Samuel Magill

Walk with the Dead: Fargo's Riverside Cemetery

Samuel Magill

Fargo, North Dakota 58105, United States

Created By: North Dakota State University


Samuel Magill was born in Pennsylvania in 1832. Throughout his life he traveled many places including New York, Minnesota, Iowa, Fargo, and Chicago.

In Chicago first, and then Iowa, Magill was a lumber dealer and builder. He also became a father while living in the Clinton, Iowa area. His son, Henry, would later run the family business in Fargo. He served in the Civil War with Iowa 26th Regiment Infantry. While serving in Helena, Arkansas, Magill was "captured by a part of guerrillas" and carried as a prisoner to Vicksburg. He was later paroled and mustered out in December 1862. (2)

After coming north in 1879, Colonel Magill began a grain business, Barnes and Magill, with a man named G.S. Barnes. In 1881 Samuel Magill moved to Fargo and in 1884 started the Magill & Company with his son Henry. A local paper announced the building permit, stating, "it is to be of solid brick, to have a front of 100 feet on Broadway, two stories and a basement in height, with an ornamental caping and cornice. Still, to the rear of this it is the firm's desire to build an elevator...32 feet in height. The structure with heavy cribbing and sheeted with iron would make it practically fire proof." (3)

Magill and Co was in the unfortunate position of being on the corner of Front St (now Main) and Broadway in 1893; right across the street from where the Great Fargo Fire is said to have begun. It was said pieces of twine atop the warehouse caught light and spread downward engulfing the structure. An onlooker describing the site said, “hell itself could not have presented a more terrible picture.”(4)

Magill rebuilt after the fire and Henry continued the business later, after his father left for Chicago and then died. Samuel Magiill passed away in Chicago on December 21, 1899 and he buried here at Riverside.


  1. Compenium History and Bigraphy of North Dakota. Chicago, G.A.Ogle. 1900.
  2. “U.S. Gen Web Archives.” Accessed December 10, 2016.
  3. Article clipping from unknown newspaper. NDSU Archives, "Magill family papers" collection. Accessed December 2, 2016.
  4. “Special Fire Edition,” Argus (Fargo, ND), June 7, 1894.
  5. Photo courtesy of: "Fargo, Cass County, ND 1892". Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for North Dakota, Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Walk with the Dead: Fargo's Riverside Cemetery


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