John A. McClung

(b. September 25, 1804, Washington, Ky.; d. August 6, 1859, Niagara River,
N.Y.). A distinguished preacher, lawyer, and writer, Rev. John Alexander McClung was the son of Judge William McClung, a grandson of Col. Thomas
Marshall Jr., and a nephew of John Marshall, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. McClung was educated in a private school near Versailles in
Woodford Co., Ky., run by his uncle Dr. Louis Marshall. At age 18 he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where he studied for two years. In 1825 he married Eliza Johnson, a sister of Judge Josiah Stoddard Johnson and of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston. McClung was licensed to preach in 1828 and for the next two years served as pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Washington, Ky.

McClung left the ministry in 1830 to pursue a career as a writer. His first book, Camden, a Tale of the South, was published that year; in 1832 another one, Sketches of Western Adventure, was published. He also wrote numerous newspaper articles during those years. He became a friend of
noted Kentucky historian Judge Lewis Collins and made significant contributions to the first edition of Collins’s History of Kentucky. McClung was considered one of the best historical writers of his day. However, he often added details from his fertile imagination that were later retold as fact by other writers. Some of the events for which his version deviates from the accepted one include the Battle of Blue Licks, the Siege of
Bryants Station, and the Battle of Dayton, Ky. (see Rogers’ Defeat).

McClung began the study of law in 1834 and was admitted to the bar the following year. He began practicing law in Mason Co. in 1835 and soon became one of its most prominent attorneys. In 1838 he was elected to the Kentucky legislature. He returned to the ministry in 1849 and for the next
nine years pastored churches in Louisville, Indianapolis, Maysville, Cincinnati, and Augusta, Ga. He was offered the presidency of Hanover College in Madison, Ind., in 1858, but he declined.

McClung was an excellent leader and orator; however, he preferred to spend his leisure time alone, seldom developing close relationships. Because of his hectic schedule, he developed health problems, which were diagnosed as dyspepsia (possibly stomach ulcers). As treatment, he was
placed on a strict diet and told to take long walks as exercise; however, his severe pain persisted. Hoping to improve his health, he took a vacation to Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1859. While swimming in the Niagara River, about three miles above the falls, he drowned. His body went over the falls and was retrieved four days later near the mouth of the Niagara River. Some considered his death an accident, while others speculated that it might have been suicide. His body was brought back to Mason Co. and buried in the Maysville Cemetery.

Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky. Cincinnati. J. M. Armstrong, 1878.
Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Chicago: John M. Gresham, 1896.
Ward, William S. A Literary History of Kentucky. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1988.