrow should have flown afar. But "Death loves a shining mark."
The Autumn of 1905, with its
sear and yellow leaf, was settling in bleak and cold, and the vegetable life
for the year dying. The month of October had ebbed to its last day and with
it ebbed the life that had become the center of so much affectionate love
and honor. He had with apparent usual health gone through his accustomed
routine duties of the day at the Postoffice. Had with his accustomed cheer
greeted friend and employs as he had met them. He had come at the accustomed
hour to his home in the evening and, after enjoying the usual family
intercourse, had as usual retired. But in the night Death came to him
suddenly and unannounced, and the life - that grand force - that we had
known in the embodiment of Andrew R. McGill-passed to the Beyond, there we
hope to greet us when we, too, shall be vanquished by Life's foe.
The family was grief-stricken
at their great loss. Friends, after the first stunning effects of the sad
news, were greatly desirous of tendering him the homage due to his memory
and urged that his remains lie in state at the Capitol and that there be a
public funeral. But his great inclination against any kind of ostentation
led his family to decide against the former and that the last sad rites be
pronounced within the precincts of the home he had reared and to which he
had become so deeply attached.
The Postoffice clerks and
letter carriers turned out en masse to march past his bier to take a last
look at the face that but a few hours since had been to them an inspiration
in their tasks. The old heroes of Acker Post of the G. A. R. silent and grim
aligned themselves in front of the modest dwelling to give the parting
salute to their old comrade who had never failed them in their hour of need.
Simple but impressive
ceremonies were conducted by his pastor, Dr. S. G. Smith, of the People's
Church, St. Paul, who himself bore witness of a great loss, and though
called upon to officiate came also to mourn with others present the loss of
a dear friend.
The pallbearers were selected
from countless friends and associates, among them being the Governor
(Johnson) and three ex-Governors, and others prominent in the different
walks of life. They bear hence the silent form, dignified and serene in
death, from the portals of his home, beneath the stalwart limbed trees he
had planted and seen grow from saplings, to the vehicle that is to convey to
the final resting place in Oakland Cemetery all that remains of earth of
Andrew R. McGill.
As the mourning multitude
turned away from the grave one was seen to linger to shed an unseen tear in
memory of his old-time friend. This was Hon. Horace Austin, an eminent judge
and twice Governor of Minnesota, and who had in years past stood sponsor for
the political life of him he now mourned. By the tragedy of Fate only one
week later the ashes of Governor Austin were also consigned to earth.
When the tidings of Andrew's
death reached the quaint, old town where he was born, the people talked and
sympathized and mourned. But it was not of the Governor and the Statesman
they talked. They wept not for the Lawyer nor the Teacher; but their kindly
thoughts went out for the little sun-bronzed face and laughing eyes of the
bright boy, who, swift of foot and agile of limb in years gone by, had
played with the boys on the village green.
From all over the country
came sympathetic notices of the press lamenting his untimely departure in
the midst of so active and useful a career. Passing by those ephemeral
contributions to fame, we invite attention in the following pages to the
permanent history of the time, written by impartial pens and recorded in the
archives of the state, there to remain while time shall last.
In addition to what we have
said of our distinguished relative to whom we have tried to accord his
proper place in the annals of History, a farther light may be thrown on his
character by the pen of her who was his wife for twenty-six years:
There was an indescribable
delight and charm in the manner of A. R. McGill - a sort of magnetism as it
were - that invariably drew people to him. One had only to meet him to fall
under his influence. He was sincere; he was earnest; he was true to friends
and just to foes; he was quick of perception, and through a keen
intelligence grasped a situation instantly. He had seemingly an intuitive
judgment, arriving at a wise conclusion momentarily that others would waver
over after studying a subject for hours or days. As a counsellor he was, for
this quality and his other characteristics, sought after by those in high
positions no less than by those in the humbler walks of life. Riches and
position in themselves had no extenuating influence with him, while his
sympathy of heart made him accessible always to those in trouble or in any
way needing a friendly adviser. There is one side of his personality that
always made him a delight to those with whom he came in contact, and that
was his sense of humor. With him it was a veritable sixth sense. It was with
him in friendly intercourse, it was with him in business relations, in all
the ins and outs of daily life that humor and wit were ever bubbling forth
in sallies that perhaps only those who knew him best understood. And when a
witticism or joking remark had to be labeled that of itself pleased him.
This sense of humor was the outcome of an endowed cheerful, sunny
temperament that refused to be clouded or soured in boyhood by an
unsympathetic father, unjustly imposed labor and lack of the material
comforts, and that in later life through the many ups and downs of
privation, work and prosperity always shone a beacon light, winning friends
to him by the genial warmth of his smile.
Take his keen intelligence,
his intuitive judgment, his knowledge of men, his varied experiences, his
quick grasp of situations, his ability to see things from others standpoint,
his sympathetic heart, his capabilities of friendly and family relations,
his high plane of morality, his great honesty of purpose, his unswerving
attitude from the path of right and rectitude as he saw it, together with
the great courage of his convictions, and all these qualities modified by
the light of cheerfulness and humor that made life a pleasure to him in its
living, and you have his unique character that shed a constant radiance on
his family circle, his friendships, his business associates and all who came
within the spell of his charmed circle of influence.
It was these attributes that
caused him to be loved and adored by his family, esteemed by his friends,
honored by his associates and acquaintances and respected by those with whom
So strong and all pervading
had been his influence in his home that it has remained and ever will the
touch spring of guidance to his family in all their affairs, who feel deeply
and lovingly that their inheritance in his cherished memory is one beyond
great worldly riches.
MARY E. McGILL.