When the homestead law was enacted and rumors of the wonderful resources of this great western country were carried north, south and eastward, Robert McLean determined to emigrate to Kansas, and since 1868 this original and interesting character has been making history in Cloud county. He got his first glimpse of frontier life in Meredith township, where he joined his brother, the late Thomas McLean, and later homesteaded a quarter section of land, one mile northwest of the hamlet of Meredith. Instead of leaving the country during the Indian uprising, as most of the settlers did, Mr. McLean sought safer quarters with his brother, the late Alex. McLean, who had located just over the line in Ottawa county. He was undoubtedly a welcome visitor, for while his brother plowed corn our subject, with a gun in hand ready for action, stood as sentinel keeping a close vigilance on the developments of savage warfare.
Mr. McLean is of Scotch Irish origin, born in the Dominion of Canada in 1848. In 1872 he returned to his former home and was married to Miss Mary Smith, who was also a native of Canada, born in 1852. After having equipped himself with a helpmate, they repaired to their new western home and in 1874 bought the Morgan Grant stock of general merchandise and prospered as everybody did in those days, who had wares to sell. In 1884 he returned to Canada and secured a farm, but two years later came to Kansas, and bought the same store in Meredith; but again became restless and thought there must be a country more to his liking, consequently sold his store and sent his family to Canada, while he prospected for fairer fields, and, although he spent four years in various parts of the country, including California, so great was his "hankering" to again be a merchant on the broad prairies of the Sunflower state, that a few months later he, for the third time resumed business in the old place. About twelve months later, however, he sold and left the village of Meredith for the fourth and last time. He bought the store of James Clithero, of Concordia, and a year later sold his interest to James Hubert Hodge, bought the Murphy homestead in Meredith township and engaged in the stock business very successfully. Retaining the farm, he bought the Jake Fetters store located at Hollis, and one year subsequently conducted a general merchandise business in Cuba, Republic county. In 1901 he bought one hundred and sixty acres of land in Sibley township, his present home. A great deal of real estate has passed through Mr. McLean's hands, having bought and sold almost a score of farms. He is now interested in stock and says he is raising "yellow corn and black hogs." He has at present thirty-four brood sows, and buys and sells constantly. In January, 1897, "The Sample Case," a paper devoted to the interests of the United Commercial Travelers, appears the following comprehensive "take off" on Mr. McLean, which was evidently written by "A Brother" who saw him as others see him.
Away out West in Kansas, two hundred miles or more -
Some twenty miles from no place, stood a little country store,
And the man who ran the shanty (a Canadian by birth)
Just worked the store and people for all that they were worth.
A regular museum, where was kept for sale or trade,
Feathers, flour and sailer kraut, and calico, and nails,
Now Robert was a genius of the most emphatic kind,
He wore a pair of pantaloons made out of cottonade,
But Bob got tired of keeping store, he hankered for a farm
If any of Bob's hosts of friends should stray out into Cloud county, they will find him husking pumpkins, and as proud of raising hogs and cabbages and cockle-burs and corn, as any man that's farmed it every day since he was born. A. BROTHER.
Though a genial, kind-hearted man, Mr. McLean is a little high strung, and viewed from a duelist standpoint, he is rather fierce, as the incident related here implies: The seeds of rebellion had been planted by a preacher of the Free Methodist faith, who had farmed our subject's land and who, it is claimed, was hauling to market more than his share of the corn. Mr. McLean remonstrated with the divine, but his continued efforts were unavailling; he remained obdurate, and hot and hotter words ensued until Mr. McLean supplemented his persuasions by letting loose the flood gates of his wrath and transfixing the expounder of the gospel with a slap beside the head with a shovel. But there was an unpleasant sequel to his pugilistic tendencies, for his opponent was in a vindictive frame of mind and did not hesitate to institute legal proceedings against his assailant, and on account of the prominence of the individuals, considerable notoriety was given the affair, Mr. McLean was arraigned for assault and battery, found guilty and fined one hundred dollars and costs, which amounted to more than seven hundred dollars - rather an expensive slap.
Mr. McLean talks interestingly of the early days in Kansas. He was a true pioneer and enjoyed the wild freedom of the plains. While on a buffalo hunt his party found the skeleton of a man, and the bones of his ox team, with the wagon which had drawn the luckless frontiersman to his death on the lonely prairie, at the hands of some murderous Indian hand. They carried away with them the skull and an arrow that held together two joints of the backbone.
The family of Mr. and Mrs. McLean consists of seven children. Mark, the eldest son is one of the proprietors of "The Oxford," a popular restaurant in El Reno, Oklahoma. He is prosperous and an adept in the business, having been connected with prominent places in Deliver and San Diego. Mary, the eldest daughter, is the wife of A. Richards, a farmer of Sibley township. Frank, the second son, is of an agricultural turn of mind and the prime mover in farm and stock interests. James, a young man of seventeen years, exhibits special talent for music. Anna, aged fifteen, graduated from District No. 16, in 1902, with the highest grades and won three scholarships, namely: Baker, Ottawa and Great Bend Universities. Thomas, their youngest son, was named for his uncle, Thomas McLean, the founder of Meredith and well known to all old settlers of that locality, where his widow, who survives him, still lives. Their youngest child, who bears the good old Quaker name of Prudence, is aged ten.
Mr. McLean is a Republican of pronounced type. He is not identified with any denomination, but contributes to the Catholic church, of which his wife and children are members. Hidden in a bower of trees on a knoll near the center of the farm, a few rods distant from pretty Lake Sibley, stands the pleasant home of the McLeans, where stranger or friend will always find their "latch-string hanging out," for their hospitality is as proverbial as Mr. McLean's individuality.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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