Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Magee Collection, 1812-1882

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff and Meg Hixon, October 2012

Summary Information
Title: John Magee collection
Creator: Magee, John, 1794-1868
Inclusive dates: 1812-1882
Bulk dates: 1824-1860
Extent: 1 linear foot
The John Magee collection is made up of correspondence, financial records, and legal documents related to Magee, a United States representative from Bath, New York, and later Watkins, New York. The material primarily regards his multiple business interests and, to a lesser extent, contemporary politics.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1996. M-3223.12.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

John Magee Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Documents

Each series is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


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.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The John Magee collection is made up of correspondence, financial records, and legal documents related to Magee, a United States representative from Bath, New York, and later Watkins, New York. The material primarily pertains to his business interests and to contemporary politics.

The Correspondence series contains around 200 incoming letters to John Magee from 1824 to 1867. Some of the earliest correspondence regards political issues, including a series of letters about a proposed post office in Lodi, New York, in 1830. Congressman Edward Howell wrote to Magee about national politics and James K. Polk after Magee's return to New York in the early 1830s. Some of the later letters (1850s) respect New York State political issues. One writer, George F. Freer, speculated on the economic effects of a "threatened war with England" (June 1, 1858).

The majority of Magee's correspondents discussed business and financial affairs, including Magee's involvement with railroad construction in New York and Michigan, and interests in lumbering, milling, and banking. The bulk of the correspondence ends in 1859, and is followed by a group of 4 letters to Magee dated in 1867.

The Documents series is comprised of around 140 manuscript and partially printed legal and financial documents related to John Magee, the Watkins family of Naples, New York, and other residents of the Finger Lakes region. Many of the earliest items (1820s) pertain to Magee's duties as Steuben County sheriff. Other materials include a business partnership agreement, deeds for lands in New York, a list of proposed stagecoach lines, a document regarding the purchase of a steamboat, and items related to railroad companies in New York and Michigan.

Subject Terms

    • Bath (N.Y.)
    • New York (State)--Politics and government--1775-1865.
    • Ontario County (N.Y.)
    • Polk, James K. (James Knox), 1795-1849.
    • Railroads--Michigan.
    • Railroads--New York (State)
    • Real property--New York (State)
    • United States--Politics and government--1815-1861.
    • Watkins Glen (N.Y.)
    • Howell, Edward, 1792-1871.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Deeds.
    • Indentures.
    • Legal documents.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Receipts (financial records)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-21
     August 28, 1824-March 16, 1882, and  undated
    Documents [series]
    Box   2 Folders   1-17
     May 17, 1812-July 22, 1876, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Howe, F. S. Memorial of John Magee: Embracing a Sketch of His Life, a Discourse Delivered on the Anniversary of His Death, Notices of Funeral Services, &c., &c.. New York: C. Scribner & Co., 1870.


    "Hon. John Magee." A Biographical Record of Schuyler County, New York. New York and Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1908. 254-261.

    "Magee, John." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Online Edition. 2012.