McClary Family History in pdf format


By Warren Tripp.

ON a ship leaving Port Ruch, Ulster, Ireland, on Aug. 7, 1726, came Andrew McClary with his family, reaching Boston, Oct. 8. He seems to have passed the winter in Haverhill and reached the Scotch-Irish settlement at Londonderry on April 19, 1727, and immediately after to have located at Nottingham.
The McClary family at this time consisted of Andrew McClary, his wife, and son John, who was seven years of age. Here the family remained for eleven years, during which time there were born to them another son, Andrew McClary, Jr., and three daughters, Margaret, Jane, and Ann.
In 1738 they moved to Epsom and settled upon a rising knoll of beautiful land on which now stands the old McClary house, where he reared his family to habits of industry and thrift, and was himself a competent business man, as well as a brave pioneer. The records show that he was chosen selectman for eight years prior to 1756. The family was not large and never became so; at no time were there more than four, and most of the time but two or three, eligible to public office. Yet the records show that from 1743 to 1804, a period of sixty-one years, they filled the office of selectmen of Epsom for thirty-one years; that from 1796 to 1819 they served ten terms in the New Hampshire senate, and that one of them, "Hon. John," was a delegate from the senate to the provincial congress in 1775; that all through the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars they were prominent members of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, which for twenty five years held its sessions at the McClary house; that they were active and influential in the organization and support of the state militia, one of them holding the position of adjutant-general for twenty-five years, and two of them holding at different periods the office of brigadier-general; that one of them, "General Michael McClary," was tendered the nomination of governor of the state, but refused it; that for eighty-three consecutive years they held important positions of trust and honor in the state.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary war the family comprised the old emigrant, probably about eighty years of age; his two sons, John, about fifty-five, and Andrew, about forty-five; also three daughters; Margaret, who married Dr. Samuel [Deacon George] Wallace, Jane, who married John McGaffy, and Ann, who married Richard Tripp. There were also two grandsons, aged twenty-one and twenty-three, making only three men of proper age for army life.
These three men promptly enlisted at their country's first call, and one only returned. Andrew McClary, who held the rank of major under Stark, was killed at Bunker Hill. John McClary, with rank of lieutenant in Whipple's brigade, was killed at Saratoga in 1779. Michael McClary, who served in Dearborn's company as ensign at Bunker Hill, was promoted to a captaincy in Scammell's brigade, and served four years. He lived to be seventy-two years old, and died at Epsom. So influential was he in all local affairs that it became a trite saying among the mothers that if their children would obey them as readily as the people of Epsom obeyed General McClary, they would be fully satisfied.
Major Andrew McClary of Revolutionary fame was the second son of Emigrant Andrew McClary. For ten generations his ancestors had lived in an atmosphere of danger, and exercised that eternal vigilance which was to them the price of safety as well as liberty. The earliest recollections of his childhood must have been of the gatherings at the blockhouse, where in times of danger the mothers took their little ones for safety. The stories of his youth were the recitals of adventure from the lips of brave scouts, who made his father's house a common resort. Thus we find him at an early age acting as scout himself, and later an officer in Rogers's famous company of New Hampshire Rangers. He was also a leader in all local expeditions against the Indians. While he possessed in full measure the true Scotch-Irish thrift, he could not be classed with the Presbyterian congregation, for tradition says he was open-handed and generous and much given to hospitality.
It is more than possible that the innkeeper's comments on a Scotch-Irish settlement that "they were a people who would praise good whiskey and drink it and damn bad whiskey and drink that with equal relish," may have included the major, for it cannot be denied that he was somewhat given to conviviality.
He was a favorite officer, nearly six and one-half feet in height, with a Herculean form in perfect proportions, a voice like Stentor and strength of Ajax, never equaled in athletic exercises and unsubdued in single combat. Whole bodies of men had been overcome by him, and he seemed totally unconscious that he was not equally unconquerable at the cannon's mouth. We find record of his visiting Portsmouth, and while in an argumentative state of mind entering into discussion with six British officers, who, not being pleased with his sentiments, undertook to eject him from the room, with the result of themselves being thrown through the window by this doughty patriot.
As an officer, he was the idol of his troops, "hail fellow well met," but whose kind heart would give him no rest until every wounded soldier was personally looked after. A true history of all his adventures would be as thrilling as Cooper's tales, but if he kept any record of his work, which is improbable, it was burned with his house and other effects while he was fighting at Bunker Hill.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary war he was at Epsom, cultivating his large and productive farm. On April 20, 1775, while he was ploughing the parade ground, which is the field now belonging to Joseph Lawrence, a messenger came with news of the Battle of Lexington. Within twenty-four hours he was at Medford, seventy miles away, ready to take his part in the impending conflict.
Cogswell's "History of Northwood" gives an account of this forced march ; of his being chosen captain of a company of eighty heroes, who traveled on foot from Nottingham square to Medford in the short time of about twelve hours, a feat unparalleled in the Revolutionary war. His being chosen major of the regiment, his cool judgment and daring feats in the battle are matters of history with which we are familiar.
He was killed by a random shot from one of the British frigates that was stationed at a point in the Charles river, now known as the center of Cragie's bridge. The shot which passed through his body put to flight one of the most heroic souls that ever animated man. He leaped two or three feet from the ground and fell dead upon his face.
At the dedication of Bunker Hill monument, the orator of the day, Daniel Webster, in mentioning the important part taken in the battle by Major McClary, closes in words as follows :
"Thus fell Major McClary, the highest American officer killed at the battle, the handsomest man in the army and the favorite of New Hampshire troops. His dust still slumbers where it was laid by his sorrowing companions in Medford, unhonored by any adequate memorial to tell where lies one of the heroes who ushered in the Revolution with such auspicious omens. His death spreads a gloom not only over the hearts of his men, but all through the Suncook valley; his sun went down at noon on the day that ushered in our nation's birth."
James Harvey, the oldest son of the major, succeeded to his father's business of taverner, storekeeper, and manufacturer. He served one or more terms in the senate, and was for several years brigadier-general of the state militia. He built the house and kept store where Charles Steele now lives. Andrew and John became military men and died in public service. William, the youngest son, emigrated to Canada. One of the daughters married Mr. Haseltine, the first settled Orthodox minister in Epsom.
John McClary, the oldest son of Michael, was born in Ireland in 1719, settled in Epsom with the family in 1738. John became industrious, methodical, and exacting, a stern Presbyterian, very different from his jovial, rough, impulsive, convivial brother, Major Andrew. He early became one of the leading men in Epsom; was chosen moderator, and for over forty years was one of the principal officers and advisers in town affairs. He was justice of the peace under the provincial government, and all cases of litigation in this vicinity came before Esquire John McClary for trial.
He was called out to do scouting duty in the French and Indian war; was captain of the militia at that time and rose to the rank of colonel before the Revolution.
While his brother represented the military spirit of the Suncook Valley, Esquire John represented the civil authority. The towns of Epsom, Allenstown, Chichester, and Pittsfield were classed together and Esquire John McClary was annually chosen to represent them in the convention at Exeter.
Esquire John McClary was a prominent member of the first convention to organize a colonial government, and afterwards in framing our state government, and was an active member for twenty years. He was treasurer of the Committee of Safety from 1777 to 1783. This committee had power to call out troops at such time and in such numbers as they deemed necessary.
In 1780 he was elected to the council, and annually for the four succeeding years. In 1784 he was chosen to the council and also to the senate, and served as member of that honorable body for three years.
He was tall, erect, commanding, dignified, and made an excellent presiding officer. In early life, he was married to Elizabeth Harvey of Nottingham. When she came to this town with him they rode on horseback, she having for a whip a willow stick which she stuck in the ground near the entrance of the driveway leading to the McClary house. The tree is now standing which grew from the twig placed there by the hand of the bride, 161 years ago.
They had four children,-the oldest son, John McClary, Jr., was killed at the battle of Saratoga in 1779. They had but one daughter, Mollie, who married Daniel Page of Deerfield.
The McClarys owned a very large landed estate, which was divided into several valuable farms for the sons and daughters. In 1741, Esquire John built a one-story house on the south side of the road. This house was enlarged at various times and
became the venerable looking mansion it now is. For twenty-five years it was the headquarters of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, and the Society of Cincinnati, of which he was president, met here three times. Many of the schemes influencing the early history of New Hampshire were concocted within its walls. In it great men have been born and have lived. In its dining hall famous men have sat at the board. In its chambers distinguished statesmen, jurists, 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 lo return at night when darkness and silence reign.
Alone in this great guest chamber one might fancy he had for companions the shades of Daniel Webster, Jeremiah Mason, General Sullivan, and other distinguished men, who have in other days slept within its walls. It is at present owned and occupied by Michael McClary Steele, of the fifth generation of the McClarys, and great grandson of Esquire John. This is the most historic place in all southern New Hampshire, and a visit here will be found very interesting. The present owner is a gentleman of ability and will receive you most cordially.
General Michael McClary, second son of Esquire John, married Sally Dearborn, daughter of Dr. Dearborn of North Hampton. They had five children. The oldest, John, born, in 1785, was of great personal beauty and accomplishments. He was representative, senator, and held a clerkship at Washington. He was killed by a.falling timber while assisting to raise a shed, when but thirty-six years of age. The funeral was said to be the largest ever held in the Suncook valley.
The second son, Andrew, born in 1787, sailed for Calcutta and was lost at sea. General McClary also had three daughters of rare attraction. The oldest, Nancy, married Samuel Lord of Portsmouth. A son of theirs, Augustus, once purchased a part of the McClary estate and improved it for some years. Elizabeth Harvey married Jonathan Steele, a lawyer from Peterborough. They settled on the homestead now owned and occupied by their son, Michael McClary Steele. The third daughter, Mary, married Robert Parker of Fitzwilliam.
After the marriage of Ann McClary, the youngest daughter of the old emigrant, to Richard Tripp, they settled on the farm now owned by Samuel Quimby, where he cleared a small place and erected buildings thereon.
The country being new and they being poor, they were subject to many hardships, but being Scotch-Irish they were strong and muscular and enabled to endure the hardships which circumstances compelled them to pass through. Tradition says she was able to pick up a barrel of cider from the ground and place it in the cart. And at one time she traveled on foot seven miles through the woods to visit a neighbor, carrying a child in her arms, and the cloth to make a shirt. After making the shirt, she returned home the same day. There are many other instances that might be related that go to show the wonderful muscular power which this woman possessed.
In the year 1781, they, with their two sons, Richard and John, moved on the place now occupied by the writer at Short Falls, they having cleared a few acres previously. At this time their nearest neighbor lived where Benjamin Fowler now resides. They afterwards built a sawmill, just above where the Short Falls bridge is, where they sawed out four-inch white oak plank and sold them for one dollar and fifty cents a thousand, delivered on the hill near the house where Hiram Holmes now resides, where they were purchased by parties from Durham for shipbuilding, using the money to pay for the land, the price of a thousand of lumber paying for an acre of land.
D. H. Kurd's history of New Hampshire says: '' The town of Epsom has furnished many worthy men during the past one hundred and fifty years who have held positions of trust and honor in the state and nation, but none stand out in such bold relief or are more worthy of remembrance than the McClarys. In fact no family in the Suncook valley fills so large a space in its history or the hearts of its people. For nearly a century they were the leading influential men in all our civil, political, and military affairs, and were identified with all the important events and measures that received the attention and governed the acts of the successive generations during that long period of time. We know of no instance in our state where history has so sadly neglected to do justice to a family which has rendered so efficient service in defending the rights and promoting the interests of our commonwealth and nation, as in this instance."

General Michael McClary

MICHAEL, second son of Esquire John McClary, was born in Epsom in 1753. He received the advantages of a fair education, was a smart, active lad and, in common with other members of the family, had military tastes. At the age of twenty-three, he joined the army at the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, and was appointed Ensign in Captain Henry Dearborn's company in Stark's regiment. This company rendered heroic service at the battle of Bunker Hill. In 1777 he was promoted and made Captain in Colonel Scammel's regiment. He served four years in the army, taking part in some of the most decisive engagements of the war, and suffered with his men some of the severest privations and fatigues.
His soldierly qualities, engaging manners and family connections gave him the acquaintance and friendship of the leading officers of the Revolution, and by a severe experience in the army he gained a thorough knowledge of men and national affairs, which proved of great practical advantage in after years. On returning from the army, he at once took a prominent position in social and political life, which he held for half a century. He took an active part in the organization of the State Government and, being well versed in military affairs and of good executive ability, he was appointed Adjutant-General for the State of New Hampshire. He organized that department and held the office twenty-one consecutive years, In 1796 he was elected Senator and was a member of that body seven years, and such was his popularity that the votes in Epsom were Unanimous in his favor and nearly so in the adjoining towns. He was United States Marshal for a long time, which, during the last war with England, with the large amount of privateering prosecuted at Portsmouth, was a very responsible office. He was tendered the nomination of candidate for Governor, but declined to accept. Though well known throughout the State, with positions of honor and trust at his command, his popularity, power and influence in his native town was remarkable. He seemed to control the affairs of Epsom with almost universal consent. For over fifty years he served his townsmen in some capacity, either as Moderator, Town Clerk, Representative or Auditor.
Said an old Federalist, "If I had a family of children who would obey me as well as the people of Epsom do General McClary, I should be a happy man." Though once a Federalist, he cast his lot with the Democratic Party and carried the town with him almost unanimously. During the last war with England, party feeling ran high and party lines were closely drawn. Governor Plummer, through Adjutant-General McClary, called out detachments of the militia without calling together the Council or Legislature, which provoked a great deal of controversy. General McClary procured supplies for the troops, made preparation for the defense of Portsmouth, purchased cannon and munitions of war. But in 1814, when the Federalists rallied and elected John T. Gilman as Governor, General McClary resigned his office with virtuous indignation, which he had filled with credit and ability, and in which capacity he had reviewed every regiment in the State.
The town of Epsom strongly supported the war. A full company, under Captain Jonathan Godfrey, volunteered for the defense of Portsmouth.
Michael McClary also did much business as justice of the peace and probate judge. He took an active part in organizing the New Hampshire Branch of the Society of the Cincinnati. He was the first treasurer and held the office twenty-five years. This honorable body of Revolutionary officers met annually on the Fourth of July. Three of their annual meetings were held at the house of General McClary. This society is worthy of more extended mention, and their annual meetings called together more noted men than ever assembled on any other occasion. He was also a Free Mason. While in the army young McClary had met in secret conclave such men as Washington, Lafayette, Sullivan and other brothers of the mystic order and became an earnest worker in the craft. In connection with other ex-officers he was instrumental in organizing a lodge at Deerfield, and in honor of General Sullivan it was called Sullivan Lodge. He was the first Senior of this lodge, and afterwards Worshipful Master. In appearance General McClary was tall, commanding, well proportioned and prepossessing. He made a fine appearance as a military officer, either on foot or in the saddle, which, with his position, means, and hospitality rendered him exceedingly popular. He was remarkably affable and engaging in his manners, interesting in conversation, graceful in his movements, convivial in his habits, generous and public-spirited, fond of power, and when opposed displayed some traits not recorded among the Christian graces. His acquaintance and correspondence was remarkably extensive, embracing many of the most distinguished men of the country.
He married, in 1779, Sally Dearborn, an intelligent, interesting and accomplished lady, daughter of Dr. Dearborn of Northampton. They entertained company with style and grace, and around their festive board have been many happy meetings of the prominent men of the times. They had five children. The oldest son, John, born in 1785, was of great personal beauty. He was early promoted to offices of trust, Representative, Senator and a clerkship at Washington. He was killed by a falling building when but thirty-six years of age. The second son, Andrew, born in 1787, was wild and roving. He entered the army in the War of 1812 and served as Captain. He married Mehitable Duncan of Concord, in 1813, and had one daughter. Shortly after he sailed for Calcutta and was lost at sea. General McClary also had three daughters. The oldest, Nancy Dearborn, born in 1789, married Samuel Lord of Portsmouth, whose ability and wealth is well known. One of his sons, Augustus, purchased a large part of the old McClary estate. The second daughter, Elisabeth Harvey, married Jonathan Steele, a lawyer from Peterboro. The third daughter, Mary, born in 1794, married Robert Parker and lived in Fitzwilliam.
General McClary and wife both lived to old age. He died in 1825, aged 72, and was buried with his ancestors in Epsom, where rests the dust of many heroic dead, whose lives and deeds are fast fading from the memory of passing generations.