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General Samuel McClellan, the father of the subject of this biography, was born in the town of Worcester. Massachusetts, January 4th, 1730, his parents having emigrated from Kircudbright, on the Firth of Solway, in Scotland. In the French war he served as an ensign and lieutenant of a company, during which service he was wounded. On his return from the provincial campaign he purchased a farm in Woodstock, and there married and settled. At a later date he engaged in mercantile business and established an extensive trade, not only importing his own goods but supplying other merchants as well. The war of the revolution, however, ended his commercial projects and enlisted his interest in the training and equipment of the militia of the county. A fine troop of horse was raised in the towns of Woodstock, Pomfret and Killingly, of which he took command. He rose by successive promotions until commissioned, in 1784, brigadier general of the 5th Brigade, Connecticut militia. In 1776 his regiment was ordered into service, and stationed in and about New Jersey. He was earnestly solicited by General Washington to join the continental army and tendered an important commission, but his domestic and business affairs necessitated a refusal of this offer. Immediately after the invasion and burning of New London and massacre at Fort Groton, he was appointed to the command of the troops stationed at those points, and thus continued until the close of the war. When not in active service he was employed as commissary in the purchase and forwarding of provisions for the army.
On the close of the conflict General McClellan returned to his mercantile pursuits, but soon abandoned them for the management of his extensive landed possessions. He was esteemed as a Christian gentleman, and honored by his townsmen with many important offices. In 1757 he married Jemima Chandler, a descendant of one of the earliest settlers of Woodstock, who had one daughter and three sons. He married a second time in 1766, Rachel Abbe, of Windham, whose children were three daughters and five sons.
His son John, the subject of this biography and the eldest child by his second union, was born on the 4th of January, 1767, in Woodstock, and fitted for college under the late Reverend Eliphalet Lyman. He entered Yale College in 1781, and received his first degree from that institution in 1785. He then removed to Norwich for the purpose of prosecuting the study of law under Governor Huntington, and later under Charles Church Chandler, Esq. He was admitted to the bar of Windham county in August, 1787, and at once began the practice of his profession in Woodstock, where he continued thereafter to reside.
Mr.’ McClellan came very early into public life in the government of his native state, and was for a period of twenty years, with some intervals of retirement, a member of the Connecticut legislature. He in most of the debates wielded a commanding influence, his animation, perfect good temper, and brief speeches, often seasoned by a vein of humor and anecdote, always securing respectful attention.
In his own town and county he enjoyed a wide ascendancy, both in secular and ecclesiastical affairs. His sound practical judgment and knowledge of business made him frequently an umpire in important matters, and the people were drawn to him both by their confidence in his integrity and wisdom and the invariable kindness of his manner. To the humblest individual he was attentive and conciliating, and benevolent to an extent that often subjected him to serious losses. In the family and the social circle the sunshine of a cheerful spirit always shone about him, nor was it long clouded even by disaster and sorrow. An intelligent reader and an enlightened conversationalist, his intercourse through life was chiefly with the cultivated and refined classes of society, though never forgetful of the courtesy due the poor and humble. He was a most perfect example of the Christian gentleman of the old school, among whom politeness was both a sentiment and a habit.
On the 22d of November, 1796, Mr. McClellan married Miss Faith Williams, daughter of Honorable William Williams, of Lebanon, Connecticut, whose mother was a daughter of the elder Governor Trumbull. Their children were: Mary Trumbull, who married Isaac Webb, and died in 1836; Faith Williams, wife of Rufus Mathewson, now residing with her daughter, Mrs. Alexander Warner, at Pomfret; Sarah Isabella, wife of Isaac Webb, and afterward married to Professor Benjamin Silliman, of Yale College, who died in 1875; Jane Calhoun, wife of Jonathan Weaver, now residing in Danielsonville; and two sons, John and Joseph, of Woodstock. The death of Mr. McClellan occurred on the 1st of August, 1858, at his home in Woodstock.