McClure, Samuel MAGA © 2000-2007
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Virginia, Ill.

By: J. N. Gridley

Printed by the Enquirer

By Dr. J. F. Snyder


Prior to the organization of Cass county, in 1837, it is doubtful if the Homeopathic maxim, Similia similibus curanter, had ever been heard of on the sunset side of the Wabash. Nor is it probable that the name of Haunemann, or the marvelous efficacy of his infinitesimal attenuations had been mentioned anywhere in the broad prairies or back-woods of Illinois. But before that period there had come into the Prairie State several practitioners of a system of medicine which if not as elegant and harmless as Homeopathy, had for its materia medica a line of therapeutical agents a good hotter and more energetic than Haunemann's. They were disciples of Dr. Samuel Thomson, of Boston, and were known as "Thomsonians," but designated by the regular profession as "Root and Yerb Peddlers." They styled themselves "Botanic Doctors;" having as their motto, Finis coronat opus, employing only vegetable remedies, and ignoring calomel and all other medicines derived from the mineral kingdom as being incompatible with the juices and humors of the human system. To that school of practice Dr. McClure belonged.

Samuel McClure was born on a farm not farm from Versailles, in Woodford county, Kentucky, on the 5th of October, 1800. His father, Alexander McClure, was of Scotch-Irish descent, the son of Alexander McClure, a soldier in the Revolutionary war who was one of the patriot army at the siege of Yorktown, and was present at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. The Doctor's mother, as a girl, was Ann Dupuy, descended from an old French family of Huguenots who fled from France to America at an early day because of religious proscription. The Doctor's father was a slave-holder and planter in affluent circumstances, and sent him to school while the negroes did the work on the farm. Consequently, the Doctor acquired what in his day was considered a liberal education, not comprising the classics, but the main elementary branches of learning then taught in the best schools of the bluegrass region of Kentucky. By the time his school days were ended he began to think seriously of engaging in something to make his learning available for independent subsistence. Too cultured and refined to continue work on the farm and make a field hand along with the slaves, and seeing nothing in his reach better than school teaching, he commenced that with the intention of adopting it as a life profession. In that calling he was quite successful, teaching several terms in both Kentucky and Mississippi, and earning the reputation of a good teacher and superior grammarian. That reputation, however, did not wholly satisfy his ambition. With aspirations for promotion to higher social standing than that of an ordinary country teacher, he devoted his spare time while teaching in Kentucky to the study of medicine; or, more properly, to reading Dr. Thomson's books on Botanic medicine. by the time he finished that course he felt himself competent to enter upon the active duties of the profession. Thereupon he abandoned the schoolroom, and for some years before leaving his native state practiced his new profession as a Doctor, though not an M.D. He was in the practice during the epidemic of Asiatic cholera that swept through the west in 1833, and his treatment of that awful scourge was as effectual as that of the old-school physicians, the disease yielding to his capsicum, lobelia, No. 6, & c. about as readily, or more so, than to any other class of remedies. There were other important matters to occupy the Doctor's mind that year apart from the practice of medicine, although that, during the epidemic of cholera along with the usual endemics of the country, was amply sufficient to keep any common Doctor's thinking organs reasonably busy. On the 13th of March, 1833, Dr. Samuel McClure married Miss Louisa W. Graff, the daughter of one of the most substantial farmers in that neighborhood.

Notwithstanding the fact that Dr. McClure was accustomed from infancy to slavery in all its most favorable, as well as revolting aspects. He grew up in the belief that the institution was morally wrong, though sanctioned by the Scriptures, and should be abolished. So repugnant did the holding in hopeless bondage of an ignorant innocent race become to him that he resolved after his marriage to leave the slave holding south, as soon as he could and seek a new home in the free north. Thereupon he set about making preparations to leave the land of his birth and his kinsman, to form new associations and business relations among strangers.

In 1832 the Asiatic cholera invaded the United States for the first time. It was brought from Europe by an emigrant ship to Halifax. From there it rapidly traveled westward, overtaking on the great lakes, and overwhelming, the thousand United States troops General Winfield Scott was hurrying from Fortress Monroe to the Upper Mississippi to assist in the expulsion from Illinois of Black Hawk and his band of Indians. In the month of July it swept away more than half of those soldiers before General Scott's arrival at Prairie du Chien. held in abeyance there by the cold winter, the next spring it descended the Mississippi, spreading through its valley and up that of the Ohio, marking its track with dismay and death. In midsummer it reached Dr. McClure's locality in Kentucky affording him and other physicians there ample employment and novel experience.

In the spring of 1834,, with a good team and wagon loaded with "household plunder," the doctor and his young wife set out for the promised land then known far and near as the Sangamon county. Entering Illinois by crossing the Ohio at Shawneetown, he wended his way up into Morgan county to a point a few miles southeast of Jacksonville where some of his Kentucky acquaintances, who had preceded him, had settled. That summer and fall he found employment there as a farm hand in cradling wheat and oats and sowing wheat, by which he earned enough to pay current expenses. When he came to Illinois in April, 1834, John Reynolds was Governor of the state and Joseph Duncan, who resided in Jacksonville, was the representative of that district in congress. At the August election that summer he was elected governor, being succeeded in congress by William L. May, of Springfield, and Reynolds was elected to congress from the Bellville district. Illinois was rapidly filling up with immigrants from the south and east and was in a highly prosperous condition.

Dr. McClure taught a country school in the winter of 1834-35, in the meantime looking around over the country, and gaining all the information he could respecting its vacant lands, resources, and its people. By the time the grass began to grow, and the timber line was tinged with green in the spring of 1835, he moved up into that part of Morgan which two years later was cut off from it and organized as Cass County, and laid a claim on the fractional SW of Sec. 19, T. 17, R. 10 - 140 70-100 acres - which he did not enter until Nov. 5th, 1835. There he established his home, and dwelled the balance of his life. The farm he improved there - yet known as the "Dr. McClure farm" - is situated in Monroe precinct a mile south of the Providence church and schoolhouse, and five miles southwest of Virginia, the town Dr. Hall laid out the next year after Dr. McClure settled there. When established in Illinois the Doctor became, to all intents and purposes, a farmer, directing his attention and labor mainly to improving his land by building a dwelling house, stable, fences, and putting in crops of oats and corn. While employed with all that, however, he did not neglect his profession, but attended the sick whenever his services were needed for that purpose. He also taught school in the winters when work on the farm was slack or suspended, and so, managed to be idle very little of his time. There was no public school system at that period, and the country was too new to attract many school teacher, consequently the Doctor's schools were quite an accommodation and advantage to that neighborhood as well as a source of some profit to himself. A few gray-haired persons still living here who were then his scholars speak of him as an excellent teacher of mild, pleasant disposition, and very patient and painstaking in his methods of instruction and enforcing necessary discipline. by his industry and frugality he was in a few years comfortably situated on his valuable farm well cultivated, with fine fruit orchards and an ample supply of horses, cattle and other live stock.

He then quit teaching, and a little later, meeting a case that destroyed his confidence in the infallibility of the noble science, abruptly retired from the practice of medicine. He was called one day a few miles west of his place to see Henry Schaeffer, a neighbor for whom he entertained a high regard,,, who had a "congestive chill," which in those days were of frequent occurrence. He treated him seeundum artem with the usual course of hot teas, lobelia, No. 6, elecampane and comfrey, all of which failed to produce the desired reaction. Then resorting to heroic measures he gave the patient two tablespoonsful of pulverized Cayenne pepper - or capsicum - and went home. Prof. Joseph McDowell, of St. Louis, in his lectures to the students of his classes, often told of a case of tubercular consumption he cured by the liberal use of whiskey; but, unfortunately, about the time the cure was perfected the patient died of "jim-jams," or delirium tremens. Dr. McClure was alarmed by the serious condition of his friend Schaeffer, and so uneasy that on getting to his home he could neither eat or sleep. To his wife, who, in the middle of the night, asked him the cause of his agitation, he said, "Louisa, I believe that red pepper I gave to Henry Schaeffer will kill him. I have prayed to the Lord to spare his life; but whether he gets well or dies this is the last of my Doctoring." It is quite evident that the Lord obligingly granted his prayer; for Schaeffer got well, and often afterwards jocularly remarked, "That handful of red pepper I took knocked the chill, but came mighty near knocking me too," and considered himself peculiarly fortunate in having survived both the disease and the treatment. That case terminated Dr. McClure's professional career.

Henceforth he led the tranquil and uneventful life of thrifty prairie farmer, attending strictly to his own business, and generally on good terms with himself and all of his neighbors. In figure he was somewhat fleshy, a little over medium height, usually weighing about 180 or 190 pounds. His hair, when young was of light brown color, his eyes blueish gray, and his face expressive of a kindly nature with ample firmness and decision. With selfishness enough to take good care of his own interests, he possessed the noble qualities of candor, truthfulness and conscientious honesty. Straightforward in all his dealings his word was as good as his bond - as good as any man's bond -, and though exacting all that was due him, he scrupulously met every obligation to the fraction of a cent. Not particularly distinguished for liberality or generosity, he was kind-hearted and compassionate, always ready to accommodate a neighbor or help anyone in need or distress. In disposition he was social, companionable and hospitable, generally cheerful, and not given to anticipating trouble, or grieving about mishaps that could not be remedied. A good talker, always grammatically correct in his language, he spoke with the broad inflection, and with many of the phrases and idioms, peculiar to the south. His conversation plainly indicated that he had been raised where plantation negroes abounded, and was not a Yankee. In party politics, however, he was decidedly in accord with some of the New England ideas. At that period in Illinois the most extreme and detestable brawlers for the abolition of slavery were men from southern states who had sold their slaves there, and with the proceeds of that human, or inhuman, traffic secured land and homes here. Dr. McClure was in harmony with that class. His father, who died when on a visit in Texas in 1839, owned a farm and several slaves in Kentucky, a part of which fell to the Doctor by inheritance. Two or three times he went back to Kentucky to see about the adjustment or distribution of his father's estate; and though he entertained for the poor-downtrodden slaves of his share the most heartfelt sympathy, he did not emulate the example of Gov. Coles, and bring them to Illinois in freedom and give them homesteads; but sold them with the balance of his interests in the estate to some of the other heirs, and pocketed the money they brought. In February, 1847, he bought of David J. Moody, a land speculator of Massachusetts, the eighty acres adjoining his farm on the west, the E. of the SE of Sec. 24 in T. 17 of R. 11, being part of an extensive scope of land in that neighborhood that Moody had entered in the spring of 1835.

He was personally acquainted with Henry Clay, the idol of many Kentuckians, and was an ardent admirer and follower of that illustrious statesman. In Kentucky he earnestly endorsed and advocated Mr. Clay's proposed solution to the vexatious slavery question by the gradual emancipation and colonization of all southern slaves, but in free Illinois, still a zealous Whig and later a fervid republican, he concluded the policy of gradual emancipation was entirely too slow, and clamored for the immediate abolition of slavery everywhere, and securing to the freed negroes all civil and political rights enjoyed by the white race. Consequently he saw in the results of the civil war the redressing of a stupendous national wrong by a kind and merciful Providence acting through and directing the Union cause and its guiding spirit, the God-like Lincoln. Dr. McClure was, however, by no means a "pernicious partisan" of the blustering, aggressive order. Fixed and immovable in his convictions, which believed to be right, he seldom obtruded them upon anyone unasked and accorded to others the right of individual judgment he claimed for himself.

Sometime after he came to Illinois he was spiritually converted and joined the Presbyterian church of which he became a fervent and orthodox member, subscribing without reserve to every tenet and dogma promulgated by John Calvin, but feeling reasonably sure that he was not himself one of the class of humanity foreordained from the beginning to be damned. Judged by the commonly accepted standard of correct moral deportment, and upright, honorable conduct, Dr. McClure was a true Christian. People who are honest from the dictates of conscience alone are as scarce as four leaf clovers. His honesty was of that kind, not a mere matter of policy, but the prompting of an innate sense of right and justice. And honesty of that brand, like charity atones for a multitude of faults. He was a straight Christian, but like the Indians' tree, so straight that he leaned a little to the other side. That is he leaned a little toward Puritanism. Not satisfied with possessing the spirit of true religion, he conformed, "with rigid feature and canting whine," as precisely as he could, and compelled all under his control to do so, with the old formalities of the church, which are now happily almost obsolete. He was one of the founders of the Providence church in Monroe precinct and with William Nisbet, George Wilson, William Petefish and Jacob Bergen, served a long time as one of its trustees, and paid one-third of the cost of the church building still standing there. In early life he joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows which for some reason failed to fulfill his expectations, and in a few years he quietly dropped out of it.

Dr. McClure was one of the substantial, reliable citizens of Cass county, a good neighbor, a good man, an affectionate and indulgent father and husband. he was the supporter and promoter of churches, schools and all other agencies of modern civilization. While not at all a crank on the subject of social reforms his influence and aid were always given to such movements as tended to better the condition of society by improving its morals. Though a bigot and zealot in a community of liberal, enlightened views, and an abolitionist of the Lovejoy type among people habitually voting the straight democratic ticket and with no disposition or desire to disturb the institution of slavery where it already existed, he retained the respect and esteem of all who knew him and particularly of his immediate neighbors.

The doctor's wife, Louisa W. Graff, sister of Wash. Graff the widely known wealthy and enterprising farmer of the northeastern part of Morgan county, was a typical sample of the Illinois pioneer matron reared in the south. Devoted to her family and her home, free from the narrow bigotry and immovable prejudices of her husband, she possessed, with habits of industry and frugality, a kind, benevolent and charitable disposition, and all the highest excellence of Christian character. She was born in Woodford county, Kentucky on the thirteenth of September, 1813 and died at her Cass county home on July 7, 1849, at the early age of 35 years, 9 months and 24 days, leaving besides her husband, two daughters and a son to mourn her loss and cherish her memory.

The eldest daughter, Parthenia M. McClure, was united in marriage to Andrew Jackson Petefish, the son of a neighboring farmer, in September, 1858 and shortly thereafter the young couple sought for a new home in Kansas. The furious political upheaval preceding and ushering in the civil war impelled them to return to Cass county, and when the sons of Illinois were called to take up arms to maintain the integrity of the Union, "Jack" Petefish - as he was familiarly known -, a patriotic Democrat - entered the military service as a corporal of Co. D., 101st regiment of Illinois volunteer infantry. In the Wahatchie valley, between Chattanooga and Bridgeport, in Tennessee, he was struck by a confederate shell and fatally wounded. Taken to a field hospital near Chattanooga he lingered there awhile and died on Nov. 3d, 1863. His wife is now the widow of her second husband, the late eminent physician, Dr. Macbeth, and resides in Denver, Colorado.

The younger daughter, Ann Dupuy McClure, was married on Nov. 10th, 1859, to Robert Hall, an enterprising young farmer, now the most extensive land owner, and best known citizen in Cass county. She died in the city of Virginia on July 24th, 1892.

The Doctor's son, Alexander McClure, served his country well and faithfully during the civil war as a soldier of Co. K, 101st Illinois volunteer infantry. After his father's death he took charge of the farm, and the next year, 1866, married Miss Sarah Ellen Mathews, one of the beautiful daughters of a prominent pioneer farmer residing across the prairie three miles to the westward. Imagining that he needed more elbow room for territorial expansion, he left Illinois in 1875, and is now a prosperous farmer, and highly respected citizen, of Page county, Iowa.

Marriage is sometimes prompted by ideas of expediency as much as by impulse or passionate affection; and, as marriage is altogether a lottery, it may turn out as well as an expedient as when instigated by love alone. Perhaps that was the light in which Dr. McClure, in middle life, viewed it when left a widower with three young children to raise and no female hired help attainable. At any rate, after a mourning period of nearly two years had passed, he thought it expedient to look around for another helpmeet to replace the one he lost, to be a mother to his motherless children. He looked around until down in Morgan county, not far from the town of Waverly, he found a widow who consented to try her chances with him in life's lottery. From the records at Jacksonville it is learned that on the first day of June, 1851, Dr. Samuel McClure and Mrs. Marrina M. Warnack "were duly joined in the holy bonds of matrimony by W. S. McMurry a Minister of the Gospel." when Mrs. Warnack assumed the unenviable station of a step-mother in the McClure family, the Doctor's oldest daughter was a grown young lady of 18 years, the next daughter was sweet sixteen, and the boy about 14 years old. She no doubt fared as well as the most of step-mothers do, and better than some, as the two girls soon married and left, and the boy was of such amiable disposition that he gave her no trouble.

Dr. McClure was intensely interested in the progress and ultimate results of the civil war, which afforded him at least two causes for heartfelt rejoicing; one of them was the safe return home of his soldier boy, Alec., who was discharged from the service, in 1863, on account of disability; and the other was the summary and final abolition of slavery. His rejoicing, however, was somewhat dampened by distressing failure of his health from the insidious inroads of Bright's disease. He was a hopeless invalid when he heard the startling account of President Lincoln's assassination; and confined to his bed when he received the joyous news that the war was ended and peace restored. With the advance of summer and its oppressive heat the failed rapidly until his enfeebled system was exhausted, and death terminated his suffering on the 27th of August, 1865, at the age of 64 years, 10 months and 8 days.

No children came to bless the doctor's second marriage. His surviving widow sold her dower interest in his estate to Bob Hall for $2,000 and returned to Morgan county. There she was, two years later, married to a Mr. Dinwiddie who survived that event but a few years and died, leaving her again a widow. Not satisfied with three trials of the wedlock lottery, she was once more united in marriage by the ministration of Robert Clark, to Melzar Stowell of Cass county on April 28th, 1885, that being Mr. Stowell's third venture in the same lottery. In the peace and quietude of declining life they resided in the town of Virginia until death called her to everlasting rest at 10 o'clock a.m. on 22d of January 1894, and he died on Sunday, December 29th of the same year.