Spotlight on: 'The McGill Family'
The McGill Family
(of Baltimore, Maryland
& Monrovia, Liberia)
The McGill family of Monrovia, Liberia was a free
African-American Mulatto family -- originally from
Baltimore, Maryland -- which immigrated
to Monrovia, Liberia in the 19th century.
The McGills were one of the most prominent
early Americo-Liberian families and they were
one the early American settlers of Liberia .
Daguerreotypes of the McGill family can be
found in the Library of Congress, and they
are mentioned in the African Repository
by the American Colonization Society.
Immigration to Liberia
George R. and Angelina McGill immigrated
to Liberia aboard the Reaper with several
other members of their family and they
arrived in Monrovia on February 1831.
Shortly after arrival, Angelina died
and some of the members of the
McGill family settled at Cape Palmas .
George McGill remained in Monrovia and
became a wealthy merchant and Methodist
preacher; two of his four sons followed suit.
Urias and James McGill both partnered
in 1854 in order to establish the Urias
A. McGill & Brother trading company.
Later on the name was changed to McGill Brothers
when their two other brothers, Samuel and R.S.
McGill joined them in the trading business.
The McGill Brothers company established many
warehouses and numerous stores and were among
the first successful Americo-Liberian trading families.
Two portraits of members of the McGill family
were shown on a segment of African American
Lives presented by Henry Louis Gates , one
of the members of the family shown was
the 'Merchant of Monrovia' Urias McGill
Daguerreotypes of the McGill family can be found
in the Library of Congress because they were
one of the first 19th century colonizers of Liberia
They became a Americo-Liberian Mulatto family.
The freeborn son of George R. and Angelina
McGill of Baltimore, Urias McGill was eight
years old when he immigrated to Liberia with
his parents and siblings aboard theReaper.
Although Mrs. McGill died shortly after the
family's arrival in Monrovia in February
1831, her husband and children survived.
Several members of the family settled at Cape
Palmas , while George McGill remained in
Monrovia with sons James and Urias.
A Methodist clergyman and teacher by
profession, the elder McGill joined the
ranks of Liberia 's prosperous merchants,
and in time his four sons followed his lead.
By the early 1850s, Urias and James had formed
a successful partnership under the name of Urias
A. McGill & Brother, and in 1854 they were joined
by brothers Samuel and R. S. McGill to create
the larger trading concern of McGill Brothers.
Embracing both transatlantic and coastal trade,
as well as a thriving commission business
with numerous stores and warehouses, the
McGill Brothers firm played a principal role
in Liberia 's early commercial history and
earned a handsome fortune for its partners.
Augustus Washington 's portrait of Urias McGill
is believed to date from 1854, the year in which
the McGill Brothers partnership was formed.
(Daguerreotype of Urias McGill & Unidentified Woman)
The identity of the woman pictured in the
daguerreotype has not been established.
It is reasonable to assume that she was
connected in some way with the McGill family,
and may have possibly been Urias McGill's wife.
Augustus Washington posed this young woman
much as he posed a number of his Hartford subjects.
Like the women in his earlier portraits,
she holds a daguerreotype case in her lap.
It is interesting to note that in this instance,
the case she displays is identical to that used
to house both her portrait and that of Urias McGill.