The man whose picture is shown in this photograph is George E. McClellan, early settler of what is now Suwannee County; his middle name is usually mentioned as Edmond. McClelland was born in the Barnwell District of South Carolina (some sources say Georgia) on July 11, 1808. In 1830 McClellan moved to Florida and constructed a home just south of what is now Wellborn on part of his 560-acre plantation (later more than 2,000 acres in size). Prior to 1831, he married Sydney S. Taylor, with whom he eventually had ten children. The McClellan home was along the Old Spanish Trail and soon became a stop for stagecoaches traveling between St. Augustine and Pensacola. It was at McClellan's dwelling where horses were traded out and the injured (from Seminole Indian raids) were treated. Not long thereafter, McClellan opened the first post office at his home. He called the community and post office "Little River" after a short river that ran from McClellan Lake into what is now called Wellborn Lake. McClellan's main source of income was his plantation, where in 1850 he was listed as having 14 slaves beteen the ages of six and 62.
When the Second Seminole War began in late 1835, McClellan organized the first Columbia County militia unit to serve (Suwannee County was part of Columbia County until Dec. 21, 1858); 77 foot and mounted soldiers answered his call to fight. McClellan and his men fought in the Battle of Wahoo Swamp on Nov. 21, 1836, when Governor and General Richard K. Call led the Florida militia, Tennessee volunteers, Creek mercinaries and United States Army forces in an unsuccessful attack upon the Seminole Indians in what is now Sumter County. George McClellan was also involved in the last recorded Seminole attack in what is now Suwannee County in February of 1842, when the wife and three children of Richard "Dick" Tillis (called Tullis in some accounts) were masacred while he was helping a neighbor near what would become Wellborn. Several men, including McClellan, found the few wounded survivors and then pursued the Seminoles until they reached the Suwannee River and escaped. Infuriated at the lack of Army help, McClellan wrote to Governor Call; a typed copy of his letter can be found in the Acts and Resolutions of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida.
While the Second Seminole War continued, a convention was called in 1838 to draw up a constitution at St. Joseph, near present-day Port St. Joe, in preperation for Florida's admission into the Union as a state. Among the 56 men who attended was George E. McClellan, who according to some sources delivered the keynote address. Florida's voters did not pass the proposed constitution, and it would be another seven years before Florida became a state. In the meantime, McClellan served as probate judge from 1841-1845 and afterwards served as representative in the Florida Legislature. Suwannee County was established in 1858, and McClellan became one of the first county surveyors.
George's wife Sydney, passed away on July 7, 1860, and shortly thereafter, he married Celestia Relief Holman. George and Celestia had one child named Edmonia in May of 1862, but she died nine months later. During the Civil War (1861-1865), McClelland was commissioned as a captain in the Confederate Army. His probate records show that he was a prominate and wealthy merchant who donated foods and goods to help Suwannee County citizens in need during the conflict.
In a time of high infant mortality rates, five of George McClellans 11 children predeceased him before his own death in October of 1866. He is buried in the McClellan Cemetery just south of Wellborn with his first wife and most of their children.
Author: Eric Musgrove
Note: This article originally appeared in the Suwannee Democrat 10-4-2013. The Suwannee County FLGenWeb Project, Inc.has been given consent by Eric Musgrove to re-print the article on our website. Mr. Musgrove is a seventh generation Suwannee County resident and historian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564. His bio appears here.