Alexander McClure was born on January 9, 1828, in Sherman’s Valley, Perry County, Pennsylvania, the son of Alexander and Isabella (Anderson) McClure. He received little formal education; apprenticed as a tanner and served as printers apprentice at the Perry County Freeman. He became editor and publisher (1846) at the Juniata Sentinel, Mifflintown, the Whig paper serving as McClure’s political platform. Subsequently appointed to the staff of William F. Johnston, the first Whig governor of the Commonwealth, he also received a Millard Fillmore appointment (1850) as deputy U.S. Marshal for Juniata County. In 1852, McClure purchased the Whig Franklin Repository, moving to Chambersburg, and marrying Matilda S. Gray. McClure studied law and was admitted to the Franklin bar in 1856. In the meantime he made an unsuccessful bid for state auditor General, 1853; returning to his political and journalistic pursuits. McClure opposed slavery and joined the fledgling Republican Party in 1856; attended its organizational convention in Pittsburgh in the same year; was elected to the state House of Representatives, 1857-1859; and the Senate of Pennsylvania, 1860-1862.
McClure’s political star ascended, playing a pivotal role with Andrew Curtin, swinging support from Pennsylvania’s candidate for US President, former US Senator Simon Cameron, to Abraham Lincoln during the 1860 Republican National Convention. The action created an immediate schism between the “Cameron Faction” and the “Curtin-McClure Liberal” Faction, primarily because McClure had originally pledged his support for Simon, in order to receive Cameron’s help in his selection as a convention delegate. During the fall election, 1860, Curtin became Governor of Pennsylvania with McClure as his campaign manager and chair of the State Republican Committee; Lincoln was elected president, and McClure gained additional currency as chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Military Affairs. McClure fortified Pennsylvania’s alliance with Lincoln, militarily and politically; also planning Curtin’s “Loyal War Governors of the North” convention in September 1862, its agenda the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, the firing of Gen. George McClellan, and the northern Governors’ guarantee to Lincoln of their respective state’s military forces to prosecute the war to an end. A prolific author, McClure later wrote of the meeting: “History is full of pointed examples teaching that the nation that has outlived heroism has ever dated its decline and fall.”
Throughout the war, McClure played an indispensable role in Pennsylvania’s support for President Lincoln, serving as the commander in chief’s assistant adjutant general, assigned with the task of raising seventeen Pennsylvania regiments for induction in the U.S. Army. McClure, was in contact with Gen. Robert E Lee during the Confederacy’s 1863 occupation of Chambersburg, leaving Franklin County for Philadelphia after southern soldiers burned the city and his house to the ground.
In October 1864, he returned to the state House of Representatives, as well as the state Senate, 1873-1874, during the New Departure – the Liberal Republicans’ last ditch effort to gain influence toward party policy. In the meantime, he travelled extensively in the west, recouping personal wealth lost during war, becoming an investor and officer in the “Philadelphia-based Montana Gold and Silver Mining Company;” collaborated with former Governor Curtin as an incorporator of the Curtin-McClure Oil Company in Venango County; and authored several books that remain popular historical works. He remained politically important, throwing his weight behind the nomination of U.S. Grant at the 1868 Republican National Convention; supported Horace Greeley as an Independent Republican at the 1872 Philadelphia Liberal Republican National Convention (New Departure); ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 1874, but lost; and co-founded the Philadelphia Times as a reform journal in 1875, continuing as editor through 1901. The paper was then sold to Adolph Ochs. Alec McClure married (2nd) Cora M. Gratz in 1879, after his first wife’s apparent death. He served as a law clerk for the state Supreme Court before he died on June 6, 1909, at his Wallingford farm (Philadelphia).
Damon M. Laabs, Spring 2006. http://www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/McClure__Alexander_Kelly.html