William R. McGill
History of Hamilton County Ohio
Biography of William R. McGill with Portrait

following page 254
transcribed by Alise Streutker

William R. McGill


<>Joseph McGILL, grandfather of the subject of this notice, came from Scotland to America in 1790, and settled at a point on Seneca lake, in the State of New York, where his third son, James McGILL, was born February 16, 1805, one of a family of six sons and one daughter. The whole family removed to the west in the spring of 1811, and made their home in Cincinnati. It was the year of the earthquake and the first steamboat down the Ohio valley - a notable period in the history of this region. They remained in the city four years, until 1815, when they changed their residence to Newtown. In June of that year the mother died, and the bereaved father, sorrowing deeply for the loved and lost, followed her in about two months, leaving a family of seven orphans. They were left in destitute circumstances, and the children were separated, James, then in his eleventh year, going to live with Mr. Jacob DENHAM, a cooper, at Perrin's Mills, or Perrintown, Clermont county. He learned the trade with Mr. DENHAM, and remained in his employ until he was eighteen years old, when he went to live with Mr. Moses CRIST, who was also a cooper, at Montgomery, in this county. He worked for him two years, and removed to Sharonville, in Sycamore township, where he went into partnership in a small store, with a Scotchman named GALBREATH. This was in the spring of 1825. James was now twenty years old and had saved two hundred dollars, which constituted his sole investment in the store. Every winter, for seven consecutive years, he also loaded a flat-boat at Cincinnati with pork, flour, lard, the whiskey which was then an indispensable part of the cargo, and other articles, which he started for New Orleans, and sold at a good profit there and along the coast. Among his best customers was General Wade HAMPTON, father of the present governor of South Carolina, who (the elder HAMPTON) then had a plantation on the Mississippi. Mr. McGILL walked the long distance from New Orleans to his home several times, but afterwards returned by steamer. He encountered many serious dangers during these trips, both by land and on the river; but escaped all unharmed. He kept his business at Sharonville, which continued to enlarge and prosper, and, with his ventures in trading down the rivers, enabled him rapidly to accumulate means. In the fall of 1831 he sold his interest in the Sharonville store to his partner, and loaded a boat for his eighth venture, and was ready to start, but accidentally met in Cincinnati John H. GERARD, then a merchant at Newtown, with whom he effected a trade of the boat and its cargo for the stock of Mr. GERARD. In December he took charge of the Newtown business, and the next February, the season of the great flood in the Ohio, which reached even to the streets of the village, he removed his family thither. In 1834 he sold his store back to Mr. GERARD, and bought the farm occupied by him the rest of his days, in the immediate vicinity of Newtown, on the east of the village, along the Batavia pike. In 1836 he was elected justice of the peace, and served four years. He also took an active interest in the building of the Batavia turnpike, and was a director and treasurer of the company for some years. He rather shunned than sought public life. He was sometimes pressed to become a candidate for the State legislature, but would not consent to run. He was a cordial friend of popular education, and served for many years upon the local school board, aiding to build the first public school-house in the village. In every respect he was public-spirited, assisting with his means in the erection of the churches there, as also of the bridge across the Little Miami at Plainville, and in other enterprises calculated to benefit the community. He died August 17, 1860. He was married November 20, 1828, to Miss Asenath RYAN, of Sharonville, by whom he had eight children - Viola (died in early life), William Ryan (named from his maternal grandfather), Joseph, Mary, John, Priscilla, Maria, Emily (Mrs. Lewis D. DRAKE, residing at the old homestead near her brother's store in Newtown). None are now living except William, Mary, and Emily.

William Ryan McGILL was born at Sharonville, April 8, 1831, the first son of James and Asenath C. (RYAN) McGILL. His primary education was received at Newtown, but he subsequently graduated from a three-years' course at College Hill, in the Farmers' college, his preparation enabling him to enter to advanced standing as a sophomore. He went at once into business in Newtown, in a small way at first, as a merchant, buying the old stock of John W. CROSSLEY. Mr. CROSSLEY at once bought a new and handsome stock and opened another store just across the way, which for a time greatly injured the business of Mr. McGILL. By the third year, however, the trade of the latter had greatly improved and finally the store of Mr. CROSSLEY became so unprofitable that he sold out and went to California, where he died. Mr. McGILL has since remained steadily in the mercantile business, enlarging it year after year, until it has been long considered the leading establishment in Newtown, and commands customers far and wide in Hamilton and Clermont counties. Beginning in September, 1851, in a single small room now occupied by his stock of groceries, he has now six rooms filled with the general stock of a country store, including drugs, school-books, and the like, besides the usual stocks of dry-goods and grocery stores. He has found time, however, to serve the public as township treasurer, for seven consecutive years, and was the leading spirit in the inception and prosecution of the important enterprise of building the Cincinnati and Eastern railroad. This was undertaken in 1876, purely as a local enterprise along its proposed route, and Mr. McGILL devoted himself largely for months to the awakening of an interest in the project and the solicitation of subscriptions to its stock and the right of way, and then to the prosecution of the work, as well as making himself a liberal subscription and loaning large amounts to the company. He was one of the original directors of the corporation and its vice-president, under the presidency of Mr. Samuel WOODWARD, and he and H. WILBER - both of Morrow, Warren county - were the projectors of this work. Upon Mr. WOODWARD's retirement, to accept the position of general superintendent of the Cincinnati Southern, in 1879, Mr. McGILL was promoted to the presidency of the Eastern, which he now holds. He found his road in the hands of a receiver, with a floating debt larger than could be managed; but within twenty months he secured the payment of all obligations of this character and also of a larger sum in overdue interest on bonds, and so rescuing it from the hands of the receiver, he taking the road again fully in charge on the first of March, 1881. With this good work he is solely credited by those who know the internal history of the corporation owning the road. He travelled far and near to find the creditors of the company and effect settlements with them; and through infinite trouble and difficulty succeeded in obtaining personal interviews with all creditors and making satisfactory settlements. As a result the bonds of the road are now at par, and its operations are on a working basis, hopeful and prosperous beyond all expectations. It is believed it will speedily become, under Mr. McGILL's presidency, one of the most profitable railway properties in Ohio, and of very great value to Cincinnati, to which the early completion of the Cincinnati Northern, with which it intersects, will soon give it direct entrance.

Notwithstanding his engrossment in public and private cares, Mr. McGILL has taken a very lively interest in the religious and secular training of the rising generation. For twenty-one consecutive years - since April, 1860 - he has been superintendent of the Sunday-school connected with the Universalist church in Newtown; and for the past fifteen years has been a member of the school board of the village, aiding in the material enlargement of the school-house and in making Newtown an independent district by act of the legislature. In all enterprises for local benefit he is among the first and foremost, and seems to have no higher ambition than to leave his part of the world the better for his having lived in it. He has been a life-long Democrat, but is not an active politician, much less an office-seeker.

Mr. McGILL was married December 3, 1861 (the bride's eighteenth birthday), in Norwood, Columbia township, to Miss Delia L. DRAKE, only daughter of Thomas T. and Lydia A. (MILL) DRAKE, who are now residing with their daughter and her husband in Newtown. Mr. and Mrs. McGILL have two children living - Alice, born September 1, 1864, and Louie D., born July 10, 1877. The former is a student at the Ohio Wesleyan college in Cincinnati. Their eldest born, a son, died unnamed in infancy.

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