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Biography of the Rev. Hugh Magill
by Donald "Dutch" Magill

(Information from Misses Anna and Mary Magill written in 1953 is included in the following notes.)

"Rev. Hugh Magill was a native of Ireland, who had been ordained as a minister before coming to the United States. His first sermon, after accepting the call was from Acts X:29, the words of Peter to Cornelius, the centurion.

"In the 1790 census of the United States, his name is listed as "McGill." In other references, his name is listed both as Magill and McGill. He became the first settled Presbyterian minister in Mifflin and Juniata Counties (then Cumberland County). He was sent by Presbytery to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in Cumberland County. He later helped to organize the Presbytery of Huntington. He later helped to organize the Presbytery of Huntingdon County (just west of Mifflin and Juniata counties). He warranted land as early as 1752 in Centre County. He also owned land in Mifflin County." (Note from Eunice McGill: A letter to the Recorder of Centre County, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and also of Mifflin County at Lewiston, Pennsylvania stated that they have no record of deeds back of 1800. Hence proof of the land ownership mentioned above, has not been available.)

"He was installed as minister in November 1779, over Lower Tuscarora and Cedar Springs Churches and died at an old age on September 14, 1805. He is believed buried at Cedar Springs, but without a marker. His widow's name was Margaret (believed to be the daughter of a John Anderson).

"The Lower Tuscarora Church was started in 1766. About the year 1790, and during the early pastorate of Rev. Magill, a second church was built. It was situated at the base of the hill and on the northwest side of the road. It was a square log house and of more suitable dimensions; but the architecture and finish of this house were also of a primitive character. The walls were not plastered, and there was no ceiling above, and it was lighted with a due regard for economy. The pulpit was erected at the west side, and at the base a stand for the chorister. There was a door at each end of the house, the principal aisle extended from one door to the other, and two narrow aisles proceeding from this divided the house into five plots of pews, three in the front and one on each side of the pulpit. A draft sketched in 1803 exhibits very well the internal and also financial arrangement, designating the locality of the pews, with the names of the occupants and the amount of stipend for which each occupant was responsible in pounds, shillings, and pence. The first regular pastor of the Lower Tuscarora Church was the Rev. Hugh Magill, who came in 1776. He was installed in 1779, on the fourth Wednesday of November, over this church and the church of Cedar Spring. He resigned this part of his charge in 1796. (All the facts relating to the early history of this church was taken from a manuscript prepared by Joseph Kelly, M.D. Dr. Kelly was born November 18, 1795, and died May 26, 1877, and was a ruling elder in this church from March 10, 1844 to the time of his death. His data is cited in the Centennial anniversary book.)

The early history of the Cedar Spring Church is singular. In 1766-67, the congregation obtained a grant of two hundred acres of land for a glebe. This land afterwards became an occasion of disturbance in the congregation, and of misunderstanding between the people and the minister, the Rev. Hugh Magill. The Presbytery sent a committee to meet at the church and to assist in and effort to effect a reconciliation; but the committee found the doors of the meetinghouse nailed up, and reported to Presbytery that they could not enter.

The following is taken out of the book "History of that part of Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys, Embraced in the Counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." It was a two volume set reproduced by Unigraphics Inc. (Evansville, Indiana) in 1975.

"Differences grew up between the members of the Cedar Spring congregation and Mrs. Magill, arising out of the division of the original survey, and the congregation appointed, as representatives to visit the Presbytery and lay the case before that body, Robert Nelson, James Cunningham and David Martin. Their statement was made October 3, 1793, with the request that Presbytery appoint a committee to meet at the Cedar Spring Church and assist them in a reconciliation."...

The Presbytery appointed a meeting in January (1799), at which time the Rev. Mr. Magill informed Presbytery that, in consequence of his advanced age and many infirmities he conceived himself no longer capable of discharging the duties of a pastor, and asked that the pastoral relation be dissolved. The members of the session united with Mr. Magill in this request, and stated that, in consideration of his past labors with the congregation, they would pay to him annually thirty dollars and continue to him the use of the glebe during his natural life. Upon this the Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relation, and declared the congregation vacant. Mr. Magill was appointed supply in May and June.

"The following extract from the minutes of the session held October 2, 1790, will explain the story.

"A paper was handed to the Presbytery, signed by Mr. Magill, in which he declines all connection with the Presbytery and that he will not submit to our authority. Also, a letter from Mr. Magill to Samuel Byrson, in which he desires Mr. Bryson not to assist in administering the Lord's Supper at Cedar Spring on the 3d Sabbath of August last, although Mr. Bryson had been appointed to that service by Presbytery. It was, mooreover, represented to Presbytery that Mr. Magill had procured the doors of the meeting-house at Cedar Spring to be nailed up, so that Mr. Morrison was prevented from preaching there in the Second Sabbath of August; that the people have thus been prevented from the use of the house ever since, and that his conduct has been, in other respects, irregular and disorderly, contrary to the peace and welfare of the society and injurious to the interests of religion in general.

"In consequence of these representations, Mr. Magill was cited before the Presbytery, but did not appear, at two meetings; but finally, in April 1800, appeared, acknowledged most of his error, and submitted to the Presbytery, who dealt leniently with him. The congregation resumed the payment of the annuity and continued the care of the aged pastor with much charity and Christian patience until his death, September 14, 1805.

"Sometime in 1771, Rev. S. Kennedy, a minister from the north of Ireland, settled among the Cedar Spring congregation, and in 1774 or 1775 they built a parsanage upon the tract of land owned by the congregation, which Mr. Kennedy occupied until about 1779, when he was succeeded by Rev. Hugh McGill, who continued many years as pastor of Tuscarora and Cedar Spring congregations and was one of the constituent members of the Huntingdon Presbytery, upon its organization.

Matthew McBride, a blacksmith, warranted land about 1780, and January 9, 1786, purchased one hundred and fifty acres of the Rev. Hugh Magill. The tract McBride purchased of the Rev. Magill, in 1786, was taken up in two warrants--one of fifty acres, October 20, 1758, the other of one hundred acres, December 27, 1762.

On March 24, 1945, Mrs. Harper F. Myers of York, Pennsylvania, wrote to Agnes Magill in Homer City, Pennsylvania. She said that her "mother's ancestor was Reverend Hugh S. Magill, the first Presbyterian minister to settle in this county. He had a grandson, Reverend J.A. Magill, who was also a minister." (Eunice McGill Note: This would be John Anderson McGill in her information.)
Mrs. Myers' grandmother was Anna Magill, daughter of John Magill and Mary Irwin Magill.

Mrs. Myers wrote that, "In the early 1880's five brothers came over from Ireland - one settled in Canada, one in Massachusetts or Connecticut, two in Pennsylvania, and one in Maryland." (Eunice McGill Note: Names of the brothers were not given so exact lines cannot be traced from that information.)


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Last updated on December 18, 2002