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Duncan Magee

Duncan Magee was born in Bath, NY, November 21, 1831, and died in Watkins May 8, 1869, at the early age of thirty-seven. His parents were John and Arabella (Stuart) Magee. In school he acquired a good education and, in 1851, joined his father's business. Although his father was a man of wealth, Duncan did not feel that he could enter the office as a mere looker-on, but became a valuable assistant, familiarizing himself with the various departments of the business and proving capable in the control of its branches. He took a leading role in the purchase and improvement of the Blossburg Railroad and was also especially active in the purchase and development of the coal mines of Tioga county, PA, which subsequently became one of the most important of the interests controlled by his father.

The prospect of an increasing market for coal led to exploration for more coal in the mountains. They purchased coal lands and created a town, Fall Brook, PA, to service the mines. And they created a seven-mile railroad, The Fall Brook Railroad, to connect the mines at Fall Brook to existing rails at Blossburg. Duncan was instrumental in convincing railroads to burn coal in locomotives, instead of wood.

In the year 1860, there was not 500 miles of railroad in North America where steam was generated by coal in locomotives. In 1862 Duncan S. Magee, of the Fall Brook Coal Co., appointed a committee to induce railroads to use coal instead of wood as a steam generator. Thirteen years from that time, or in 1875, out of 175,000 miles of railroads in the United States 160,000 miles used coal as a steam generator, hence the rapid demand for coal during those years. (1)

He named a new mine village around the area "Antrim," (now Antrim, PA) in honor of the birthplace of his paternal grandparents. The Magees supplied coal from Blossburg, Fall Brook and Antrim, and shipped it to Corning.

He became the first superintendent and executive officer of the Company upon the death of John Magee in 1868. He assumed the duties of President of the Fall Brook interests, after a distinguished life working in every aspect of both coal and railroading.

"No man who has operated in coal in Pennsylvania enjoyed the confidence and respect of his employees more than Duncan S. Magee. He mingled with them, heard their complaints if they had any to make, assisted them in their trouble and misfortunes and sympathized with them in their sorrow and afflictions.

"He directed them in their labor in a clear and business like manner, and willingly they performed what he desired. 'Twas thus he laid the foundation of the great trade in bituminous coal. Let the old miners of Fall Brook, Antrim and elsewhere hold meetings, appoint committees to receive contributions to show in their humble way their appreciation of the memory of one who was truly their friend, and at the same time also contribute to the memory of Humphries Brewer, the geologist and civil and minging engineer, who was the right hand man of Duncan, in his explorations and final building up of the coal trade of the Fall Brook Coal Company." - Blossburg Advertiser

His tenure as President was cut short after a year with his untimely death in 1869.

At the age of twenty-two, Mr. Magee was united in marriage to Catherine E. Gansevoort, a daughter of Dr. Ten Eyck Gansevoort. They had two children: Arabella S., who married Alfred L. Edwards of New York; and Helen G., who became the wife of Lewis Edwards, of New York city. After his marriage, Mr. Magee resided for a time in Corning, New York, but later removed to Watkins, where in conjunction with his father's interests he pursued an active and successful career until his death.

He doubtless inherited from his father the marked ability he displayed in grasping and executing plans of great magnitude. He entered upon no project without duly weighing in his mind the difficulties presented, but once having decided upon a plan of action he threw his whole energies into it and rarely, if ever, failed of success. He possessed broad and unselfish views and constantly bore in mind the public weal, even in enterprises he conducted for his personal gain. The remarkable hold he had upon the affection and esteem of his neighbors was due to qualities of heart as well as head for he was uniformly kind hearted and generous and was the possessor of many other noble traits of character.

For several years Mr. Magee was a member of the Democratic state committee and prominent in the councils of that party. To few has it been given to accomplish so much in so brief a career and the premature termination of his life was justly regard with genuine sorrow in the community which his energy and ability had done so much to develop.

(Excerpted from A Biographical Record of Schuyler County, New York - S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1903)

(1) John Sexton in Papers and Proceedings of the Tioga County Historical Society - Vol 1 - Wellsboro, PA, 1905