Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George McClellan: Life and Death in Boston

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George McClellan packed his bags and left his wife and three children behind in Hanson, Massachusetts. He took the train to Boston, and disappeared. His family never knew what became of him.

But of course, his story continued.

He settled in Boston where had lived when he first emigrated from Nova Scotia, and he continued to work as a brick mason. In the 1900 Census, taken 13-14 June 1900, George R. McClelland (b. Jan 1846, Canada English, to father b. Canada English and mother b. Scotland, single, immigrated 1880, naturalized, brickmason, 3 months unemployed in the year) was enumerated at 6 Ringold St., Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, as a lodger in the household of the widow Matilda Painchand (b. Jan 1852, Canada).

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George was listed in the 1900 Boston City directory as George R. McClellan, bricklayer, rooms 11 Hanson. From 1904-1906, he was listed as George R. McClellan, mason, rooms 27 Upton. In a particularly poignant discovery, for the majority of his life in Boston, George was listed next to his son Sherman McClellan, who attended school and worked in Boston. Sherman never realized his father was living in the same city.

After living alone in Boston for a decade, he married for a second time in Roxbury Universalist Church, Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts, 4 April 1908, by Rev. James Holden of 2 Crestwood Park, Roxbury, Lillian Seaver. The 59 year old George stated  in his marriage record that he was 50, residing at 263 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 2nd marriage, divorced, occupation: mason, born Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada, son of Dougal McClellan & Christy Rose. The 25 year old Lillian Seaver reported that she was 27 years old and resided at 11 Walnut Avenue, Boston. Their wedding took place a month after the death of Lillian’s mother Emma Seaver.

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1908 Marriage of George R. McClellan and Lillian Seaver

There was a 34 year difference in age between George R. McClellan and his wife Lillian Seaver. Lillian Seaver was born in Boston, 3 February 1883, the daughter of Silas Stone and Emma J. (Gee) Seaver. George and Lillian McClellan lived in the home of Lillian’s widowed father Silas Stone Seaver at 28 Cliff St. in Roxbury. Silas Stone Seaver was born in Boylston, Mass. in 1838, the illegitmate son of Silas Howe Seaver and Relief “Leafy” Whitcomb Stone. Silas was only ten years older than George R. McClellan (born in 1848) and he had served in the Civil War.

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28 Cliff St. in Roxbury, located by the intersection of Cliff St. and Glenwood St. 1915 Map pf Roxbury courtesy of the State Library of Massachusetts.

In the 1910 Census, George R. McClellan (61, 2nd marriage, married 2 years, b. Canada English to father b. Canada English and mother b. Scotland, immigrated 1869, naturalized, a bricklaying mason, rents house) was enumerated 18 April 1910, 28 Cliff St., Boston, with wife Lillian E. (27, 1st marriage, married 2 years, mother of 0 children, b. MA to parents b. MA) and father-in-law Silas E. Seaver (70, widow, b. MA to parents b. MA).

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1910 Census, Roxbury, Mass. George and Lillian McClellan and Silas Seaver.

George McClellan was listed in the 1910 and 1911 directories as  George R. McClellan, mason, h 28 Cliff Roxbury.  He was listed in the 1912 directory as George R. McClellan, 166 Devonshire room 50 [several contractors and construction companies were based at 166 Devonshire, in 1912 room 50 was the Massachusetts Societies of Masters and Craftsmen, Brick and Stonemason, Carpenters and Joiners, Painters and Decorators where George worked], house 28 Cliff Roxbury.

On 8 November 1911, Emma Fannie McClellan, the first and only child of George and Lillian McClellan, was born at their home at 28 Cliff St. in Roxbury. George was listed as a foreman in her birth certificate. She was born three years after her parents marriage.

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1911 Birth record of Emma Fannie McClellan

George Roderic McClellan died of haemoptysis (coughing blood) and chronic tuberculosis of the lungs in his home at 28 Cliff St., Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, 15 December 1912 at the age of 64. He was buried in the Seaver family plot in Wildwood Cemetery, Winchester, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 17 December 1912, by J.S. Waterman and Sons. His daughter Emma was only thirteen months old at the time of his death and his widow Lillian was 31 years old. George McClellan’s first wife Imogene and their children Lillian, Roderic and Sherman never knew about George’s death or the existence of his second wife Lillian and their half-sister Emma F. McClellan.

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Wildwood Cemetery’s burial card for “George R. MacLellan”, stating he was buried 17 December 1912 in Lot 78 [originally purchased by Silas Seaver]. Courtesy of CemeteryFind.com.

Lillian (Seaver) McClellan took in a boarder Frank M. Shea following George McClellan’s death. Lillian became pregnant with their first child, and they married on 26 August 1914. Frank was born circa 19 November 1890, son of John R. and Mary Shea. He was a tinsmith. Frank and Lillian’s daughter Mildred Gertrude was born six months after her parents wedding. Another daughter, Lillian Marguerite, was born in 1919.

In the 1920 Census, Lillian E. Shea (38, literate, b. Mass.) was enumerated in 21 Wakullah St., Roxbury with her husband Frank M. Shea (31, b. Mass., sheet metal worker for steam railroad, rents home) and children Emma F. Shea [sic, McClellan] (7, b. Mass., attending school), Mildred G. (4y 6m) and Lillian G. (3 months), and her father Silas S. Seaver (78, widow, b. Mass.). Lillian’s father Silas Seaver died in their home at 21 Wakullah St., Roxbury in 1923. In the 1930 Census, Lillian Shea (47, age 25 at first marriage, b. Mass.) was enumerated 10 April 1930 in 28 Moreland St., Boston with husband Frank M. Shea (39, age 23 at first marriage, b. Mass., newspaper checker, U.S. veteran), children Emma F. McLellan (18, razer factory (Gillette?) stringer), Lillian M. Shea (10), Mildred G. Shea (15), all living as boarders in the boarding house of Geraldine A. Leavitt.

Emma McClellan married Walter Nugent in Roxbury in 1933 and they had several children. Hopefully through this series the extended McClellan-Shea family might be able to offer any stories or photographs of George Roderic and Lillian (Seaver) McClellan that have passed down through their side of the family. Was he open about his past? Did they know about his family in Hanson?

In the 1940 Census Lillian Shea (58, completed 6th grade) was enumerated 15 April 1940 in 1271 Sea St., Quincy with husband Frank Shea (49, completed 8th grade, newspaper paper checker), daughter Lillian Harvey (20, completed 12th grade, retail department store salesgirl) and son-in-law Albert Harvey (completed 10th grade, paper mill stationary pressman). Lillian (Seaver) McClellan Shea died in her home at 1271 Sea St., Quincy,  on 2 January 1947. She was buried in the Seaver family plot in Wildwood Cemetery, 4 January 1947. Frank Shea died at the Cushing V.A. Hospital in Framingham on 30 April 1949. He was also buried in the Seaver family plot.

The Wildwood Cemetery burial records were recently digitized, which helped me locate the burial site of George R. McClellan.

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In December 2015, I visited the grave of George Roderic McClellan with my father at Wildwood Cemetery in Winchester, Massachusetts. George likely never even visited Winchester, but his mortal remains were placed there as a legacy from the deaths of the children of Silas and Emma Seaver when they had lived in Winchester in the 1870s and purchased a family plot. George McClellan’s name is not inscribed on the stone, only the names of Lillian Seaver’s mother Emma Seaver and Lillian Seaver’s siblings who all died young: Arthur (1874-1875), Henry (1875-1880), Herbert (1878-1880) and George (1881-1898). But within the Seaver plot lie buried Silas and Emma Seaver and their children, and Lillian Seaver’s husbands George Roderic McClellan and Frank Shea, despite the fact that names of Silas Seaver, Lillian Shea, George McClellan and Frank Shea are not carved on the gravestone over the plot.

It was a powerful moment to stand at George’s gravesite on that cold New England day. My father, the great-great grandson of George McClellan and great-grandson of George and Imogene’s oldest surviving son Roderic Cameron McClellan, had grown up in the house that Imogene (Everson) McClellan had built after George McClellan left the family. It still stands in the shadow of the brick smokestack that mason George McClellan had built with Barnabas Everson in the 1870s. George’s disappearance had remained a family mystery for over a century. But we found him in a chilly cemetery and while there we contemplated the newly discovered details of his complicated, adventurous life.

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The Seaver gravestone at Wildwood Cemetery, Winchester, Mass. Photo courtesy of the author.

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The backside of the Seaver grave. The following names are missing from the stone: Silas Stone Seaver, George Roderic McClellan, Lillian Emma (Seaver) McClellan Shea, Frank M. Shea.  Photo courtesy of the author.

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The author and her father at George McClellan’s grave. Photo courtesy of the author.

Up Next: Imogene’s Life After George’s Disappearance And His Legacy

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

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

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

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

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9 thoughts on “Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George McClellan: Life and Death in Boston

  1. Pingback: Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan: George and Imogene’s Life in Hanson | Of Graveyards and Things

  2. just wow…geneasmacked by all of the research on this man. It’s worthy of an NEHGR article or NGS Magazine article, I think. Thank you for sharing it. We never really know “everything” about our ancestors or relatives – usually it’s just snapshots in time.

    • Thanks so much, Randy! It was a fascinating journey to discover so many details about George McClellan and his life. After researching for so long, was happy to finally get it down in writing!

  3. Pingback: Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of George Roderic McClellan | Of Graveyards and Things

      • My cousin Margie. Is looking for old photo,s. I also have some old photo,s of my grandmother and grandfather, hope to Here from you. Al Harvey

  4. I am a grand daughter of Emma f mcclellan, my mother daughter of Emma , Mary , is very interested in this family roots, would like to contact and speak with anyone interested to speak with her. Let me know. Thank yo

    • Hello cousin! So found you located this blog series, hope you discovered new details about our ancestor! I have emailed you with additional details.

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