Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Like Father, Like Son
It seems reasonable, now that I'm in Florida researching the history of my McClellan ancestors, to not allow myself to get distracted by the one fact that my third great grandfather was a signer of the original state constitution, and miss out on checking into the stories of anyone else in the family. For instance, what would a son be like, who saw his father's involvement in the state militia and in the formative years of his region's government?
Though William Henry McClellan may not have followed in his father's footsteps to attain the position—no matter how briefly—as a representative in the Florida State government, he apparently ran in some local races. Living in the northern part of the state in a little town called Wellborn, he showed up in some archived records of state elections.
In November, 1876, for instance, William H. McClellan received nine votes for constable in Suwannee County. Apparently, that wasn't sufficient to qualify him for the position. But it did show he tried—at least he was in the race.
For the year 1896, he seemed to fare somewhat better. In the Florida Secretary of State's report for that year, William McClellan was listed as Justice of the Peace for District Nine, encompassing Wellborn.
In other accomplishments, at least according to his Find A Grave memorial, he was listed as a Captain, undoubtedly for his role in the Civil War. But if you were to look up the man's occupation in the census records, it merely reported his occupation as farmer.
I suspect there were a lot of farmers in that century's census records who followed suit—a life not reflected adequately by the government's official documents.
Piecing together these little scraps of hints yielded up by a Google search, I get a mosaic of what this man might have been like. In the shadow of his father yet trying to offer up skills of his own, he was possibly hampered by the smallness of the community in which he grew up.
On the other hand, reflecting on his situation, it does open my eyes to see possible reasons why his son—my great grandfather—might have left the tiny town he called home for better opportunities elsewhere. And it also clues me in to those late night political conversations my mother remembered falling asleep to, as a child, and the likely influences behind my great grandfather's decision to run for mayor in his own time—which he did, serving for one term in another small town called Fort Meade.
Part of what we are certainly can be attributed to what we received through our parents. Some of it will be thanks to what we learned in our formative years. Relying on assumptions like this might not be as foolproof as following the Genealogical Proof Standard, but they may shed some light on the types of people our ancestors once were.