Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George McClellan: Becoming Officer McClellan, the Farcical Moon Affair, and a Bribery Scandal in Denver



George R. McClellan left Hanson, Mass. for Denver in the fall of 1879 without a particular business venture in mind. He had burned his bridges with former partner F.W. Gromm, whose trunk business had become successful in McClellan’s absence. He was not invited to rejoin Gromm’s company, and so he went looking for work in Denver. In December 1879, George R. McClellan, a trained brick mason and former trunk shop owner, was hired as a Denver police officer, with no particular experience in policing.


George R. McClellan in Hanson, Mass., circa 1870s

McClellan joined the force at the height of tensions between Denver politicians and the police force. In 1877, Republican Baxter Stiles was elected mayor, and chose Robert Y. Force as new police chief. Denver’s city council refused to confirm him, and “got even” by reducing the number of police officers to a dangerous low of two men, Officers Samuel How and H.C. Sherman who were to split the patrol of the city – one by day and one by night. Denver’s population of 25,000 was far too large for two officers, and as a result Police Chief Force resigned and soon was elected as alderman on the city council. Ironically, alderman and former police chief Robert Y.  Force would demand a bribe from George McClellan in order for McClellan to join the police force, which would later become a public scandal.

 In 1878, the police department was expanded and included the newly appointed Police Chief C.B. Stone, (Chief from Oct 1877-Oct 1878); Police judge O. A. Whittemore; and six policemen: Samuel Howe, H. C. Sherman, John Holland, George M. Hopkins, David Ellsworth, and W. R. Hickey – still a very low number of officers for such a large city. In October 1878 policeman W. R. Hickey was appointed chief of police, and it was under his rule that George McClellan joined the force.

At alderman’s meeting held 29 December 1879, “a resolution was passed to increase the police force from 12 to 16, beginning 1 January 1880, and set a policeman’s salary at $85 per month. John Holland was appointed assistant chief. Alexander McLain was nominated to fill his vacancy but not approved, Edward McCarthy was instead selected. The mayor presented a number of names for positions upon the increased force, and the following were confirmed: George McClelland and James Ryan.” Thus George R. McClellan became Officer McClellan.


The Denver newspapers often published interesting arrests, and Officer George R. McClellan was soon making news for arrests both large and small. On 4 February 1880 Officer McClellan “threatened arrest” of Mrs. Jackson. Papers reported on 4 April 1880 “John O’Rourke was arrested by Officer McClelland last evening for assaulting an inoffensive German on Blake and Sixteenth streets. O’Rourke, after being knocked down by the officer once or twice, succeeded in getting a good hold on the officer’s knee with his teeth. After a rough-and-tumble fight the officer took the bad man to the cooler, much the worse for showing his fighting qualities”.


On 1 June 1880 Geo. R. McClellan (32, bricklayer, b. Nova Scotia to parents b. Nova Scotia [sic, Scotland]) was enumerated in Hanson, Mass. with his wife Imogene L. (28, at home), daughter Lillian (4), father-in-law Barnabas Everson (55, mason) and mother-in-law Deborah B. Everson (60, keeping house). It is uncertain if George was in Hanson on a visit or if this was inaccurate and simply listed George as a member of the household despite his absence, since seven days later he was also enumerated in Denver. On 8 June 1880, Geo. R. Mc Clellan (32, married, policeman, b. Massachusetts to parents b. Scotland) was enumerated 8 June 1880 in 310 Seventeenth St, Denver, Arapahoe County, Colorado, residing as a boarder in the household of Lathrop Mussetter (25, single, drugstore clerk, b. Virginia) with fellow boarders Melville Stratton (22, single, drugstore clerk, b. Vermont), Edgar Lake (22, single, music teacher, b. Illinois), John Holland (34, single, chief of police, b. Ohio). Officer George McClellan was on record in October 1880 as having just returned a several week vacation to visit his family in Massachusetts and New York.


1880 Census, Hanson, Mass. George R. McClellan was enumerated in the household of Barnabas Everson. Uncertain if he was home for a visit, or if this was a mistake, perhaps indicating that he typically lived in that household, despite living in Denver at the time.


1880 Census, Denver, Colorado. Policeman George R. McClellan was living with Assistant Chief of Police John Holland.

On 5 August 1880, Officer McClellan found a lost dog. On 29 August 1880, it was reported that “Thursday night a gentleman, a stranger in the city, was steered into a Holladay street palace by a hardened citizen of Chicago, who goes under the name of Gaynor. This Gaynor arranged with a certain women of the house that the man was to be robbed of all his money that night. As the sum was considerable it would pay. Accordingly the work was done, but only partially, and yesterday Officer McClelland, of the police force, searched the house before Gaynor quitted it, and recovered $170 of the stolen funds. The operator escaped through a rear door, but was captured soon afterward. In this case there is no necessity for secrecy, because the victim need not be known. There are witnesses to the robbery, he himself being asleep when it was committed.”


On 10 October 1880, the Rocky Mountain News reported that “Police Officer McClellan, who has been to New York and Boston for some weeks on a leave of absence, has returned and taken his old place on the police force”. He probably visited his wife Imogene and four year old daughter Lillian in Hanson, Mass. and his sister Annie Sherman in New York. Perhaps his mother Christiana McClellan came up from Providence, R.I. to see him in New York.


In October 1880, George McClellan returned to the Denver police force during one of the most intense months the force had ever experienced. Just as George returned to the city, an 18 year old boy named William McClellan (no relation) died and the newspapers blamed an opium overdose, stirring up outrage against the Chinese opium dens. Headlines on 12 October 1880 read “Celestials Corraled” in a series of arrests made by Denver police officers (likely including Officer George McClellan back on the job) of opium den owners and participants. Racist newspaper reportage throughout the rest of the month of October put the city of Denver on edge, with outbursts of violence occurring throughout the month.

In the early hours of 15 October 1880, a fight broke out at the Ocean Oyster saloon, owned by the notorious gambler and violent drunk Jim Moon. When two police officers (assistant police chief Holland and patrolman Merrill) arrived to break up the fight, it only escalated. Assistant Police Chief Holland (George McClellan’s roommate) had earlier raided Moon’s business, and when a drunken Moon realized Holland was on his property, he and his associates threw glasses and dishes at Holland, which injured Holland in the head. Officer Merrill left with Holland to tend to his head injury, and Moon locked down his saloon, threatening to assault any who dared enter his establishment with a small Civil War howitzer he kept in the saloon.


A “small” 12 pounder Civil War era howitzer located in Denver at the Colorado State Capitol Building. Jim Moon aimed his personal howitzer (similar to this pictured howitzer) at the entrance to his saloon, daring any to enter after his drunken assault of another saloon owner and several Denver police officers.

Then Moon, his romantic partner Emma, his business partner/gunfighter John Bull and Bull’s girlfriend exited the saloon armed and aiming at the crowd of citizens and police officers who had gathered outside, and escaped in a carriage [Think of Deadwood’s Al Swearengen, Dan Dority and Trixie]. Officer Dorsey was sent in pursuit of the carriage. The newspapers criticized the police force for not stopping the Moon party. Rocky Mountain News reported:

  • “A Midnight Muss”. About one o’clock this morning a man named Lamar, who keeps a saloon on Fifteenth street near the Bon Ton saloon, went to the saloon and restaurant kept by James Moon, on the alley between Larimer and Holladay, near Sixteenth. He ordered some oysters and while waiting for his supper, Moon, who it is said was considerably under the influence of liquor, interfered in some way and struck Lamar, who hastily left the place in search of an officer. He did not even take his overcoat with him. He saw clearly that there was a big row in prospective, and wanted to nip it in the bud. In a moment or two he met Assistant Chief Holland and Patrolman Merrill. These two then went to the place. They advised Lamar not to go, as he might be in danger. When the officers entered Moon was in a terrible rage. He recalled the circumstances of Holland’s raiding the place when he was acting chief, and said as much to him. Holland did not deny this. Within an instant Moon and Holland were struggling in the middle of the floor for possession of Holland’s revolver. While this struggle was progressing, Moon’s woman, Emma, who was in the room, and another woman and John Bull all simultaneously engaged in a promiscuous free fight. Glasses and dishes were freely thrown. They were aimed at Holland and did not miss him. He shouted to the officer accompanying him for assistance, but there was no response, and when the crowd of customers at the lunch counter were called on they all ran away too. One man, however, had more nerve than the others, and had it not been for his efforts the ugly crowd would certainly have killed Holland. As it was, however, the officer was dragged out bleeding profusely about the head from the deep wounds and taken to Comfort’s on the opposite corner, where he was put to bed seriously injured. This cleared the house and Moon ordered all rooms closed. Peeping in at a side window it was seen that Moon was being nursed very carefully by John Bull with a wet towel. Some of the chinaware had struck him. During this time the police were scattered. Whistles were blowing on every street and finally a majority of the night force was assembled at Moon’s. They could not get in, however, and Moon was armed with a small howitzer; so there was no effort to take him. In a few moments, however, the door opened, and Moon, his woman and her companion, John Bull, emerged into the storm then raging violently. Moon had his revolver at full cock and the whole crowd passed through the alley, where the police were, and to a hack at the street on Sixteenth. Bull and the woman clambered inside the vehicle and Moon got upon the box, with his gun ready for use. The driver whipped up his horses and the party were off, having defied fifty citizens and a whole platoon of police! Another hack was speedily pressed into service by Officer Dorsey and at last accounts the chase was being continued in the direction of the Golden. The nerve (?) displayed by the police, with one or two exceptions, is worthy of comment.”

“The Moon Affair” occurred at Jim Moon’s Ocean Oyster Saloon, described in newspaper accounts as located on the alleyway between Holladay and Larimer Streets near 16th St. Map from Robinson’s 1887 map of Denver. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library.

The following morning, police chief Hickey visited Moon and Bull and came to an agreement that Moon would turn himself into the police station later that day, post bail and pay the required fines for his conduct – which had occurred numerous times previously since Moon and Bull were frequently in trouble for drunken violence. Moon agreed to the terms but delayed his arrival. The press was outraged that Moon was not punished more severely, and that Moon taunted the police by his late arrival. As a result of the press coverage of the “Moon Affair”, the Denver aldermen assembled a meeting to investigate the possibility that the police had mishandled the affair, hoping to fire negligible officers. Of considerable note is the fact that the meeting was hastily called and led by Alderman Force. Privately, Force had recently been confronted with the fact that it was known that he had required a bribe from Officer George R. McClellan to join the force, and that it was rumored that various other aldermen required bribes from other current police officers. Since the majority of Denver alderman had in fact required bribes from the police force, it was definitely a threat to be taken seriously.

  • “At the conclusion of the taking of this [Moon affair] testimony, various matters connected with the police service were discussed. The uprightness, general efficiency and conduct of Chief Hickey were discussed at considerable length; individual cases cited where his conduct had been impugned both at the time and afterward. The conduct of other officers on the force were also reviewed at great length. Some got terribly scored and others were lauded to the skies. The conduct of some of the officers concerned in the Moon affair was contrasted with the nerve shown by Dorsey, and then the McClellan case came up. It was stated by some members that they had investigated the one hundred dollar business, and that they thought that while the thing was being done it might as well be all done together. Then Mr. Davis, of the Fourth, read a list of names as follows: Hickey, Minart, McCarthy, Merrill and McClellan, and moved that they be discharged from further duty on the police force. This was strenuously opposed by Mr. Cook, who said that Mr. McClellan’s case then was an altogether different sort of ill doing and he wanted the name omitted. This met with a stern rebuff from Mr. McLaughlin, who said he was determined not to have such a man on the force. Further discussion ensued; when to expedite matters Mr. Morris offered a resolution discharging McClellan “for insubordination unbecoming an officer.” This was adopted; and then Mr. Davis, of the Fourth renewed his motion to discharge Hickey, Minart, McCarthy and Merrill. After a host of entanglements, all, however, meant to the same end, the motion was carried by a vote of seven to four, Anstee not being present. The next question was, who shall be chief of police? John Holland, assistant chief, was laid up with injuries, and could not act. Then Mr. McLaughlin moved the appointment of Samuel C. Dorsey to fill the vacancy made in the chiefship. The mention of Dorsey’s name brought out many expressions of goodwill from members, and the motion would doubtless have prevailed had not some member suggested it was the mayor’s duty to appoint a chief. This was agreed to and the mayor was then, by vote, made chief of police pro tem until an appointment was made and confirmed. This business having been concluded, the doors were thrown open and the fresh air allowed to circulate.”


In one fell swoop, the Denver aldermen fired the Police Chief and all the major police officers involved in the farcical Moon Affair, as well as fired George McClellan for “insubordination” [the details not yet publically revealed] – almost one third of the police force, a dangerous situation in a month already filled with racial tension and violence as well as common city crime. The press, who the day before had been calling for action regarding the police force, now turned against the aldermen on City Council. The headline on 19 October 1880 ran: “Exposed! The Rottenness of the City Council. Laid Bare In All Of Its Deformity. Fifty Dollars Is the Very Trifling Sum For Which Aldermanic Influence Can Be Bought. Interviews With Decapitated Police Officers, And the Little Stories They Have To Tell. What the Mayor Has To Say About The Situation. The Chief Likewise Rises to Explain, And Reveals Some Very Interesting Secrets of His Office.” The recently fired officer George McClellan also spoke with a reporter in the article in which he confirmed that he had been required to pay a bribe to Alderman Force in order to join the Denver police force.

  • “What about the police business?” was the first inquiries yesterday morning on the street. “I don’t know,” was the general reply. “The city council seems to have discharged about one-third of the police force, without ‘rhyme or reason’, just to appease public indignation aroused by the Moon affair, and to take away attention from their own crookedness by laying the blame upon their subordinates – Hickey, Minart, Merrill, McCarthy and McClellan – just to make the citizens believe the council were acting on the square, when there are bigger scoundrels in that body than there are among the men who walk around the streets for the purpose of keeping the peace.” A man who has held high positions in eastern cities in connection with the police and detective work, was questioned as to the general efficiency, or rather inefficiency, of the Denver Police force. He said: “It is the worst, most loose and corrupt that ever came under my observation. I am conversant with the police system of all the large cities of the Union, but I have never met with anything so careless and reckless as the police system of Denver.” “In what way? Let the public know some of the particulars…” “Well, to begin with, it is supposed that the police, or a certain portion of them, are on duty all night. This is a mistake. I know a case where a certain officer has gone to bed every night at a certain hotel, instead of remaining on his beat. The man who is supposed to relieve him at six o’clock in the morning reports the matter all right at the headquarters, and gets some consideration for his lying, but he never sees the man he is supposed to relieve. Did you ever see a police officer around in the early hours of the morning? You may search a long time before you find them. They are either in their own or somebody else’s bed. Although I don’t know that it matters whose bed they are in, their crime is being off their duty as watchman of the night. Denver would be the very paradise of thieves if they only knew it. Under the present system they could ransack the town while the paid preservers of the peace are quietly snoozing in their beds or indulging in some debauchery.” “Do you consider the city police force efficient when they are on duty?” “Oh, I would guess they would make ordinarily good policemen if they acted straight. But they don’t.” “In what way?” “Well, if they see a row brewing, or anything that is likely to make a breach of the peace, instead of stepping up to prevent it they get around a corner and wait until a breach of peace is made, then they step up and arrest the men.” “And ledge them in the calaboose of course?” “Nothing of the sort. They find a constable if they can and hand the prisoner over to that functionary. And if it is too late to find a constable they take the offender over to the city jail and then go and wake up the constable, bring him down to the jail and let him make the charge.” “What is the object in doing all this?” “Why the police officer gets two dollars and a half on each arrest. If he runs them in himself he gets nothing, but if he hands the case over to the constable, the constable gets five dollars or more for the arrest and divides with the police officer. The majority of the officers on the force receive a large amount from the constables for their division offers, some of them collecting as much as $40 monthly from the constables. Thus by the connivance between the two officials the county is put to a heavy expence and the proceeds of the robbery is divided between the police officers and the constable because if the officer did his duty the crime might be prevented, and if committed the culprit would be run in without any cost to the county. This system of robbery has been pursued here for years and costs the county thousands of dollars a year. There is no check upon the officers doing their duty when they start out for their night watch. There is no check to show that they are on duty and very few of them are.”
  • HIS HONOR, THE MAYOR [Richard Sopris]. “Who is going to be the new chief, Mr. Mayor?” asked the interviewer. “Oh, I don’t know yet. We’ll get around to that bye and bye.” “I suppose you will make choice of a man who will save you all such troubles as you’ve had lately?” “Well, I should think so – I have had enough trouble with the police department to satisfy most men.” “Who are the candidates?” “You know as well as I do.” “Dave Cook, Sam Dorsey, Tom Foulks, John Phillips?” “I guess so.” “Who will be appointed?” “I am anxious to get a men who will suit the people, but have not yet decided who it shall be.” “Where is John Holland in this business?” “Laid up, I hear.” “I heard you were going to appoint him?” “What! John Holland – no – I’ll never appoint him.” “Why not?” “Because there is too much feeling against him.” “You have not decided whether to take a man from the force or from the outside?” “No; I would like to have a man from the force if it is possible to get the right one. I want a man that I can trust – a man that can control his officers.” “Who is in charge now?” “Phillips has charge of the day men and Dorsey of the night force.” “Are you going to leave these men on?” “Yes, for the present. I don’t think any appointment will be made until after the new council comes in.” There seems to be an idea to get rid of John Cook’s influence in the matter, who will stick to John Holland, but the mayor seemed determined to say nothing more and the subject was dropped.
  • CHIEF HICKEY complained bitterly of the way in which he had been used. In his own language, “The God d-m mob didn’t know what they were doing.” The mob referred to was the twelve illustrious members of the city council whom Chief Hickey considers as corrupt as they are stupid On being questioned as to whether he had tried to do his duty as head of the police force, he said: “I have been between two fires all the time; have asked the old man [Mayor Sopris] over and over again if I should close up the dens around town and he wouldn’t give me permission, therefore I couldn’t do it, and the next thing I was blamed for not doing it. There are eight or ten men on the force I wanted to discharge long ago for being corrupt. I knew they were getting money from bunko-men and acting crooked all through, but he wouldn’t let me discharge them, each one of them was the pet of some particular alderman and had to be protected. The lies that have been told about this Moon affair are enormous,” said the chief. “The story has been told that I took Jim Moon’s pistol and then gave it back to him. That afterwards Moon’s girl had been arrested, that he came out to the carriage with his loaded revolver and took her out of the vehicle and back into the house. It was also stated that officer Dorsey knocked Bull down in the parlor with his club. All these and a pile more of the statements made before the council are lies, manufactured for a purpose. I was called up from my bed by Dorsey and Robinson, and simply told there had been a muss at Moon’s and that Holland was hurt. We went to the Villa; when I reached there I went into the parlor and found Moon and his woman there. I said “Jim I’ll have to arrest you.” (Neither of the officers came into the room, they merely looked in and went out.) The two women, Moon’s woman and Mrs. Bull, commenced making a row and said he should not be taken away. I told them I had nothing to do with them and proceeded to talk to Moon, who was very quiet. I felt around his clothes but found no weapon, then when I turned around I saw him with a pistol in his hand which he had drawn from inside his vest where I had not thought to look for it.” “Did you take the weapon?” “No, I did not, and he put it back again. He said he did not want to be locked up, and handed me $1,000 in bills as security for his appearance in the morning. I took the bills, and, considering that sufficient, made no further attempt to arrest him then. There was a row outside between officers Dorsey and Robinson and the women and Bull, who had come down from upstairs. I told the officers that Moon had put up security for himself and his woman, and that it was all right. The whole story about my giving the pistol back to Moon and his coming down to the hack and rescuing his woman is all a fabrication, without a particle of truth in it. The next day Moon did not come at the time named in the afternoon. I found out where he was living, and sent him word that if he did not surrender his money would be forfeited. He then came, gave himself up, was sent to jail and afterwards liberated on a bond by Justice Whittemore. That is all I know about the matter.” “Did you know anything about the origin of the trouble?” “No, only what I have heard. I think Holland acted unwisely in going there and drawing his pistol on Moon when he knew the bad feeling there was between him and Moon. As I hear, when he commenced to pull his pistol Moon jumped right on to him before he could get it out, and as Moon is a heavy, powerful man, Holland got the worst of it.” “What do you think of the present system of police in Denver?” “I think it is d-d bad,” said the chief, “and the sooner it is altered the better. The chief ought to have some control. Now he has none, and he is between two fires all the time, and can’t tell which is the hottest.”
  • WHAT MERRILL SAYS. “Who is running this police force, anyhow?” was asked. “What do you mean?” “Why, who runs the machine? Does Sopris or did Hickey?” “Neither of them. The sporting fraternity had the most to say about what should be done.” “How is that?” “Well, Bill Hickey belonged to the prostitutes and gamblers and he had to do about what they wanted him to do. That accounts for his action in not arresting Moon the other day. Why, when Hickey went up to him, Moon says: “Why [God] [damn] you, I made you what you are.” “Who is at fault, the mayor or Hickey?” “I don’t know. I have heard that the ‘old man’ [Mayor Sopris] was the chief party at fault!” “Was he paid for it?” “So they say. He gets twenty percent of the bunko and gambling profits.” “How do you know that?” “I was told by a bunko steerer himself.” “How does this money reach the mayor? Has it been going through the hands of the chief of police?” “A gambler pays it over.” “They say that some of you officers have been paying for your appointments? How is it?” “There is one man who paid for his.” “Who is the officer?” “McClellan.” “How much did he pay for his appointment?” “Fifty dollars.” “Who did he pay the fifty dollars to?” “Bob Force.” “How do you know?” “McClellan said so to me himself. He told me that he could ‘down’ Bob Force and the mayor, too.” “What does he know about the mayor?” “I don’t know. He won’t tell me. He is keeping it dark.”
  • OFFICER MINART was asked concerning the crookedness of the force. “I don’t know anything about it,” was the reply. “Do you think that the men still remaining on the police force are straight?” “I have no doubt but that some of them are not.” “Who are they?” “I can’t tell you that.” “Why not?” “I’ll tell you all about it in a day or two.”
  • OFFICER M’CARTHY, who was visited at his home of Lawrence street, claimed to know nothing concerning the matter in question. He was very reticent regarding the whole business, asserting that he knew, of his own knowledge, absolutely nothing regarding the crookedness of police affairs. “There seems to have been little or no cause for your removal?” was inquired. “Well, it is true that I was bounced from the force very unjustly. It was, in fact, as an alderman told me today, simply a sacrifice. I was not to blame for the action at the Moon affair, and if I were allowed to be heard in my own behalf, I could show that to be the case. But this whole matter is premature – with me – and I must refuse to say anything to you regarding it at this time.” “But why is it premature?” The gentleman hesitated, and it was discovered soon afterward that he expected to be reinstated again in his old position. “You see around you,” said he, “my large family, of seven persons, who have all to be fed. I have got to feed them and while my position on the force was a humble one at best, it was a living for my little ones, and it would be only simple justice for the council to put me back again.”
  • OFFICER M’CLELLAN was accosted on the street yesterday: “Well what do you know about police matters?” “I know things are getting mixed up awkwardly.” “Do you know of anything “crooked” going on?” “Yes, I know that Alderman R.Y. Force offered to get me on the force if I would give him $50.” “Did you promise to give him that amount?” “I did.” “Of course he succeeded in getting you on the force.” “Well, I got appointed and I suppose it was through his instrumentality that I made it.” “Did you pay Alderman Force the $50 promised?” “I hadn’t the money to pay him at once and it was agreed, when the bargain was made between me and him, that I should pay him as I could spare the money out of my salary.” “Did you pay Alderman Force this bribe?” “No, not all of it.” “Well, what part of it did you pay, and how were the payments made?” “After I began to receive my salary from the city I went on two or three occasions (I am not certain which) to his office and gave him each time a $10 bill. Then I saw that he was not working for my interest and I closed the subscription.” “Can you prove this by evidence other than your own assertion?” “Yes; I will make an affidavit before a notary public as to the statement I have made to you, and, more than that, I can prove it by a witness.” “Is this system of selling places on the police force in general practice?” “If you look around you can see it is a common practice.” “Wasn’t the figure you paid low?” “Yes; a good many men have paid more. I got in cheap.” “Were you not charged with receiving a bribe from a man who was doorkeeper at the Palace theater, for the purpose of aiding him in getting on the police force?” “The man you speak of forced $100 on me to use among the aldermen or in any other way in which influence could be brought to bear to give him the position. I did not want to receive the money, but the applicant was urgent; at last I took it and used some of it in the best way I could for the man’s interest.” “But you did not get him appointed?” “No. I told him $100 was no good among the four or five avaricious aldermen it was necessary to get hold of to pass him.” “He wanted his money back, didn’t he?” “Yes, he kicked, and I paid him back the balance, some fifty-odd dollars, the difference having been spent in his interest.”…
  • THE REMEDY. The only way of getting an efficient police force is to adopt the metropolitan plan. This cannot be done until the legislature meets, but in the meantime some provision must be made for the effective working of the system under the present circumstances. The general feeling is that the best chief that can be obtained, if he will accept the position, is General David J. Cook. All classes of the community seem to have confidence in both his integrity and ability. The present systems can only be redeemed from uselessness by having a strong and able man at its head. There is a general feeling that as soon as the legislature meets a statute should be passed authorizing the system of metropolitan police. Denver has outgrown the principles of a village government. It has grown to be a large city with a vast amount of property to protect, and its police system should be as perfect as possible, instead of being carried on in the loose system that is at present in the force. The plan to adopt, would be to appoint two commissioners, the mayor being ex-officio a third. The three to have full authority over the police force, appoint the chief and other officers, and attend to all of the details of the department. A city of the size of Denver, according to the ratio of other cities, should have a chief, one caption, two sergeants, and about twenty-four patrolmen. Under proper management this number of men would cost less to the city than the present ineffective and defective system. The captain would be on duty at night, taking the chief’s place when he was off duty. The two sergeants, one by day and one by night, would see the men were on their beats and attending to their duty. When the change came, instead of one officer lounging around to his beat to relieve his brother officer, who is very unlikely to be there, the sergeant would take out twelve men, march them around the city, and whenever a man was to be relieved one would drop out of the ranks and the other drop in, and so he would return to the station with the same number of men that he took out, when, after handing in their reports, they would be at liberty to take their rest, the sergeants, during day and night, going to every beat to see that the men were attending to their duty. As long as the police force is under the control of the [city] council, it will be like its controlling power, corrupt. As it is in this city, the whole system is rotten to the core. A majority of the council are no better than thieves. When one makes a haul, the others have to wink at it or be exposed themselves. They are like a lot of school boys. One says if you tell on me I’ll tell on you, and so to preserve peace in the family and plenty in the pocket they are blind to each other’s offences. The only struggle they have is to see who can make the most. Such is a truthful but not flattering estimate of Denver’s city fathers. If a few of them are honest, they must accept the penalty of being in bad company.

On 20 October 1880, George McClellan issued a public statement officially documenting an additional bribery scandal:

  • OFFICER M’CLELLAN’S STATEMENT. The following, said Mr. McClellan, is a complete statement of the matter connected with Mr. [Andrew] Quirk and myself, wherein I am charged with receiving a bribe of $100 to aid him in getting a position on the police force: Mr. Quirk came to John Holland and myself and asked if we would help get him on the police. He was a special officer at the time. We said we would do what we could for him, and we went to what we thought were our friends in the council and asked them to look the man Quirk over and see if they could support him. Two or three weeks after we had worked in his interest all we could, Mr. Quirk came to John Holland and offered him $100 to be used towards getting on the force, who refused to accept it as he had done all he could without it. He then came to me and offered the money. I told him that I had done all I could, and that your hundred dollars will not help your case any better. There is only one man in the council that I can approach with money. He then said, “Well Mac, take it anyway and spend some of it anyway you see fit.” I did so, and spent $49 of it. When he failed to get the appointment on the force he demanded the one hundred dollars, and I tendered him the balance, $51, and told him to go to h-ll for the balance. He went to the mayor and told his story. The mayor called in John Holland and asked him in regard to it. The mayor told Holland to tell Mac to give back the money as it was a swindle. I did not give back the money that day but in a few days met Mayor Sopris on the street and in the presence of Alderman Fairchild told me to give back the money and it would all be settled. I took Mayor Sopris’ word for that, which I would not do again. Sopris sent for me a few days afterwards and told me that The News reporter was after him about the hundred dollar business, and told me that I had better resign before going east as I would loose my position anyway. I told him that I would resign nothing and told him that if he would suspend me on this charge, that I would show up the heads of the police department. That is the abusive language I have Mayor Sopris that he told the council at their secret session, and upon which I was dismissed without a statement from me whatever. This is the truth of the whole matter and which I am prepared to swear to. G. R. McClellan. The council will hold its regular semi-monthly meeting tomorrow evening, when some interesting revelations may be expected.


With public outcry over the corruption of the City Council, it appeared likely that the police officers would soon be re-instated. On 26 Oct 1880 “It is rumored that the police committee will advise the reinstatement of some of the police officers recently discharged. It is stated that McClellan will certainly be put back on the force. The offence for which he was discharged had nothing to do with the Moon affair.” The following day Assistant Police Chief John Holland, recently recovered from his head injuries, ordered a midnight raid on all of Jim Moon’s property. On 29 October 1880, “The mayor has made John Holland chief of police pro tem, or until the election of a successor to W. R. Hickey. Officer Dorsey is in charge of the force after midnight”. Things appeared to be back on track for both Officer George R. McClellan and the Denver Police Force.


But the erosion of public trust in Denver’s City Council and police, combined with Denver’s newspapers fanning the flames of racial violence against the Chinese would have deadly consequences on 31 October 1880.


Up Next: Denver’s Anti-Chinese Riot and Officer McClellan’s Prostitution Scandal and Resignation from the Denver Police Force

Previously: Part One: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

Previously: Part Two: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: His Roots

Previously: Part Three: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: Success In Denver Turns To Smoke

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: His Roots

1903 (possibly) McClellan Genealogy by Imogene McClellan-002.jpg

Imogene (Everson) McClellan was an avid genealogist. About 1903, several years after her husband George Roderic McClellan disappeared, Imogene began compiling her own genealogy. While doing so, she wrote on a small slip of paper all that she could remember about George McClellan’s immediate family, and gave it to her daughter Lillian McClellan. Lillian’s grandniece Maria McClellan discovered it years later, when she inherited Lillian’s papers. It was the first clue to discovering the origins of George Roderic McClellan.

It reads: McClellan Family

Dougal McClellan, son of Dougal McClellan and Mary Scott, born in Edinburg, Scotland married Christina Cameron, b. I[n]verness, Scotland Oct. 12 1817.Married 1834. Came to Nova Scotia soon after their marriage. Their children: Ellen Cameron McClellan, Mary Catherine McClellan, Annie McClellan (Sherman) born March 23 1840, John Duncan McClellan, William Murdock McClellan, George Roderic McClellan, James McClellan, Alexander Cameron McClellan.


1903 (possibly) McClellan Genealogy by Imogene McClellan-001.jpg

McClellan Family Genealogy, written by Imogene (Everson) McClellan for her daughter Lillian McClellan, circa 1903. Image courtesy of the author.


George Roderic McClellan was born 8 May 1848 in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, the youngest of eight children born to Dougal McClellan and his wife Christina Anne Cameron, who was also called Christiana Cameron. Dougal died when George was young and the widowed Christina, unable to support all of her children, had to place them in local homes, working as domestic servants or learning trades. While the specifics of George’s childhood are still elusive, he was likely placed in a home where he apprenticed as a mason. By the age of 12 his mother had left Nova Scotia entirely and was working as a domestic servant in the household of Dr. Charles W. Fabyan of Providence, Rhode Island, a wealthy Methodist physician originally from Maine. George’s eldest sister Mary Catherine followed their mother, where she soon found work as a governess in Providence. George’s second eldest sister, Christina Anne “Annie” McClellan, found work in Portland, Maine, where she met merchant John Doane Wells Sherman. They identified themselves as husband and wife in the 1860 Census in Portland, but their wedding was performed 14 January 1863 in Providence, Rhode Island. When George turned 21 he decided to move from Nova Scotia to seek work in New England, arriving in Portland, Maine in September 1869 and then making his way to Boston, Massachusetts. He may have gone to meet up with his sister Annie (McClellan) Sherman, whose husband John worked in Boston. John D. W. and Annie Sherman boarded at Adams House when they stayed in Boston. Together John and brother Thomas B. Sherman operated the trading company Sherman Bros. & Co. at 234 State Street from at least 1867-1870. As of the 1870 census, ‘Geo R. McClellan’ was working as a mason and boarding in Boston, Massachusetts with grocer Martin Godrin (29, b. Ireland).

1870McClellanGeorgeCensus - Copy.jpg

George Roderic McClellan in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census,  a 25 [sic, 22] year old bricklayer residing as a boarder in Boston, Massachusetts on 14 July 1870

In the spring of 1872 Barnabas Everson hired George McClellan to help with construction at his South Hanson saw-mill, including a tall brick chimney stack to help reduce the threat of fire from the wood-scrap-drive fires which help fueled the saws. George likely took the Old Colony train from South Station in Boston to the South Hanson train station, located right next to Everson’s mill on Main Street. The train station is still in use today. By 1888 Barnabas Everson had become the fifth-richest man in Hanson, MA, through income derived from his sawmill and from his agricultural produce on his 300+ acres of farmland.  [See my article about Barnabas Everson’s safe, which is held by the Hanson Historical Society]. Everson invited the 24 year old George McClellan home for dinner, where he met Barnabas’s 20 year old daughter Imogene.




Possibly tintype of George R. McClellan? Tintypes common ca 1860s-70s.

Undated tintype of George Roderic McClellan. Probably late 1860s or early 1870s. Courtesy of the author.

Imogene Everson say 1870s?

Undated image of Imogene Lillian Everson.  Photographer A[mos] H. Locke, 16 Main St., Plymouth, Mass. Possibly near the time of her marriage, Locke was a photographer in Plymouth in 1872. Courtesy of the author.

They courted and were quickly married in Barnabas Everson’s home on Indian Head Street in Hanson, 3 June 1872, by East Bridgewater Methodist minister Rev. William Freeman Farrington. The choice of a Methodist minister probably reflected George McClellan’s faith with his Scottish-Canadian roots rather than the Everson family’s religion. Barnabas Everson joined several faith groups throughout his life, as did his children Richard and Imogene Everson. As a child, Imogene was briefly raised in the South Hanson Baptist Church. By the mid-1850s, however, the Eversons became captivated by the Spiritualist movement and remained Spiritualists until the 1890s. In the 1890s Imogene began taking Christian Science courses from Mary Baker Eddy. She remained a member of Church of Christ Scientist until her death.


1872 McClellanGeorgeEversonImogeneMarriage-MAVRs - Copy.jpg

Marriage record of George R. McClellan and Imogene L. Everson in Hanson, Mass. on 3 June 1872

Imogene became pregnant immediately following her marriage. Their first child, George Cameron McClellan, was born 5 March 1873 – 9 months and 2 days following their wedding day. His first name honored his father and his middle name was in honor of George’s mother’s surname Cameron.

1873 McClellanGeorgeCameron Birth-MAVRs - Copy.jpg

Birth record of George Cameron McClellan, the first child of George Roderic McClellan and Imogene Lillian Everson, born in Hanson, Mass. 5 March 1873

Having no property and little cash to his name, George and his new wife Imogene McClellan moved into a rent-free house on the east side of Indian Head Street near Maquan Pond in South Hanson owned by Imogene’s mother, Deborah (Bates) Howland Everson. Deborah had lived there with her first husband, Warren Howland, until he died of consumption in 1846, followed shortly thereafter by the death of their infant son and only child Warren Howland Jr. After the 1848 marriage of the widowed Deborah (Bates) Howland to Barnabas Everson they rented out the Howland house for extra income, and Barnabas and Deborah  Everson moved into a newly built house across the road on the west side of Indian Head Street, where they raised their family, including daughter Imogene. In 1873 new father George McClellan was seemingly well situated to step into the family businesses which his father-in-law Barnabas had founded.

Barnabas Everson, like George McClellan, had trained as a mason and trained as a shoemaker, which he worked at when construction opportunities were unavailable or off-season. Barnabas was a talented businessman and soon began acquiring tracts of farmland, woodlots, and cedar swampland in South Hanson, turning his talents to market gardening and selling his agricultural products to larger towns on the South Shore and Boston. He built a sawmill by the South Hanson train station, using lumber from his woodlots and swampland in the cedar swamp in South Hanson, which manufactured box boards and shingles. Everson later sold the sawmill to John Foster and continued to farm until his death.

Everson’s eldest son, Richard A. Everson, two years older than his sister Imogene, followed in his father’s footsteps but also went his own way in business. In his teens, Richard apprenticed and worked as a shoemaker for several years before going to work in Barnabas’s sawmill. Richard then took an interest in cranberry farming and began acquiring a large number of cranberry bogs in Hanson. He invented the “Cape Cod Champion Cranberry Picker” and eventually became the director of the New England Cranberry Sales Company. Richard’s “varied interests are indicative of his enterprise and versatile mind, and the success he has made in his different undertakings shows his executive force,” according to a biography.

Perhaps the career of Richard A. Everson can provide some insight into his brother-in-law George R. McClellan’s next steps. Family stories, you may recall, suggested that George McClellan may have moved to Denver after leaving his family in Hanson, Mass. behind in the 1890s. But it turns out that George went to Denver much earlier than that, and not only once, but two times during his marriage to Imogene.

Hoping to strike it rich in the pioneer town, George McClellan first left for Denver in late 1873, leaving behind his wife Imogene and their infant son George. Gold and silver were mined in Colorado and then filtered through the city of Denver, where business and real estate opportunities abounded in the rough-and-tumble city. After a childhood spent apart from his family, and his adolescence and young adulthood spent moving from place to place in search of employment, he had finally formed roots in Hanson, Massachusetts with his new family. But after one year he was itching to move again, and this time -West.

But what led to such a huge move? A handsome and cocky young man, George likely bumped heads with his father-in-law Barnabas Everson. Although the two men seemingly had much in common, it appears that George McClellan was unwilling to step into his father-in-law’s business and wanted to come into wealth on his own. Barnabas Everson may have been a hard man to work under, since even his own son Richard A. Everson only spent a few years working in Barnabas’ saw mill before starting his own cranberry company in Hanson and building his own success in tandem with his father. However, if Barnabas and his son Richard had disagreements, they nevertheless worked closely together, both on a personal level and physically within the same town. For some reason, however, George McClellan wanted to put 2,000 miles between them. Barnabas himself had an appreciation for risk-taking, having successfully grown his own businesses from small start-ups into large, successful operations. Perhaps George heard about business opportunities from his brother-in-law John D. W. Sherman, whose trading company was also booming in the 1870s. And perhaps at first George even received seed money from Barnabas Everson to support his endeavors in Denver.

But would George McClellan strike it rich in Denver?


Up Next: Part Three: George McClellan’s First Adventures in Denver, Colorado

Previously: Part One: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan


Part One: Family Traditions: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan

My grandmother’s house, the childhood home of my father, has been in the family for several generations. It holds countless memories and stories, and the story of its origin looms large in family lore. My grandmother is a McClellan from Hanson, Mass., but the introduction of the family surname to Hanson was surrounded in a century-old scandal. Built in 1903 for my great-grandmother Imogene Lillian (Everson) McClellan, the house was intended to be a fresh start for Imogene and her three children. Her husband, Nova Scotian-born (with Scottish roots) George Roderic McClellan, had abandoned the family several years previously, and by 1903 Imogene determined to file for divorce in absentia. She sold their house on Main Street in Hanson and built a new one on Phillips Street.


The story goes that one day during the 1890s, George said he was taking the train to Boston to purchase a rug for their house, and he never returned. Imogene hired a private investigator who reported a lead that George may have gone to Denver, but the trail ran cold and no further details could be determined. George was an itinerant bricklayer who had been hired by Imogene’s father, Barnabas Everson, one of the wealthiest men in Hanson, to help build a tall brick chimney for Everson’s sawmill. There he met Barnabas’ daughter Imogene, and they married in 1872. They had four children: George Cameron, born the following year who died young, Lillian, born 1876 who never married, Roderic Cameron b. 1882 and Sherman Barnabas b. 1886 who married the Ramsdell sisters Edith and Bessie, respectively. But sometime after Sherman’s birth, the McClellan marriage crumbled, and when Imogene built her new house in 1903, it was on land inherited from her recently deceased father Barnabas Everson, and thus stood in the shadow of the brick chimney that George McClellan had built years ago.


The Barnabas Everson sawmill chimney stack, built by Barnabas Everson and George R. McClellan ca. 1871-1872, Main Street, South Hanson. Photograph courtesy Mary Blauss Edwards, taken 2010.



My grandfather sitting on the roof of the family house, with the Everson chimney in the background. Photograph courtesy Don Blauss.

And that was that, so far as the memories of George McClellan lingered in family stories.  A bit of Scottish pride from the surname itself, but mysteries surrounding the man who introduced it to the family. Many stories are preserved about Imogene, a tiny woman with a big legacy, but George always remained a question mark in the eyes of her grandchildren.


Over the past decade I have been trying to unravel the story of George McClellan, his origins, his time in Hanson, and his disappearance. The digitization of records from Canada to New England to Denver have been vital in this research process, and over the years I have pieced together incredible details about his life. It’s a tale filled with broken dreams of striking-it-rich turned to literal smoke, small and large family drama, and public scandals of political corruption involving bribery, gambling and prostitution leading to a tragic and deadly race riot. There were many twists in the process of uncovering the complicated life of George Roderic McClellan and his family left behind in Hanson – as well as discovering that following his disappearance, he went on to have a second family, entirely unknown to his first.


But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?


Up Next: Before arriving in Hanson, Mass. in 1872, where did George McClellan come from? Part Two: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: His Roots

Part Three: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: Success In Denver Turns To Smoke

Part Four: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan:Becoming Officer McClellan, the Farcical Moon Affair, and a Bribery Scandal in Denver

Part Five: The Disappearance of George McClellan: Anti-Chinese Riot and Officer McClellan’s Prostitution Scandal and Resignation from the Denver Police

Part Six: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: George and Imogene’s Life in Hanson

Part Seven: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: Life and Death in Boston

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Hidden Sword Blade Guard in a Secret Compartment of Grace McClellan’s Sideboard

In 1969, after the passing of Nana Grace (Hanson) McClellan, a large wooden sideboard from her house was moved next door to her granddaughter Edna’s home, where it has sat by the kitchen table for 43 years. This month, Edna gave the sideboard to her daughter Debbie, and a small group of family members gathered to help maneuver the heavy piece of furniture. As they cleared out the sideboard of possessions that had accumulated over the years, they uncovered a false back in one of the drawers, which was moved to reveal a small hidden compartment. Neither Edna nor anyone in the family had ever known of the compartment’s existence since its arrival in 1969.

Imagine the surprise, then, to open the compartment and discover this little treasure sitting inside:

Brass object discovered in a hidden compartment in Nana McClellan’s sideboard. Photograph courtesy of Don Blauss.

The object was made out of brass, with a design featuring an eagle with six arrows behind the eagle and a narrow arm with a floral design along the arm. It’s the handle and blade guard to a sword – with the sword missing, of course.

Back side of the brass sword handle and blade guard. Photo courtesy of Don Blauss.

Grace (Hanson) McClellan acquired the sideboard from Daniel Waldo Field, the Brockton shoe manufacturer and philanthropist, who died in 1944. Although the exact date of purchase is uncertain, it probably occurred between 31 January 1920 (when Grace Hanson of Whitman, Mass. married Roderic McClellan of Hanson, Mass.) and the death of D. W. Field in 1944.

With that piece of provenance, there are four probable scenarios for who originally owned the blade guard (and missing sword):

1) An ancestor of Grace (Hanson) McClellan (1886-1969)

2) An ancestor of Roderic McClellan (1882-1962), the husband of Grace (Hanson) McClellan

3) An ancestor of Edith (Ramsdell) McClellan (1883-1918), the first wife of Roderic McClellan

4) An ancestor of Daniel Waldo Field (1856-1944). This seems unlikely if the sideboard was sold during his lifetime, because he presumably would have known that the piece was hidden in the compartment. However, if it was sold perhaps as part of his estate after his decease, its possible that his heirs were not aware that it was hidden.

Additionally, there’s the chance that Roderic and Grace McClellan or Daniel Waldo Field picked up the piece as a curiosity and hid it away, although the hidden nature of the compartment suggests it held value – sentimentally or financially. And it’s also possible that someone owned the sideboard prior to D. W. Field, though the chances of it remaining undiscovered during so many moves over the years seems unlikely.

Closeup of blade guard. Photo courtesy of Don Blauss.

Closeup of the top of the blade guard, including the hole where the sword used to sit. Photo courtesy of Don Blauss.


Base of the handle and blade guard. Photo courtesy of Don Blauss.

The eagle with six arrows behind it certainly suggests a military decoration, such as the federal war eagle. A search for similar blade guards online resulted in some similiar matches, such as this blade guard attached to a Spanish-American War sword for a New York officer:

sword was presented to First Lieutenant Alfred Somerset Orchard Commanding Company D 23rd Regiment National Guard of the State of New York on the occasion of his promotion. Courtesy of Specialist Auctions.

A Civil War era Calvary officer’s blade guard had a similiar eagle with six arrows:

Civil War era Calvary Officer’s Sword. Courtesy of Civil War Preservations.

But without any maker’s mark or inscribed date on the brass guard, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact era of the sword. If anyone can locate another guard with the exact same design with a known provenance, that would be extremely useful in helping to solve the mystery of the guard’s original owner.

But assuming that the sword could possibly date to World War I (1917-1918 for U.S.), the Spanish American War (1898), or the Civil War (1861-1865), let’s revisit the four possible owners.

1) An ancestor of Grace (Hanson) McClellan (1886-1969). Grace Hanson was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland to John F. Hanson and Lila Cody and orphaned when she was a teenager. She then went to live in the household of her maternal aunt Margaret (Cody) Andrews and Fred Andrews in Brockton, Massachusetts, where she became a schoolteacher. Little is known about her father, but according to the 1910 Census, he was born in England, and if he was a similar age to his wife Lila Cody (b. ca. 1864, Maryland), he was too young for service in the Civil War. It is uncertain if he was alive for the Spanish American War – the family has not yet been identified in the 1900 Census. So with just those bare facts, he seems an unlikely candidate for the original sword owner. Lila (Cody) Hanson’s father, Martin Cody, was probably the 39 year old “Martin Codey” who enlisted from Baltimore as a private on probably in June 1863 in Company G, 10th Regiment Infantry of Maryland Volunteers for a six month term, but likely never reported for duty when his information was filed 10 July 1863, since he was listed as AWOL on 5 July 1863 and by October 1863 was classified as deserted. Since he enlisted but probably did not report for duty, it is unlikely he received a uniform or weaponry. Additionally, he had two eldest sons, and several of his daughters moved and married in Massachusetts, so any of those children would probably more likely to inherit war mementoes than his orphaned granddaughter Grace Elizabeth Hanson would have. Therefore, Grace (Hanson) McClellan and her immediate ancestors can probably be eliminated as the original owner of the sword, if it indeed dates to Civil War, Spanish American War, or World War I military service.

2) An ancestor of Roderic McClellan (1882-1962), the husband of Grace (Hanson) McClellan. Roderic himself served in the Massachusetts State Guard during WWI, a duty sergeant of N Company in the Fourteenth Regiment of Infantry, which was disbanded on 18 December 1918. He was the top-ranking sharpshooter in his company during that time. However, there is no evidence that he was issued a sword.

Roderic McClellan in uniform. Duty Sergeant, Company N, 14th Regiment of the Massachusetts State Guard. Circa August 1918.

Roderic’s father, George McClellan (1848-1912), was from Nova Scotia and living in Canada during the Civil War (and too young to serve) and had abandoned his wife and children in the 1890s and did not serve in the Spanish American War. His paternal grandfather Dougald McClellan lived in Canada and had died by the American Civil War. His maternal grandfather, Barnabas Everson, did not serve in the Civil War and died before the Spanish American War. Therefore, Roderic McClellan and his immediate ancestors can be eliminated as the original owner of the sword, if it indeed dates to Civil War, Spanish American War, or World War I military service.

3) An ancestor of Edith (Ramsdell) McClellan (1883-1918), the first wife of Roderic McClellan. Roderic McClellan married Grace Elizabeth Hanson in 1920, two years after the death of his first wife, Edith May Ramsdell, who died in 1918 during the Spanish influenza epidemic. Her father, Edgar O. Ramsdell (1863-1899) was too young for Civil War service and did not serve in the Spanish American War. Her paternal grandfather, John Brooks Ramsdell (1819-1895) did not serve in the Civil War and died before the Spanish American War. Her maternal grandfather, Caleb Francs Wright (1828-1907) registered for the Civil War Draft in June 1863, but did not serve in the Civil War or Spanish American War.

4) An ancestor of Daniel Waldo Field (1856-1944). D.W. Field was too young for service in the Civil War, and his father, William Lawrence Field (1828-1914) did not serve. D. W. Field married Rosa A. Howes of Barnstable in 1879. Her father, Philip Howes (1811-1867), also did not serve in the Civil War.

So unfortunately, that provides no likely suspects for the original owner of the sword. Perhaps if more details come to light about the provenance of the sword, or if anyone can help to date the sword more precisely, further details can be brought to light.


Weekend Surprise: Unraveling Royal Descent

I  received my eagerly-anticipated copy of Martin Hollick’s revised edition of New Englanders in the 1600s. It now sits beside its well-used predecessor, and contains even more families, detailing all modern scholarship which has been performed on a given individual or family from 1980-2010. I use it constantly for work, but rarely ever sat down with it to review my own early New England lines, and became inspired to do so this weekend.

I’m always touting the significance of using current, scholarly research, since so many early genealogical works contained errors, small or large, which were then repeated ad nauseum throughout subsequent books – and then with the advent of the internet, exponentially spread far and wide. But then along comes a modern article published in a respected genealogical or historical journal which corrects those mistakes, or discovers brand new avenues of research. Thankfully, many of those articles are becoming available online, particularly through NEHGS, and are therefore easier to access. With that in mind, I am a bit sorry to admit that up until this point, I have never truly sat down to evaluate my early New England lines. The excuses? Sure! Working for the past five years at NEHGS, I often had clients and patrons ancestors running through my head instead of my own. And when I did have some time to work on my lines, I tended to focus on either the brick walls on my father’s lines, or the complete unknowns on my mother’s lines. Dad was lucky enough to come from several generations which had at least one or two people interested in genealogy, beginning with my great-great-great-grandmother Imogene (Everson) McClellan, and therefore I inherited a big chunk of work already “done” (especially those early New England lines) – whereas my mother, who descends entirely from Irish immigrants who ended up in Boston, had no idea what her roots were beyond the immediate family that she knew. And then of course I married and gained a whole new set of lines to research, since my husband’s British father knew nothing concrete beyond his mother in London, and my husband’s mother had only two generations back to Italy, with various details to be discovered. Add to that the fact that between me and many of my Great Migration ancestors are 13-14 generations. At 14 generations of ancestry, one has a whopping 16,382 ancestors – quite an overwhelming number of people to study exhaustively. So that’s a few mea culpas to add to the mix!

Grandma Imogene’s genealogical research, which largely dates from the first decade of the 20th century, was placed on the “someday” pile to review, and her beautiful fan charts were copied into my Rootsmagic software as tentative. Imogene’s work deserves a full blog entry – or several – as I have been lucky enough to inherit several wonderful pieces of her research. Handwritten letters to and from town clerks across New England, her notes on various contemporary published genealogies, her ancestral charts, as well as primary documents from her father’s line, including some of his deeds and probate (and those of his ancestors), as well as material culture such as quilts and silverware [which has been occasionally highlighted in previous entries].

Imogene descended entirely from early New England roots. And even after just one weekend of digging deeper at her research, it is quite impressive how much of her work holds up to this day. Many little red flags showed up, particularly around the identities of wives of Great Migration immigrants and other 17th century wives, who were falsely identified in genealogies dating to the 1800s – which of course is what Imogene would have been using as her reference works. I developed a folder for all the Great Migration sketches pertaining to her ancestors from Robert Charles Anderson’s series. Imogene’s work was essentially limited to mere names and dates, so works such as the Great Migration are a wonderful way to access modern scholarship which fully documents the lives of those immigrants (the good, the scandalous, and the mundane!).

So far, so good in terms of general accuracy. But then I worked my way to the Big Two: Imogene’s two gateway ancestors to royal descent. Any wagers on the conclusion? Both lines were completely bogus, perpetuated by early authors hoping to connect early New England immigrants (with no known ancestry) to more noble families in England with the same surname.

1. John Dingley of Marshfield, Plymouth, Mass. Supposedly John’s Dingley line connected to the Neville line, which connected to Beauchamp, and eventually to King Edward III, King Edward II, King Edward I, Henry III, King John,  King Henry II, Empress Matilda, King Henry I, and William of Normandy. However, according to TAG 56:207-210 and 61:234-40, John Dingley was unlikely to be the son of the couple Francis Dingley and Elizabeth Bigge who descended from the Neville line.
2. John Churchill of Plymouth. Many attempts to connect him with the ancestry of Sir William Churchill, which ties into a royal bastard line. But his origins remain unknown.

That eliminated all of Imogene’s royal lines. I wasn’t all too surprised to discover it. And frankly I equally love discovering new lines as much as I love disproving false ones. At work I had a running log of bogus “Indian princess” lines as well as a log of particularly egregious 19th century historians who not only made mistakes, but outright fabricated lies and documentary evidence (including writing false vital records on a piece of paper and then dipping it in tea to make the paper seem historic!). But there was a certain appeal to claiming descent from Charlemagne.

Then I began thinking about my extended family. As I mentioned, Imogene’s work has been known in the family since the early 1900s – that’s quite a few generations who took some pride in their royal descent. In my father and grandmother’s generations, quite a few uncles, aunts, and cousins have taken frequent trips to the British Isles, seeking out their “ancestral castles” along the way. Did I have the heart to break it to them?

I called it a night. On Sunday I went back to investigating a few more of Imogene’s lines, to continue adding documentation to her lines, and discovered that an “unknown” wife in Imogene’s time has subsequently been discovered and verified, and traced her line back to the Puritan minister Rev. John Maverick and his wife Mary Gye.

NEHGS genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts compiled The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants, which includes Mary Gye as a true gateway ancestor. 12 generations between Mary Gye and Henry III, King of England and his wife Eleanor of Provence. Huzzah! The ability to tell the cousins that only some of the castles they visited were bogus connections… except Gary writes: “Further documentary proof of generations 7-9 would be desirable”. That’s because it looks like this:

1. Henry III, King of England, d. 1272 = Eleanor of Provence
2. Edmund Plantagenet, 1st Earl of Lancaster = Blanche of Artois
3. Henry Plantagenet, 3rd Earl of Lancaster = Maud Chaworth
4. Eleanor Plantagenet = Richard FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel
5. John FitzAlan, 1st Baron Arundel = Eleanor Maltravers
6. Joan FitzAlan = Sir William Echyngham
7. Joan Echyngham, said to be married to Sir John Baynton
8. Henry Baynton = (_)
9. (said to be) Joan Baynton = Thomas Prowse
10. Mary Prowse = John Gye
11. Robert Gye = Grace Dowrish
12. Mary Gye of Mass. = Rev. John Maverick

Now, I haven’t had a chance to review all the footnotes to get the full story of why, if generations 7-9 are considered sketchy in terms of evidence [though the two “said to be”s surely stick out], that they are accepted as more true than not. Gary had enough faith in the line to include it, but even he feels the connection could use additional documentation.

And of course, with Henry III as an ancestor, that also means we can claim again as ancestors his direct line of royal descent : King John,  King Henry II, Empress Matilda, King Henry I, and William of Normandy.

So in the course of one weekend, I went from erasing all lines of Imogene’s royal descent, to gaining one royal line, to discovering that line, while considered valid, is still a bit sketchy… call it a possible royal line? Martin has discussed the complications of medieval genealogy, but he has been able to document a line of royal ancestry from scratch – perhaps a more thorough review of the sources documenting the ancestry of Mary Gye could upgrade her royal descent from a possibility to a probability.

Mini-Genealogical Biography of Erastus W. Everson

Erastus W. Everson (1837-1897)

Erastus W. Everson was the eldest child of William F. Everson and his wife, Salome B. Crocker. He was born about 1837 probably in Hanson, MA. Three years later, his brother Frederic O. Everson was born, followed by his sister Sylvania Everson. They grew up on Pleasant Street in Hanson.

In 1850, at the age of 13, Erastus was living in Hanson with his family, and a 17 year old servant (or boarder) named Fidelia Hunt. He and his siblings were attending one of the small schoolhouses in South Hanson. Next door to them, extended Everson and Crocker relatives had a small shoemaking shop, and Erastus’s father most likely worked here during the day. To the north of them them was the Baptist parsonage, where Asa Bunson, the Baptist clergyman lived. Across from the Everson family was Levi Thomas’s family (Levi Thomas’ son, Levi Zelida Thomas, was a 23 year old school teacher at the time, and would eventually have a Hanson school named in his honor).

In 1860, Erastus, now in his early twenties, had moved up to Dedham, where he was staying at a hotel in Dedham village while he worked as a copyist. The hotel hosted a wide variety of individuals and families. There Erastus probably interacted with the hotel keeper and his family, W.H. Crossman, along with his wife and three young children. Perhaps he briefly befriended Frederic Eley, a 21 year old law student, as well as a 35 year old wood carver and his family, a 30 year old physician and his family, and many more who moved in and out of the small hotel.

But war was coming. Erastus enlisted for the Civil War as a Sergeant on 16 April 1861 at the age of 24 from Dedham, MA. He enlisted in Company A, 3rd Infantry Regiment Massachusetts (The Halifax Light Infantry) on 23 April 1861, and was mustered out on 22 July 1861. His brother, Frederick O. Everson, had also enlisted as a Corporal on 16 April 1861 at the age of 21, and several days later, on 23 April 1861, Fred enlisted in the same company as his brother Erastus. Fred was mustered out on 22 July 1861. Frederick did not enlist again, but Erastus was attracted to the army, and decided to provide more service.

Erastus soon enlisted in Company H, 18th Infantry Regiment Massachusetts on 24 August 1861 and was then promoted to Full Sergeant 1st Class on the same day. A year later, he was promoted to Full Lieutenant 2nd Class on 01 August 1862. At the end of the month, he was wounded on 30 August 1862 at the second Bull Run, VA. He was then again wounded on 13 December 1862 at Fredericksburg, VA. Several months later, he was promoted to Full Lieutenant 1st Class on 25 February 1863. He was honorably discharged from Company H, 18th Infantry Regiment Massachusetts on 10 December 1863, and the following day joined Company D, 20 Veteran Res. Corps, as a 1st Lieutenant.

In 1866, Erastus was assigned as the inspector general of the South Carolina troops for a period of eighteen months, and was stationed in Charleston, SC. He then served as an aid for the Freedman’s Bureau for three years, during which time he traveled all over South Carolina and made many acquaintances. One of his main tasks was to find and arrest “bushwhackers”, who were men that engaged in guerilla warfare attacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction. From 1869-1870, Erastus was stationed in Anderson, SC as an assistant assessor, and then he moved to Columbia, SC in 1870. In October of 1870, Erastus was present for the Laurens County, SC riot, in which he overheard and tried to prevent presumed Ku Klux Klan activity. He narrowly escaped with the assistance of several men in the area, who he soon was horrified to discover were probably Ku Klux members, and therefore responsible for the riot. My next posting will deal more with this fascinating event in Erastus’s life.

Erastus was a skilled verbal negotiator and eloquent writer (and from his writings and interviews, he had a sense of humor!). After serving as a soldier during the Civil War and sustaining a total of 7 bullets, he served as an aid that was not involved in direct battles. He was commissioned by General Howard to the Freedman’s Bureau, and spent the early part of the Reconstruction negotiating and inspecting issues regarding things such as black labor and dealing with abandoned plantation property. The Freedman’s Bureau became very political towards the end of its time, encouraging blacks to vote for the Republican party, and was disbanded in 1869, although Erastus preferred not to be “mixed up” with politics. He was a self-proclaimed conservative Republican and greatly admired Abraham Lincoln and the reconstruction efforts. After his time with the Freedman’s Bureau, Erastus became an editor for the Union, SC newspaper, which was a Republican newspaper. “It is considered a conservative newspaper up North. They are sending me letters all the time, thinking that I am going astray!.. I am not a radical at all. I am not a radical republican, and never have been; but I believe in fair play”. Erastus spent the rest of his life as a newspaper man, both in the role of editor and writer. The 1880 Massachusetts census lists him as the “editor of a newspaper”, and in 1894 he is listed as a “journalist” from Marshfield, MA.

While a wealth of fascinating documents exist regarding Erastus’s time with the army, it is more difficult to ascertain the state of Erastus’s marriage from the documentary evidence. On October 28, 1869, Erastus married Harriet Rebecca Fales in Dedham, MA. Harriet’s father had died when she was two, and she had lived with her widowed mother in Dedham. It is unknown how long their courtship had been, due to the fact that for the majority of the 1860s, Erastus was not in Massachusetts. They married in the midst of his commission as an assistant assessor for the army in Anderson, South Carolina. They are listed as living together in Anderson, SC in the 1870 census, so Harriet moved down to South Carolina to be with him.

By 1880, the Eversons had returned to Massachusetts. The 1880 Massachusetts census presents a bit of a mystery, that either indicates a mistake made on behalf of the census takers, or that the Eversons were separated. Erastus is listed as living in Hanson, MA with his 65 year old parents and his 14 year old niece, Ella Gurney, the daughter of his sister Sylvania (who died in 1866). He is marked under the column for single, not widowed or divorced. Harriet is listed as Harriet Everson, living with her mother Rebecca Fales in Dedham, MA. She is noted as “married”. The Dedham census was taken on June 14 1880, and the Hanson census was taken on June 16, 1880. Perhaps Erastus was simply visiting his parents during this time, and the census takers in each town recorded incorrect information – the census taker is supposed to record who is living in the household, even if they are away on business, at school, etc. Certainly the census contains mistakes.

Harriet died September 28, 1887 in Dedham, MA at the age of 45, and is listed as the wife of Erastus Everson. They had no children together. Perhaps this was in part due to Erastus’ war wounds, or estrangement. In his pension application, Erastus is listed as an invalid, but certainly he could walk, ride, and travel long distances, which he did for the Freedman’s Bureau, and when he was charged with arresting bushwhackers, although he claimed to be easily tired due to his wounds.

Erastus next appears in the 1894 Marshfield, MA Directory, seven years after his wife’s death. His residence is listed as “North, on Green’s Harbor” and his occupation as a journalist. Family legend says that Erastus was granted the land north of Green Harbor, and the small island on the river as a reward for his Civil War service. I would like to research more about this. When was he granted the land? Did he have a permanent residence here? Certainly by the 1890s he did. Here is a photograph of Erastus in front of his hunting shack with two hunting dogs, supposedly on the Marshfield island which our family now owns:

Erastus died in 1897 in Marshfield, MA at the age of 60, having lived a very colorful life. Family legend says the Marshfield island was passed to Sherman McClellan, but at the time of Erastus’ death, Sherman was only 11. Sherman, Roddy, and Lillian’s mother was Imogene Everson. Both Imogene Everson and Erastus Everson were great-grandchildren of Levi Everson and Eunice Briggs. Erastus, having no children, passed the land via his cousin Imogene, and the land was eventually handed to Sherman McClellan. Further deed research is needed to verify the succession of ownership. That is a project for another time!

McClellan Sterling Silverware

Here’s a story with many questions still left unanswered. Nevertheless, it is amazing what a bit of oral tradition, combined with document research and material culture can reveal.

For my bridal shower, I was blessed to receive from my aunt Maria a set of silverware that belonged to my great aunt Lillian McClellan, the sister of my great-great grandfather, Roddy McClellan. I also received a family bible that had also once belonged to Lillian (although the bible, along with the bookmarks within it, will be an interesting story for another time!)

This is the silverware, with a note from Maria:

The pieces are beautifully designed, with elegant floral patterns along the handles. In addition, the ends of each of the handles are engraved with the word “Lillian”:

For Christmas, my parents and Maria came together to give me a truly wonderful gift, certain to captivate the genealogist in me: Maria had a wooden silverware box that had originally belonged to Imogene (Everson) McClellan, Lillian’s mother, and it was also in this box Lillian kept her engraved silverware.

Here is the wooden silverware box:

On the top of the box, however, is a small gold plate shaped like a shield that has the name Barnard engraved on it.

Here is the Barnard inscription:

To the best of my knowledge, there in no family genealogical connection to any Barnards. In addition to the box itself from Maria, my parents added to the gift by doing research themselves. Dad’s knowledge of woodworking led him to the observation that the box was not hand-crafted by a family member – the work is beautiful and probably professional, as there is no external evidence of how it is connected (nails, pegs, etc). But neither is there any evidence of company markings or logos. Maria had pointed out that perhaps the silverware itself would have markings that would identify who made the silverware, and perhaps that would be connected to the box. My parents hypothesized that perhaps the silverware was purchased in the box, and that there might be a direct connection between the silverware and the box which held it. So my mother went online and found that the Barnard family of London had a long history of creating silverware, and that some of their markings indeed had symbols placed within a shield.

So for Christmas, I received not only the silverware box, but also a family story and some clues uncovered by my parents. The next part of this was to return home and check the markings on the silverware and see if they could be identified Barnard silverware.

On the fork, knife, and spoon were three hallmarks –
a lion, an ornate capital letter “R”, and a crown
(apologies for the quality, this is the clearest photo I could take of such fine detailing):

The lion marker is the most straightforward. This is a “standard mark”, which indicates the standard of the silver, in this case it is Sterling .925. The word STERLING after the marks also brings this point home! However, the use of the lion for the standard mark indicates that the silverware was made in Britain.

The second mark is an ornate capital R. This is the “date letter”, and is a little more tricky to interpret. The date letter system was introduced in London in 1478, and later in other major cities where silverware was made. “Its purpose was to establish when a piece was presented for assay or testing of the silver content. The mark letter changed annually in May, the cycles of date letters were usually in strings of 20 and each cycle was differentiated by a changing of the font, letter case and shield shape.” (from British Hallmarks) Although there are a wide variety of letters depending upon the city, Lillian’s silverware date letter seems to best match with London’s date letter of 1852.

Here are the London date letters (see the 1852 capital R):
Imogene Everson was born in 1852. Perhaps her parents purchased this silverware in honor of her birth, and Imogene later gave this silverware to her only daughter, Lillian, who then chose to engrave the silverware with her name.

The crown and lack of a maker’s mark are a bit of a curveball. The crown is an extremely generic symbol, and without a maker’s mark, it’s probably impossible to judge who exactly crafted this silverware. So the Barnard connection is still left a mystery. Perhaps the silverware was an inexpensive line of the Barnard’s. Perhaps Imogene simply received the box from elsewhere – a friend, a neighbor, etc. Whatever the case (and perhaps time will reveal more answers) it is wonderful to be in possession of objects with such a history, and I hope to someday pass these on to a daughter of my own.

To Maria, Mom, Dad, Lillian, and Imogene – thank you.