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The McCluns

            John McClun (1812 – 1888) came to Illinois from Frederick County, Virginia, where he was the youngest of seven sons in a Quaker family. John McClun did not receive any formal schooling until he was 18 years old, because the family did not have money to pay the school fees. After receiving his education he taught school for three years and then he explored the West. Liking what he saw, he brought his widowed mother to Illinois. A few years later, two of his older brothers joined him in Bloomington.


            John McClun described Bloomington as it was when he came here in 1837: “It was even then, young and new as it was, a beautiful little city set upon a hill. It contained about three hundred inhabitants. The houses were small, plain, and cheaply built, yet they were painted white, which gave to the place an air of neatness and beauty. The improvements were then on Front Street and south of that. There was nothing on the public square but the old brick courthouse then being built. The slough north of the bridge where Bridge Fork now is was wide as a marsh. Pone Hollow was also a marsh, even wider than the other. The grove extended in a scattering manner up to Grove Street. The prairie came up to town in a state of nature, except a few farms. The deer roamed at large on the prairie, and the wolves howled in a chorus in what is now the heart of town. Quails and prairie chickens were plenty. Rattlesnakes crawled through the town, and now and then the bull snake, the monster of the prairie, would crawl into the very heart of the city. One single buggy, and only one, was in the County of McLean. We had no gold watches or gold chains. We had no sidewalks, and when the roads became muddy we put our pants in the tops of our boots and launched fearlessly into the great deep.”


            John first was a clerk and then a shopkeeper, having learned the art of selling from his mother. In Bloomington he, like many of the men of 1838, participated in the government and helped to make the small town grow and prosper. He served as a judge for three years although he had no legal training. After stepping down from the bench, he began the Home Bank of Bloomington which prospered for a time but finally failed.


            John married Hannah Harkness in 1839 and had eleven children with her, only five of which reached adulthood. None of those children remained in Bloomington except daughter Esther, who died in the Kankakee Insane Asylum in 1916. Her daughter Alice married another descendant of 1838, Dr. J. W. Fulwiler. Their marriage ended in divorce and resulted in no children.


            Absalom (1793 – 1861) came to Bloomington after John and had a large family with two wives: Eleanor Hightower and Margaret Patton. He died in Bloomington the day after coming to see his son Thomas off on his second campaign of the Civil War. Almira, a daughter of his first marriage married Eli Montgomery and had a daughter, Isabella Montgomery, who was one of the first women to graduate medical school at Northwestern. She practiced medicine at the Kankakee State Hospital, where her cousin Esther died. Two sons of his second marriage were officers in the Civil War. Thomas McClung (he used the “g” at the end of the family name) was 2nd Lieutenant in the 84th Illinois Infantry and brother Henry was in the 68th and the 134th. Both of these brothers moved West.


            Robert McClun (1798 - 1850) was a preacher who was described as extremely pious and peaceful.  His son William (1828 – 1853) died in Bloomington without children and his daughter Rachel married another preacher and lived in Adams County.  


            To read a full biography of John McClun, follow the link below to the McLean County Museum of History website.        

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