Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 217] one of the best known and ablest attorneys of New Castle, was born in Wilmington township, Mercer County, Dec. 13, 1851, and is a son of Capt. Thomas and Jane S. (McComb) McConnell, grandson of James and Rachel (Lytell) McConnell, and great-grandson of Hugh McConnell. The latter was of Scotch-Irish descent, and was born in the northern part of Ireland in Armagh County, being one of a large family of eighteen children. In religious faith, he was a Protestant, and because of the persecutions directed against his sect in Ireland at that time, he left his native soil, and immigrated to America in 1772; on the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he joined the patriots, and gave his best services for the land of his adoption. After several years in the Colonies, he made a permanent settlement in Clearfield Co., Pa., where he married, in 1776, Miss Jane Ferguson, who died in 1779. His second wife was a Miss Thompson.

James McConnell, our subject's grandfather, was the only issue of his father's first marriage. He was born in Center Co., Pa., Nov. 7, 1777, and on Nov. 7, 1809, he married Rachel Lytell, who was born Feb. 12, 1783, and was left an orphan when a child. James McConnell was reared a farmer, and settled on a farm on Piper's Run, but being a natural born mechanic, he in 1824 exchanged his property for the William Edeburn property on the Shenango River, where there was situated a small log mill, which he refitted upon becoming its owner, and carried on a milling business, being located in Shenango township. The mill possessed only one set of stones, which were operated on the Short System, and with this simple equipment he ground all kinds of grain for the few settlers in his vicinity, the nearest trading point being Allegheny. It was with such surroundings he reared a family of eight children, and became a leading and influential citizen. As the population increased, necessitating an increase in his facilities to meet the increased demands, he built new and larger mills, and as he desired more power from the small stream, he set out to invent a water-wheel. These were the circumstances that led him to contrive what is to-day known as the McConnell turbine water wheel; as is often the case, his ingenuity did not receive its reward, for others, seeing the value of the wheel, fooled him out of it. This unfortunate occurrence wore on his mind, and embittered much of his later life. After a while, to secure better water power, he bought a site for his mill farther down the stream, and rafted his buildings down the river, and at his new location built up a large and thriving business, putting in elevators, etc., so as to assist in the proper development of the industry. In middle life he was made a cripple, lamed in his leg by typhoid fever, and his sons practically conducted the business thereafter. Commencing a poor man in a new and sparsely settled country, he lived to see that country develop into a rich farming, manufacturing and mining district—his own interests also grew apace, his log structure, where he first engaged in milling, being succeeded by a large and well-appointed mill. Owning oxen and horses in large numbers, he carried on an extensive business in teaming, exchanging the product of his mill for general merchandise and grain. Bears and other large game abounded, furnishing to the one skilled in hunting a plentiful supply of fresh meat for the larder; he was thus enabled to recount to his children and grandchildren many exciting tales of encounters, that lost not a whit of their interest in the relating. His death took place in 1877; he was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was stationed on the Niagara Frontier. His wife died in 1859, aged seventy-six years. Their children were: Margaret, born Nov. 16, 1810; Hugh, June 4, 1812; John C., March 13, 1813; Mary, March 29, 1816; James F., March 27, 1818; Elizabeth, Feb. 28, 1820; Capt. Thomas, Aug. 12, 1822; and Rachel, Sept. 27, 1824. Of the above family Hugh, Thomas and Rachel are living to-day; all the rest, with the exception of Elizabeth, who died young, lived to a good age.

Capt. Thomas McConnell assisted his father in milling and received a good education, and has been engaged in milling in different localities the greater portion of his life. In 1842 his father having bought the Neshannock Mills, north of New Wilmington, he engaged in his chosen occupation there, where he met and won the hand of Jane S. McComb, daughter of Malcolm McComb, in marriage, the ceremony, which united them as man and wife, being performed April 16, 1846. Shortly after his marriage, the Mexican War broke out, and his patriotic soul called him to aid his country, and so he became a member of the Volunteer Cavalry, but was not called into the service. As his trade grew, he enlarged his facilities, but as he soon was cramped for lack of room, he, in 1853, leased the Neshannock Falls Mills, where he was identified with the milling industry until 1859, when he went to West Middlesex, entered into partnership with others and built a steam flouring mill, during which time he entered into the oil speculation at Titusville, which did not prove a success. At that period the excitement anent the secession of the Slave States was fever high, and he with others enlisted and helped to organize a company, acting as its commander. He has written a full and graphic account of his own and his father's lives, which is one of the best of its character that the present writer has ever read, and we would like to repeat it here in this connection verbatim, but limited space forbids it. He entered the service of the State April 23, 1861, enlisting in Co. B, 10th Reg. Pa. Reserve Corps; he was mustered into the service as captain, June 19, 1861, and on July 21, following, the division was transferred into the United States service, his regiment being the 39th Reg. Pa. Vol. Inf.; was on detached duty in May, 1862, as a member of the general court martial. He participated in the engagements at Dranesville, Mechanicsville, and at the Second Bull Run. At Mechanicsville, June 26, 1862, he was wounded in the back of the neck by a shell, and was treated in the field hospital until July 5, 1862, when he was taken to the hospital at Washington, D. C., where on the 12th he was granted sick leave. He remained at home six weeks, then returned to his regiment, and was discharged at White Oak Church, Dec. 10, 1862, on account of disability. After he returned home to New Castle, whither his family had removed, he followed his trade, and in October, 1864, was elected sheriff of Lawrence County, for a term of three years. He then spent several years building oil rigs in Shenango and Butler Counties, and superintended oil mining. He now owns and conducts with his son James, under the firm name of T. McConnell & Son, the Forest Mills at Slippery Rock, this county. His wife died in July, 1896. There were born to them seven children, namely: Mary A., born March, 1847; Arethusa, Nov. 1, 1848; Malcolm, Dec. 13, 1851; an infant, May 3, 1853; James, March 20, 1855; John, April 17, 1857; and Robert D., Dec. 6, 1859.

Malcolm McConnell attended the schools of New Castle, and worked with his father, learning the millwright's trade. In 1873, which was the last year that he spent in the mill, he became a student in the law office of Col. R. B. McComb, and was admitted to the bar of the State of Pennsylvania, Dec. 14, 1874. He thereupon associated himself with Mr. McComb for one year, and in October, 1876, he became a partner of John McMichael, and for eight years practiced law with him. Mr. McMichael having been elected judge of the district, Mr. McConnell since then has been alone. He is a stanch Republican, and has served as district attorney for three years. Not confining his energies to his profession, but branching out in other legitimate directions, he is known as a large owner of real estate. He built a fine home on Neshannock Avenue, and in company with P. J. Watson purchased the H. C. Falls estate of 126 acres, and resides there at present; the greater part of it has been laid out in lots, and has already been built on.

Our subject, on the ninth of August, 1876, married Frances Emma Findley, daughter of Rev. William Findley, D. D., of New Wilmington. She was taken from him Oct. 9, 1892, at the age of forty-two, leaving three children: Francis James, born May 21, 1877, died March 10, 1895; Malcolm Findley, Nov 3, 1880; and Thomas Cunningham, Feb. 29, 1888.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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