Friday, March 11, 2022

About Henry . . .
and (Perhaps) Another Brother


Determining the family relationship among various people claiming the same surname can be only a little less challenging when talking about residents of a small community—but more challenging when the timeline pushes back almost two centuries. Here we are, trying to discover the relationship between four men named McClellan in territorial Florida at the time one of them dies in 1838.

The scene: Jefferson County, claiming thirty three hundred souls at the time of the previous census in 1830. Granted, by the time of the next census, the county population increased by almost seventy five percent. Still, it was a down-home-on-the-farm kind of place where one could feel safe in thinking that two men of the same surname would likely call each other family.

William G. T. McClellan died young in 1838—young enough, apparently, to have taken even himself by surprise. He left no will to guide his widow and two young children in sorting out his business affairs. The court appointed someone by the name of Henry McClellan to serve as administrator of William's estate, and for security, named Charles McClellan and Charles D. McClellan in the same court document.

The only connection between the McClellan men I've been able to spot has been that, as documented by the governmental Bureau of Land Management, they purchased land in Jefferson County, and that they served in the "Indian Wars"—skirmishes in which all local residents had a vested interest. Those two details certainly do not assure us of their close kinship. Still, it would have been more likely, given the time and the rural nature of the region, that anyone appointed as estate administrator would have been a likely family member.

What can we find on this Henry McClellan? Again, indications that he served in a company of mounted volunteers in 1838. This, we discover because on September 18, 1892, Sarah Jane McClellan, Henry's widow and mother of four of his children, had filed for a pension on account of that service.

While Sarah Jane was indeed Henry McClellan's widow, she was actually his third wife. At about the same time as Henry had lost his (likely) brother William in 1838, he had acquired a wife by the name of Margaret Gorman. After giving Henry two daughters and three sons, Margaret died in about 1851. By December of 1852, Henry was again married, this time to Martha A. E. Hay, who became mother to at least four more of his children.

Henry McClellan also left documentation of his purchase of property in territorial Florida, claiming thirty nine acres in Jefferson County in 1839—likely the very location where his family was reported in the 1840 census.

Other than that, Henry's only other documented connection with the Jefferson County community was in operating a Freedmen's Bureau school, for which he served as superintendent and sole teacher of just under forty students.

While his life certainly had its ups and downs—not to mention a few unique details—there has been nothing to specifically verify his connection to those other McClellan men of Jefferson County. The one advantage to learning about Henry's existence through those court-appointed letters of administration, however, was that here we have a man whose long lifespan allows us to peek into later documents which do include details about his distant past.

Before we fast-forward to that point, though, let's review all the McClellans named in the various documents we've covered in this past week. First, we had the will of Charles McClellan in 1838, naming his eldest son George, and mentioning his concern for his two youngest children, Adeline and Samuel. Then, we found the letters of administration after William G. T. McClellan's passing, naming Henry McClellan as well as Charles and Charles D. McClellan.

There was one other McClellan we've yet to examine: the other one named along with Charles and William, back in the 1830 census in nearby Hamilton County, Florida. Before we move on to speculate about all these relationships, we need to see whether learning about Andrew McClellan will offer us any other clues about what ties all these McClellans together. We'll examine that last consideration on Monday.


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