Information from the Washington Historical Society
“The Richest Man in Town or County” Dr. Elijah McLean
Many visitors whisper speculations about the Mansion in Washington, Missouri, that sits atop a hill. Previously owned by the fascinating Elijah McLean, the building holds his rich history in its walls.
Elijah McLean was born in Clark County, Kentucky, in 1804. At just six years old, McLean’s father, a Baptist minister of Scotch-Welsh descent, moved the family to the Missouri River valley near Boonville. Shortly after moving, his mother passed away, then his father a few years later. Orphaned and alone, McLean traveled to Marthasville to study medicine under the accredited Dr. John Jones. After completing his medical degree in 1823, McLean moved to New Port to open his own medical practice. He was only nineteen.
A Full Life
On June 23, 1831, McLean married Judith W. Rule and they moved to Union. By this time, he was a successful physician and politician, having been elected to represent Franklin County in the state legislature on the Whig ticket in 1830. That same year, McLean bought 80 acres of land from William Owens. McLean had a house, called “Edgewater”, built on the land, which doubled as a medical practice so he could continue his work.
McLean became very active in the community. In 1841, McLean was elected to the Washington Board of Trustees and in 1845, he served on a committee that scouted a location for the Washington school. The longer he stayed in Washington, the more he loved and contributed to the town and the people there.
Retired, but Not Finished
Retiring from medicine in 1850 at age 46, McLean remained active in the community as a businessman, estate executor, and politician. His first wife, Judith, passed away in 1855, and in 1856, he married Mary Stafford. They had seven children together.
McLean sold his land for the creation of High and Stafford streets, the latter named after his wife. In 1858, he was elected as chairman of the Washington Board of Trustees. Two short years later, in 1860, a local paper lauded him as “the richest man in town or county.”
Officials from the Johnson and Rand Shoe Co. (later International Shoe Co.) came to Washington in 1906, needing $35,000 to help the company build a plant. A shoe factory committee purchased acreage in western Washington for the factory and home lots for shoe factory workers from the McLean estate. They raised money by selling lots for homes. Only a few acres surrounding the McLean homestead remained.
Washington entrepreneur, Jack Calvin, started a bus company that ran between Union, Washington, and St. Louis. He also built and operated the Calvin Opera House, and later in life, purchased the McLean home. He and his wife Frank renamed the home “River Rest.” They lived there for about 20 years.