FRANK E. McLAIN, now probate judge of Ellis County, is a man of interesting and notable experience and achievement. He is a pioneer of Western Kansas, where he has lived forty years. He is one of the Kansans to whom the word Vicksburg and Appomattox are not mere names in history from start to in the Civil war as a Union soldier from start to finish, and in his present position as probate judge he has been singularly qualified to handle those duties which come to that office in war times.
Judge McLain was born in Canton, Ohio, January 14, 1844. He is of Scotch-Irish ancestry. His father, Charles McLain, was born in 1801 at Ellicott's Mills, Maryland, grew up in Pennsylvania, and was a farmer all his life. He finally left the farm and retired to Canton, Ohio, where he died in 1867. He was a democrat and a member of the Roman Catholic Church. He married in Stark County, Ohio, Catherine Heck. She was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1811 and died at Hays, Kansas, in 1895. Judge McLain was third in a family of seven children, the others being noted as follows: Mary Ann, who died at Canton, Ohio, wife of Patrick Foley, a railroad man now deceased; Miss A. K., who lives at Hays, Kansas; Helen wife of James M. Craig, a bridge builder and carpenter at Hays; Caroline, wife of F. R. Bussard, an architect and wagon maker; Emma, who resides at Hays, widow of Rufus Averil, who for a number of years conducted a summer resort and was boat captain in Vermont; and W. H., a plasterer living in Kansas.
Judge McLain attended the public schools of Canton, including the high school, and was seventeen years of age when the war broke out. In 1861 he enlisted in the Thirty-Second Ohio Infantry and served exactly four years, being mustered out September 2, 1865. His three-year enlistment expired while he was in the midst of a campaign, and he veteranized and proffered his services for three years more or until the close of the war. His first experiences in battle were in the campaign through Western Virginia, where he fought at Greenbrier, McDowell, Cross Keys and at the Siege of Harper's Ferry, where, on September 15, 1862, he was made prisoner. He was soon paroled, and sent to Chicago, later transferred to Cleveland, and was exchanged in January, 1863. He was then assigned to the Army of the Tennessee under General Grant and had the privilege of serving in the advance upon Vicksburg and the siege of that place. He fought at Thompson's Hill, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, Black River Bridge, all engagements leading up to the siege of Vicksburg, and for forty-one days he was in the siege of that city and under fire every day. The latter months of the war he was assigned to raiding duty through Mississippi and Louisiana. Because of special gallantry the company of which he was a member was transferred from the Thirty-Second Ohio Infantry to the Twenty-Sixth Ohio Battery.
After the war Judge McLain returned to Canton, Ohio, and was employed as a plasterer for ten years or more. He left there March 4, 1878, and on the 10th of the same month arrived at Hays, Kansas, and thus, for forty years, his career has been identified with this historic section of Western Kansas. He homesteaded 160 acres and also a timber claim, and worked at his trade intermittently until 1887. In that year he was first called into public affairs by his election as sheriff of Ellis County. Judge McLain filled the sheriff's office capably for two terms, four years, and was then appointed by Governor Humphrey to the office of probate judge, and he filled that one year. He resumed farming then, but in 1891, was appointed clerk of the district court by Judge Monroe, serving two years. In 1893 he was the republican nominee for sheriff, but his party was defeated at the election. Following that came another period of activity on his farm until 1897, when he was chosen justice of the peace and police judge of the City of Hays. That office he filled from January, 1898, until January, 1915. In November, 1914, he was elected probate judge, and the care and wisdom with which he has handled that office brought such commendation that he was re-elected in 1916, but was defeated with his ticket in 1918.
Judge McLain is a stalwart republican. He served two terms as commander and for a number of years has been adjutant and quartermaster of Vance Post No. 2, Grand Army of the Republic. He is also affiliated with Hays Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The home of Judge McLain is a residence with four acres in grounds, near the court house, and this urban estate provides him the opportunity for work as well as a convenient place of abode. Judge McLain is a stockholder in the Golden Belt Fair Association.
May 29, 1869, almost half a century ago, Judge McLain married at Canton, Ohio, Miss Elizabeth H. Ulrich. She was born in Canton, and her parents came from Lorraine, France. To Judge McLain and wife six children were born: Howard H., the oldest, died at the age of eight months. Effie L., a graduate of the Hays High School, is the wife of Daniel Folts, a traveling salesman living at Sedalia, Missouri. Grace G., who died in 1913 at Jacksonville, Illinois, married George A. Smith, a traveling salesman of that city. Miss Catherine E., of Hays, Kansas, is a graduate of the Hays High School and of the Fort Hays Normal School, and began teaching in Ellis County at the age of sixteen, but for the past eight years has been librarian at Hays. Charles Francis is a graduate of the Hays High School and is clerk of the draft board at Hays. Alice L. is a graduate of the Fort Hays Normal School and is director of music in the public schools of Hartford, Kansas.
Newly Discovered Information from Janet, archive section, Ellis County Historical Society :
The Hays judge, McLain, is Francis E. He is said to have come to Hays around 1870 and to have lived here until his death.