Through the forest of Nottingham,
and up the wooded hills of Epsom, following the slender
bridlepaths, just wide enough for a horse to pass, there
came in 1746 a bridal party. Tradition is silent concerning
its appointments; if there was a splendor it was not
because the participants might not in all propriety
have worn the adornments of pride and station. John
McClary and his bride were worthy of all that belongs
to the rank of nobility.
all events, the mansion to which they came was, in those
fine days almost palatial in size and style. It stood
upon the brow of a hill surrounded by lands as rich,
and encircled by forests as noble as any ancestral home
The great house was destined to be the birthplace of
men who were to help make the history of the nation,
and to be the resort of some of the most distiguished
patriots, lawmakers and statesmen. And after they had
all passed away, to remain so lightly touched by the
hand of time as to now appear strong and substanial
enough to comfortably shelter another generation. A
century and a half has passed and gone since the day
John McClarys bride alighted from her horse at
the foot of the hill where the lane turns from the road,
and planted the willow switch he had used for a riding
whip on her wedding journey from Nottingham, in the
earth by the side of the path. The tree that sprung
from the twig has grown and kept the family company
from generation to generation and know stands in melancholy
companionship with the old house.
But it was some twenty years previous to this event
that old Andrew McClary, the very first man of the name
to come to this country, arrived in New Hampshire and
settled in Nottingham. he was of Scottish origin, but
his ancestors settled in Londonderry, Ireland from whence
they emigrated to this country about the year 1726.
At that time his son John was but six years old. The
original settlement was made in Nottingham. In 1739
the family removed to Epsom and settled on McClary Hill.
At this time the whole country was unbroken wilderness,
a log cabin was built in which they lived until the
two sons, Andrew and John built large houses but a short
distance apart on the brow of the hill. The house erected
by Andrew was long ago destroyed by fire. The place
where it stood may be seen from the roadside marked
by an embankment and a few rocks. There is a depression
in the ground, just below the site of the old house,
which is said by traditioin to be the spot where the
log cabin stood.
In 1746 John McClary married Elizabeth Harvey, who came
to this country in the same ship when they were three
years old. They had twelve children. Though unassited
by great advantages of education, he was honored with
a very large share of public confidence, and that, too,
in trying times. Besides sustaining, with much acceptance,
several important offices in the town, he was called
by his townspeople in that period of danger and anxiety,
when the provincial congress was formed, to hold a seat
in the council and senate of the state. He was a most
exemplary citizen and was deeply interested in the church,
and all matters of religious welfare to the community.
In connection with his brother, Andrew, he cleared large
tracts of land; they together owning more than 1,000
acres. They built sawmills, cut roads and otherwise
energetically puched forward the work of civilization.
The Hon. John McClary died in 1801, aged 83, and was
buried in Epsom. A plain slab erected in his memory
may be seen in the graveyard on the hill in Epsom.
Hon. John McClary had a son named John, who was killed
in the battle of Saratoga in 1777. He also had a son
Michael born in 1753. Michael entered the army at the
age of 23, and was appointed ensign to Capt. Dearborns
company in John Starks regiment, and fought at
the battle of Bunker Hill. He was in the army 4 years
and saw service in some of the severest engagements.
After leaving the army he aided in forming the government
of the state and held office of Adjutant General for
21 years. It was largely through his influence that
the New Hampshire branch of the Society of Cincinnati
was formed, of which he was treasurer for 25 years.
These Revolutionary officers met on the 4th of July,
and three times at his house, with affable and engaging
manners, his wit and varied knowledge rendered him a
most enetertaining host and constant friend. In 1779
Michael McClary married Sally Dearborn of North Hampton.
Maj. Andrew McClary, son of Andrew the first settler
and brother of Hon. John McClary, although equally respected
and esteemed by his fellow townspeople, was a man of
different cast of mind. His intensely patriotic nature
and military disposition let him to sympathize with
and take and active part with the partiots; he was fond
of military tactics and shared largely in the war-like
spirit of the time.
John McClary was accustomed to entertaining travelers,
so that his house became know as McClarys Tavern.
Here the prominent military characters of the towns
about were accustomed to assemble and discuss the all
absorbing subject which was agitating the country. They
were anticipating the war and were ready for it. The
echoes of the first gun fired at Lexington had hardly
died away when signal fires were lit on a thousand hilltops
and messengers on fleet horses rode through everytown,
calling to arms. News of the battle soon reached Exeter
and from whence one of those fleet messengers started
for Nottingham, across Deerfield Parade and on to Epsom.
Here again the part of Cincinatus was enacted; young
McClary was plowing in the field, the messenger had
scarcely finished his words of warning, when he left
the plow in the furrow, and joined by other daring patriots
hurried to Deerfield. There they were joined by others,
making a company of some eighty who left the same day
and reached Medford the next morning. Many of these
men became distinguished in the revolution at once.
This company of brave men from the hills of New Hampshire
held the post of honot at the battle of Bunker Hill.
Andrew McClary, whose military ingenuity had always
made him a conspicuous character, at once began to exert
his influence in organizing troops.
At Medford two regiements were organized, composed of
New Hampshire boys, of one of these, John Stark, was
chosen as colonel, and Andrew McClary major. In the
Nottingham company Michael McClary was ensign. Of the
little over 1500 troops stationed around Boston on the
17th of June, 1500 were actually engaged in the fight
of Bunker Hill, and of these the larger number were
from New Hampshire, connected with the regiments under
Colonel Stark and Reed. Starks regiment formed
a line behind a rail fence and fought heroically, doing
fearlful execution to the enemy, and were the last to
retreat. A commander of one of the companies was Henry
Dearborn of Nottingham, who survived the perils of war
and afterwards wrote a graphic account of the battle
of Bunker Hill. In a lengthy review of the battle he
frequently speaks in terms of praise, not only of the
military sagacity , but of the constant bravery of Major
McClary. His courage and enthusiasm were a constant
inspiration to the men. He, as well as General Stark,
was always foremost where duty directed him. The misfortune
of that memorable battle can in no way be attributed
to either of these men; but on the contrary much of
the heroism and valor of that hardly fought, but lost
battle was due to the skill and cool courage of John
Stark and Andrew McClary.
And it is almost sufficient praise to say that as regiments
of other states, one after another were forced to fall
back, these brave New Hampshire men in the midst of
the terrible carnage, that none but Spartans could withstand,
covered their retreat.
After the battle Maj. McClary observerd that the British
troops on Bunker Hill appeared in motion and started
to reconnoiter them. After having satisfied himself
that they did not intend to leave their strong posts
on the heights, he was returning when a random shot
from one of the frigates, lying near Craigs Bridge
passed directly through his body. He leaped two or three
feet from the ground, pitched forward and fell dead
on his face. He was carried to Medford and buried with
all the respect and honor that could be shown a great
and good man.
During the battle the patriots were intent on cutting
down every officer they could distinguish in the British
line. When Maj. mcClary discovered one he would instantly
exclaim, There, See that officer. Lets shoot
at him! Two or three would fire at the same moment
and all being excellent marksmen were sure of their
object. Col. Dearborn in his account of the battle says
of Maj. McClary, He was among the first officers
of the army, possessing sound judgement, undaunted bravery,
enterprising and ardent both as a patriot and as a soldier.
His loss was severely felt by his compatriots in arms,
while his country is deprived of the service of one
of her most promising and distinguished champions of
liberty. In taking leave of brave Maj. McClary,
it must be said to the shame of the present generation
that while the exact spot where the body of that hero
was buried is unknown, no monument has been erected
to his memory.
The homestead built by Hon. John McClary, and occupied
by several generations of that illustrious family, remains
very nearly the same as it was originally built; no
room has been altered or partition removed; old age
has not weakened its joints, and its walks stand as
firm as in the days of yore. The visitor can leave the
cars at either Short Falls or Epsom station and reach
the farm by a delightful drive of about three miles
on the road leading to Epsom Center. The high ascends
a series of short hills until it reaches the mansion
on the height of land overlooking panorama of diversified
and beautiful scenery. The wide foregound of the landscape
is enriched by cultivated fields and comfortable farmhouses.
In the middle distance lies the quiet and fertile valley
of the Suncook, while away beyond the encircling range
of foothills rises the blue summit of Kearsarge.
The old house stands upon the very top of the hill,
and is nearly hidden from view by the lombardy poplars
and willows that grow by the side of the lane leading
up to it. Just at the turn of the road, on the left,
is the ancient willow that grew out from the little
twig used for a riding whip by the bride of John McClary.
The venerable mansion has a history more genuinely interesting
than often attached to buildings of even legendary fame.
In it great men have been born and lived; in its dining
hall famous men have sat at the board; in its chambers
distinguished statesmen, jurors and heroes have slept;
before the wide fireplace in the reception room have
gathered the wit and beauty of a time when men were
strong and women fair and wine was red. No wonder that
the echoes of long lost and forgotten music are said
to return at night when darkness and silence reign.
Alone in the great guest chamber one might fancy he
had for companions the shades of Daniel Webster, Josiah
Mason, General Sullivan and other distinguished men,
who have in other days slept within its walls.
When the Hon. John McClary built this house in 1740,
he built as though he anticipated the momentous events
that were to follow; spacious rooms and well appointed
apartments that might accommodate meeting patriots or
Freemasons and at the same time have all the comforts
and even luxuries of a gentlemans home.
It was in this house that the Committee of Safety met,
at the most important period of the nations history.
In the reception room, deliberations that held the welfare
of the state in their grasp, have been often held. Some
idea of the importance of the actions of that body of
wise and strong men may be formed, when it is rememberd
that their meeting in the McClary house extended over
a long series of years, from 1750-1776. Michael McClary,
through whose influence the New Hampshire branch of
the Society of Cincinnati was formed, and who was its
treasurer for 25 years, was born in this house in 1753.
He married Sally Dearborn, daughter of Dr. Dearborn
of North Hampton in 1779 and they reared 5 children.
General Michael McClary died in the old mansion in 1824
and was buried in the little churchyard at Epsom by
the side of the Hon. John McClary. One of Gen. Michaels
daughters, Elizabeth, married Jonathan Steele, a lawyer,
and resided at the homestead.
On a fine summer morning the traveler seeking the healthful
air of Epsoms beautiful partoral landscape, will,
if he pursues his journey over the height toward Deerfield,
notice the shady lane branching off from the highway,
and on the right; if he should, tempted by the prospect
of a fine view from the higher land, turn into the byway
and walk up to the old fashioned house, he will meet
a gentleman somewhat past middle life engaged in some
pleasant occupation about the grounds. The cordial greeting
which will be received will give assurance that a man
of more than ordinary attainments has been met.
This well-bred gentleman is Michael McClary Steele,
son of Elizabeth McClary Steele, and lineal descendant
of Hon. John McClary. Here he lives alone in the retirement
he prizes on account of the ancestral memories that
cluster around the old homestead. Michael Steele, whose
portrait by Langley accompanies this article, was born
in 1824 and at the age of 69 is still a handsome man;
his polished conversation, always reminential, is most
from Manchester Union Saturday
May 13, 1893