Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday's Faces from the Past: Uncle Benny McClure Saves a Coon

Benjamin McClure (1812-1896), hubby's great-great-grandpa, was a pioneer settler in Wabash, Indiana, but what was he really like?

The woodcut at left is from The Wabash Times, 21 December 1893, which ran a story on p. 3 titled "A Biographical Sketch: One of the Sturdy Old Settlers--Uncle Benjamin McClure, a Man Well Known to All the Older Inhabitants of Wabash County--an Octogenarian." The same newspaper used this woodcut when it ran McClure's obit in 1896. And I'm using this woodcut as the profile photo for my Benjamin McClure Facebook page, my social media experiment in genealogy.

(Mrs. Sarah Denning McClure, hubby's great-great-grandma, died in 1888. Widower Benjamin soon sold the family farm and lived with his children for the next 8 years.)

Hubby used the microfilm reader in the Wabash Carnegie Public Library (which has lots of useful genealogical resources) last month to look for McClure's name in local newspapers. He found a story in the Wabash Plain Dealer one week after McClure's death that gave us new insight into this pioneer man's strong religious feelings. Here's the story in its entirety:
Uncle Benny and the Coon

How the Late Mr. McClure Balked a Party of Hunters
Jehu Straughn, the genial pioneer resident of this county, tells an anecdote of the late Benjamin McClure, which shows how thoroughly loyal Mr. McClure was to his Christian faith.
Many years ago when the country was new and Mr. McClure lived on the farm just west of the city, an industrious, contented husbandman, rugged in constitution and strong in religious convictions, there was a coon hunt by persons living in the vicinity of Mr. McClure's farm.
The coon was started, and ran toward the home of Mr. McClure, ascending a tree in the door-yard of that gentleman. It wanted only a few minutes to midnight when the animal ran up the tree and it was after twelve when the hungers located him. It would have been an easy matter to shoot the creature, and some members of the party were determined to do so, but Mr. McClure, who regarded the Sabbath day as sacred, lifted his hand warningly and said: "Boys, you can't shoot that coon until Monday. This is Sunday and the day shall be kept holy. If the coon is in the tree tomorrow night at this time, get him if you can, but he shall not be killed before that."
The hunters expostulated, but to no purpose, and the dawn found the coon still in the tree. During the day the hunters dropped in and begged to be allowed to fire at the coon, but Uncle Benny turned them all away with the remark: "No man shall ever say that he heard the crack of a rifle on my farm on the Sabbath day, if I can prevent it. Come tomorrow and if the coon is there, he's yours."
But Sunday evening the coon ran down the tree and escaped and Mr. McClure was roundly censured, but he was true to his convictions and not an iota did the lavish criticisms cause him to yield from the position he had taken.


  1. Now there's a man after my own heart :) Lovely story, Marian; thanks for posting it.

  2. Glad he had strong convictions to save even a creature.

  3. Isn't it fun to discover anecdotes like this about an ancestor? Thanks, Yvonne and BzIzzi, for reading and commenting!