Family Stories

Robert Davidson McLean – Muhlenberg County

Dr. Robert Davidson McLean was the son of Ephraim McLean and Elizabeth Davidson.  Ephraim was born in 1730 in Scotland, coming to America about 1750.  He married Elizabeth, 1741-1820, daughter of John Davidson and Margaret Mary Morrison, in January 1761 in North Carolina.  After the revolution Ephraim moved his family to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, where his youngest son, Robert Davidson, was born.  Shortly afterward the family moved to the area where Nashville, Tennessee, now stands.  By 1810 the McLean family moved westward to Logan County, and a few years later to Muhlenberg County.  It seems that all the early pioneers kept moving, perhaps too many people around after several years!  Ephraim died February 15, 1823.

Robert McLean began his life in Mercer County, Kentucky, April 12, 1783.  He married Rebecca Russell Wilson January 31, 1809, in Fayette County.  She was born in 1790 and died November 29, 1849.  The family moved almost immediately to Muhlenberg County.  Robert and Rebecca had two daughters. 

Celia McLean was born October 24, 1814, and married Robert Spotswood Russell in 1839.  The couple moved to Paris, Henry County, Tennessee, where they died in the year 1873, a few days apart.  Robert Russell died October 4, and Celia died October 23.  The couple had four children – Lucy Roberts Russell, Rebecca W. Russell, Samuel Russell and Edward McLean Russell.

The second child of Robert and Rebecca was daughter Sarah Rebecca McLean, who never married.  Sarah was born November 13, 1823, and died November 1, 1897.

In The History of Muhlenberg County by Otto Rothert there are a few instances when Robert McLean is mentioned.  In March 1834 he is listed as Coroner of the county.  Robert was the brother-in-law of the famous Ephraim M. Brank of War of 1812 fame.  Ephraim married Robert’s sister Margaret McLean.  In the notes on his older brother, Alney McLean, Robert is noted as ‘in his day one of the best-known surgeons in Western Kentucky.’  According to this book, Doctor Robert D. McLean’s office was on Main Street.

In the census records for Muhlenberg County there always seemed to be many people living in the household of Dr. Robert McLean.  Of course, they could have been nieces and nephews and others living there at the time the census was taken. 

In the 1810 census, taken August 6, there is a male under 10, a male 26-44 – Robert would have been 27, and a female 16-25 – Rebecca would have been 20.  Since the younger male could have been a newborn to the age of 10, it’s hard to determine if this could have been a first-born son who died at a young age, or a nephew. 

I could find no listing of Robert and Rebecca for the 1820 census.

In 1830 the Robert McLean household consisted of 1 male is under 5, 2 males 5-9, 1 male 15-19, 1 male 20-29, 1 male 40-49, 2 females under 5, 2 females 10-14, 1 female 30-39.  Quite a household!

In 1840 there were 1 male 5-9, 1 male 10-14, 1 male 15-19, 1 male 50-59, 2 females 10-14, 1 female 40-49. 

By 1850 Dr. Robert McLean was 67, listed as farmer; Sarah 25; Margaret R., 22; Russell M. McLean was 21, a schoolteacher; George Henry McLean, 7; and John Harvey McLean, 5.  Rebecca died the year before the census was taken.

In 1860 Robert and daughter Sarah lived with Edward R. McLean, 41, a farmer.  Edward’s wife, Dorah, was 30.  Two children, Catherine R., 7 and Sarah E., 5.  Robert D. McLean, 77, was listed as a retired physician, and Sarah R., 33, was listed as a domestic. Could this Edward be a son? His wife is buried in the family plot in Old Greenville Cemetery. 

The 1870 census shows Robert as head-of-household, 87 years of age, born in Harrod’s Station!  What an incredible addition of information!  Daughter Sallie is 45.  Another Sallie McLean is 10.  M. L. Forsythe is a 28-year-old physician.  Willis Jackson, 25, a schoolteacher, completes the list.

Perhaps some of you would know more about the children of Robert and Rebecca. 

There are seven McLean graves in Old Greenville Cemetery in the city of Greenville, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. They are in a row and are as follows:

Dr. R. D. McLean, born April 12, 1783, died May 10, 1875
In memory of Mrs. Rebecca A. McLean, died November 29, 1849, aged 59 years
Celia R. McLean, daughter of R. & C. E. McLean, born December 2, 1856, died 1859
In memory of my dear aunt, Sallie R. McLean, born November 12, 1823, died November 1, 1897
Ann McLean, born July 23, 1836, died September 6, 1836
D. S. McLean, wife of E. R. McLean, born January 7, 1830, died June 25, 1864
Nancy R. McLean was born April 27, 1811, died January 6, 1851
The McLean gravestones can be seen next to the wall in this photograph. The rounded stone, about halfway marks daughter Sallie McLean’s grave. The short stone to the right is Celia’ McLean’s. There is a space for a grave, with no stone. Nancy McLean’s stone is next, and you can see just a part of Rebecca McLean’s stone.

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