Sunday, March 16, 2014

120th Anniversary Of Pioneer Mattie Magill's Birth

LABELLE, FL. -- Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of an early LaBelle resident, Mattie Magill. She was born March 16, 1894 in Millville MO, and died in Tampa FL April 15 1992.

She married Jesse B. Thomas and was the mother of Jesse Leo Thomas, Roland Thomas, Sybil Inez Thomas Menges and Wilbur A Thomas. Mattie Magill is buried at Fort Denaud Cemetery west of LaBelle, FL.

Her family was among the early LaBelle settlers. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth Magill, was acquainted with E. E. Goodno and corresponded with him. They arranged a land swap via the mail and she, along with her husband, John Hamilton Magill, are buried at Ortona Cemetery. 

Mary E. Magill's children were Evan Pettus Magill, b. 1892; Mattie Estella Magill Thomas, b. 1894; Sybil Mary Magill Sirmans, b. 1896; Inez Cerita Magill, b. 1899; and William Lorenzo Magill, b. 1901. Evan Pettus Magill and Mattie Magill Thomas are buried at Ft. Denaud Cemetery. William Lorenzo and Inez Cerita are buried at Ortona Cemetery. Sybil Magill Sirmans is buried in Glen Burnie , MD.

John Hamilton Magill's brothers, Robert Henderson(Tobe), Benjamin Franklin and James Madison , sister Mary Jane (Jennie) and her husband Marion Clark and their families traveled from Oklahoma to take up residence in LaBelle. They came via train to Cedar Key, then packet to Ft. Myers and finally barge to LaBelle. 

Mattie Magill Thomas taught second grade for many years in LaBelle. Sybil Magill Sirmans was a waitress in the original Flora & Ella's and it was there that she met Doc Sirmans, and later married him. Sybil Magill Sirmans was considerably younger than her husband and was widowed at a young age. she returned to LaBelle and became a very fine seamstress. 

Her two daughters, Alma and Thelma, attended LHS. Inez Magill worked for the Clerk of Circuit Court in Hendry County, then in Everglades City. She wrote "From Ticks to Politics," which is on the library shelves of the Florida State University System. 

Edith Magill, their cousin, was the high school librarian in LaBelle. Maud Magill Carlson ,a sister of Edith Magill was a missionary in the Florida Keys and was drowned along with her husband Rev. Swen Robert Carlson during the massive hurricane in 1935 that devastated that area. The Carlson Memorial Methodist Church is named for them.

The Magill family was the second Pioneer Family so honored at the Swamp Cabbage Festival. As part of that celebration. Mattie Magill Thomas, restarted the old clock in the court house tower, which had not worked for 30-some-odd years.

Mattie Magill Thomas began her teaching career on Sanibel Island. At that time there was no bridge from the mainland to the islands and no bridge connecting the two islands. She was taken across by packet boat and only left in the summer and at Christmas. It seems that she had 6 pupils, and boarded with the family of one of them. They all lived on Captiva Island. The school house was located on Sanibel. Each morning she rowed across from Captiva to Sanibel and started a fire in the school hours, then rowed over to ferry her students across. After school they all rowed back to Captiva again. When asked why, if they all lived on Captiva, they didn't have the school house on Captiva. "We just never thought of it, I guess," was her answer.

- Story and photo contributed by Terry Hamilton-Wollin, who is the granddaughter of Mattie Magill. Ms. Wollin is a city commissioner in Indian Rocks Beach, Fl.


  1. Anonymous12:12 PM

    I am thankful that Terry Hamilton Wollin posted the above information on Mattie McGill Thomas. I would like to add that she taught school in Felda for a number of years prior to teaching at LaBelle. I don't know when she started teaching in Felda, but she taught the 5th through the 8th grades in the 1944-45 school year. I was in the first grade that year being taught by Mary Goff who was teaching 1st through 4th grades. Mrs. Goff became pregnant and couldn't teach the next year and a substitute teacher was not available. The School Board decided to bus the 5th through 8th grades to LaBelle and Mrs. Thomas took over teaching 1st through 4th grades and was the principal and teacher of the Felda School for the next three years (1945-46, 1946-47 & 1947-48). As a result, she was my teacher for my 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades. The 1947 Hurricane damaged the school and so the school was closed after the 1947-48 year and Mrs. Thomas began teaching in LaBelle the next year.

    Posted by Dallas B. Townsend Age 754

  2. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Miss Mattie was my 1st Grade Teacher in Felda (1947) and I have very fond memories of her. Miss Mattie would swat me on the butt with her shoe whenever i disrupted the class which was quite frequent. She was a great person and teacher.

    David Townsend