Family Bios in History Books

McClain County, Oklahoma
Historical & Genealogical Society

203 West Washington
     Purcell, Oklahoma 73080

Charles Morgan McClain


© McClain County, Oklahoma
Historical & Genealogical Society

A Family History

McClain County History & Heritage Book One

Charles Morgan McClain, pioneer and early settler of this county, descended from colonial immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. He was born in Osceola, Missouri in 1804, the son of John Trousdale and Susan Parker "Morgan " McClain. His grandfather was Judge William McClain of Carthage, Smith County, Tennessee and his mother was a daughter of General Morgan of Revolutionary fame.

C.M. McClain attended the common schools in St. Clair County, Missouri, then went to Carthage, Tennessee where he read law in his grandfather's law office along with his uncle, Andrew McClain, who later became a justice of the Tennessee State Supreme Court.

C.M. was admitted to the bar just as the Civil War was beginning, at which time he enlisted in the Confederate Army and served until its close.

With the approach of the Civil War, the family was divided in loyalty to the North and South. Uncle Andrew, only a few years older than C.M., supported the Union, but C.M., although he believed in the Union, could not go against his state. Feelings were strong on both sides, and some Southerners were seeking out Northern sympathizers and hanging them. C.M. and Uncle Andrew look very much alike, and C.M. barely escaped with his life when mistaken for his uncle who fled to Kentucky for the duration of the war. He enlisted in Company "B" of the 7 Tennessee Regiment and fought many of the battles throughout Virginia, including Chancellorsville. All his life, he bore a scar on his forehead received when he stood up on the breastworks "to watch the Dammnyankees run". His own officer ordered a sharpshooter to knock him down for exposing himself to the enemy. It was at Chancellorsville that Generals Lee and Jackson met for the lst time, and C.M. witnessed that meeting. In later years, a steel engraving of that event hung in his office.

Captured at Gettysburg, 3 July 1863, he spent his last year of the war in Fort Delaware prison on Pea Patch Island in the middle of the Delaware River. Making friends with his guards, he would exchange clothing with one his own size and go ashore on liberty. But he always returned, faithful to his promise made to the guard.

Home to Tennessee in 1864, he found that his father, and Grandfather and Grandmother McClain had all died during the war. In Nashville he met and married Catherine MacMurray, who died in childbirth. Their daughter, Mary Belle McClain "1866-1944", was about six years old when she, her father and Judge Head set forth in a horse drawn wagon to travel to Texas.

His older brother, William, was in Texas acquiring land, and C.M. joined him there in Gainesville, where he engaged in the mercantile business. In Gainesville, Cook County, Texas he admired a young widow who when stepping down for the stage coach exposed a trim ankle. He just had to buy a ticket to the next town! She was the widow Forsythe, Tinsey Paralee Sparks, married at eighteen and left a widow at nineteen when Sam Forsythe died after being thrown from a horse.

C.M. and Paralee were married in 1876. The suite of bedroom furniture "in the McClain County Museum" was purchased that year. Made of walnut, with dresser and washstand tops of marble, it is typical of Victorian furniture.

Paralee had been born on a plantation in Titus County, northeastern Texas in 1854, the daughter of William Sparks and his second wife, Hanna Weeks, both descended from English immigrants to the Colonies. Being 14 years younger than C.M., she was a little girl during the Civil War and recalled that her shoes were made by a slave who knew the trade of cobbling. After their slaves were freed, she did not lose touch with all of them. As late as the 1920's, one elderly black woman, a former slave known as "Aunt Edie", received a small check every week from Mrs. McClain.

C.M. and Paralee were parents of William Harkadine "1880-1969" and Kate "1883-1973" born in Gainesville, Texas. In the late 1880's they moved to California, perhaps encouraged to do so by Judge Andrew McClain, who was then living in San Diego; perhaps also, by an interest in some gold mines that later failed. When the McClains lived in the San Joaquin Valley, the third child, Charles Roshell "1890-1981" was born.

About 1891, the McClains moved into the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, settling at Purcell, which had been founded in 1887 when the Santa Fe Railroad was laid from north to south. In Purcell, C.M. was general agent for Hartford Insurance. He was awarded a large picture of a Stag, the emblem of the company, for writing the most insurance west of the Mississippi River.

The last child of the McClains was Harvey Lee "1895-1944" born in Purcell. With four children to educate, C.M. joined with two other families to establish the first school, constructed a small building and hired a teacher. Out of this small private school grew the public school system of Purcell. In 1902, the first high school graduating class numbered 3 girls: Kate McClain, Hattie Simpson and Lena McCarty.

C.M. was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention to draft a document for the proposed state constitution of Oklahoma from his district #86, Indian Territory. He was the second oldest delegate at the convention. He served as chairman of the committee on insurance and also as a member of the committee on Ordinances and the Legislative Department.

Six counties in Oklahoma are named for the six men who traveled at their own expense to the national capital to politic for uniting Oklahoma and Indian Territories into one state, Oklahoma. The Indian Territory counties of Curtis and Bonaparte "of proposed State of Sequoyah ed." were combined and named for Colonel McClain; Purcell being the county seat.

After statehood at which the constitution was ratified, C.M. was elected Register of Deeds of the county of McClain and re-elected in 1910. On retiring from these duties January 13, 1915, he was appointed Chief Assistant to the State Game & Fish Warden.

In Purcell, C.M. was a well-known popular personality. Rather short and portly, he enjoyed steak and mince pie for breakfast. He always had an amusing story to tell, and he frequently nick-named friends. They called him "Colonel McClain" or "Uncle Charlie".

The McClains had been members of the Presbyterian Church, but when they moved to Purcell they joined the Methodist Church since there was no Presbyterian. They became active in the work of the Church and faithful attenders. C.M. had his own chair at church "in the museum" finding it more comfortable than the hard pews. One of the two stained glass windows on each side of the entrance to the Methodist Church is a memorial to him. Paralee organized the Church Missionary Society to help less fortunate people. She was an excellent needlewoman, especially in quilting, tatting and knitting.

C.M. died in 1915, and Paralee lived on until 1929 spending her last 3 years in Norman. Although there were three sons, only one of them had a son to carry on the McClain name. However, he is now deceased, leaving no offspring. The name of McClain lives only in the name of his county.

Eda Nelson Halberstadt, John Nelson, Mary Lee Fisher

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