Maginn was born in 1818 and was residing with his family in Scarborough Township, Upper Canada, just east of Toronto. He was eighteen when Parley P. Pratt, a Mormon since 1830, arrived in the spring of 1836 to first expose him to Joseph Smith’s prophecy. Prior to Pratt’s arrival, French Catholics, Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Anglicans/Episcopalians, and Methodists had influenced Scarborough’s residents. Joseph Smith, seeking a temporary retreat from the turmoil in Ohio and Missouri, visited Upper Canada a year later. No doubt, hearing directly from the Prophet inspired the resolute, teenaged Maginn further.
Soon after, he entered New England, a region where earlier missionaries had established several areas with encouraging followings. He traveled the New Hampshire/Massachusetts circuit while working with other missionaries. In July 1841, Maginn visited Peterborough, New Hampshire for the first time. He was well received, and Magin centered his ministry in the town. By Christmas, twenty had been baptized into the faith.
His flock continued to grow inspired by the Prophet’s message and Maginn’s delivery of it. A Boston newspaper described the twenty-two-year-old Maginn as appearing as ‘a man farther advanced in years.’ Further, illuminating his frame of ‘six feet in height, and a rather commanding appearance’ was ‘an honest, happy smile’. In 1925, a local historian reflected and stated that Maginn ‘was a lively, ready speaker and had a bible at his tongue’s end, being everywhere ready to meet clergymen and laymen in religious controversy’. As the local clergy’s following diminished, they closed their churches to Maginn’s preaching, forcing the Mormons to meet in a hall in Peterborough’s Goodridge Block. On April 27, 1844, Maginn died of consumption in Lowell, Massachusetts at the age of twenty-six. He had spent but a few years on earth, yet he had an effective ministry.
(For more on Elder Eli P. Maginn, I refer you to “. . . The Forgotten Eli P. Maginn” by Ronald O. Barney, the primary source for the the above.)
In “The Believers”, Naamah meets her Aunt Susan to attend her first meeting of the Saints and meets Elder Maginn. Here is a portion of that scene:
Naamah reached Main Street and ceased reflecting. Several blocks ahead, people clustered near the tavern. She was leery as she neared until she spotted Aunt Susan. She called to her, and when Aunt Susan turned around, she waved.
Aunt Susan hurried to Naamah. “I feared you might not come.”
“Forgive me, I’m late.” Naamah eyes darted to the tavern’s large oaken door. “There’s something devilish about a preacher and a tavern.”
“I waited away from the others to be easily seen.” She pointed to a nearby building and said, “We’re meeting there.”
As they moved toward the building, Naamah asked, “Where are Uncle Washington and Cousin George?”
“Inside. The hall fills up fast. Oliver is here, too.”
“And cousins Albert and Samuel?”
“No, they’re home.” Susanna tightened her lips and glanced away. “Perhaps someday.” She forced a smile and turned to the crowd near the hall. “Oh, that’s him.” She rose on her tiptoes and said, “Elder Eli Maginn.”
A tall, angular man with a welcoming smile approached. Several rushed toward him, and he paused to greet them. He spoke to each as he moved with a confident, comfortable stride. His following, intent on listening, took occasional stutter-steps to avoid bumping one another.
“Let’s wait,” said Susanna. “I’ll introduce you.”
“So young. Not like I imagined.”
Susanna was as transfixed as those in the entourage and didn’t respond. Naamah sensed the building enthusiasm, and hers built, too.
When Maginn reached them, he stopped and said, “Sister Susanna, isn’t it?” His English accent added importance to a simple greeting. As he took Susanna’s hand with both of his, her cheeks flushed. He released a hand to stroke her forearm. “And where are your husband and son?”
“Inside,” said Susanna. “And another son has joined us.”
“Splendid.” Maginn turned to Naamah and asked, “And who do we have here?”
“My niece, Naamah, who I told you about.”
“A remarkable name.” He clasped Naamah’s hand similar to the way he had held Susanna’s.
Naamah arched her neck to look into his eyes that glowed as warm as his hands felt, and with his unique accent, she felt an immediate bond. “I was named for my aunt,” she said.
“Two Naamahs -- even more notable.”
“She died before I was born.”
“And now she resides in heaven, waiting to be reunited in the flesh with her namesake. Naamah, wife of Noah, meaning pleasant, because Naamah’s conduct was pleasing to God. Am I right?”
“You certainly know your Bible,” said Naamah.
“God’s ways are never truly known. I’m sure your aunt’s death inspired your name. And quite apt, as you seem to possess an agreeable demeanor. Indeed, so pleasing it doth draw one near.”
Naamah’s cheeks flushed, and she and Maginn remained enrapt for what seemed like an eternity to her.
He broke his grasp and offered a gesturing hand. “Shall we go inside?”
As they moved, a voice came from the gathering tavern crowd. “Blasphemer.”
Naamah turned and recognized several among the crowd; a few were her fellow churchgoers. She curled her shoulders and lowered her eyes. Maginn stood erect, projecting a dignity. A strong, yet gentleman, she thought. She sidled to her aunt, who by instinct put her arm around her.
“My brother, come, join us,” said Maginn as he gestured to the hall.
“I’m not yer brother.”
“Are we not all God’s children, my brother?”
“You’re guided by a false prophet.”
“We’re guided by God as he speaks through the prophets. Come, hear for yourself.”
“Very well, perhaps later.”
Maginn turned from the tavern crowd and, with arms extended, shepherded Naamah and Susanna forward. Others joined and nestled close. Naamah sensed a fellowship and felt protected until one bellowed.
“Never, Maginn. Do you hear me, you blasphemer?”