Magoffin, Joseph (1837–1923)

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

Joseph Magoffin, El Paso mayor and civic leader, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, on January 14, 1837, the son of María Gertrudis (Valdez) and James Wiley Magoffin. He attended public school in Independence, Missouri, where the family moved in 1844; Lafayette Institute in Lexington, Kentucky; and Wyman High School in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1856 he joined his father at the site of present El Paso, Texas, where the elder Magoffin had settled after the Mexican War. The Magoffins were militant supporters of secession. During the Civil War Magoffin served on the staff of Henry H. Sibley in the New Mexico campaign, served in Virginia and fought in the battle of Seven Pines, and was made commissary general of the Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River. In October 1864 he married Octavia MacGrael in Houston; they eventually had one son and one daughter. After the war, they spent about a year in St. Louis with Magoffin's brother-in-law, Charles C. Richardson, then moved to El Paso. Magoffin worked as a bookkeeper until 1873, when he succeeded in regaining the property confiscated from his father during the Civil War. In 1875 he built an adobe house in the Territorial style, which is now the Magoffin Home State Historical Park. Established as one of El Paso's leading landowners, Magoffin took a prominent role in civic affairs. In 1873 he was one of the incorporators of El Paso. He was elected mayor of the city four times, in 1881, 1883, 1897, and 1899. He also served at various times as alderman, justice of the peace, county judge, and customs collector. He helped organize the International Street Railway to connect El Paso and Ciudad Júarez. He was a cofounder of the first bank in El Paso, the State National Bank, of which he was vice president for forty years, and belonged to the Elks, Masons, and the Toltec Club. He died on September 27, 1923, at the home of his daughter in Washington, D.C., and was buried in El Paso.

Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Buckley B. Paddock, ed., A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis, 1906). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Martin Donell Kohout, “Magoffin, Joseph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: