In the spring of 1881, George McClellan reported that he had found a new job in Denver that was more suitable than his work as a police officer. Whatever his new position was, however, he did not remain in it for long, as he had returned home to his family in Hanson, Massachusetts by the winter of 1881. Upon reuniting with his wife Imogene, they conceived their son Roderic Cameron McClellan in December 1881.
On 1 June 1882, George R. McClellan was naturalized at the United States Circuit Court, Boston, Massachusetts. The witnesses to his naturalization were Friend White Howland of Plymouth and Hubert A. Reed of Hanson, who testified that they had known him for five years, and during that time he resided at Hanson, Massachusetts and Denver, Colorado. George McClellan returned to work as a brick mason in Hanson.
Roderic Cameron McClellan, George and Imogene’s third child and second son, was born 22 September 1882. “Roddy” was named in honor of George’s middle name and George’s mother’s surname.
Sherman Barnabas McClellan, their fourth child and third son, was conceived in July 1885 and born 10 April 1886. He was named Sherman Barnabas McClellan, in honor of George’s sister Annie (McClellan) Sherman as well as Imogene’s father Barnabas Everson.
George and Imogene continued to live in Deborah (Bates) Everson’s house on Indian Head St. in Hanson. However, by August 1886, with three young children (Lillian aged 10, Roderic aged 3 and Sherman under a year) it was time to build a house of their own. On 26 August 1886, 34 year old Imogene L. McClellan received a $300 mortgage and purchased from her father and mother 5.5 acres of land in South Hanson on the north side of Main Street that Barnabas had purchased from Edwin Beal. George McClellan was not a co-signer of this deed, which was in Imogene’s name only, likely another sign of the tensions between George McClellan and his father-in-law Barnabas Everson. George McClellan may have requested that Imogene cancel the mortgage on this property, since the following year George and Imogene bought nine acres from George C. Hobart on the north side of Main Street that bordered Barnabas Everson’s property, and the McClellan house was built on this property instead. On 15 June 1887, Imogene L. McClellan of Hanson, Mass. received fire insurance from the Abington Mutual Fire Insurance Company for $15 on a $1200 policy. $1000 was for a “one and a half story frame dwelling house in process of construction, to be occupied by such as assured, when completed”, and $200 on “household furniture of every description, beds, bedding, family wearing apparel, books, pictures, painting, silver and plated ware, watches and jewelry in use, clocks, fuel, and family stores all while contained in said dwelling, situate north side of Main Street, South Hanson, Mass.” Permission for mechanic’s risk until September 15, 1887. For term 15 June 1887-15 June 1892. History of Hanson Houses reported: “This house was built for Mrs. Imogene McClellan by Benjamin W. Josselyn in 1887 and was occupied by members of the McClellan family until 1903 when she had a new cottage built on Phillips Street.”
Two years later, in 1889, George and Imogene McClellan of Hanson sold their house lot to Barnabas Everson for $250, since they could not afford the mortgage owed to Hobart on the property. George McClellan’s attempts to avoid paying a mortgage to his father-in-law in 1886 resulting in his father-in-law outright purchasing their house in 1889 and again allowing the McClellan family to live in an Everson-owned house rent-free.
Imogene’s mother, Deborah (Bates) Everson died 16 April 1892. Imogene was extremely close with her mother and was devastated by her loss. Deborah had been essential support to Imogene while Imogene had run the McClellan household during George’s absence in Denver, and had instilled in Imogene a love of quilting, genealogy, gardening and spirituality.
On 23 August 1892, George R. McClellan loaned $10 to the Wampatuck Library Association in Hanson.
An aging Barnabas Everson made gifts of land to Imogene and George’s children. In 1890, he gave a birthday gift to 14 year old Lillian McClellan – 2.5 acres in Hanson’s Great Cedar Swamp. In 1893, he gave a birthday gift to 11 year old Roderic McClellan – 2.25 acres in Hanson’s “Long Swamp”. The same year, he gave as a birthday gift to 7 year old Sherman McClellan a 2 acre lot on Green Harbor Marsh in Marshfield. None of Richard Everson’s sons nor youngest daughter received gifts of land, although daughter 17 year old Mary Ella Everson received a 3.75 cedar swamp in 1890. Barnabas may have first gifted the properties to his eldest granddaughters, thinking they could most benefit from owning property, but later determined that all of the children of George McClellan should have land as a surety against their parents finances.
Barnabas Everson died in Hanson on 22 February 1896. His entire estate was divided between his two children Richard Everson and Imogene (Everson) McClellan.
According to family stories, George R. McClellan abandoned his family in Hanson sometime in the 1890s. You may recall that the story passed down was that sometime in the 1890s, George McClellan boarded a train at the South Hanson station (close to their house on Main Street) and said he was taking the train to Boston to purchase a rug for their house, but he never returned. He was not living with the family in the 1900 Census. Supposedly a private investigator hired by Imogene reported that he may have returned to Denver for a period of time, but so far no documentation has been identified connecting George McClellan in Denver in the 1890s. By 1900 he was living in Boston, and it appears that Imogene and her children never learned of his whereabouts after he left them. Certainly his sons were unaware that when they attended school or worked in Boston, they were being alphabetically enumerated next to their father in the early 1900 Boston directories.
But did George McClellan truly abandon his family?
After digging into the numerous pages of probate records and deeds generated by the death of the wealthy Barnabas Everson, a curious phenomenon began to appear. Time and again, when Imogene’s signature was required on legal documents, her husband George McClellan’s signature was also required. She signed all of her records. But George’s signature is missing from these documents. In numerous records from 1897, Hanson justices of the peace John Foster and Walter E. Damon went to far as to testify that they had witnessed the signing by all signatories, with George McClellan’s signature nevertheless remaining blank. Standard legal language from these records include lines such as:“George R. McClellan husband of Imogene L. McClellan joins herein in token of his assent hereto and his release of all right to an estate by the curtesy in the premises” and “George R. McClellan, the husband of the said Imogene L. McClellan do hereby release unto the grantee all right to an estate by the curtesy and to any other estate or interest in the granted premises”. But his signature is missing from all of these deeds.
If George McClellan was missing at the time of Barnabas Everson’s death, with so much money at stake and so much paper generated by Everson’s estate, there was a legal obligation to locate and notify George McClellan, and publically print legal notices in area newspapers. Yet there was no public search for McClellan. And at least two Hanson justices of the peace – both friends of the Everson family – helped Imogene to hide her husband’s absence in legal documents. But perhaps we have a piece of the story wrong. It was, of course, told by Imogene McClellan herself – first to her children, and in years later to her grandchildren. I wonder if it was Imogene herself who kicked George McClellan out of the house, rather than George abandoning them. She grieved the loss of both her parents in the 1890s, who had supported Imogene and her children both when George was thousands of miles away, as well as when he was close at home but struggling financially. With her father’s death, Imogene suddenly found herself an heiress to half of his estate. And with financial independence perhaps came the courage to end a long-suffering marriage. While George had attempted to strike it rich twice in Denver, and another time in California, Imogene had discovered that she had the means and temperament to run her household and family independently, as well as contributing to her parents household and businesses. And when George was home, he was in constant tension with her parents and Imogene herself. Although his intentions were likely good, his attempts to bring his family wealth through schemes and dreams only brought them financial struggle. Time and again George and Imogene McClellan were forced to borrow money and property from Barnabas and Deborah Everson. And the unwillingness of George McClellan or Barnabas Everson – or both – to have George become a major player in the Everson businesses left George unsatisfied.
In the 1900 Census, Imogene L. McClellan (b. Jan 1852, married for 27 years, mother of 4 children, 3 living in 1900, shoe folder, unemployed for 6 months out of the year, rents house) was enumerated 19 June 1900 in 84 Harvard St, Whitman, resided with sons Roderick C. (b. Sep 1882, at school for 10 months out of the year) and Sherman B. (b. April 1886, at school for 10 months out of the year), and daughter Lillian was living with a Christian Science family in Chicago. Richard and Imogene decided to develop part of Barnabas Everson’s property into a new road with houselots, known today as Phillips Street. Imogene built a new house in 1903 for her family on Phillips Street that has been owned by her descendants ever since. In 1903, Imogene wrote a letter to her daughter Lillian that she was hoping her divorce would go through at the next court term. It is unclear if the divorce was ever officially filed, as there was no divorce record on file in Plymouth County divorce records at the Massachusetts Archives. However, she was listed as single woman in 1904 deed.
Imogene may have been the driving force behind George McClellan’s disappearance, but by all accounts he did truly disappear following his departure from the McClellan house in Hanson. His wife and children never knew what happened to him, and they reportedly thought he may have moved far away, given his inclination to travel and a rumor he may have returned to Denver.
But his great-great-great-daughter became a historian, and I have been following his trail for over a decade. A century after his disappearance from the family, I finally found him.
He may have lied about going to Boston to buy a rug. But he did take the train to Boston and there he settled anew. And had another family.
Up Next: George’s Life and Death in Boston