Henry Wells Magee -Civil War Veteran
One of Hillsdale College's most colorful graduates was Henry Wells Magee. Vivian Lyon Moore, in "The First Hundred Years of Hillsdale College," described Henry as being "as picturesque a figure as ever walked the campus."
Henry, according to Moore, walked to Hillsdale from Crawford County, Pennsylvania hoping to obtain an education. With no means of support, he earned his way by "driving Eli VanValkenburgh's cows to pasture" on Mount Zion (which is today the Hillsdale College Arboretum).
At the start of the Civil War, Henry left school to join the Union Army and reportedly participated in forty battles, being mustered out of the 4th Michigan Infantry in 1865. He finished his college studies in 1867, studied law, then set out to see the world, "walking much of the way."
Henry Magee hunted buffalo with Buffalo Bill and was part of the opening ceremonies celebrating the opening of the transcontinental railroad. He hunted Pawnee Indians, "shipped as a sailor for Hong Kong" and attended the dedication of the Suez Canal. Henry's wanderlust took him to the Holy Land, as well as jaunts to Moscow, Paris and London.
In 1871, back in Chicago, he invested in some law books, only to have them go up in flames in the Great Chicago Fire.
Despite his plethora of adventures, Henry Wells Magee eventually became one of Chicago's leading corporate attorneys. A Trustee of Hillsdale College for many years, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1923.
Carol A. Lackey