George P. McLean, Governor of Connecticut, 1901-1903

 

Governor George Payne McLean

Born:   October 7, 1857, Simsbury, Connecticut
College:  None
Political Party:  Republican
Offices:  Representative, Connecticut General Assembly, 1883-1885
Senator, Connecticut General Assembly, 1886-1888
United States District Attorney, 1892-1896
Governor of Connecticut, 1901-1903
United States Senate, 1911-1929
Died: June 6, 1932 at Simsbury, Connecticut

The early background of George McLean is not too different from other governors of this era in that he grew up in a rural area and was familiar with farm life. His father, however, was a rather wealthy farmer. McLean attended schools in Simsbury, but went to Hartford's high school to complete his education. After his 1877 graduation he studied law for two years and became a lawyer in 1881. In 1883, at the age of 26, he was elected Simsbury's representative to the General Assembly. He later served in the State Senate. In 1890, he was elected Connecticut's Secretary of State, but never took office because of the deadlocked Legislature of 1891-1893. As a result, McLean was able to accept President Benjamin Harrison's appointment in 1892 to be a U.S. District Attorney. McLean married Leah Demarest in 1873 and they had four children. After her death in 1918, he married Mrs. Isabella (Bishop) McClintock.

During McLean's two-year administration several reforms were made through legislation. One reorganized the staff of the governor's office and another did the same for the state's military department. He also created the office of Tax Commissioner. In 1902, a constitutional convention was held in an attempt to replace the 1818 Constitution of Connecticut. McLean supported the controversial concept of allowing citizens in the cities to have more representation in the General Assembly, but the voters throughout the state failed to ratify the proposed constitution and rural Connecticut continued to dominate the state's government. Connecticut's U.S. Senators were still being chosen by the General Assembly when McLean sought this position in 1905, however, he was defeated by fellow Republican, Frank Brandegee. In 1911 the Assembly chose McLean for the U.S. Senate and in 1916, when Senators were finally elected by the voters, he was reelected. He also was elected in 1921 and served a total of 18 years before retiring in 1929.

McLean died in 1932 and is buried in Simsbury's Hop Meadow Cemetery. His estate provided funding for the McLean Home in Simsbury, which cares for people who are elderly, chronically ill, or disabled.

His estate also left funds to create the McLean Game Refuge that covers parts of Granby, Simsbury, and Canton. It is open to the public. His house, which is now a health care facility and known as “The Governor’s House, is located not far from McLean Home.

Bibliography

Clark, George L.  A History of Connecticut: Its People and Institutions.  New York:  G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1914 [CSL call number F 94 .C59].

Highways & Byways of Connecticut.  Hartford: G. Fox & Co., [1947] [CSL call number F 94 .H54 1947].

Morgan, Forrest, ed..  Connecticut as a Colony and as a State, or, One of the Original Thirteen.  Hartford: The Publishing Society of Connecticut, 1904 [CSL call number F 94 .M84].

Norton, Frederick Calvin.  The Governors of Connecticut.  Hartford:  The Connecticut Magazine, 1905 [CSL call number F 93 .N88 1905].

Sobel, Robert and John Raimo.  Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978.  Westport, CT:  Meckler Books, 1978 [CSL call number GIRS Ref E 176 .B573].

Stevenson, E. Robert, ed., Connecticut History Makers. Vol. I (1929), pp. 8-9 [CSL call number F 93 .S84].

Van Dusen, Albert E.  Connecticut.  New York:  Random House, 1961 [CSL call number HistRef F 94 .V3].

Portrait

42” x 50” in its frame, painted by Charles N. Flagg.

Originally prepared by David O. White, Museum of Connecticut History, Connecticut State Library.