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The McGills


The Census of 1790 was an enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States at that date, made under the supervision of the United States Marshals in their several districts. It was limited to the following items:

First - Name of head of family.
Second - Free white males of i6 years and upward, including heads of families.
Third - Free white males under 16 years.
Fourth - Free white females, including heads of families.
Fifth - All other free persons.
Sixth - Slaves.

The name only of the head of the family, male or female, is given; all others, not heads of families simply counted. In the publication there is a volume for each state; that is, each state that was at that time one of the United States. It was only very recently that the books for Pennslyvania and North Carolina were printed.

The census in Philadelphia is more complete than elsewhere, giving in detail the occupation and place of residence of the head of family. In other places the county only is given and instances the town. The heads of nineteen families by the name of McGill are found in Pennsylvania at the taking of the First Census of the United States, in 1790. They are as follows:


McGill, Arthur-Allegheny county.
McGill, Arthur-Northumberland county.
(This is our Arthur and his name is entered alongside his father-in-law, Hugh Logue.)
McGill, Charles-Mifflin county.
McGill, Christopher-Allegheny county.
McGill, Henry-Bucks county.
McGill, Rev. Hugh-Mifflin county.
McGill, James-Allegheny county.
McGill, James-Carpenter, Almond St., South Side, Philadelphia.
McGill, James-House carpenter, Third St., West Side, Philadelphia.
McGill, John-Fallowfield township, Chester county.
McGill, John-Cumberland county.
McGill, John-Dauphin county.
McGill, John-Easton town, Northampton county.
McGill, John-Innkeeper, Philadelphia.
McGill, John-Laborer, Front St., West Side, Philadelphia.
McGill, John-Mariner, Front St., West Side, Philadelphia.
McGill, Robert-Franklin township, Fayette county.
McGill, Robert-Washington county.
McGill, William-Allegheny county.

Incidentally, I would state that the names of John and Edward Ryan appear as the head of a family in Northumberland county. They subsequently moved to Crawford county. John Ryan was my grandfather on my mother's side and Edward was a bachelor brother, an old Revolutioner, who always made his home with his brother. They are both buried in Mount Blair cemetery-a bold peak east of Fredebaugh jungle, overlooking the beautiful Woodcock Valley.

In this enumeration for Pennsylvania of HEADS OF FAMILIES the name of Moyer occurs one hundred and sixty-three times.

There were eight hundred and fifty-six families named Smith.

Of the Peiffers, later a numerous family, I find only Peiffer, Michael, Richmond township, Berks county, and

Peiffer, Henry-(Brewer).
Peiffer, Jones and Israel-(Grocers).
Peiffer, Roberts.
Peiffer, Hugh-(Carpenter).
(All North Fourth St., from Market to Race St., Philadelphia.)

There were no Saegers in Pennsylvania in 1790, There were a few families in Northampton county named Sager. The given names were Jacob, John, Elias, Nicholas, Nicholas, Jr., and Nicholas, Sr. The Proprietor of Saegerstown evidently came of a later importation that had no part in Colonial times.

Other families more or less intimately associated and in some instances intermarried, with our forbears in the early days of the republic, are Ryan, 24 families; Grub, 14 families; Grubb, 21 families; Graff, 23 families; Gill, 24 families; Kern, 41 families; Price, 63 families, and Wilson, 250 families. Without pursuing this quest further we will pass on in search of the McGills in other States.

First United States Census, 1790

McGill, Patrick - Cambridge, Albany county.
McGill, John - Same place.
McGill, Nicola - Rensselaerwick, Albany county.
McGill, William - Watervilet, Albany county.
McGill, John - Columbia, Clermont county.
McGill, John - New York City.
McGill, Hugh - New Windsor, Ulster county.


McGill, Arthur - St. Marys, Md.
McGill, Mary - Same place.
McGill, John - Montgomery.
McGill, William - Harford.
McGill, Patrick - Frederick.


McGill, Arthur - Middleton, Middlesex county.
McGill, Charles - Same place.


McGill, Margaret, Fayette District, Cumberland county.
McGill, Allen - Fayette District, Richmond county.
McGill, Angus - Same place.
McGill, Archibald - Fayette District, Robison county.
McGill, Neil - Fayette District, Robison county.
McGill, Rogers - Fayette District, Robison county.
McGill, Archibald - Fayette District, Robison county.
McGill, Angus - Fayette District, Robison county.
McGill, Thomas - Morgan District, Lincoln county, 8th company.
McGill, William - Morgan District, Wilkes county, 13th company.
McGill, Thomas - Salisbury District, Mecklenberg county.


The following heads of families are given in this State. I do not have the volume and the Christian names only are furnished with no reference to place:

Barnett McGill,
James McGill,
John McGill,
Margaret McGill,
Mrs. McGill,
Robert McGill,
Roger McGill,
Samuel McGill,
Thomas McGill,
William McGill.

Schedules for the States of Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia were destroyed when the British burned the Capitol at Washington during the War of 1812.

Except two families in Connecticut there seems to have been no McGills in the New England States.




As a matter of rendering simple justice to the author of this book and to those of succeeding generations who will read with interest its pages during the years and centuries that are to come, it is proper that some one should supply an important omission of historical interest that the reader will notice throughout its pages. There is scarcely a word of mention regarding the character and personality of this man who has rendered to his family and his ancestral name a most important and faithful service.

To tell the story of Capt. McGill’s life would require a work of volumes rather than a mere sketch in a book of this size, for in telling that story with any degree of faithfulness one would have to rehearse the salient features of the last century—the greatest century of all the years of time. He saw the century in its hopeful youth; he marked with wonder its struggling manhood; he has followed its career to venerable age and has been permitted in his own advanced years to stand with clear, unclouded martial vision as a living witness of the glory of its sunset hours, and to witness the advent of the new-born century, bright and buoyant in the lap of time. He has stood for more than four-fifths of a century as an intellectual colossus among his fellows-endowed with the mind and mental qualities of a statesman to which were added the highest qualities of the patriot and the soldier intermingled with the broadest minded and most generous sympathy for oppressed humanity throughout the world.

An incident in his life during the great Civil War illustrates those admirable traits in his character. He was an officer in the famous 83rd Regiment of Pennsylvania that participated in thirty-seven of the hardest fought battles of that most terrible struggle, which determined the fate of the republic for all time. Up in the Central Mountain regions of the State during the years of political and military terror that prevailed throughout the State, there were a large number of peaceful citizens who, in their simplicity, opposed and made a feeble attempt to evade the Conscription Act, and soldiers were sent to invade the homes, arrest the fathers and sons, who were old enough to perform military service. A large number were gathered in from the recesses of the mountains and incarcerated in a military prison at Fort Mifflin, near Philadelphia. They were taken from their homes and families without change of clothing or any preparation and in many instances their families were left in destitute circumstances. Many of them had small farms whose scanty crops were left to rot in the fields-the families driven almost to distraction by not knowing the fate that awaited their loved ones that had been thus ruthlessly taken from them without a parting word or a sign of hope or consolation.

For months these men suffered the mental and physical torments of a hundred deaths in the living hell of filth and vermin to which they were confined and guarded by bayonets.

These facts came to the knowledge of Hon. M. B. Lowry, Senator from Erie, who made a personal investigation of these unfortunate men against whom, as yet, no formal charge had been made.

He then brought the matter to the attention of Capt. McGill (who had personally known Mr. Lincoln in i849-50) and requested him to make_ a statement of the case to the President. McGill became interested and on further investigation was satisfied that a gross outrage was being perpetrated upon comparatively harmless people by a lot of carrion crows, who follow in the wake of war for plunder, and he wrote a letter to the President, couched in such expressive language as he only could command, setting forth the hard facts of the case and requesting executive intervention in behalf of justice and humanity.

Mr. Lowry carried the letter in person to Washington and laid it before the President, who gave to it the most careful reading and attention. He called the Secretary of War and read the letter to him, then told him to issue an order for the immediate release of these prisoners with free transportation to their homes.

That letter had stirred the soul of the great Lincoln, who turned again to his Secretary of War declaring that "He envied the heart and the brain of the man who wrote that letter."

As we have already said he has always stood on a high intellectual plane, his mind mediating between the moral and the material interests of the age and resting on neither. There were a half dozen professions on which he might have embarked with absolute certainty of success. Had he chosen the legal profession he would have filled the courts with his fame. Had he entered the church its highest honors would have been within his grasp. If the stage had allured him, the world would have been richer by another good actor. To the personal gifts of a pleasing countenance he has a voice sonorous and flexible and in his younger years a lofty presence and fine personality.

Thus we have given but the mere outline of the character and qualities of the man who has devoted the last years of his long and eventful life to the authorship of a book that will outlive the memory of future generations, the most enduring monument that was ever invented by mortal man. It is needless to speak of the literary, the historical and the biographical merits of this book. It will stand the most critical examination with ever renewed appreciation and admiration of the most learned and accomplished historians and scholars, and

"If to his lot some errors chance to fall,
Look o’er the record of his generous deeds,
And you’ll forget them all"

Respectfully yours,




A Brief Sketch of His Life

The writer of this book having completed his work and turned over his manuscript, unconditionally and free of cost, to the McGills it has been concluded by those most interested in this publication that he has not done justice to himself, but has evaded, and in fact, suppressed many of the interesting incidents of his own career that ought to have a place in the volume.

The course of his life has not been smooth sailing at all times, he has had his full share of backsets and adversities not all of which should be given to the public, but which have in the main been sufficiently eventful to make fairly interesting reading to those who have not had the pleasure of personal acquaintance or enjoyed his confidence and respect. Upon consideration, it was determined that I, knowing my brother better than any other living man, should furnish a sketch of his life so far as I could in a brief way and that it should be printed as an appendix to this work. He has not objected to this, and I proceed to so do, only regretting that he cannot be induced to write it himself for no one could do it better.

In 1848, when about twenty years old he left home to try his fortune in the pine woods on the Brokenstraw, where he was initiated into the business of logging, lumbering and rafting, as well as occasionally making stump speeches in favor of the Free Soil candidate for the presidency. Returning home from a trip down the river late in December of the same year he was induced to stop over and teach the Broadford school.

In the spring of 1849 he went West by the lakes to Chicago, which was then a small town, and thence by Illinois river to Southern Illinois. There he remained two years when he returned charged full of malaria, chills, ague and dumb ague. He then taught the McGill school, of which mention is made in preceding pages.

By this time he had acquired some celebrity as an instructor and had offers from several of the surrounding villages to take charge of their educational institutions. He finally went to Venango where he taught several years. He was in Venango when it was incorporated-was elected Town Clerk and wrote the laws of the corporation. This was the first political office he ever held.

He married in Venango and after a few years returned to Saegertown, where he took up his abode. Was Postmaster at Saegertown, and by appointment of Court filled the office of County Auditor.

With regard to Capt. McGill's military service the following taken from Bates County History, page 690, published in 1899, is probably the most authentic record extant:

"August 19th, 1861, Capt. McGill enlisted in Company F., 83rd Regiment, Penn'a Volunteers, was appointed a Sergeant and subsequently appointed 2nd Lieutenant, and on tender of his resignation February 1st, 1863 was honorably discharged on Surgeons certificate of disability. His experience this term of service consisted in part of active participation in the following battles, to-wit: Yorktown Siege, Hanover Court House, Gains Mills, Savage Station, Whiteoak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run and Fredericksburg, where he was wounded December 13th, 1862.

"After returning home he was appointed United States Enrolling Officer for his district. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania in June, 1863, called for men to repel the enemy and a company was recruited from Saegertown and surrounding country and marched to Pittsburg, with McGill for Captain, joined 56th Regiment P. V. M.-Colonel S. B. Dick, Commander, marched to West Virginia and rendered efficient service along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad until recalled the following August.

"December, 1863, Capt. McGill re-enlisted and returned to the Army of the Potomac, he was detailed to duty at the Adjutant General's Headquarters, Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Army Corps, where he served until honorably discharged June 29th, 1865.

"During this service he was present under fire, promptly discharging such duties as were assigned him, in the following engagements: Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spotsylvania, Hanover Court House, North Anna, Bethesda Church, Petersburg Siege, Welden Railroad, Poplar Spring Church, Hatchers Run, Gravely Run, Boydtown Road, Whiteoak Road, Five Forks and Appomattox Court House.

"All the above facts are matters of record in the War Department. Comment is not required.

"Inflammatory rheumatism and other troubles contracted in the service prostrated him at the close of the war, and he has been a cripple ever since.

"He has held positions under the State and National Government - is a vigorous writer - was editor of the Weekly Press (the first paper ever published in Saegertown) - has been justice of the Peace, Notary Public and Borough Secretary, but all became irksome. He has declined public service and has practically retired."

My brother's name was carried on the rolls of the 83rd Regiment during his last enlistment, but he never served a day with the regiment, his services were required in the Adjutant General's office in the field at Brigade headquarters.

The Third Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Army Corps was the largest brigade in the army, consisting of nine independent organizations and had been commanded by a succession of the most brilliant young generals in the world. At Lee's surrender this brigade was designated to receive the arms of the retiring army of Northern Virginia, and it was in front of the Ass't Adjutant General's office of the brigade that the arms were stacked. On this momentous occasion Capt. McGill was in absolute charge of the entire clerical force of the office.

On the return march from Appomattox to Richmond the brigade first diverged towards Danville, Va., occasionally moving through rural scenes that had not been devastated by war, and then marched to Southerland Station, 10 miles west of Petersburg, and rested for 10 days. During the entire route the office was besieged by frantic people and repentant rebels seeking protection and immunity from deserved punishment; all had to be quieted and their fears allayed and confidence restored. Heretofore, the duties of the office had been routine, but now under the new conditions, new forms and new methods of procedure were required and the burden fell largely upon the clerical force whose ability was put to very severe tests to straighten out entanglements that continually appeared. In this Capt. McGill was given a free hand by his superiors and was personally complimented by the General Commanding and Adjt. Gen. Farnsworth for his executive ability in adjusting matters. The command finally moved on through Petersburg to Richmond and thence to Arlington, and here, for the first time during his long service he asked for leave of absence, and here ended his military career, for he returned only to be discharged.

The above facts as stated have been gleaned through years of intimate association and being entrusted with the publication of this work I have taken the liberty to add my mite.

Independent in politics, and religion, he "belongs to the great church that holds the world within its aisles and found with joy the grain of gold in every creed and floods with light and love the germs of good in every soul." And now having passed his eighty-first milestone the shadows begin to lengthen, the trembling hand and tottering step point to the tragedy which awaits us all whether in mid-sea or among the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck at last marks the end of each and all.

There is nothing great in this world but man, and nothing great in man, but his mind. The intellectual highly educated mind looks from the beauties of nature up to Nature's God, and beholds the steady stream of life passing from the cradle to the grave.

My brother’s life has not been all sunshine, many cares and hardships have beset his pathways but the reflections of a highly intellectual, philosophical mind have smoothed and made easy many of the severest trials of his life.

He has spent much time and labor in compiling this record to be handed down to posterity as a starting point from which to trace the growth of the family tree. He has been the sole author and to him belongs the credit.

His life of late years has been a quiet one, out of the mad race for money, place and power, away from the demands of business, out of the dusty highway where fools struggle and strive for the hollow praise of other fools, and now at a ripe old age, with mind unimpaired and bright as a sunbeam he rests on his well earned laurels.

Of the millions of soldiers who went out to the defense of their country but few remain today, and they should be liberally provided for and tenderly dealt with by the Government, for which many of them gave the best of their lives. The soldiers of the Republic were not seekers after vulgar glory, they fought to preserve the homestead of liberty that their children might have peace. They kept our country on the map of the world and we owe great respect to those who are still with us, as well as to the millions who sleep beneath the shadow of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or shade, each in the windowless palace of rest. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. Many died where lipless famine mocked at want, and who only heard in happy dream the footsteps of return, and so sleep in unknown sunken graves, whose names are only in the hearts of those they loved and left.

Capt. McGill enlisted when a robust stout man and came back broken in health and entirely unfit for manual labor. He has turned his attention more to literary pursuits. As to his own financial and personal matters he is perfectly oblivious to the schemes and ways of money makers and cares not a fig for filthy lucre, beyond the present wants of the day, indifferent as to bodily comfort, but always on the alert and ready to grasp intellectual food.

I have always had a very high regard for the ability of my brother, not only as a fluent writer, but for the great fund of general knowledge he always appeared to have at his tongue’s end, but I can account for it perhaps better than others less familiar with his early habits. During our school days and up to his twentieth year I was his constant companion, worked, played, fought and slept with him, and I remember well all his studious habits. He raked the country over for books and he seldom went to the field to work without one in his pocket—he studied day times and burned much midnight oil, and I am pleased to avail myself of an opportunity to pay this tribute of respect and place my name on record as a living witness of his early struggles.

After leaving the parental roof our intimacy was more or less broken; months and sometimes years elapsed without personal interviews. The fortunes of war and many other barriers intervened, but the laws of consanguinity kept alive the spark of love that looms into a flame when nearing the farther shore where the parting of the ways dictates the road of each and all of us.



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