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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.

Dimondale, Michigan in March

If you were to look at me sitting here working right now, you might think I was as peaceful as this shot of the Grand River running through Dimondale in Michigan. This was the main thoroughfare through the land for the European settlers as they found swamp land to drain and trees to clear to create farms in the early 1800s. It was also the main thoroughfare for the Native Americans who found themselves suddenly unwelcome as they wandered through the crops of the white men farmers. I expect this Grand River has seen it all.

I look peaceful, as it does, but I am not; my head is in an absolute spin. Still waters truly do run deep when there’s work to done.

On a point of information, when I took this shot I had just eaten dinner at Mike’s Village Restaurant or some such named place. The homemade bread was amazing, but the waitress was a little scary. When she reeled off the list of fish on the menu my mind melted. I am sure she said catfish at one point. If she had been packing a gun in her leg splint I would not have been surprised. I then went down to an ice-cream parlour that smelled overwhelmingly over deep fried food. (It is at times like these I feel I am strongly channelling the olfactory abilities on my mother’s side.) Not to be diverted, I ordered a black walnut ice-cream, which, when it came, was the size of beach ball on a cornet the size of the actual musical instrument.

To take the shot I had to juggle this monster ice-cream, my slippery phone, and various other items a researcher cannot be without apparently… The ice-cream went in the bin shortly afterwards. I had super-sized just that bit too much.


Gaps and Questions

I have concluded that any life is full of them really, I suppose. I can’t even answer questions about things that have occurred in my own to any high degree of satisfaction. It’s not a bad thing as such and maybe it’s why we are drawn to packaged narratives, with plot and pace. Most real life is a meander through circumstance and environment.

That said, my trip is nearly over and this part of my research is nearly done. I am driving back up to this lovely spot that I left yesterday morning: Woodland Park, Newaygo County, Michigan to say goodbye to people. Then back to Shicargo (as my devoted little emailer Cassia calls it) and home on the big white bird.



On the Road & on the Radio


I saw two dogs in Chicago. This was the second. The first was a black lab. I’ve only seen this photo on my phone but I liked the reflections of the windows on the street. And the fire hydrant. Why don’t we have those in the UK?

Anyway, I was liking Chicago a lot until I had to drive out of it: being honked at by a monster ice road trucker was the low point… Mind you I was going too slow.

I was temporarily horrified to find myself in Gary, Indiana; my cursory glance at the map hadn’t factored in that Illinois doesn’t segue directly into Michigan. All I can say about that is when Dame Helen Mirren described Essex, she obviously hadn’t been to Indiana.

Driving into Michigan on interstate 94 settled the nerves. In this neck of the woods the speed limit is largely observed and there are less trucks to get sandwiched between. I am a bit puzzled and alarmed by a sign on my offside wing mirror. It says, ‘careful, objects are closer than they appear’. Go figure…

The radio calmed me at my most angsty; singing along tunelessly helps. I had proper American stuff, nearly perfect for a road trip. We had Journey, John Mellencamp, Simon & Garfunkel, The Monkees and The Doors. The British held their musical end up with T Rex and the Eurythmics. I made do with ‘Dreamweaver’ as today’s theme tune, but perfection would have been Roxy Music’s ‘There’s a band playing on the radio…’ as I rattled the Nissan Versa (grey as Grandpa would say) over the interstate slow lane potholes.


There are lots of people, who may or may not check into this blog from time to time, who have been massively encouraging and supportive of my latest project that involves transatlantic flight and I just want all of you to know that you are much appreciated, perhaps more than I let on. I have been sent books, and other contraband, lent a rucksack, been given pep talks and other deeply sensible practical advice, all of which helps me out, means a lot and sustains me.

Today, I just wanted to share this beautiful and unique trip log that that I have been given by the lovely Reform in her bookbinding persona. I don’t quite trust the tinternet technology at times, so this is going to be really helpful, along with all the other kindnesses I feel I don’t quite deserve but am blessed to receive. Thank you all, truly.