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Notes on McClellan Shacklett

Family tradition states that McClellan left Cloverport Kentucky due to his health and the economy in the South. He must have arrived in San Antonio sometime prior to 1887, as he is listed by the name "Charles" in the 1887-88 San Antonio City Directory as the proprietor of the Washington Theatre. My Great-Aunt Ethel Shacklett Marke tells me her father Walter Allen Shacklett, McClellan's son, was born in San Antonio on June 30, 1888 in a house on the corner of Pecan and St. Mary's St. 

McClellan has been described as a heavyset man, bald, with a white Van Dyke beard. He had piercing blue eyes. He was considered to be a very private man and definitely was the head of the family. For the most part, he shunned the limelight even going so far as demanding not to have a gravestone placed on his grave when he died. 

Around 1885, McClellan married a woman by the name of Mollie H. Davis. Mollie is somewhat of a mystery to the family as not much is known about her. She may have come from Cleburne Texas where her father was a lumberman. She had a sister who died young and a brother named Jack Davis who was an old trail driver and a rancher. McClellan and Mollie had a stormy marriage. He worked long hours at night running his "business" and Mollie felt this made them unacceptable to society. He was very domineering and jealous and she was very dissatisfied, rebellious, and determined to get her way. He was also very generous with her, giving her servants, jewelry, fine clothes, and, my Great-Aunt tells me, the first "electric car" in San Antonio (this has yet to be verified). He never gave her any cash, however, as he did not trust her. She did try to adjust, at first, to his odd hours at work by staying up late and reading or playing solitaire. Their two sons, Walter and Ernest were sent to Travis Park with a maid to play during the day while their parents slept. 

The marriage never worked for either of them and they finally divorced sometime around 1915. In her divorce settlement from McClellan, Mollie obtained a two-story rental apartment building, all of her jewelry, and $50,000.00 cash. McClellan became very bitter. He retired and invested his money in real estate and loans. At one point he owned the entire block on Convent Street, where the family lived. In 1925, he sold the property and bought each son a home. McClellan moved to the Hot Wells District, close to the old Hot Sulphur Wells Hotel, where he owned acreage. He built himself a house on that acreage - along with six more that he rented out. He died at home on 208 Groos Street on December 16, 1932 and is buried at City Cemetery on the corner of E. Commerce and New Braunfels Avenue in Cemetery Lot #4. 

After the divorce, Mollie moved to Craig, Colorado where she married Mark Gordon, a small town lawyer. After quickly squandering all of her money, she separated from Mark Gordon and moved back to San Antonio where she also became very bitter, regretting her divorce from McClellan. She remained penniless and alone until she died. 

San Antonio City Directories

I began tracing McClellan's life in San Antonio, Texas with the 1887-88 San Antonio City Directory. This was the first city directory in San Antonio and I found McClellan alive and well, the proprietor of the Washington Theatre and Saloon, 639 W. Commerce corner of N Laredo. He is listed by the name "Charles" and resides at 115 S East. He must have moved sometime soon after this directory was published as my Great-Aunt tells me her father Walter was born in a house on the corner of Pecan and St. Mary's Street in 1888. 

The next year's directory, 1889-90, has much more detailed and exciting information. Here we find a C. Shacklett listed as the proprietor of the Washington Theatre and co-proprietor of Van's Cave Saloon with Mr. William Van Alstine. According to the directory the Van's Cave Saloon was located in a basement on the southeast corner of Soledad and W Houston. This city directory also verifies what my Great-Aunt has long told me as his residence is listed at 405 St Mary's - near Pecan Street where his son Walter was born. Alfred A. Shacklett is also included in this year's directory. McClellan's younger brother must have come to Texas sometime after the last city directory was published. He is listed as residing with McClellan at 405 St Mary's. The best part of this year's city directory is the advertisements! On page 25 is the following advertisement:

C. Shacklett & Co. Van's Cave Saloon, Soledad Block. The Only First-Class Basement Saloon in Texas. The Old R. Monarch Bourbon and Rye and the celebrated McBrayer Whiskies, our specialty. The celebrated burgundy - Tony Faust Beer - Handled Exclusively Here, and at no Other Saloon in the City. The Choicest Wines, Liquors and Cigars and a fine hot lunch served daily from 11 AM to 1 PM. Corner of Houston and Soledad.

Another advertisement is on page 68:

Washington Theatre. C Shacklett - Sole Proprietor and Manager. Chas. G. Knight - Stage Manager. The Gold Mine of Texas. The Largest, Finest, Best Appointed, and Most Successful Place of Amusement in the City of San Antonio. New Stars! New Faces! New Acts! Each Week! And an entire change of programme Mondays and Thursdays. Price of Admission Only 10 Cents. Perfect Order Always Maintained.

The next directory available was in 1891. Again C. Shacklett is found as the proprietor is the Washington Theatre, same location. The listing directs you to see the front cover, which has an advertisement for the theatre:

Washington Theatre. Open Every Night. "The Gold Mine of Texas" New Stars, New Acts, Etc. Each Week. The Resort for Gentlemen to Have a Pleasant Evening.

McClellan must have been doing well to advertise on the cover of the city directory. Several thing of interest in this directory - there is no mention of Van's Cave Saloon and Alfred A. Shacklett seems to be missing. 

The 1892 directory shows change again. Alfred A. Shacklett, McClellan's brother, shows up again as the proprietor of the Mint Saloon. He resides on N Laredo near W Houston. C. Shacklett (McClellan) is listed as a real estate broker at 107 Camaron where he also resides. The next line shows that Shacklett & Denecamp are the proprietors of the Mint Saloon located at 608-610 W Commerce. While McClellan has become a real estate broker his brother Alfred has a half share of his own saloon. The Washington Theatre is still in business only a Mr. Santiago Villanueva is now the proprietor. 

The 1893 and the 1894 city directories were unavailable, unfortunately at the library I was at. These would have been the years that McClellan first purchased the rights Hot Sulphur Wells and built the bathhouses and hotel. It was also the time of the great fire that destroyed the building (read the history here). Certainly these were critical years in the life of McClellan Shacklett. 

By 1895 McClellan is still listed as the proprietor of the Hot Sulphur Baths near the Insane Asylum. He also resides there with his brother, Alfred. Although her name is not listed in the city directory, newspaper accounts also state that McClellan and Alfred's mother, Mrs. Sophronia (Fronia) Wedding, is also living there with her two sons. Since the structures of the facility burned down in 1894, temporary structures have been built. I assume that this is where the family lived. There are no advertisements for the Hot Sulphur Baths in this city directory. Access to the 1893 and 1894 directories may have advertisements and these two resources need to be located. 

The 1896 and 1898 city directories are not available. The 1897 and 1899 directories, once again, lists McClellan Shacklett as owning the Hot Sulphur Baths, near the asylum and residing there as well. Later, McClellan Shacklett will purchase property on what is now Convent Street. Convent Street is so named as it lies on the edge of what used to be the old Ursuline Convent. 

The 1899 city directory is the first to make any mention of what is to become Convent Street. Called "Convent Place" (5 W), the directory states it is now called Rincon Street. 

The 1901 city directory is the next one that is available. Alfred A. Shacklett is once again listed as residing at 116 N Laredo and McClellan lives at 123 N Laredo. In 1900 McClellan lost his lease on the Hot Sulphur Baths as the temporary structures he built did not live up to his contract which stated he must have a "first class bathhouse" on the property. In this city directory is an advertisement for "The New Hot Springs Hot Sulphur Baths" under the management of the Texas Hot Sulphur Water Sanitarium Company. 

The next available city directory is 1903. McClellan has once again moved and he is residing at 421 W Cevallos. There is no mention of any occupation nor is Alfred, his brother, listed. This city directory is also the first to have what is called "Appler's Blue Book of San Antonio." This is a listing of all streets in alphabetical order with a numerical listing of who resides on them. Indeed, McClellan is listed as residing on W Cevallos, with J K Harris and Mrs. Amanda Harrison as his neighbors. Convent Street is also listed, it has officially become a street with residences of it's own. 

1905 is the next available city directory and once again there is change in McClellan's life. He is now the owner of the Mission Poultry Yard at 300 E Mitchell where he also resides. Must smell great! This is an interesting change and I have yet to locate any real information on the Mission Poultry Yard. Convent Street is also growing and the residents have changed from the 1903 listing. My Great-Aunt states that the property McClellan owned on Convent Street were boarding houses, this must be the case now as well as the residents are changing frequently. 

In 1907 he is still in the same location, 300 E Mitchell, with no mention of the Mission Poultry Yard. Again, the residents of Convent Street are changing. 

1908 mentions McClellan still at the same residence with "poultry" listed as his occupation. This directory also mentions his wife, Mrs. Mollie. 

1909 is the year that shows the move to Convent Street. McClellan and Mollie have moved to 202 Convent Street and he is listed as a real estate broker. Alfred seems to be long gone. No mention of him has been made in several years' time. 

1910 was the last city directory I was able to look at. McClellan and Mollie are still in residence at 202 Convent Street. His occupation is listed as "rooms," I assume he now owns the boarding house and is renting out rooms to the other residents. 

The Sanborn Maps

I used the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to trace a visual history of McClellan Shacklett. I have so long heard the tales of his ventures, but to see them on a map blew me away. 

The earliest Sanborn Map available for San Antonio was in July of 1885, a perfect place to start since the city directory of 1887, two years later, lists McClellan as owning the Washington Theatre. The future theatre was located at the corner of W Commerce and N Laredo. The building was easily located. It seems it was formerly a saloon and billiard room next to a Wool Hides and Grain Ware House. 

In a few years Van's Cave Saloon will spring up and I located the corner (Soledad and W Houston) where is will be located. This saloon is located in a basement and while I did see stairs, I was unable to pinpoint its actual future location. 

October 1888 is the next Sanborn Map to be created. How thrilling to see the Washington Theater when it was actually owned by my ancestor. The city directories list the address of the theatre as 639 W Commerce. On the map you can clearly see the front door at 639. It seems the theatre was housed in the former Wool Hides and Grain Ware House while the saloon, gambling room, and billiard room remained the same. 

In one year's time, Van's Saloon will be located on Soledad and W Houston. I do see a saloon and beer garden on Soledad (right where Veraminda dead ends into Soledad) but am unsure if this becomes the saloon. 

McClellan is also supposed to be residing at 115 S East Street but I am unable to locate the street number. 

Now we move up to February 1892. The Washington Theatre is still there with it's new owner Santiago Villanueva, as reported in the 1892 city directory. It looks much the same as when McClellan owned it. 

By this year, McClellan is supposed to be residing at the 107 Camaron address but, once again, I am unable to locate the actual street address. 

By now McClellan has sold his portion of Van's Cave Saloon to Mr. Van Alstine. I do see a saloon next to some stairs (it was located in a basement) on Soledad Block. It may still be the same one. 

In this year, Alfred, McClellan's brother, is the proprietor is the Mint Saloon located at 608-610 W Commerce. I easily locate the unnamed saloon on the map. 

The 1892 maps also show the old Ursuline Convent where Convent Street eventually comes from. Augusta Street is visible. This street will soon dead-end into Convent Street. 

By 1896 things are changing and the city of San Antonio is growing at a rapid rate. The Washington Theatre is still going strong at 639 W Commerce, a tribute to McClellan's vision. 

I am finally able to locate the future residence of Alfred Shacklett at 116 N Laredo (a boarding house) but 123, where McClellan will reside is still not shown. 

I am also able to locate McClellan's previous address at 107 Camaron. 

By 1896 we really see Convent Street blooming. My Great-Aunt tells that the building she lived in as a child with her grandfather McClellan was a U shaped building located at the end of Convent Street, right on the San Antonio River. In this year's map you can clearly see the beginning of that building at the corner of Augusta and Convent. 
Since the Hot Sulphur Wells Resort has burned down, there is no mention of its location. 

The next Sanborn Map published was in 1904, quite a jump forward. I finally am able to locate the elusive 123 N Laredo, where McClellan lived two or three years ago. Convent Street still looks much the same but what was formerly Prospect Street is now called Rincon. The 1899 city directory mentioned that Convent Place had been called Rincon Street. The four buildings on the corner block of Convent Street were all, at one time, owned by McClellan Shacklett. He made them into apartment homes and rented them out. One of these buildings was also given to Mollie, his former wife, in their divorce settlement. 

This year's Sanborn Map has two volumes, attesting to the growth of the city of San Antonio. In volume two is a drawing of the Hot Sulphur Wells Hotel, once owned by McClellan Shacklett. 

There is no mention of an E Mitchell Street or a Mission Poultry Yard. 

The next sets of maps are dated 1911-1951. There are various additions made as the city grew. This was the most difficult time period to locate the information I was seeking. 

By 1912 McClellan was residing on Convent Street. We can now clearly see the U Shaped building my Great-Aunt mentioned. It is listed as a boarding house. The three buildings next to it have "D" written on them. This signifies, according to the Sanborne Map Legend, a single-family unit - possibly the "apartment homes" my Great-Aunt spoke of. The map legend also states that the "1" represents a reinforced concrete, a reinforced concrete with masonry units, a pre-cast concrete, or a gypsum slabs or plates. On the boarding house is a "2" which represents concrete or metal lath, incombustible form boards, paperbacked wite fabric, steel deck, or cellular, ribbed, or corrugated steel units. All four buildings are two stories tall. 

The 1912 maps also show the area of 300 E Mitchell, the former Mission Poultry Yard. It looks as if it could possibly now be the P J Owens Lumber Company, Yard Number 2. There was no 300 street address listed and the road was still unpaved, attesting to the newness of the area. 

The final piece of information I located was McClellan's residence when he died in 1932. The 1924 Sanborn Map is the first to mention a "Gross Street." This is a typo on the mapmaker's part. The street is actually named Groos Street after some big time bankers in San Antonio. There is an advertisement on the same page as McClellan is listed in the 1910 city directory of the Groos and Company Bankers. The street number, 208, where McClellan Shacklett died is not yet listed.

Wednesday Morning, July 13, 1892 - San Antonio Daily Express

He Was North, What a San Antonian Saw on a Visit East.

Mr. McClellan Shacklett, a wealthy real estate owner of this city, has just returned from an extended tour to Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington and New York. He is well supplied with stories of his trip, and unburdened himself to a reporter for THE EXPRESS as follows: 

"The crowd at Minneapolis was something enormous, and the prices upon the essentials of life were in proportion. Meals of the 25 cent order cost $2.25, hair combs and shaves $1.95, while a shine on the streets cost the princely sum of $2.50. After seeing the World's Fairgrounds at Chicago, I went to Washington where I shook hands with President Harrison and then proceeded to New York. You ought to take a climb up the arm of the Bartholdi statue and obtain a magnificent view of the surrounding country. New York looks very much like San Antonio in respect to narrow streets. I returned home by steamer and was seasick all the way. The recent tremendous gale on the ocean took the ship eighty-five miles out of her course and you can rest assured that I was glad to get back. While----------------that northern California----------------found that they would gladly invest in the Lone Star state on a good securities at 5 per cent if they only had assurances of no further hostile legislation."