Biography of Hector McLean
FROM: History of Livingston County, New York
By James H. Smith
Assisted by Hume H. Cole
Published By D. Mason & Co. 1881


The subject of this sketch was born in Argyleshire, Scotland, in 1776. He was the oldest of seven children, and emigrated to New York city in 1805.

Small events sometimes decide the fate of nations, as well as individuals and families, and the destiny of the McLean family was probably decided by a difficulty that occurred between the father of Hector, and the factor of the landlord on whose estate the family resided. They had an altercation at the public house in the little town where they lived, and the factor received a severe drubbing. During the absence of the landlord for several years on the Continent, the aggrieved factor taking advantage of his master's absence, refused to renew the lease of the farm.

Hector had contemplated coming to America, but received strong opposition from his parents and other members of his family. When his father lost the farm which had been under the control of his ancestry from time immemorial, he was so sorely grieved that he decided at once to accompany his son to America, binding him under the solemn obligation, that whatever their destiny might be in the "New World" while living, in death their bones should repose in adjacent graves.

By occupation, Hector was a seafaring man, carrying on commercial transactions between Greenock, Glasgow, and the numerous Islands off the coast of the West Highlands, and his father was a well-to-do farmer. They disposed of their interests in Scotland, and with all their worldly effects embarked from Greenock for the New World in October, 1805. After a tempestuous passage of over nine weeks, a distant view of land was obtained off Sandy Hook. Just then a British man-of-war hove in sight and fired a shot across their bow, as a signal for them to stop. A "pressgang" came on board and claimed Hector and his two brothers as "lawful subjects of His Majesty," who were endeavoring to escape from the kingdom of Great Britain. Resistance was worse than useless, for the "French war" was then raging, and the King wanted soldiers and sailors.

The poor captives showed their clearance from the port of Greenock for America, but all in vain. No time was allowed for parleying, and the peremptory order "get ready and go aboard the boat," sent a thrill of horror to the hearts of the stricken captives. The tears of their aged parents were unavailing, but finally money, offered as a ransom, softened the obdurate heart of the British officer, and he consented to their release on the conditions that three of the vessel's crew should be substituted, and that they should hand over to him all their money and valuables.

Through the efforts of.McLean and his brothers working before the mast, the vessel was brought to port, but when the family landed in New York they had not the means to purchase a night's lodging, and only their sturdy hands and resolute hearts, to brave the terrors of a rigorous winter. A temporary lodging was procured, and the following morning Hector and his brother Charles found work as stevedores on the dock, and soon earned a sufficiency to make their parents and family comfortable.

Hector subsequently obtained work in the Brooklyn navy yard, where he earned the money to purchase afarm in the Genesee valley. Inthemeantime the family removed to Stamford, Delaware county, N.Y., where Hector soon found his wife, in the person of Annie McIntyre, of Harpersfield.

In the winter of 1813, Hector and his wife started in a temporary sleigh drawn by one horse, for their new home in the west, and on the route received the news from an escaped soldier, of the burning of Buffalo, and the ravages of the Indians on the white settlements.

Hector was half inclined to turn back, but his wife, who was a woman of great courage, combining substantial good sense, insisted on their proceeding on their journey, as a runaway from camp never brought good news. They arrived at their new home in mid-winter, and commenced clearing the forest, preparatory to making a home for themselves and family. They received a "Highland Welcome" from the Scottish settlers at Caledonia, and great kindness and encouragement from all their neighbors.

When Commodore Yoe came with his fleet to the mouth of the Genesee river, and threatened to destroy the village of Carthage, McLean and his neighbors volunteered and marched for the protection of the town. After the close of the War of 1812, the early settlers experienced great difficulty in obtaining a market for their products, but after the construction of the Erie canal, remunerative prices were obtained, land advanced in value, and general prosperity prevailed.

Although experiencing many hardships, Mr. McLean found himself, after a few years of industry and frugality, the possessor of a comfortable home. He attributed his success in life, in no small degree, to the sound judgment and wise counsel of his wife who possessed fine literary tastes and a seemingly intuitive knowledge of the world which was truly remarkable.

Long before leaving Scotland, Mr. McLean united with the Scottish Presbyterian Church, and finding a similar organization in Caledonia he and his wife united themselves with, and remained active and consistent members of the United Presbyterian Church of that place.

In politics, he was a Whig and Republican and held many important trusts in Church and State. His sound judgment and kind heart made him the trusted counselor, the valued friend, and the frequent peace-maker. He was generous to a fault, and his benign sympathy for humanity might have led him to give to the undeserving. He was intolerant to all that was base or false, asking nothing he considered unjust, and submitting to nothing he considered to be wrong.

He died at Caledonia, surrounded by his family and numerous friends, in 1869, at the advanced age of ninety-three years, surviving his wife, who died in 1853. He was buried by the side of his father in the cemetery at Caledonia, thus fulfilling the solemn promise made to him before leaving the land of his birth.

Mr. McLean was a strong, muscularly built man, capable of enduring great mental and physical labor. H is children who survive him are :-Mrs. G. P. Grant, Miss Catherine McLean, and CoL A. H. McLean, all of whom now (1881) reside in Caledonia.

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