William Harrison Magill was born 1813 in Kentucky. He and his father Samuel P. Magill fought in the battle of Plum Creek on August 12, 1840. William’s younger brother, James P. Magill, later came to Texas and served in the Texas Rangers and became a state legislator.
Magill signed up with a company of rangers in the summer of 1835, serving first under Robert Coleman and then under Robert McAlpine Williamson. Edward Burleson, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a colonel of militia since 1832, led the volunteers from Mina, and Magill grew to admire him greatly and responded frequently over the years when Burleson requested volunteers for militia or ranger duties. Magill’s service in the summer of 1835 saw both victory and tragedy. In June the rangers had captured a group of Caddo Indians suspected of stealing horses, and the men voted in favor of executing them on the spot, a decision that Coleman, among others, rushed to carry out. It was a divided vote, however, for Burleson and his followers had wanted to bring the Indians back to Mina for trial. Then, Coleman’s company, in which Magill served, attacked a Tawakoni village, and in fierce fighting, a handful of rangers were killed. The rest fell back to Fort Parker and awaited reinforcements arriving under Stephen Moore. In the subsequent regrouping, Magill joined a company under Robert M. Williamson that ranged during the summer as far north as present-day Dallas. When the company of rangers were returning to Mina in September 1835, several of the men chased two Indians. In the ensuring confusion, Magill accidentally shot fellow ranger Moses Smith Hornsby. The shot shattered Hornsby’s arm. Hornsby, who had already been wounded in the shoulder, refused to have his arm amputated and died several days later.
The company returned to Mina, and in October, Magill served in the militia that fought and defeated Mexican troops at Mission Conception, near San Antonio. He also volunteered to follow Ben Milam into the Siege of Béxar (San Antonio). In February 1836 he joined the Mina Volunteers when the militia was called up. He was elected second sergeant, under Capt. Jesse Billinglsley. The company hurriedly assembled first at Burleson’s house and went on to Gonzales, where they joined the troops under Gen. Sam Houston and began the long march eastward. Magill fought in the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.
During the Civil War, Magill performed his final military duty as a captain in the Home Guard from Burnett County in 1864. He died on December 17, 1878 and is buried in the Magill Cemetery.