John Magee was born near Easton, Pennsylvania, on September 3, 1794, the son of Irish immigrants Henry Magee and Sarah Mulholland. John Magee served in the United States Army during the War of 1812, and he was imprisoned by the British on two occasions. He moved to Bath, New York, after the war, where he became constable (1818-1820) and Steuben County sheriff (1821-1826). Magee and his business partners established stage lines connecting Steuben County to surrounding areas and cities in New York and Pennsylvania. From 1827 to 1831, Magee was a Jacksonian Democrat in the United States House of Representatives. Following his congressional service, he returned to New York, where his business interests included banking (as first President of the Steuben County Bank), railroad construction, coal mining, and other industries. Magee and his first wife, Sarah McBurney (d. 1828), married in 1818 and had no children. In 1831, he married Arabella Stuart (d. 1864), and they had ten children. Magee lived in Watkins, New York (now Watkins Glen), after 1860, and he died there on April 5, 1868.