Born in Chihuahua, Mexico and educated in Kentucky and Missouri, Joseph Magoffin (1837–1923) first came to the El Paso area in 1856 to work in his father’s mercantile shop at Magoffinsville. After service in the U.S. Civil War, he returned with his family and became an advocate for the development of El Paso and the region. Using his extensive landholdings, he helped bring railroads, utilities and new businesses to town, increasing his personal fortune. He was a co-founder of the State National Bank, where he served as vice president for 40 years. He also served as county judge, four terms as mayor, collector of customs and in numerous other public offices. His wife Octavia (1845–1906) was a social leader in the community and active in Catholic charities. They had two children, Jim (J.W.) Magoffin (1864–1913) and Josephine (Josie) Magoffin Glasgow (1873–1968).
When Joseph and Octavia Magoffin moved into their new home in 1877, El Paso was a small frontier town. Joseph built the home on property he had obtained from his late father. The adobe construction reflects typical Spanish and Territorial architecture found in the Southwest borderlands and the influence of the Greek Revival style popular in other parts of the United States. In 1887, the El Paso Times described the homestead, “The grounds surrounding it comprise twenty acres, embraced in lawns, flower gardens, fruit orchards, vegetable beds, grass plats and small grain divisions.” The couple was well known for their hospitality and entertained guests frequently in the home.
The Magoffin’s son, Jim, grew up in El Paso and attended school in San Antonio and the University of Notre Dame. Interested in business, Jim was often associated with his father’s activities, including working in the El Paso Customs Office, as a railroad freight agent and in other commercial ventures. In 1897, he married Anne Buford (1875–1962), the daughter of the American Consul in nearby Juarez. They and their four children lived in the Magoffin Home at various times. J.W. unexpectedly died at age 49 after an appendectomy. Anne and her children cared for Joseph in the home until his death in 1923.
Joseph and Octavia had their second child, Josephine, shortly before they constructed the Magoffin Home. After attending the first public school in El Paso, Josephine (Josie) continued her education in Washington and Europe. She returned in 1891 and became active in the social life of the city. Her marriage to William J. Glasgow (1866–1967) in 1896 was described as the most fashionable in El Paso’s history. Glasgow, a graduate of West Point, served with distinction in the Spanish-American War, the Pershing Expedition and World War I, and retired in 1926 with the rank of brigadier general. Josie and their five children followed Glasgow from post to post, which influenced two of the boys to pursue their own military careers. The Glagows moved into the Magoffin Home after Joseph’s death and lived there for the next four decades. Their daughter, Octavia, continued to live in the home until her death in 1986.
Joseph’s father, James Wiley Magoffin (1799–1868) left Kentucky for Mexico in the 1820s seeking adventure and opportunity. He became a widely respected trader and businessman, known locally as “Don Santiago,” in Matamoros and on the Chihuahua-Santa Fe Trail. His influence extended into politics, as he arranged the peaceful surrender of Santa Fe during the American invasion of Nuevo Mexico in 1846. After the Mexican-American War, he made extensive land purchases along the Rio Grande and created the settlement of Magoffinsville, a forerunner of present-day El Paso and an early site of Fort Bliss. In 1867, floods destroyed his hacienda and trading post, located about 11 blocks east of the Magoffin Home. James met his wife, Maria Gertrudis Valdez, in Saltillo, Mexico. They married in Chihuahua in 1839 and had eight children.
Did You Know?
- The Magoffin Home is not on the same site as the early settlement of Magoffinsville, created by Joseph Magoffin’s father, James Wiley Magoffin. Magoffinsville, one of the earliest settlements in the area, and an early site of Fort Bliss (1854–1862) is about 10 blocks east of the Magoffin Home.
- Magoffin family members served in the Mexican–American War, the American Civil War, the Spanish–American War, the Pershing Expedition and both World Wars. Military service is an important part of the family history.
- Magoffin family members and their descendents lived in the home for more than 100 years.
- The exterior walls of the Magoffin Home, made of adobe brick, are between two to three feet thick. The interior walls are about two feet thick.
- The ceilings in the north and part of the east wing are composed of milled wood beams. This wood was apparently brought by wagon from the Sacramento mountains of New Mexico.
- Some of the tongue and groove wood floors in the home were laid directly on the ground.
- Different parts of the home portray different time periods. For example, some rooms represent the 1890s and others the 1930s. Their decor reflects styles popular at those times.