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November 16, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: Mary Greenway McClelland (1853–1895)

 Harpers_MG McClelland_signature_edit

Mary Greenway McClelland (1853–1895)

M.G. McClelland was a popular novelist in the late 19th century. She lived in Buckingham County with her parents and sister at Elm Cottage-on-James. She was born in Nelson County, home of her paternal grandmother, Margaret (Cabell) McClelland of Union Hill and Montezuma (a.k.a. Spring Hill). Though Miss McClelland always used her initials for her professional name, on the 1880 census in Buckingham County, she appears as Mary G. McClelland, age twenty-six.

In April of 1891, she was featured in the monthly magazine, The Home-maker, and described as follows:

Miss McClelland is tall, and has a nice figure, with Saxon coloring and a strongly intellectual face. She is a daughter of the Northland in coloring and appearance, of the South in manner and feeling. With hosts of friends and correspondents, she constantly declines social pleasures, and works unceasingly possessing in no ordinary degree of the genius of perseverance.

She had no formal schooling nor a governess, was educated by her mother, and had the advantage of a fine Virginia library. She wrote at night, when the house was quiet.

Baltimore’s The Sun called her a rapid and prolific writer of novels and short stories:

Her style is terse, direct, and with a straightforward tone that has often been mistaken for masculine work, and deceived many of her readers, who knew of the author only as M.G. McClelland, and did not guess that the “M” stood for Mary.

In 1893, Richmond’s The Times called her “one of the most gifted writers that Virginia has.”

Her books were published by Henry Holt & Co., a major New York publishing house. Her titles include: Princess; Oblivion; Jean Monteith, Self-made Man; and Woman’s Kingdom, which was condemned from the pulpit as “Unchristian.” While none are remembered today, they sold well at the time of publication.

In August of 1895, she died of consumption at Elm Cottage, cutting short a very successful, if ephemeral, career.

Coming Next: Elm Cottage


Leave a Comment
  1. Karen Williams / Nov 19 2015 10:27 am

    I am interested in the Greenway surname. My ancestor, Mary (Spears) Spiller, daughter of James Spears and France’s Fitch of Spears Mountain, mentioned the ‘house at Greenway’ in her Will, dated 1848, Buckingham County. Mary Spears married George W. Spiller, who possibly lived around the Bent Creek, Wreck Island Creek or David’s Creek area. The Spillers intermarried with Thornhill, Diuguid, Gary, Bocock, Kyle families. Closely connected with the Cabell, Christian, Dillard, Loving and Austin families. I’m trying to ascertain any connection with the Greenway family to Spiller or Spears.

    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 19 2015 1:07 pm

      Karen, Many thanks for your comment. M. G. McClelland is the first time I’ve run into the Greenway name and know no more about the surname or a place called Greenway. Hopefully another reader will see your comment. Best of luck in your search! Joanne

      • Peggy Dixon / Nov 20 2018 5:16 am

        Greenway was located along the James River east of Bent Creek and depending on who you talk to it was on the Buckingham side and others Nelson side. There was a rode that cut across the county and by Spears Mountain to the river where there was a ferry. Greenway is on Robin Branch’s property in Buckingham Co. I don’t know of any families by the name of Greenway in that area though.

      • Joanne Yeck / Nov 20 2018 8:00 am

        Thank you for your comment about Greenway and its location. Perhaps like Howardsville, the name was used on both sides of the James River. Joanne


  1. Buckingham Notables: The Death of M. G. McClelland | slate river ramblings . . . .
  2. Buckingham Houses: Elm Cottage | slate river ramblings . . . .

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