Yesteryear’s Memories: Centralia’s General

December 30, 2019

Many people traveling along West Broadway in Centralia may be walking in the same footsteps as one of the most famous individuals of the mid-19th century. In 1859, one of the local citizens was the vice-president of the Illinois Central Railroad. He also was to become a General in the Union Army. His name was George Brinton McClellan and he lived in the 200 block of West Broadway in the same block where many will remember the Star Gas Station. Mr. McClellan was an energetic go-getter of the time and lived a colorful and distinguished life. He was accepted into the United States Military Academy at the tender age of 15 and went on to serve in the Mexican-American War of 1846. He left the Army to work for the American railroad industry and lived for a short time on Broadway in Centralia. There is a photograph of the house taken around 1899 but there are few records still in existence about this residence. It is known that McClellan became president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad in 1860, and that he married his wife Mary Ellen in New York, also in 1860. His next notable accomplishment was being appointed Major General of the Union Army. Later in life, he ran for President of the United States and lost to Lincoln, but served as the 24th governor of New Jersey.

There is an additional bit of history about this multi-talented man. He designed a saddle for the cavalry and it was referred to as the McClellan saddle. This design was used for many years by the US Army and is still used in military ceremonies. Even though his stay here was rather short, it is nevertheless part of Centralia’s rich history that has been nearly forgotten.