Colonel William Magee, is a man of mark, one of the striking figures in the early history of Northern California, and a representative pioneer in Shasta County. He arrived in San Francisco December 1, 1849. He was born in Darlington district, South Carolina, among the rice plantations, February 1, 1806. His father, John Magee, was a native of North Carolina. The progenitor of the family was a descendent of the Scottish chieftains who emigrated to the Colonies very early, settling in North Carolina, and became the ancestor of one of the old Southern families. John Magee, the Colonel’s father, married Winnie Whiden, also a native of North Carolina. They had eight children, four sons and four daughters, four of whom are now living. Colonel Magee, their oldest child, received his early education in Wayne County, Mississippi. When he became a man he engaged in business in Alabama, and also was Deputy Sheriff seven years; was Deputy United States Marshal for eight years in the days of General Jackson and Van Buren. He was Sheriff in Mobile, Alabama, for four years, -- from 1836 to 1840; from there he removed to New Orleans and engaged in the mercantile business for a time; then sold out and came to California, in search of the golden treasures hidden in her mountains. He was thirty days on the journey, by the way of the Isthmus, besides being detained twenty days at Panama, and sailed thence on the steamer Oregon for San Francisco. He went to Shasta in May, 1850, when there were about 300 people there, living in tents and cloth houses. Mr. Magee put his horse in the corral, and with many others made his bed with his blankets on the ground, in what is now the principal street in the town. All goods and supplies were taken to Shasta by team from Red Bluff, and from Shasta the goods were packed on mules over the county, no wagon road being above Shasta. At times miles of the road was blocked with heavily loaded wagons drawn by five yokes of oxen each, and for miles the stage could not get past them, and sometimes was delayed hours. Five hundred pack mules were loaded in the streets of Shasta to distribute supplies to the places further north. Few people can realize the rush and crowd of mules and prospectors that gathered around the place.

Colonel Magee remained at Shasta and on Major Redding’s ranch for four years. He surveyed the ranch for the Major and got his title perfected, and had charge of the property for three years. He was then appointed United States Deputy Surveyor, and extended the Government surveys all over the county of Shasta. The Colonel, with his assistants, lived in the mountains and valleys. His surveying business he followed until a recent date. Among Colonel Magee’s chainmen in an early day was C. C. Bush, then a young man and now the Hon. Judge C. C. Bush, another of Shasta’s representative citizens. The Colonel’s business gave him a complete knowledge of the county, which paved the way for his fortune. He was the discoverer of Iron Mountain in 1870. He found a lone miner in camp on the mountain, who knew what iron was, and pointed it out to him. The Colonel bought his interest in it for $100, and took a deed for that interest, and then set about getting a patent from the Government to the mountain. It was situated within railroad limits, and he could not obtain a title until a special act of Congress was enacted to authorize the location of agricultural college scrip within railroad limits. Iron Mountain at that time was included in agricultural land. As soon as the act of Congress was passed he located the mountain with agricultural scrip, and proceeded to perfect his title for the grant through the State of California. Commencing in 1871 to improve the mountain, he worked on, treating it as a mountain of iron until early in 1880, when James Salee, a practical miner, was prospecting there for silver and gold and found silver in the mountains. That was nine years after the patent had been obtained as agricultural land. The Colonel advised the Government that silver had been found on the land. Being in doubt about the strength of his title, he proposed to re-deed the land to the Government, reserving the privilege of buying it as mineral land. The Secretary of the Interior, after investigating the matter, decided that he would not permit him to re-convey the land; that he considered his title good, having been held as agricultural land for nine years before the silver was discovered. The Colonel then gave Mr. Salee a third interest in the mine which he had discovered, and he called it the Lost California Mine. In the meantime another partner, Charles Camden, was taken in, and they have been mining silver ever since. In 1886 they built a twenty-stamp mill, and have taken out several thousand dollars. They have 640 acres of land in the mountain, and the largest quantity of the best iron ore known to exist in the United States, and in a very pure condition. The silver lode is 130 feet wide, extending three-fourths of a mile and cropping out on the other side of the mountain. They employ forty hands at the mine. It is seven and one-half miles from Shasta. The road to the mine was built at a cost of $8,000.

In 1854 Colonel Magee purchased the cozy and pleasant home in which he has since resided. He was thrice married: first in Mobile, in 1828, to Miss Margaret M. Bass, and they had one daughter, Caroline Virginia, who is now the wife of Judge Hobbs, of Franklin County, New York. Mrs. Magee died in 1869, and after some years the Colonel married Mrs. Mary Perry, whose death occurred in 1887; and in 1888 he married for his present wife, Mrs. Ann L. Moon, a native of New York. They are living very happily together. Mrs. Magee is a very kind and agreeable lady, is very fond of the Colonel, and very attentive to him.

His political views are Democratic. He has lived to the ripe age of eighty-four years; is a large gentleman, a fine representative of the old Scotch ancestry from which he sprang several generations ago.

Memorial & Biographical History of Northern California, The Lewis Publishing Co., 1891

Biography Index