I’ve had some difficulty posting to my blog, but it looks like I’ll have success tonight.
In my last post, I talked about my research at the Talladega Public Library. After leaving the library on the Monday afternoon of our family vacation, we went back to our hotel, had pizza and relaxed for awhile. After dinner, we had what really was one of the best genealogy highlights of the trip.
My husband had a great-grandfather named Champ McClellan. Champ was born June 3, 1887 in Talladega. Though he never talked about it, it is the family’s belief that his father was white. Champ’s mother was named Fannie and his grandmother was named Rebecca. From past research, I’ve tied Champ and his family to the lands of General William Blount McClellan and I believe he Genral to be Kalonji’s slaveholding family, and one of the McClellan men to be Champ’s father. From past research and correspondence with a historian researching the General’s daughter, Idora, I knew that the home of the general was still standing in Talladega. So, after an email exchange with the historian she informed me on which road the house stood. We decided to go look for it.
The General’s home was called Idlewilde and since I had a picture, we were able to locate it pretty easily after a few minutes drive on the Eastaboga Road. There was even an iron sign to mark the spot.
It certainly is a beautiful home on the outside. We drove along the driveway to take some more pictures and as we got around to the back, we saw a car there. Hmm… to knock on the door or not? Well, knock on the door we did! Especially since it was open. It took a few minutes, but eventually a lady came to the door.
Now, how do you explain to a complete stranger that you’re visiting their house b/c this is the property of your enslavers. Well, I explained just that and upon hearing Kalonji’s last name of McClellan, she immediately perked up. And, she even invited us inside to see the house!
OMG. I was so excited! It turns out that the home is owned by the McGehee family and her father bought the home around 40 years ago from one of the McClellans, Marcus McClellan. I’m not entirely sure, but I think the Marcus she referred to was the General’s grandson, but there was more than one Marcus in the family. Her father had been friends with the McClellan family and it was through that association which he was able to buy the home. She toured us around showing us the various parts; the wing she had built on, the breezeway between the two original buildings which her father had enclosed, the marble table in the breezeway that was designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti – the designer of the Vulcan statue in Birmingham; the original rooms of the house – both upstairs and downstairs. She really spent quite a bit of time with us and we were so grateful! The home is a private home, not on any register of historic places, but she took the time to host us that evening telling us, “if you’d gotten her 5 minutes earlier, you’da caught me in the pool!”
After our visit, we thanked her profusely and then I had everyone take a picture on the front steps.
It truly was a memorable evening. When I think of Kaleya being able to grow up with this, it amazes me. Her 4th great-grandmother, Rebecca McClellan & 3rd great-grandmother Fannie McClellan were on these grounds before the Civil War. It really makes you pause for reflection.
When we got back to the family and shared this experience, they were all amazed. Kalonji’s grandmother, Frances, never knew about the home though having lived all of her 84 years in Talladega, living less than 5 miles away. Truly astonishing. This is definitely a visit that I have to do scrapbook pages for and share them with the family.