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Samuel Wilburn McClellan

(Written by his granddaughter, Pearl McClellan Douglass)

Samuel Wilbourn McClellan, the fourth child of James and Cynthia Stewart McClellan, was born at Bedford County, Tennessee, August 23, 1833. He was the second son and received the first name of his grandfather, Samuel Stewart. In the spring of 1833, his parents had moved to Shelby County, Illinois. In 1834 or 1835, they bought 600 acres of farm and timber land, and with 100 acres of it fenced and part of it under cultivation. They were doing well on this ranch when the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints came to their home and converted them to the Gospel. The parents were baptized and decided soon after to move to Nauvoo to be with the Saints. This move came when Samuel was between seven and eight years of age and marks the period of his life into the trials and tribulations of the exodus.

Soon after the arrival in Nauvoo, his father and mother were stricken with rheumatism and were confined to bed, about three months, each. The early part of Samuel’s life was spent much the same as the rest of James McClellan family. They endured hard times. His brother Hugh said that he had seen their mother prepare a meal for the family and everything she had to cook was potato tops with potatoes about the size of marbles, with no grease or salt for them. His father had property, and as soon as he was able to travel he went back to Shelby County, Illinois, to dispose of some of it, and they enjoyed more prosperity.

The boys went away to work in brick yards, teaming, boating, rafting, etc. Returning home, they found the parents busily preparing for the move West. They were all soon ready and on their way. They arrived at Council Bluffs, July 14 or 15, 1846.

They came with the Joseph Young Co. and arrived in Salt Lake Valley October 1, 1850, after spending 107 days on the route or plains from Council Bluffs. They went to what is now known as Pioneer Park where they spent the first winter. The family went to Payson to settle about the first of March, 1851. It took eight days to make the trip. They had some misgivings in regards to the water situation as ten or eleven families were already there. However, they settled on some land northwest of Payson known as the herd grounds. There they built a home and tilled the soil.

Hugh McClellan told of an incident when he and Samuel and some of the other children were ill with chills and fever. They wanted cold water to drink, but the doctor advised against it. There was a spring of water at the food of the hill where they lived. Hugh got out of bed and proceeded to the spring with his mother calling him back. But he kept on and drank all he wanted and recovered faster from the fever than any of the other children. People thought at that time that water was not good for anyone with fever.

Samuel Wilbourn McClellan was married to Arthusa Head May 5, 1855. She died about three months after, and December 20, 1856, he was married to Almeda Stewart. The first years of their married life were spent at the herd grounds, and some of their children were born there. Later he built a fine house in the city of Payson where he and Almeda reared to maturity nine of their thirteen children. Four of the little ones died when young.

Samuel was a skilled carpenter, and besides building his home, he made some furniture. Some of it is still in use. He helped some of his sons build their homes. He took pride in keeping his buildings clean and neat. As Payson grew, public buildings were needed, and he did carpenter work on most of them. A larger place was needed in which to hold dances and dramatic presentations. A company was organized May 20, 1882, to build an opera house. Samuel was one of the directors, and his brother, John J., was President. Samuel did much of the work on the opera house, and it with 507 opera chairs were completed in about one year. It was built so that the dance floor was even with the stage, and when plays were put on, the floor was taken down and the chairs arranged. The play “Green Bushes” was put on by local talent for the opening June 22, 1883.

At one time, Samuel with the help of some of his sons was manager of the Opera House. One of the duties of the manager was to be there early in the day to sell tickets for the dance or play. The tickets were purchased with squash, grain, or any other produce. Many stock companies traveling through the country gave performances there. The Opera House was also used by the schools for plays and programs.

In the year 1863, Samuel with his father and brother William went to meet the incoming immigration of the John Murdock Co. The team was driven by Jesse Knight.

Samuel was noted for his generosity and always gave flour, fruit, potatoes, and vegetables to widows and people less fortunate than himself. When his crops were harvested, many people were given their winter supplies. He was generous with his grandchildren and always had money for them on special occasions.

When the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was contemplating building a road through the western part of Payson, there was much speculation as to where the tracks would be laid. All were happy to have another railroad come through town, and it was an advantage to the town. But there were many disadvantages to Samuel to have the train so close to his house and cut through his property. As a result came the devaluation of his property. Another disadvantage was the influx of tramps it brought. It was the policy of Samuel to be kind to everyone, and he said he would never turn a hungry man away from his door. There was seldom a day passed that one or more tramps did not come and ask for food. It seems that the “Knights of the road” had a way of passing on the information as to the generous ones there. One came and made himself useful, so was allowed to spend the winter. While there, he wrote a poem about their 40th wedding anniversary.

Samuel was a tall, slender good-looking man with brown eyes and beautiful wavy auburn hair. In those days, red hair was very undesirable. He disliked his very much red hair and spoke disparagingly of himself. He also had a sense of humor. He said, “I am red-headed, freckle-faces, left-handed, and with all these afflictions, my mother named me Sam.” He disliked his red so much that after he had seen me with a red-headed boy he said, “Never have anything to do with a red-head.” It was fortunate that he did not have any children or grandchildren with red hair. He did, however, have some great grandchildren with red hair, but he did not live to see them. He was active to the last and passed away while working in his yard July 10, 1912, Payson, Utah.

George Curtis October 27, 1823
February 5, 1910

Mary O. Curtis March 25, 1839
April 2, 1919

Owner/SourceChristie Smith
Linked toMCCLELLAN Samuel Wilburn

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