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Hon. Alexander McLean

McLEAN, Hon. Alexander. — (By W. H. Hainline). — Alexander McLean, eldest son of Hector and Catherine (McMillan) McLean, was born in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, on the 24th day of September, 1833. As soon as he arrived at a suitable age he was sent to a private school in his native city, where he remained until he was thirteen years of age. On the 5th day of June, 1849, with his parents, he bade farewell to his native land, and in one of the slow-sailing vessels of that day, took passage for the United States, with the intention of making that free country his home in the future. After a tedious voyage of forty-two days, the family arrived in New York on the 17th day of July following. Here they embarked in a steamer on the Hudson River, their final destination being McDonough County, Ill. Leaving the steamer at Albany, they proceeded by canal to Buffalo, where, in one of the celebrated lake steamers, they passed on to Chicago, thence by canal to La Salle, from which place they continued their journey by the Illinois River to Sharpe's Landing, where a conveyance was secured which carried them to McDonough County, where they arrived in the vicinity of Camp Creek, about eight miles south of Macomb, on the 14th day of August, making a comparatively speedy journey for that day.

At this time the subject of our present sketch was about fifteen years of age. With his parents he remained in the neighborhood of Camp Creek, where they had relatives residing, until the following spring, when the family removed to the town of Macomb. Here he worked with his father for several years, at the trade of stone-mason. Notwithstanding he belonged to the class of "greasy mechanics," and procured his living by the "sweat of his face," he was admitted to the society of the best families of the place and soon became a favorite with them all. Having an excellent memory, with a pretty thorough acquaintance with the literature of the day, and possessed of good conversational powers, he made many friends and secured the attention of those who were enabled to advance his interests in many ways, as is evidenced by the fact that, before he attained his majority, he was selected by Hon. William H. Randolph, the Circuit Clerk of McDonough County, as deputy, which position he accepted and during the remainder of the term served in that capacity, and was subsequently deputy under J. B. Cummings several years, giving the utmost satisfaction, not only to Mr. Randolph but to the members of the bar and citizens generally. In the discharge of his duties as Deputy Circuit Clerk, on account of his efficiency and strict attention to the office, Mr. Randolph became attached to him and there sprang up a friendship between them that was lifelong in its duration, and on the advice and consent of no one did Mr. Randolph more firmly rely than on young Alexander McLean.

When Mr. Randolph's term of office expired, on his suggestion Mr. McLean, with others, opened an office for the purchase and sale of real estate, under the firm name of McLean, Randolph & Co. This firm, for several years, did quite an extensive business in that line, but in 1858, Mr. McLean withdrew from it.

On the 318t day of December, 1856, Mr. McLean was united in marriage to Miss Martha J. Randolph, daughter of Benjamin F. Randolph, one of the pioneers of the county. As a result of this union ten children were born unto them, nine sons and one daughter, seven of whom are now living, three having gone to the "better land."

In February, 1864, Mr. McLean left Macomb, for New York City, having received the appointment as clerk of a large real-estate dealer there, who was engaged in the purchase and sale of western land, and tor the seven years following was a resident of that city and Brooklyn. The firm with which he was connected enjoyed a very extensive and lucrative trade, and the knowledge acquired by personal dealing enabled Mr. McLean to be of great assistance in the selection of lands.

While a citizen of Brooklyn, N. Y., in the month of December, 1867, Mr. McLean and his wife united with the Clinton Avenue Baptist Church, and shortly thereafter, was elected Superintendent of its Sunday School, for two years officiating in that capacity. After returning to Macomb, in 1871, he was chosen to fill the same position in the Baptist Sunday School of that city, retaining that position for many years. In this particular field of labor he has been an earnest worker, devoting to it much time and thought. In the County Sunday School Association, he has been one among his most zealous workers, doing much to promote its interests. For some years he has been chosen by that body as editor of the Sunday School Column of the "Macomb Journal," which position he has satisfactorily filled.

Mr. McLean, on several occasions, has been chosen by the people to fill some public office, each time discharging its duties in a satisfactory manner. The first public office which he was called upon to fill, as has already been remarked, was that of Deputy Circuit Clerk under William H. Randolph. The next was that of Clerk of the Board of Trustees of the town of Macomb. The first office to which he was elected was that of Alderman, in 1863, when he carried his ward against one of the strongest men in the opposite and ruling party — the Democratic. On this occasion many Democrats voted for him on personal grounds, notwithstanding he was regarded as a very radical Republican. That he was qualified for the position, and would discharge its duties faithfully, was doubted by no one. In 1873 he was nominated by the Republicans of the city of Macomb for the office of Mayor, to which position he was duly elected by a good majority. In 1874, 1875 and lS7ti, he was re-elected each year by an increasing majority over the one preceding it. As an officer he brings to the discharge of his duties a will and determination to do all things well. In the four years that he held the office of Mayor, more public improvements were made than during the same period in the existence of the city: more sidewalks were built and kept in repair: more miles of road faithfully worked; a handsome and costly school house erected and paid for; gas introduced, and many other things accomplished, while, at the same time, taxes were never materially increased. This, in a measure, is the result of personal attention given to the office, more time having been devoted by him. to the discharge of its duties than by any one by whom it had previously been filled.

As a politician, Mr. McLean is an earnest and consistent Republican, believing thoroughly in tne principles advocated by that party, never yielding what he considers to be right at any time for present success. During the Presidential campaign of 1876 he was the candidate for Presidential Elector for what was then the Tenth District, of which McDonough County forms a part. As a worker in a campaign he is indefatigable, and, if success is possible, he will help largely to secure it. The State having been carried by the Republicans, he was, of course, chosen an Elector, and in the meeting of the Electoral College at Springfield, was chosen by his colleagues as messenger to carry the returns to the City of Washington and place them in the hands of the Vice-President of the United States, in whose custody they are kept until they are opened according to law.

Mr. McLean has made two trips to Europe since his settlement in this country, traveling over a large portion of the continent and visiting the scenes of his childhood, after each visit returning more reconciled than ever to the home of his adoption. Every part of this grand Union he loves, and its free institutions he cherishes.

The cause of education finds in Mr. McLean a most earnest supporter, and whether it be for the common school or for the higher and collegiate institutions of the land, he is at all times willing to sacrifice time and money for the good of either. Recognizing this fact. Governors Oglesby and Cullom, during their respective administrations, appointed him one of the Trustees of the Illinois Industrial University — now the University of Illinois — a position to which he has since been repeatedly reelected, and which he was eminently qualified to fill. We risk nothing in asserting that no member of the Board attends more faithfully to the duties of the office, in which his incumbency has already covered a period of thirty years.

In religious, as in educational matters, he takes great interest, and in every part of the work in which a lay member is called upon to act, he is ready to perform his part. He was Moderator of the Salem Baptist Association, of which the Baptist Church of Macomb forms a part, for twenty-five years. He also takes an active part in benevolent and fraternal orders: has been an Odd Fellow for over fifty years, also during the same time has been a member of the Masonic fraternity. Royal Arch Mason, Knight Templar and member of the Consistory, of which he was Grand Commander for three years. Some sixteen years ago he became a member of the Supreme Council, a Thirty-third degree member of the Order, and a member of the Eastern Star. Other positions held by him in connection with fraternal associations include those of officer of the Council of Cryptic Masonry: Grand Master Workman of the A. O. U. W., and Grand Commander of Selected Knights. A. O. V. W. of America, of which, for many years, he was also Grand Recorder; Grand President and Grand Secretary of the I. O. M. A.: and member of the Knights of Pythias, in which he held the position of Chancellor Commander. Mr. McLean has taken an active part in all public improvements and devoted much time to educational matters; was Chairman of the Board of Education two years, and as already stated has been a Trustee of the University of Illinois for thirty years, a position to which he was re-elected in 1906 for a term of six years. It spared to the end of his term, this will give him thirty-six years of continuous service in this important office, which goes tar to show the appreciation of his constituents. He was also one of the first Trustees of the Public Library, which is now the Carnegie Public Library of Macomb, Ill.

Mr. McLean is about five feet nine inches in height, of good proportions, well developed muscles, light hair, blue eyes, a good head and a benevolent looking lace. As a citizen, he enjoys the respect and confidence of all who know him. No enterprise for the public good fails to receive his earnest and undivided support. Time and money with him are no object, provided good can be accomplished. As a friend and neighbor, he is kind and generous, never turning a deaf ear to the unfortunate; as a husband and father, he is affectionate and indulgent.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 952-955, extracted 12 Sep 2019 by Norma Hass.

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