Owned a schooner named Sea Flower built in 1790 in Chatham, Ct. She had two masts, was 52 feet long, 17 feet four inches wide and had a depth of 5 feet 2 inches, weight 43 tons. Charles and his brother were from Belfast, Ireland and settled in Middletown about 1770. World family tree # 5738 states his father John brought him to Massachusetts or Connecticut in 1766. The brothers were masters of vessels and engaged in foreign trade, founding a firm named Magill and Clay (with Stephen Clay). They were engaged in the West Indies trade, importing rum, molasses and other products. In 1801 Charles suffered financial problems and his creditors took his real estate. Their origination is based upon the recollection of people interviewed by Frank Farnsworth Starr. World Family Tree # 5738 claims they came from Tullycarn, Ireland. Perhaps they has ties to both. Charles appears in the 1790 census for Middletown with a household including 1 free white male over 16, 2 free white males under 16, abt 6 free white females (probably Charles, Sarah, Eliza, Sarah, Ann, Margaret, Charles Jr. and two servants) (Heads of families in the first census of the United States in the year 1790. Baltimore : Genealogical Pub. Co., 1980, pg. 86). Later Bermuda and Dunscombe family sources spell the surname as "McGill", and Elizabeth as "Eliza."
Charles and his brother Arthur were sympathetic to the colonial cause. Middletown's shipping trade, like that of most town's, suffered during the Revolutionary War. It soon revived, centered on the West Indies, New York City, and and southern states. Middletown changed from a quiet town to a thriving city with a lot of cosmopolitan, nouveau riches, shipping people. It possessed eleven stores of dry goods, twenty-two grocery stores, two hardware stores, one fur store, two apothecaries, one paper store, two book stores, two book binderies, two goldsmith shops, four tailor shops, three milliner's shops, one hat factory, two bakeries, three butchers' stalls, two tallow chandleries, two tanneries (one belonging to Charles' father in law, Jonathan Denny), three shoe stores, two saddler's shops, four lumber yards, three cabinet shops, two chaise makers shops, two tinners shops, four blacksmiths, two rope walks, and one sail loft.
Charles came to America about 1770 at the age of fifteen, probably on one of his father's vessels. He eventually went to work in his older brother Arthur's import/export business, Magill & Clay, probably as a deck hand and First Mate on one of their ships. The earliest surviving record of Captain Charles as a ship's Master was not until April 17, 1786, when he sailed the brig "Union" for Hispaniola.
The Magill's and Denny's were Episcopalians, regularly worshiping at Christ (now Holy Trinity) Church.
Back in Ireland the Magills had been Presbyterians. On November 12, 1787 they purchased a quarter acre of land "in the city, 95 feet wide front and rear. North on the highway from Stephen Clay." On May 1, 1789 he added "about 5 rods" adjoining his southeast corner. In the mid 1970's some rescue archaeology was undertaken on their house and several others giving insights into the family's lifestyle. Their house was built about 1788, "an elegant post-Revolutionary structure, which showed considerable workmanship." Ths house was destroyed by fire in 1975, on the eve of its demolition for an urban renewal project. An earlier plan for its relocation and restoration failed due to lack of funds. A photo of the rubble appeared on the front page of the Middletown Press on August 29, 1975. The excavation revealed evidence of a large assortment of export trade china, French crystal, Staffordshire porcelain, and wine bottles, one with an import seal from Dublin. Just prior to his bankruptcy he offered a "sleigh fitted for two horses" and an "elegant assortment of Liverpool earthenware" for sale.
Charles is known to have undertaken a number of voyages as Master for Magill and Clay, but by 1790 he was a part-owner of his own vessel, the schooner "Dolphin." Trading voyages were organized in a manner similar to today's approach to producing a film. Each voyage necessitated soliciting or purchasing outbound cargo, engaging a Master and crew, and the targeting of a re-loading port, usually with a return cargo. Lists of cargoes Charles carried on his voyages include; Export: Bees wax, Oats, Hoops, Indian corn, Pickled fish, Leather, Pork, Beef, Staves, Wine, Shoes, and flour. Import cargoes included indigo, tar, rum, molasses, coffee, brown sugar, bar iron, cotton, gum guaccum, old iron, pineapples, limes, nankeens, and salt.
Each voyage was an independent production, a gamble requiring a combination of seafaring skill, good commodity market judgement, courage, and luck. As both owner and Master, Charles ran a considerable double risk, but also could keep both shares of any profit. Much time away from home was required. Toilets and cabins were uncommon, even for the Master, and most ships were small, single-decked craft which would bob around like a cork on rough seas. Ports of call included Hispaniola, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Carolina, Turks Head, Nassau, Martinique, Port Marion, New Providence, St. John's, Barbados, New York, Surinam, Cape Francoise, and Demerarra.
Accounts of some of Charles' voyages were given in the Middletown Gazette:
August 25, 1786: "On Thursday last arrived here [the] Brig Friendship, Charles Magill (Master), in 30 days which he saw the sun but three times. He was back of Long Island in the storm of Tuesday last, had his sails torn to pieces and chiefly blown away and had not the wind shifted providently about two o'clock PM, he must inevitable have gone on shore."
November 1, 1794: "... Capt. Charles Magill bound to Surinam had fell to leeward after being out 56 days and arrive at Barbados where he sold his stock, most of his seamen being English, claimed the protection of the British Government, were taken away from him and he was obliged to pay them their wages."
In April of the following years Charles was de-masted in a storm off the Carolinas and spent ninety days in transit returning from Demararra (present day Georgetown), Guyana. Later the same year en route to Turks Island in the Bahamas, he was overtaken by a British privateer and wrote this account of the episode to a Boston newspaper:
Turks-Island, 2th Aug. 1795:
Sir, Please to publish the following, as a caution to all the good House Wives in and about where the Person, (I was going to say Gentleman) that I am about to mention, may come. (But I have not made that degradation I have not to ask the Gentlemen's pardon). On Aug. 20th, in lat. 25:50, long. 67, at 6 o'clock in the morning was brought to with a shot from a ship with a tri-coloured flag; at same time he brought to another schooner; after asking where from, where to, &c. he asked me if I would sell him some stock, &c. I replied in the affirmative - he sent his boat on board, (with an officer who behaved like a Gentleman.) I gave him the prices of what he wanted, but none would do, he set his own prices. I thought of two evils best chuse (sic) the least, as I had no opinion of what those fellows call Liberty and Equality.
He then took his price to the amount of 44 dollars. I sent the bill. He sent me back 4 Johannesses, worth 6 dollars each, and 4 dollars. I told the Officer, who still remained on board, that would not do. He hail'd his captain and told him. He stamped and swore bitterly, I suppose thinking I was to be frightened out of it by his spirit of liberty and equality; but I was such a slave to what I had worked hard for, I was not intimidated, and insisted on having my money. He then hailed and desired me to receipt the Bill for the whole and he would send me what was short. I did - but as soon as his boat got on board he desired me to make sail and go about my business. He then sent his boat to the other schooner which I spoke soon after and asked him how he fared? He said much better than he expected, they had taken but one and one half dozen Ducks from him. The ship's name is BRUTUS, the fellow that has the command call himself GARSTON, he has no Commission from the National Assembly, buts acts under a Molatto (sic) fellow from Hispaniola, and dare not go to Guadaloupe; that is what the officer who came on board informed me. The vessel was built at New-York and rigg'd into a Brig, afterwards into a ship at Philadelphia. She is bound to Boston, therefore think is it necessary to caution the good people there against this Free Booter. A few days before, he called here, but they gave him such a welcome that I think he will not return.
(During this incident Charles's ship was most likely the schooner "Seaflower." The coordinates would have put him about 350 miles northeast of Turks Island, probably outbound from Middletown with an export cargo. A "Johannes" was a gold Portuguese coin issued in the 18th century and current in the West Indies trade).
On January 6, 1796 a local Georgia newspaper announced the arrival in Savannah of "Capt. Chas. Magill and his ship the "Portland" 6 days out from Charleston (probably an error, the "Seaflower's" registry port was Portland, now Chatham). This is the first reported arrival of a Magill in the southern U.S., although around this time, Captain Charles' brother Arthur acquired 59,000 acres of land somewhere in Bryan County, Georgia.
Charles sold his last vessel, the schooner "Seaflower" in 1796 to his father-in-law, Jonathan Denny. He then turned to merchanting and investing, which ultimately led to his bankruptcy. In 1795 he became involved in the founding of the Middletown Bank, along with other prosperous and prominent citizens of the town. A politically motivated charge of bank fraud was brought against the bank , forcing the closure of the Middletown Manufacturing Company, owned by Charles, his brother Arthur, and others. The 1800 federal census only Charles, Sarah, Ann, Margaret, and William remaining at home, with no servants.
Between March 16 and 24, 1801, execution of seventeen bonded notes were recorded against Charles. In addition to his son-in-law, Captain Arthur and Charles' next door neighbor, Elijah Hubbard were also amongst his creditors. When the bank failed, Charles lost all of his property and had little choice but to leave town. After the house was seized to pay off creditors in late 1801, he, wife Sarah, and his two youngest children moved to Hartland, Ct. He died suddenly at the age of 51 five years later while visiting friends in Sheldon, Vt., near the Canadian border. Other Magill men in succeeding generations have also succumbed to sudden cardiac deaths.
"Genealogy of the Denny family..." pg. 85 claims he was born in Belfast. "Direct connections" claims Tullycarne.
(Ziebarth, John. Direct connections : Ziebarth-McGill ancestry. New York : Ziemag Publishing, 1997, pg. 84-91).