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Probate Judge John McClellan

I am looking for any information on Judge John McClellan, who lived in Lansing, Michigan and worked for Ingham County Probate Court  for a book I am researching.

He was born in Springport, MI on the 5th March 1877. His parents were, he wrote in a brief biography, ‘from the north of Ireland.’  His father was a farmer called Robert, his mother was Eliza Ann, nee Adams.    They were born around 1840 and 1850 respectively and were reportedly married in Australia.

In all, Robert and Eliza had six children:  John was the youngest of three brothers; there was also Samuel who was four years older and Robert, eight years older and born in Australia .  There were also three girls: Catherine, Eliza and Martha who seems to have died before John was born, certainly before he turned three.


John McClellan went to high school in Springport, a small town about 30 miles south of Lansing, and graduated in 1896.  After spending a year teaching.  He then went to a college, only ten miles from his hometown of  Springport, called Albion College for his Bachelor of Arts degree.  This was a private college endowed by the Methodist church.  McClellan left in 1904 and went on to law school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1907, by which time he would have been thirty years old.  Still a bachelor, he opened a law practice in Lansing but by 1912 he had moved into work for the city of Lansing as the City Clerk.  This was the start of his public life in Lansing and he held office as an alderman in 1918-19.

By 1921 he was the City Attorney and in 1922, on April 18th, he married a nurse called Mary Jane Maurer who came from the town of Potterville, another small town outside Lansing.  In 1928, until 1930, he entered the judiciary as a Judge of the Municipal Court and in 1937 he became Probate Judge for Ingham County until his retirement in 1957, shortly before his death.  By the time he retired he was nearly eighty years old, but the newspapers reported he was approaching seventy.

His interests were listed as golf and fishing.  He and his wife never had any children.

If anyone has information on John McClellan, was related to him in anyway through his sisters and brothers, or who had dealings with him through his work in Ingham County I would be most grateful.

I also wondered if this man was the same John McClellan who was the first Executive of the Michigan League for Public Policy in 1938.

I can be contacted through the comments below and I will reply in confidence.

The State Archives

I spent yesterday in Lansing, with mixed success. Firstly, we caught the state archivists flat-footed, with an antiquated indexing system and archive databases that don’t interface and are impossible even for them to navigate. I’ve had to leave it with them to get in touch with me on Monday. One archivist seemed disinterested; fortunately another had the good grace to be professionally embarrassed and I am hoping the files turn up next week. I resisted my strong Russell instinct to imagine every archivist in the building to be a total idiot… a genetic trait which requires the suppression of fulmination and the urge to go back there and find the damn things myself.

It’s a frustrating setback but hopefully only temporary.

The time not spent in the archives was instead put to good use. I was given a tour of key sites in town; travelling in some style in a red Pontiac. It made a change from the Nissan Versa (grey), which I keep trying to get into on the no steering wheel side #embarrassing

Determined not to give up on the documentary evidence side of the research, I returned to the state library to look at newspaper microfiche reels. I have discovered that these give me motion sickness at the moment (as well as elevators) and are to be avoided, for now. I did manage to gain some information that can be used for contextual detail later on. I was in the library so close to closing time that I ended up locked out in a second floor open air quadrangle, trapped like a myopic Rapunzel by my own curiosity. After a bit of rushing around trying doors (locked), I finally attracted someone’s attention who let me in, so I could then exit in the usual manner. Which I did, feeling a bit of a twit and still giddy from turning the microfiche.

This is the view from the quad. One, I might add, I had taken earlier, before I thought I might be sleeping there.