Dr. Alexander S. & Rebekah (Brown) McClean

The following article first appeared in the Springfield Republican newspaper.

Dr. A. S. McClean’s Interesting Life and Extraordinary Experience.

McCleanASDr. Alexander S. McClean of Bliss Street has the distinction of being the only man identified with the city government in 1852 who survives to tell of the first year of cityhood. He was a member of the school committee in that year, and for a number of succeeding years. Aside from this fact, that marks him as the last of a body of men who had a part in starting the infant city in the right paths and laying the foundation for the progress and prosperity that has always characterized the munici­pality, Dr. McClean has had an interesting career. One of the events of his life which stands out in his memory with more than ordinary distinctness is his visit to his native town of Gettysburg, Pa., immediately after the great three-days’ battle between the forces of Meade and Lee.

Dr McClean was born in Gettysburg in 1821, and was educated chiefly in private schools. He taught school in Gettysburg for a time, and in 1841 moved to Harris­burg, where he continued in this line of work, being for a time principal of the girl’s department of the high school. He then took up the profession of medicine and entered the office of Dr. William Ruth­erford to study, later attending the university of Pennsylvania and graduating in the class of 1846. He began practice in Har­risburg and remained until 1848, when he removed to this city and opened an office in the block at the corner of Main and State streets, over the Old Corner bookstore. He made his home on Bliss street and has always continued to live there during his  over 50 years of active practice. In the days of town government, he was the “town doctor,” as the term was then applied, and had charge of the paupers at the almshouse, which was then located on North Street. Later he served as city physician. He was elected to the school board in 1852 from ward 3 and continued to represent the ward in that capacity for a number of years. In 1849, he married Miss Rebecca Brown of Templeton, and his second marriage was in 1882, to Miss Martha Ely Mathews of Northampton. In 1878 Dr. McClean went abroad and studied in the medical schools of London, Vienna, Edinburg and Dublin, and in 1881 he went abroad again for hospital study. Dr. Mc­Clean has for many years been a leading physician, and now at 81 years of age he has retired with the memory of an active life in the interests of his fellow-men. It is to be regretted that his health will not per­mit him to attend the jubilee exercises, where he has been invited to be the guest of honor.

Dr. McClean’s experiences at Gettysburg after the battle are of great interest. When the news came of the fighting in his native town he determined to start for the scene of the battle at once. He reached Harris­burg, and learned that the bridges were all burned and no trains running that would take him to the vicinity of the battleground, and he went over the moun­tains by team. On the road he came across straggling troops of Confederates, but they were mostly unarmed and offered no vio­lence. All the way he saw signs of the conflict, and when the vicinity of the town was reached hundreds of hastily buried bodies were to be seen, many with hands or other parts exposed. The doctor’s broth­er and his family were living in the town, and he went to their home, but found there was little to eat in the house, as the Con­federates had taken practically everything. All the churches, schools, houses and barns were crowded with wounded, and hundreds were still lying on the field, some in the hot sun and others in the corners of fences and under rude shelters. In the churches the pews were overlaid with boards and the wounded were laid on the platform thus constructed, with their heads toward the aisles, so that they could readily be reached by the attendants. The vestibule of the church was used as an operating-room, and there the doctors worked un­ceasingly, performing amputations and doing their best for the poor fellows. The college and the seminary were crowded to the doors with wounded, both Union and Confederate men.

Dr. McClean saw that there was a work for humanity’s sake that needed to be done, and reported to the head surgeon, who told him to go ahead and do anything he could to assist. He went out on to the bloody field and worked among men who had received little attention, the majority of them being Confederates. At one point he found a Virginia rail fence, in the cor­ners of which hundreds of wounded lay, protected only by bushes that had been cut and laid against the fence. He worked for days among the wounded, whose wounds were in the most terrible condition from lack of care, and did what he could to assist wherever he was most needed. For a time he worked in a barn which was used for the wounded. After a time a rude hospital was built, and many of the wounded were taken from the field and placed there.

Dr. McClean says the horrors of the bat­tlefield in the days following the fight were something never to be forgotten. There were men begging and imploring for help and surgical care, and sometimes the surgeons when they saw a hopeless case were obliged to say, “Can’t help you,” and turn away to another. The stench from the field was something terrible, and it required courage to work about amid the awful surroundings. The doctor worked for two weeks in this way, and then be­coming ill he determined to leave, and came back to this city. The house where Dr McClean formerly lived, and which was then occupied by his brother, was in a location where the cannon balls during the artillery duel passed overhead, and the peo­ple in the house spent the terrible hours in the cellar. One shell entered the attic and imbedded itself, but luckily did not explode.


The following appeared in the Springfield Sunday Union of 22 June 1913:

Former Students Here Who Are Being Honored.
Alexander McClean Chung, son of Mun Yew Chung, the distinguished Oriental of Shanghai, China, was in town last week visiting friends. Mr. Chung, who was graduated from Yale University a year ago, has been spending the past year in post graduate work. He has now gone to the Pacific coast and will embark for China on the 26th, being accompanied by the retiring Chinese minister. Mr. Chung, who is only 23 years of age, has made a specialty of electricity and after a year’s absence will return to this country to pursue his chosen calling. Springfield people will be interested in the young man for the reason that he was named for Dr. Alexander McClean of this city whose wife was his father’s old teacher in Northampton. While in Shanghai Mr. Chung will stay with his father, Mun Yew Chung, who, by the way, was listed for the ambassadorship to the United States.

Springfield people will regret to learn that Dr. Yung Kwai, who married Miss May Burnham of Long Hill has been obliged to leave his important and honorable position as first secretary to the Chinese legation in Washington. His health is impaired and he has been obliged to seek rest. His place as first secretary — an office of immense responsibility — has been assumed by another former pupil of Mrs. McClean’s, Hong Yen Chang, who came from the same province as Mun Yew Chung, the district of Han Shan, and was with his friend in Yale, where he took two years, being obliged to leave at the end of that period because of the recall decree issued by the home government. However, although he left Yale, he did not return to his native land, but studied law in Columbia [University], afterward practising successfully on the Pacific coast. Mrs. McClean had rather lost track of him these latter years and was highly gratified to hear of the honor that has come to him In being promoted to the secretaryship of the legation.


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