Preserved and restored to best share its legacy as an influential family’s home from the 1870s through the 1980s, the Magoffin Homestead offers a fascinating glimpse at the continuity of local history, as one era slides into the next. In addition to the museum’s helpful staff, a few late members of the Magoffin family are said to dwell there still, eager to welcome new guests.
In the heart of the famed haunted city of El Paso stands the estate of the Magoffin family, without which the town itself would not exist. Built of adobe brick in the Spanish Territorial style, with a hint of the Greek Revival influence that was fashionable during its late nineteenth century beginnings, the Magoffin Homestead looks almost exactly as it did when the family first settled on this spot almost a century and a half ago.
Although it’s been 30 years since the death of the last Magoffin living on the property, the house remains the social and cultural center it was always meant to be, serving as a museum and community meeting place. As for the family, many believe they’re never truly left it behind, walking its grounds to this very day…
History of the Magoffin's & Magoffin Homestead
Five Generations of Magoffins
In 1875, Joseph and Octavia Magoffin put down roots in the form of the beautiful Magoffin Homestead, on land left to them by Joseph’s father, the pioneer and trader James Wiley Magoffin, who founded the nearby town of Magoffinsville.
Joseph and Octavia had two children and at least five grandchildren together, and their descendants inhabited the homestead continuously for the next 109 years. Although their granddaughter, Octavia Magoffin Glasgow, was the most recent person to live on the property, she was not the youngest. There was a time when even Joseph and Octavia’s great-great-granddaughter lived among the huge Irish-Mexican extended family in the home.
Given the number of Magoffins and other family members who’ve come and gone within the walls of the homestead, it’s no surprise that a few of them may still be hanging around in spirit.
A Center of Local Culture and Progress
Joseph was a justice of the peace and four-time mayor of what was then the small frontier town of El Paso. He was passionate about developing and expanding the town, using his influence to introduce electricity, a bank, a railway connection, and a public school.
Octavia became famous for her hospitality, constantly entertaining prominent business leaders and officials to facilitate her husband’s work. The couple’s daughter, Josephine, eventually took up her mother’s role as a fixture of El Paso’s social and charitable circles, when not travelling with her husband on his military assignments.
Her wedding was lauded by local newspapers as the most fashionable El Paso had ever seen. She and her husband had two children and also raised their three grandchildren in the house after the death of their daughter, Harriet, at the age of 36. During her time there, Josephine gave the house a thorough modernizing overhaul, adding plumbing and electric lighting.
From Family Home to Historical Landmark
In 1977, the Magoffin Homestead was sold to the City of El Paso and the State of Texas. Historic restoration began immediately, although Octavia Magoffin Glasgow remained a tenant in the family home until her death nearly ten years later. The homestead opened as a museum while members of the family were still living in a private five-room apartment of the property.
Today, different rooms of the estate have been restored to exactly the way they looked in different decades of the house’s history. As well as acting as a permanent museum, the homestead now hosts activities ranging from fencing to period-accurate cooking to a Victorian sci-fi book club.
While there are currently no ghost-focused tours, the more restless of the late Magoffins are known to make appearances on their own schedule.
Ghosts of the Magoffin Homestead
Appearing in a blue dress that accentuates her elegant height, Octavia is one of the most often sighted spirits of the homestead. Many visitors claim to have seen her tending her garden, or felt her brushing against them as she passes in the parlor and tapping on their shoulders.
A gracious hostess to the end and beyond, Octavia loves to welcome and entertain her guests. She can often be heard playing her piano and singing one of the Italian operatic arias that she and other society ladies of her time prided themselves on performing.
Charles Richardson, the cousin, brother-in-law, and best friend of Joseph, was known among the family as Uncle Charlie and widely described as an animated, honest, and friendly man. After the death of his wife, however, he became more subdued and spent much of his twilight years napping in his favorite rocking chair by the fire, until he finally passed away there in 1911 at the age of 76.
Sometimes that chair can still be observed rocking on its own, and staff at the museum have reported that if it is ever moved from its comfortable spot by the fire, it finds its own way back.
The Girl Who Waits
Records of the Magoffins’ sprawling family tree are incomplete outside of Joseph’s and Octavia’s direct descendants, so nobody’s quite sure who this little girl was in life, though most believe she was a niece of one of the family members.
What is known is that she was staying in the Magoffin house while her father was away on business, and she did not live to see his return. Stories say he had promised to bring her back a silver necklace to reward her patience.
Today, guests still see her sitting on the bed where she slept, looking hopefully out the window, or just the phantom impression of her weight pressing into the mattress. The staff keeps a silver necklace on her bedside table as a token of consolation.
Although the cold breezes, lights turning on and off, and doors opening and closing of their own accord throughout the homestead may be unsettling to some, the Magoffin Homestead’s ghosts are some of the friendliest you’re bound to find, making it an ideal spot for any hoping to commune with the paranormal while on a paranormal vacation in El Paso.