Mary VanCleve 1787-1883
A Thumbnail Biography by David C. Procuniar
All Rights Reserved Last updated: 31 Aug 2001
Mary VanCleve; daughter of John W. VanCleve & Catharine Benham; Mary was born 10 Feb 1787 in Washington County, Pennsylvania; died 03 Mar 1883 in Montgomery County, Dayton, Ohio. Mary married 1st on 03 Jun 1803 to John McClain (died 12 June 1825) (eight children by this marriage); married 2nd in December 1826 Robert Swaynie.
Children: by Mary & John McClain
Mary McClain circa 1808
Margaret VanCleve McClain Howell 1811-1881
Sarah Jane McCLain Swaynie 1817-1903
Benjamin McClain 1820-1897
John McClain 1821-1826
Henry McClain 1823-
Jerome McClain 1824-
Children: by Mary & Robert Swaynie
No children by this marriage .... ?
Mary VanCleve McClain-Swaynie was known to all her friends and family as "Aunt Polly"; Mary was born in New Jersey on February 10, 1787, and came with her parents to Cincinnati in 1791. On June 1, 1791, her father John Van Cleve was clearing his out lot when he was killed by Indians. They had chased him thirty days before, but he was too fast for rthem and got away. The Indians hid in the branches of the top of a tree he had felled, and were on him before he knew it. They stabbed him five times and scalped him. He was found lying in a field by his son Benjamin, who arrived too late with a rescue party. Friends pursued the savage Indians and overtook one of the band of Indians and John's friend, Samuel Thompson, who later became Mary's stepfather, cut off one of the Indian's hands. As consequence, Thompson incurred spiteful revenge of the "red men." He hoped to get rid of them by moving to Dayton, Ohio; but the roving band found their way to the frontier village. Mary's family then moved to Dayton, Ohio and arrived April 1, 1796, in a pirogue (a long, narrow, partly covered boat) after a ten day journey from Cincinnati. They were the first permanent settlers of Dayton and she was the first white girl ever in the place. They were followed by two more groups, also from Cincinnati, whose tedious journey overland by pack horses required two weeks. Lumber from the pirogue was used to make a temporary shelter until a log cabin was built. Mary was set ashore by her mother at the age of 9 years. She became known as the first white child of Dayton, and in after years as "Aunt Polly".
Col. George Newcom who led one of the overland groups of settlers, with the VanCleve's built his first cabin in 1796. Hastily constructed of round logs; the cabin served the Newcoms as living quarters until the colonel could complete the tavern he planned. Several additions were made until the one-room home became part of "the hub" of early Dayton. (Newcom Tavern was moved from Monument Ave. to Carrillon Park.) One of George Newcom's grand neice's Irene Newcom married Christian F. Rohrer.
One summer evening (after moving to Dayton) those same Indians surrounded the Thompson and Van Cleve cabin between St. Clair and Jefferson Streets and "with fierce yells" the Indians demanded admittance. Quickly Mary's mother took her from bed, dressed her, lifted a part of the puncheon floor and told the child to watch for a chance to slip through the small opening to the ground, then run to Newcom's tavern for help. Later Mary told how she ran, bare-footed, through mud in the bottom of the gully which at that time stretched from Second Street by the park to Jefferson Stree. Many times she stunmbled and fell and seemed to make no progress. She said, "I ran a mile before I reached Newcom's tavern!" In reality the distance was not quite two squares. At any rate, men from the tavern speedily routed the Indians and nothing serious resulted from the attack. (The reference for the above was the The Andrews, Clapp, Stokes, Wright, Van Cleve Genealogies and an article from The Journal Herald of Dayton, Ohio, Monday, October 9, 1961 edition.)
David C Procuniar 3598 Harry Truman Drive, Beavercreek, Ohio 45432
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