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One of the early settlers near Waco, Neil Love McLennan was born in Isle of Skye, off the western coast of Scotland in 1787. He came to America in 1801, first settling in North Carolina, married the former Christian A. (Darthal) Campbell in 1814, and then relocated in 1816 to Florida. After living there a number of years, in 1834 he and his family along with two brothers and others sailed a three masted schooner from Pensacola, Florida to the mouth of the Brazos. They arrived there in early March and continued on upriver as far as they could.
McLennan was awarded a league of land that summer in Robertson’s Colony where he, his brothers and their families began to settle. Where they resided is thought to be Pond Creek, south of Rosebud in Milam County. Neil’s mother Catherine, his brother Laughlin and Laughlin’s wife were killed and their three children were kidnapped by members of an unnamed Native American tribe in the winter of 1836. Two of the children died and one was recovered in 1846. Another brother of Neil, John McLennan was killed in 1838 in a similar incident.
Neil became acquainted with George B. Erath and the two were on a scouting and surveying trip north when they camped near the Bosque. McLennan liked the area, exchanged his land in Robertson’s Colony for it and in 1845 moved his family to the area where he built what is thought to be the first dwelling in the Waco area, a log cabin. A 1963 newspaper interview with William A. Badger, the spouse of Neil McLennan’s granddaughter Josephine McLennan, spoke of the site being located where Westover Road went by the Fish Pond, making it just east of Ridgewood Country Club. Badger, also of Scotch lineage, described the area as being quite heavily wooded. He also refers to it as being near Hog Creek. Some of the old McLennan property is now under Lake Waco, as Badger related that he and a McLennan sister in law sold 1,000 acres of the legacy property to the government for the lake.
Also in his interview, Badger related two stories. During the voyage in the Gulf of Mexico from Pensacola, Florida to the Texas coast, the McLennan schooner was attacked by pirates who tied its bow to the stern of the pirate vessel. However, as providence would have it, the two ships sailed into a storm. In the rough water, the rope broke allowing the McLennan vessel to break away from the pirate ship and escape. Badger also said that the McLennan schooner eventually hit a snag and sank near Fort Bend, necessitating that they make the rest of the journey on foot after trading the grounded ship and some possessions for horses and wagons.
The Texas Legislature created McLennan County out of the larger Milam County in 1850. It is thought that George B. Erath, somewhat younger than Neil McLennan, was serving in the legislature at the time and was responsible for suggesting that the county be named for his friend, in recognition of his pioneer status in the area. The McLennans are mentioned along with the Shapley Ross family as being two of the earliest famiies of European ancestry to settle in Waco. Neil McLennan farmed his property until died in the family home in 1867. He and Mrs. McLennan were originally interred in the family cemetery, but were later removed to Oakwood Cemetery in Waco. In 1936, the State of Texas provided a centennial historical marker for McLennan and his wife at Oakwood Cemetery. Another historical marker, also from 1936, is just off Highway 81 about two miles north of Waco.
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