The Family Story

Susan Wynn McLean

I need to preface this with the reminder that every family has stories – whether these tales have any basis is truth is often a matter of perspective. The following came from what I was told when growing up and later conversations with extended family members during my research.

I only knew my grandaunt Sue for a short time. We both lived in Reno in the mid-1970s, and I visited with her several times. She was a very sweet lady who reminded me a lot of my grandmother Margaret. Most of the family stories I heard about Susie began with “Poor Sue.” I think her siblings felt Susie had had a pretty rough road in life.

The “Poor Sue” seems to begin with the death of her husband John Kelley. By all accounts, she loved him very much and his sudden death was shattering. Susie was pregnant at the time and she and her infant daughter (also named Nettie) moved back in with her mother. John Kelley’s son John Stewart Kelley was born in his grandmother’s home three months later. Her mother Nettie fired the maid and Susie picked up her duties to pay her way. It’s my understanding that Nettie never missed an opportunity to let her daughter know how “lucky” she was to have a place to go.

I’ve heard that when Susie married Edmund Griffin, Nettie told her that she didn’t like him or want him in her house. What is also clear in listening to the family stories is that Edmund and his mother-in-law Nettie butted heads frequently and the dislike and lack of respect was mutual. [Read more…]

Hard as Nails – Part 2

Henrietta “Nettie” Ella (Frith) MacLean Abell (1875-1963)

On the 1920 census, we find Nettie with a full house. Nettie, sons Edward 13, and Welling 11, daughter Susie 22, and her two children Nettie and John Stewart, Margaret and husband Harry Walker, as well as Ada and husband John (Jack) K. Stillwell.1 It’s my understanding that Nettie charged the married couples the going rate on rent. Margaret and Ada moved out within a year. My uncle Craig said his father Harry couldn’t wait to get out of his mother-in-laws house and they relocated to Philadelphia. Susie married Edmund Griffin in about 1922 and moved out also.
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In the early 1920s, Nettie married Alfred Abell. Alfred was born 26 May 1870 in West Hoboken, Hudson, New Jersey,2 and worked as a foreman for the coal company. He was the son of Thomas and Rachel (Unknown) Abell and (based on census records) had been previously married to Georganna Streit in about 1903. I don’t know if they were divorced or if she died. They had no children. By 1940, Alfred had relocated to Greene County, New York, but both he and Nettie still list themselves as married. Alfred died there 14 Jun 1962.3 I have not yet found out if they ever divorced. If anyone wants to hunt the records, everything would have happened in Nassau County and most likely in Mineola or North Hempstead.
9b9c
The interesting part of this relationship is that none of the grandchildren knew they were married. My mother Shirlee and her brother Craig thought Alfred was the handyman because when they visited; they ate at the dining room table and Alfred took his meals in the kitchen. I also heard him referred to as “the butler” because he sometimes served the food before retreating to the kitchen. Nettie also did not speak to him during these times. My mother never heard Nettie refer to herself as Abell, and recalls that when she wrote to her grandmother, she addressed her letters to Mrs. Nettie MacLean.
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My mother spent many summers on Long Island with her grandmother and cousins in the 1930s and ’40s. She and Craig both spoke of their grandmother frequently. According to them, Nettie definitely ran things in the family and when she spoke, they all listened and did as they were told. As my mother got older, she became more open about her grandmother, referring to Nettie as “warm when it suited her” but “hard as nails” underneath. She took in her grandchildren, but they were expected to work for their room and board. She was known to meddle and manipulate her children when it suited her, and was not above naming a child (her son Welling Seeley MacLean) after a wealthy childless relative in hopes he would leave his namesake something.
15a
Nettie lived with her son Edward and his family until her death on 21 Dec 1963 in Mineola on Long Island. She was buried in the Roslyn Cemetery and shares a tombstone with first husband George. The two spellings of the last name make it very clear to me that Nettie was a woman who lived life on her own terms and did things her own way.HPIM0739



Footnotes
1. 1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Roslyn, No. Hempstead, Nassau, New York, dwelling 187, family 152, MacLean, Nettie; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 12 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625. Cit. Date: 12 May 2014.
2. database(accessed 3 Jul 2014), Alfred Abell, 26 May 1870, W. Hoboken, Hudson, New Jersey, Thomas and Rachel Abell; Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Births and Christenings Index, 1660-1931. Cit. Date: 3 Jul 2014.
3. database(accessed 3 Jul 2014), Alfred Abell, 14 Jun 1962, Catskill, Greene County, NY State Death Cert. #1962/46790; The New York State Death Index, 1957-1963.

Hard as Nails

Henrietta “Nettie” Ella (Frith) MacLean Abell

This will be one of the more difficult pieces to write because I’m not sure there will be much “balance” in it. I’ve heard a lot about Nettie over the years and to be honest – most of it was not complimentary. Craig Walker referred to his grandmother as a “mean old broad” and admitted to being afraid of her as a child and avoiding her as an adult. He told me that Nettie could hold a grudge forever and had an opinion about everyone and everything. My mother Shirlee agreed with Craig’s assessment. My grandmother Margaret, who never had an unkind word about anyone, referred to her mother as “difficult.”

43160e59-0fb9-497e-acd1-3901a6f60083
Henrietta “Nettie” Ella Frith was born in 2 Mar 1875 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York. She was the third child of George Richard Frith (1849-1903) and Henrietta F. Brimlow (1847-1884). While they were recording births in Brooklyn as early as 1866, I have not yet found a record for Nettie.

There has been some discussion about whether her name was Henrietta or simply Nettie. Nettie is the diminutive form of the name and most of her documentation is in that name. My belief that her birth name was Henrietta is based on two specific records. The 1 Jun 1875 New York State Census1 enumerates the Frith family in Brooklyn as:
George age 25,
Henrietta 25,
Ruth 2,
Henry 4 months.
It is probable that the census worker used the Henr. abbreviation in his notebook and simply wrote Henry instead of Henrietta when filling out the master sheet.

32848_B094052-00713The second item is the 1 Jun 1915 New York State Census when she is enumerated as Henrietta.2 This would have been her first official record after her husband died and she gave her full name. However, Nettie most likely chose to use the diminutive and it’s the name her family used for her.

Nettie’s mother died in 1884 when Nettie was only nine. She told her granddaughters that she had a vivid memory of her mother lying in the casket with a stillborn infant in her arms. My mother and her cousins were unnerved by this story at a very young age.

Nettie married her first cousin George Edward McLean on 12 July 1893.3 The news article about their secret marriage being discovered due to her fit of jealousy is revealing in its own way. Very early on, Nettie appears to be a woman who went after the things she wanted. She moves from Brooklyn to North Hempstead, Long Island (then Queens County) after her marriage to George.

Their first child was a stillborn boy born 19 May 1894.4 He was interred in the McLean family plot. Their next three children were daughters: Susan (Susie) Wynn born 20 Mar 1897,5 Margaret Frith born 22 Apr 1899,6 and Ada Mae born 25 Aug 1901.7 There is a five-year-gap and then the two boys appeared: Edward Frith born 29 Aug 1906,8 and Welling Seeley born 1908.9 The family was enumerated there together on 16 Apr 1910.10 Life appeared to be good as they own their home and have a servant to help in the kitchen. Margaret could not recall a time growing up when her mother did not have some type of domestic help.

George passed away 25 Mar 1915,11 and his mother Susan Winn (Frith) McLean (Nettie’s aunt) passed on 21 May 1915.12 Nettie was now on her own with five children. Oldest daughter Susie married John T. Kelley the following year. John Kelley, born 18 Jul 1888 in Brooklyn 13 was a fireman on the Long Island Railway and not approved of by Nettie. He died 28 Oct 191814 of the Spanish Influenza (I’m awaiting the death certificate for confirmation of this family story) and was buried in the McLean family plot in Roslyn Cemetery.
6b
Sometime between 1915 and 1920, Nettie chose to change the spelling of her last name to MacLean. The family story was that Nettie was sure the “Mac” spelling denoted the Scottish and the “Mc” spelling was for the Irish. According to my sources, Nettie appeared to feel the Irish were less than desirable and wanted to make sure that everyone knew they were Scottish. This was a common misconception that was making the rounds in the early 20th century, but those of us who do genealogy know that spelling means nothing. This is the only branch of the family that made the switch in spelling. It was a source of confusion in the research for some time.

Stay tuned for Part II –



Footnotes:
1. Brooklyn, Kings, Ward 16, E.D. 1, p. 41, line 42, George Frith; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 14 May 2014). Cit. Date: 14 May 2014.
2. New York, population schedule, No. Hempstead, Nassau, New York, p. 17, dwelling 47, line 36, McLean, Henrietta; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 12 May 2014). Cit. Date: 12 May 2014.
3. Marriage Record, Certificate of Marriage Brooklyn #3969, 12 Sep 1893, George Edward McLean and Nettie Ella Frith, witnesses: Norman and Cordelia Edith Roscoe. FHL Film #1,523,044. Cit. Date: 26 Apr 2014.
4. Roslyn Cemetery (Letter from Dominick Tarantino, Manager, Roslyn Cemetery, Roslyn, NY dated 24 Mar 08. List of people in McLean plot #61, Section Old Chart, with Name, Date of Internment and Age (if known)), Cit. Date: 10 Apr 2008.
5. State of California, “Death Index, 1940-1997,” database(accessed 10 May 2014), State of California, “Death Index, 1940-1997,” database(accessed 10 May 2014), Susan Wynn Griffin, SSN 545421305, b. 20 Mar 1897 NY, d15 Sep 1993, Santa Clara, mother maiden Frith, Father surname MacLean. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
6. New York Department of Health, birth certificate (1899), Margaret McLean; New York State Dept of Health, Albany. Cit. Date: 19 Jun 2008.
7. Ancestry.com, Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current, Number: 103-14-4866; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951.
8. Ancestry.com, Social Security Death Index, 1935-Current, Edward F. MacLean, 091-03-1366, b. 29 Aug 1906, d. 29 Feb 1988. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
9. Roslyn Cemetery (Letter from Dominick Tarantino, Manager, Roslyn Cemetery, Roslyn, NY dated 24 Mar 08. List of people in McLean plot #61, Section Old Chart, with Name, Date of Internment and Age (if known)), Cit. Date: 10 Apr 2008.
10. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, No. Hempstead, Nassau, New York, enumeration district (ED) 1123, p. 2A, dwelling 22, family 22, Mclean, George E.; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 12 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll T624 995. Cit. Date: 12 May 2014.
11. Roslyn Cemetery (Letter from Dominick Tarantino, Manager, Roslyn Cemetery, Roslyn, NY dated 24 Mar 08. List of people in McLean plot #61, Section Old Chart, with Name, Date of Internment and Age (if known)), Age 47 years 6 mo 15 days. Cit. Date: 10 Apr 2008.
12. New York death certificate 84 (1915), Susan Wynn MacLean, died 21 May 1915, Port Washington, Nassau, New York.
13. “World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com : accessed 9 May 2014), John Kelley, July 18, 1888, Electric Railway Conductor; U.S., World War I Draft Registration Crds, 1917-1918.
14. Roslyn Cemetery (Letter from Dominick Tarantino, Manager, Roslyn Cemetery, Roslyn, NY dated 24 Mar 08. List of people in McLean plot #61, Section Old Chart, with Name, Date of Internment and Age (if known)), Age 30. Cit. Date: 10 Apr 2008.

Union Cemetery in Brooklyn 1851-1897

Unburying Your Dead

One of the more frustrating aspects of genealogy is attempting to locate a death date and burial location for your ancestor. We know they’re dead, and we know that death occurred between 1870 and 1880 since we have census information on the individual in 1870 and a widowed spouse in 1880. But death records were not common in the 19th century. Finding a cemetery list naming your ancestor is just as exciting as finding a maiden name for your fourth great grandmother. We’re all hopeful that there’s a tombstone to provide us the full dates of births and death, and maybe even what damn county or shire in England, Scotland, or Ireland they came from. But in this family, cemetery information and tombstones have been scarce.

Now, imagine you’re lucky enough to discover which cemetery your ancestor is in, only to learn they aren’t there because that cemetery no longer exists. And, not only does it no longer exist, the records are missing.

Case in point, Union Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Union Cemetery was founded in 1851 on 10 acres in the Eastern District of Brooklyn. In brief, the cemetery was founded by two churches – one from New York City and one from Brooklyn. The New York church sold its share to the Brooklyn church in 1875. Then in 1897, the Brooklyn church decided to sell the land after the burial site was full. Over 30,000 burials had occurred on the site, and all those bodies needed to be relocated. Families were given the choice of arranging for relocation or letting the contractor hired by the church relocate the bodies. All bodies not claimed by a family were relocated to a ten-acre plot within Cedar Grove Cemetery in Flushing. This task was accomplished within a sixty-day period from December 1897 through January 1898. According to newspaper articles, single boxes was to be used to hold the contents of each grave, and the remains were then reinterred at Cedar Grove in corresponding order along with associated monuments. The burial occurred in numbered plots matching the order of removal.

But that’s where the recorded trail takes a giant dump. [Read more…]

Peter Charles McLean’s children

The children of Peter Charles and Margaret (Swasey) McLean:

1. Charles E. McLean was born about 1831 in New York City, New York. He’s first found by name on the 1850 census with his parents in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York.1 The 1855 New York Census provided his birth county.2 He is on his own in the 1860 census.3 Charles is the brother who went with Susan W. McLean to bring his brother Peter home from Philadelphia in 1862.

On 2 Dec 1868 in Brooklyn, the 37 year-old Charles, married 20 year-old Isabella M. Brown. According to the marriage record, Isabella was born about 1848 in Hackensack, New Jersey, the daughter of Jacob M. and Margaret (Miller) Brown.4
1868 McLean - Copy - Copy
Charles, like the rest of his family, was a painter and grainer. He appears in many of the Brooklyn city directories from 1867-1889. He and Isabella appeared to have lived the remainder of their lives in Brooklyn. He died 25 Dec 1891 in Brooklyn.5 Charles was interred in Cypress Hills Cemetery. I have not yet been able to locate Isabelle after his death and don’t know when she died. It is probable she disappeared into the black hole of Nassau County.

They had two known children: George F. McLean, born about 1871 and Harriett A. McLean, born about 1874. Both have proven to be difficult to chase.

2. Peter Byron McLean (1832-1895) – previously discussed.

3. Washington McLean was born about 1836 in New York City and can be found with his parents and siblings on the 1850 and 1860 census.

In about 1862, he married Mary Elizabeth Brown. Mary was born about 1842 and is the daughter of David H. Brown (1818-1900). Washington worked as a painter and wallpaper hanger. He’s first found in the 1865 Brooklyn city directory7 at 236 Grand and remains at the address until the 1880s when he relocates to 285 Grand. 236 Grand is a 3-story brownstone and appears to be both business and home, but 285 is a single-story brick business. In 1890, his residence is listed as Port Washington in Queens, and that is where he passed away on 27 Nov 1891.8

Mary apparently continued to run the business with her son David for a short time as she appears in the 1892 and 1893 city directories.9 On the 1900 census, Mary stated she had a total of five children, three of whom were still living.10 (David, Margaret, and Ann). Mary died 11 Jun 1930 in Port Washington, Nassau, New York.

Washington and Mary had five children, four of whom are known. David Charles McLean (1863-1934) m. Adelaid B. Demarest (1863-1940); Margaret Rebecca McLean (1865-1945) did not marry; Anne F. McLean (abt 1872-aft1930) did not marry; John McLean (abt 1879-bef 1900) did not marry.

4. Nathaniel Bruce McLean was born 10 Aug 1838 in New York City and died 17 Aug 1860 in Williamsburg of nervous exhaustion. He was buried in Union Cemetery.11 His obituary appeared in the New York Tribune on 20 Aug 1860.12
NathlMcLean - Copy

McLEAN- At Williamsburgh, on Friday, August 17, Nathaniel Bruce McLean, aged 22 years, youngest son of P.C. McLean.”

5. Sarah Amelia McLean was born in 1842 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York. She can be found there with her parents and sibling on multiple census records. According to the 1870 census record Sarah was a music teacher; she and her father resided with her older brother Peter B. and his family.13

On 23 Jan 1873, she married John Milton Page (1840-2 Mar 1931) in Brooklyn. John Milton Page was born in Maine, the son of Madison and Louisa (Small) Page.14 John served in the 40th NY Vounteers (Mozart Regiment) during the Civil War and was wounded at Bull Run.15
mclsarah1a - Copy
Sarah died in Brooklyn 24 Nov 191216 and was interred in Green-Wood Cemetery. Her obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was brief.17
Sarah BDE 24 Nov 1912 p72 c2
John eventually relocated to Rockville Center in Nassau County where he remained until his death on 2 Mar 1931. His obituary appeared in the New York Times on 3 Mar 1931.18
John NYT 3 Mar 1931
John PageHe and Sarah are both interred in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.19 I have requested photographs of her tombstone.

They had two known children: Margaret R. Page (abt 1874-2 Dec 1935) did not marry, and John Wallace Page (27 Sep 1879-Jan 1964) m. Josie Mary Baldwin (abt 1882-Dec 1952). They had 2 known children: John Wallace Page, Jr. and Marjorie Page.



1. 1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Kings, New York, p. 469B, dwelling 1508, family 2100, Peter McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll M432 522. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
2. 1855, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 14, Kings, New York, p. E.D. 2, dwelling 832, line 6, P.C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 10 May 2014). Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
3. 1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Broooklyn, Kings, New York, p. 679, dwelling 196, family 276, Chas E. McLean, age 29, Painter; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll M653 772. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
4. Kings, New York, Marriage Records, 1952, Charles E. McLean-Isabella M. Brown, 2 Dec 1868; FHL microfilm 1,543,776. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.
5. “New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1848,” database, New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1848 (accessed 8 Jun 2014), Charles McLean, age 61, died 25 Dec 1891, Kings, Cert #20929. Cit. Date: 8 Jun 2014.
6. “New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1848,” database, New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1848 (accessed 8 Jun 2014), Isabella McLean, age 70, died 3 Apr 1920, Kings, Cert.# 9408. Cit. Date: 8 Jun 2014.
7. City Directory, 1865 Brooklyn, New York : McLean, Washington, paints & paper, 236 Grand; digital images accessed 10 May 2014. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
8. Newspapers, Abstract from the Long Islander, McLean, Washington, died 27 Nov 1891, Port Washington, LongIslandGenealogy.com. Cit. Date: 6 Jun 2014.
9. City Directory, 1893 Brooklyn, New York : McLean, Mary, paints & paper, 285 Grand; digital images accessed 10 May 2014. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
10. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, No. Hempstead, Nassau, New York, enumeration district (ED) 716, p. 6B, dwelling 105, family 117, Mary E. McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 11 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1079. Cit. Date: 11 May 2014.
11. Kings County, New York, death register August 1860 no. Page 111, Line 372 (17 Aug 1860), Nathaniel B. McLean; FHL microfilm 1,378,817. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.
12. Kings County, New York, death register August 1860 no. Page 111, Line 372 (17 Aug 1860), Nathaniel B. McLean; FHL microfilm 1,378,817. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.
13. Kings, New York, Marriage Records, 119, John A. Page-Sarah A. McLean, 23 Jan 1893; FHL microfilm 1,543,909. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.
14. Kings, New York, Marriage Records, 119, John A. Page-Sarah A. McLean, 23 Jan 1893; FHL microfilm 1,543,909. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.
15. “John M. Page Dead at 91.,” The New York Times, 3 Mar 1931, online archives (Ancestry : accessed 11 May 2014). Cit. Date: 11 May 2014.
16. “New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1848,” database, New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1848 (accessed 10 Jun 2014), Sarah Page, age 70, died 21 Nov 1912, Kings, Cert.#21579.
17. “Deaths – PAGE,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 24 Nov 1912, p. 72, col. 2; digital images(accessed 11 May 2014). Cit. Date: 11 May 2014.
18. “John M. Page Dead at 91.,” The New York Times, 3 Mar 1931, online archives (Ancestry : accessed 11 May 2014). Cit. Date: 11 May 2014.
19. John M. Page, Find A Grave Memorial# 27428513.

Peter Charles McLean (1805-1872)

Peter Charles McLean was born 28 Apr 18051 in Columbia County, New York.2 It is not yet positively known who his parents are, but I believe he might be the son of Peter and Mary McLean. More research in this area is required. His daughter-in-law Susan Winn (Frith) McLean referred to him in depositions as Charles, indicating that was his preferred name.

Circa 1929, he married Margaret Swasey who was born about 1806 in Massachusetts. It is not yet known where they were married or who her parents were. We know her full name from her children’s marriage and death records. Peter Charles (with a female of the appropriate age to be Margaret) was found on the 1830 census in Ward 7 of New York City,3 but I have been unable to locate him in 1840. Peter Charles relocated to Williamsburg in 1842, and thereafter he and his family are found on the 1850, 1860, and 1870 federal census records as well as the 1855 New York State Census.4,5,6,7

Margaret passed away 11 Sep 1854 in Williamsburg and was probably interred in Union Cemetery. Her death notice appeared in the New York Daily Times.

“At Williamsburg, L.I., on Monday, Sept.11, MARGARET, wife of P.C. McLean, in the 49th year of her age.”8

Peter Charles was a house, sign, and fresco painter. Several of his sons followed him into that trade and either worked with him or opened their own businesses. The city directories for Brooklyn between 1860 and 1870 list both he and his sons with paint and wallpaper businesses located on Grand Avenue. He never remarried.

Peter Charles was nothing less than a stand-up guy. When his desperately ill son Peter B. came home from the war in early 1862, he moved in with his father. For almost three years, Peter Charles took care of his son and supported Peter B.’s family as he recovered. In about 1869, Peter Charles suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to care for himself. Peter B. took in his father and Peter Charles remained with his son until his death on 27 Feb 1872.

He was interred on 29 Feb 1872 in Union Cemetery.9 I have not yet found an obituary.

He and Margaret had five known children who will be discussed in the next post.
1. Charles E. McLean
2. Peter Byron McLean – previously discussed.
3. Washington McLean
4. Nathaniel Bruce McLean
5. Sarah Amelia McLean

*note – Union Cemetery was closed and the bodies relocated. I will cover this in a separate post.



1. Kings County, New York, death certificate no. 1916 (27 Feb 1872), Peter Charles McLean; FHL microfilm 1,324,745. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.
2. 1855, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 14, Kings, New York, p. E.D. 2, dwelling 832, line 6, P.C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 10 May 2014). Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
3. 1830 U.S. census, New York Ward 7, New York, New York, p. 79, line 22, McLean, Peter C.; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M19, roll 97. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
4. 1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Kings, New York, p. 469B, dwelling 1508, family 2100, Peter McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll M432 522. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
5. 1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Ward 13 Dist 1, Kings, New York, p. 653, dwelling 55, family 89, Peter C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll M653 772. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
6. 1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Ward 14 Brooklyn, Kings, New York, p. 180A, dwelling 281, family 582, Peter McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll M593 955. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
7. 1855, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 14, Kings, New York, p. E.D. 2, dwelling 832, line 6, P.C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 10 May 2014). Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
8. Newspapers, New York Daily Times, 28 Sep 1854. Cit. Date: 2 May 2014.
9. Kings County, New York, death certificate no. 1916 (27 Feb 1872), Peter Charles McLean; FHL microfilm 1,324,745. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.

As Strong as They Come

Susan Winn (Frith) McLean (1839-1915)

The Civil War pension file for Peter B. was often painful to read, but much of the personal material about his quality of life was found in his wife Susan’s widow’s pension application and the depositions written on her behalf. While reading about his condition and demise saddened me, more often than not, my mind turned to the question of what it must have been like for Susan.
Susan

Susan Wynn Frith was born 24 Jun 1839 in Kings County, New York. She was the second child of William and Frances (Brown) Frith who had arrived from England only two years earlier. Her mother died when Susan was thirteen and her father died the following year. Her grand aunt Ellen Winn took in Susan and her siblings. She was barely seventeen when she married Peter Byron McLean on 27 Aug 1856 in Brooklyn. Her first child, Franklin Byron McLean arrived on 6 Nov 1857. Son Washington and daughter Sarah R. followed.

In June of 1861, Susan might have thought life was pretty good. Her husband had a thriving business in Brooklyn, she and Peter owned their home, she had three children, and her siblings and in-laws lived nearby. But then Peter decided to go play soldier. He helped raise a company and by the beginning of winter, he’d gone marching off to war, leaving Susan to manage without him.

Eight short months later, Susan was married to a complete invalid who was delusional and, according to the doctors at the hospital, a man who “might become violent.” [Read more…]

Peter B. McLean, 1st Lt, Co H, 87th NY Inf – 4

The Civil War & its cost –
Part 4 – Peter B.’s Bitter End 1890-1895

By the end of 1890, Peter B. McLean was crippled by rheumatism and still struggling with the malarial fevers that had plagued him throughout his post war years. His pension made it possible for him to turn his business over to his sons, and I like to believe that life became a little easier for a short time. However, it appears that any relief and peace may have been short-lived.

Sister-in-law Ruth Reed stated, “Mr. McLean was totally disabled from labor last 5 years of his life. … I noticed evidence of insanity a year or two before he was sent to the Asylum. He used to think his children were all in hell and he was trying to get them out. He talked at random. I knew of no cause for this. He had no financial or family trouble or religious trouble to my knowledge. For 5 or so years before he died he used to say that his head bothered him and that he couldn’t sleep nights.”

According to his wife Susan, Peter B. came down with a case of “la grippe” in January 1893. Grippe was a common name in its time for influenza. She stated in her deposition that this bout of illness “left him very weak and nervous. Could not sleep and as a result his mind gave way… Every time he was sick it would seem to affect his head.”

From Daniel Harrison’s deposition: “For several years prior to his death, he lost so much sleep from pain that his mind became affected and a commission was appointed to inquire into his sanity.”

In June of 1893, a panel of doctors was assembled to examine Peter B., and they recommended his commitment to the asylum at Middletown, New York. The records of his examination are not part of his pension file as they were medical records that went to the hospital with him. He was committed to The Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital on 1 Jul 1893.
middletown2

Peter B. remained in the asylum for the rest of his life and died there 1 Oct 1895. His death certificate stated the primary cause was chronic melancholia and the secondary cause a pulmonary hemorrhage.

Only after his death is the reality of his final years brought to light. When his wife applied for a widow’s pension shortly after his death, the hospital was contacted for a statement about his death. The pension board was attempting to determine if his death was related to his military service. The following letter dated 4 Feb 1896 was received:

“Sir:-
Your communication under date of Jan. 31, 1896 regarding the late Peter B. McLean, has been received, and in reply I would state:
On admission to this hospital he was in a feeble physical condition, rapidly losing flesh; weighed on admission 144 lbs. and a month later 109 lbs.; was very restless, suspicious, careless in his habits, destructive and inclined to suicide, having the delusion that he was being persecuted by the devil, did not care to talk, would admit of no pain but manner very nervous. The remote cause of his sickness were supposed to be predisposition (nervous), and exciting physical disease. The physical disease referred to, was an attack of grip he had had in January 1892. In his history it was stated that “he was ill with typhoid fever in the army in 1862. After convalescence his mind was not right for six months.” It is probable that phthisis was developed before admission to this hospital.
Very truly yours,
C. Spencer Kinney”

According to my Merriam-Webster, phthsis is a wasting or consumptive condition such as pulmonary tuberculosis. This explains the secondary cause of death.

It was a painful and ugly ending for a good man.

Peter B. McLean, 1st Lt, Co H, 87th NY Inf – 3

The Civil War & its cost –
Part 3 – 25 Hard Years 1865-1890.

In 1865, Peter B. had recovered sufficiently enough to return to work and to his own home. He once again appears in the Brooklyn city directories as a painter and grainer. His fourth child Peter was born this year, and many more followed in the coming years. On 21 Feb 1872, Peter B.’s father Peter Charles McLean died. He had spent the last three years in Peter B.’s home after a stroke left him paralyzed and unable to care for himself. Peter B. sold his property in Brooklyn and relocated to Roslyn in Queens County that same year. He remained there until 1893 when his physical and mental state deteriorated to the point that he had to be committed.

It is clear from the depositions of his doctor, his wife, associates, and neighbors that he was not the man he’d been before the illnesses acquired during the war ravaged him. As shown in the previous post, Dr. William H. Hanford stated that Peter B. continued to suffer from Malaria and had developed rheumatism. In almost every deposition provided by people who knew him both before and after the war, the deponents uniformly commented on the change in his appearance. A variety of words and phrases conveyed the picture: sallow, pale, gaunt, loss of flesh, tired, in pain, and suffering.

27 Apr 1898, former private George W. Bagwell stated, “The next time I saw him was in 1864, he then looked thin, delicate and was not at all well. … I did not again see him until about 1889 when I met him in Long Island City, L.I. … In appearance he looked about the same as when I saw him in 1864.” Former Captain William H. Leaycraft recalled seeing Peter B. a short time after his own discharge in 1863, but couldn’t recall the exact date. “He then looked pale and emaciated and in poor health.” Alfred Noon met Peter B. when he moved to Roslyn in 1872 and worked with him for almost 20 years. He provided the following: [Read more…]

Peter B. McLean, 1st Lt, Co H, 87th NY Inf – 2

The Civil War & its cost –
Part 2 – Three Rough Years.

Once Peter B. McLean had been removed from the hospital tent near Yorktown, his long journey home had just begun. Affidavits and depositions found in his pension file and in his wife Susan’s application for a widow’s pension provide the details of the experience.

In a 29 Jan 1890 declaration, Peter B. wrote of his departure from Yorktown and return home. I have provided a transcript (with clarifications) below the image.
peterbstate1
“Was taken from Hospital tent before [on the lines in front of] Yorktown about May 5th 1862 to Fort Monroe in wagon & boat to Baltimore & cars [train] enroute home while suffering with fever & became deranged & out of head and was put in Soldiers Home at Philadelphia. They sent for my wife. I remained in Philadelphia that one week & then taken to my father’s house 125 Grand St Brooklyn L.I. [Long Island] Dr. Hanford was sent for. I remained there to the fall about October then was removed to my own home 275 Graham Ave. Was confined to the house till May 1863 confined to house a whole year & gained strength enough to go out & do light work in fall of 1863 had a relapse & was sick again 1864 a whole year until Spring 1865. & have Rheumatism & diarrhea ever since.” The last line in the paragraph is about his ruptures (hernias in the groin) and that he is unable to do any manual labor.

Dr. William H. Hanford, mentioned above, was the McLean family physician. On 14 Mar 1890, he provided an affidavit stating that he had been Peter B.’s physician before the war and [Read more…]