McLains have lived in and around Nevada since 1854 when Frank A. McLain and his uncle John arrived from Rochelle, Illinois. Frank, age 17, began splitting rails for a penny each and saved his money judiciously. His dream was to be a farmer. John
built the second house in Nevada, which was also a hotel. This consisted of an elongated log cabin witha sleeping loft two logs high, a long dining table, and
an adjacent lean-to for cooking.
In the late 1850s, the lure of riches in the Colorado gold fields was strong. The McLains and several other Nevada families put other plans on hold and the men headed west to make their fortunes. Most returned without reaching Colorado. Along the way, they met other adventurers returning empty handed. After selling all of his possessions for food, young Frank walked back to Nevada. He saved every penny earned from splitting logs and transporting goods to and from the river in Iowa City.
These trips took two weeks, for which he earned five dollars. He slept under his wagon and supplemented his diet with game he hunted along the way. He
acquired land as funds were saved from his toil.
Over the next 10 years, John’s hotel business flourished and “McLain’s Tavern” became a well-known place to spend the evening and obtain good food and drink. East of Nevada, Frank continued to buy, clear, and tile his growing farm. He married
Mary Doyle in 1861, and they built a successful farming and livestock business and raised a family. Their children, Clark and Mildred, were local residents for many years. Mildred was a mother and housewife. Clark was a school administrator and
banker in Maxwell and later became a banker in Pasadena, California, where he was also Postmaster. He loved the land and returned to Iowa each summer
to establish tile lines and farm buildings.
Clark married Sarah Isabel “Belle” French of Maxwell. One of their children, Frank E. McLain, took over the farming business in the early 1900s. Frank E. lived to be 100 years old and many current residents will remember him and his wife, Mabel.
Their surviving children, Catherine and Fred, live near Nevada. They own parts of the original land settled by Frank A. McLain. When Fred was serving as a flight instructor in Texas during World War II, he married Jonnie Elna Bale. After the war, they moved
back to Iowa where Fred eventually took over the farming business. Fred and Jonnie had four children. Their youngest son, Frank, joined Fred on the farm in the 1970s. Frank took over the business when Fred and Jonnie retired. Frank and his family live on the original farm near the site of the log cabin where Frank A. and Mary (Doyle) McLain lived in the 1800s.
Today, the Iowa McLains are aware of their rich pioneer heritage, and continue the traditions of the past, working and improving the land.
Pioneer Families >