Biography of George S. and Elliott S. McCleary

George S. and Elliott S. McCleary, Pennsylvania natives, have become key figures in Nelson Township as dairy farmers. Since their arrival in 1865, they’ve developed their farms into thriving businesses, focusing on quality cattle and dairy production. George’s 138-acre farm and Elliott’s adjoining property showcase their commitment to modern farming practices and community contribution. The brothers’ journey from Pennsylvania, influenced by their Scottish-Irish heritage and family’s pioneering spirit, reflects a legacy of hard work and dedication to agriculture. Their successful ventures in dairy farming underscore their significant role in the local agricultural community.

George S. and Elliott S. McCleary are engaged in business as dairy farmers, and each has a well-stocked and finely equipped dairy farm in Nelson Township. These gentlemen are natives of Lawrence County, Pa., the first-mentioned born February 15, 1848. George McCleary’s farming interests are centered on section 13, where he owns one hundred and thirty-eight acres of excellent farming land, finely adapted to stock-raising purposes, and is one of the best dairy farms in the neighborhood. It is stocked to its fullest capacity with cattle of good breeds, and for the past two years, Mr. McCleary has kept a herd of thirty dairy cows and by his able management has made this branch of agriculture a paying business. He and his brother came to this county with their parents and other members of the family in the spring of 1865 and have since been numbered among its most desirable citizens. He spent the first eighteen months after his arrival in Dixon Township, and since then has been a resident of Nelson Township, becoming the owner of his present farm in 1876.

The marriage of George McCleary with Miss Mary A. Alcorn was solemnized in his native county. She was also a Pennsylvanian by birth, born in Beaver County, in 1855, and was ten years old when her parents, Henry and Catherine (Baker) Alcorn, removed to Lawrence County, where they now live retired, having formerly been engaged in farming. On May 29, 1889, death crossed the threshold of the home of our subject and took from him his beloved wife, who had filled in a perfect measure her position as daughter, wife, and mother, and was truly a homemaker. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and her Christian spirit was evinced in her daily life. Four children were born of her marriage with our subject, all of whom are with him and are named as follows: Edna, Iva P., Charles N., and Frances C.

Elliott S. McCleary has won a fine reputation as a farmer of much ability, who employs modern methods in conducting his operations, keeps his farm up to a high standard in point of cultivation and improvement, and is raising first-class stock. His homestead lies on sections 12 and 13, Nelson Township, and here he and his family live very pleasantly. He gives much attention to the dairy business and has thirty-five cows of the finest breed for that purpose, which net him a good yearly income.

He has found, in his wife, formerly Miss Melinda Gruver, a capable coadjutor in the making of a home. Their marriage was celebrated in Nelson Township, where Mrs. McCleary was reared and educated, coming here with her parents when a child. She, like her husband, is a native of Pennsylvania, born in Columbia County in 1853, and is a daughter of Uriah Gruver, a wealthy farmer living in Dixon.

Our subjects are sons of William McCleary, who was a native of the same Pennsylvania county in which they were born. He in turn was a son of Samuel McCleary, who was a native of the North of Ireland and came to this country when he was twelve years old, with his parents, who were of Scotch-Irish stock. The family first settled in Westmoreland County, Pa., and when Samuel was a young man, he removed from there to what is now New Castle, the county seat of Lawrence County, that city now being built upon the farm that the grandfather of our subjects developed from the dense growth of primeval forest that then prevailed in that section of the country. Samuel McCleary spent his remaining days in the home that he made there, dying at the age of fifty-six. He was prominent in promoting the growth of New Castle and lived to see it a flourishing town. He was one of its pioneer merchants and one of its principal businessmen in his day. Besides running a mercantile establishment, he did an extensive business as a drover, taking stock to Philadelphia, and with the proceeds of the sales buying goods to sell at home. He and his wife were great workers in church matters, and they helped to organize the Presbyterian Church in their town.

Samuel McCleary was married in New Castle to Nancy Gorden, who was born on the Atlantic Ocean when her parents were emigrating to this country from their ancestral home in Scotland. They were a branch of the celebrated Gordon family so well known in the history of Scotland. They settled first in Westmoreland County, Pa., after their arrival in America, and thence removed to Mercer County in the early days of its settlement, and were pioneers of the country around New Castle, where they hewed out a farm from the wilderness. Some of them served as privates in the War of 1812. They were stanch Presbyterians in religion and were Whigs in politics, while the old stock of McClearys were Democrats. Mrs. Samuel McCleary survived her husband many years and died during the Rebellion when nearly eighty years of age. She was a large woman, of fine physique, and retained her bodily and mental faculties to the last.

William McCleary, as the eldest of ten children, looked after the large farm, owned by his father, after he attained manhood. He was married in New Castle to Miss Selinda Moorehead, who was born and reared at that place, her parents, who were of Pennsylvania birth and of Scotch-Irish blood, having been early settlers of Lawrence County, moving there from Westmoreland County. Mr. and Mrs. McCleary lived in New Castle many years after their marriage, and there all their children were born. In 1865 they came to Illinois and established a new home in Lee County, in which the father passed the rest of his days. He died in the fall of 1880, at the age of sixty-seven, leaving behind him the record of a well-filled life and the legacy of a good name, which his children and children’s children hold in reverence. He was an active member of the Presbyterian Church and was deeply interested in every movement for the moral uplifting of the community. In politics, he was thoroughly in sympathy with the Democratic party. His wife, who survives him and makes her home with her children, was born June 30, 1816, yet old age has not dimmed her faculties. She is a noble Christian woman and is a member of the Presbyterian Church.

Of the seven daughters and two sons born to the McClearys, one daughter and two sons are now dead. James enlisted in October 1861, in Company B, of the famous Cooper’s Battery, in the First Pennsylvania Artillery, and fell while bravely fighting for his country at the battle of Gettysburg; John C., the eldest son, a farmer in Palmyra Township, married Mary Gruver of Nelson; Mary is the wife of Jerry Hetler, a farmer of Dixon Township; George S. is the third son of the family; Kate, now deceased, was the former wife of D. C. Harden, of whom a biography appears in this work; William, a farmer in Carroll County, married Amanda Mason; Elliott S. is the next in order of birth; Joseph, who married Ida Long, is a member of the firm of McCleary & Long, boot and shoe merchants of Dixon. All the brothers are very successful in business. All but two of them are Presbyterians, and all of them are stalwart Democrats in politics.


Biographical Publishing Company, Portrait and biographical record of Lee County, Illinois, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens, together with biographies of all the governors of the state, and of the presidents of the United States, Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892.

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