Land of Opportunity: Great-Grandfather Helps Underground Railroad

Enterprising nature finds man with a silk-making operation and land that becomes a stop for the Underground Railroad.

| Good Old Days

My story comes from data I obtained about my mother's grandparents. And the family’s story in the land of opportunity goes back to her great-grandfather’s enterprising nature and his work with the Underground Railroad.

Her grandfather was George Menown Watt. He was born in 1807 in Belfast, Ireland, and came to America’s land of opportunity in 1821 at the age of 14. The family consisted of George, his wife, nine children and Aunt Rose. It took them six weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing vessel. They experienced severe hardships, and soon after arriving, the three older girls died from the effects of exposure.

George Menown Watt was a nephew of James Watt, who invented steam power in Glasgow, Scotland.

George Watt married Jane Findly McClelland in 1838. Her father was Captain McClelland, a veteran of the War of 1812. He had been commissioned a commander under General Harrison during the Black Hawk War. He had many different assignments. After he completed his service to his country he returned to his family. He was twice married and fathered 20 children.

With his enterprising nature, Captain McClelland became interested in silk manufacturing in Green County, Ohio. Near his home he erected a small building to house the silkworms. It had shelves placed one above the other, far enough apart to place mulberry branches upon which the silkworms fed. These branches were cut from mulberry trees, of which he had planted about five acres. The branches were gathered and placed by his son Sam and grandson Simon Jolly. The branches had to be replaced as fast as the leaves were eaten off.

When the worms matured and made their cocoons, these cocoons were gathered, scalded and placed in glass tumblers, with a certain number in each glass container and a number of glasses in each group. A fine thread from each cocoon was joined together with that from another cocoon, until silk thread of the desired size was made.

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