Biography of James Claiborn McNair

JAMES CLAIBORN McNAIR. The subject of this sketch is an intelligent and enterprising gentleman, who from boyhood has been interested in agricultural pursuits. He is a thorough master of his business, has spent many years of his life in developing the country, and is now in comfortable circumstances. He was born in Knox County, Tennessee, August 24, 1822, a son of Col. Jack and Mary Ann (Sherertz) McNair, who were born in Sullivan County, Tennessee, in July, 1784 and February 5, 1803, respectively, and were married in Knox County, July 12, 1821. They removed to the Cherokee Nation, now Bradley County, Tennessee, and in 1851 to Union County, Illinois, where the father died in October, 1852. His widow and children then removed to Pleasant Hill, Missouri. and in this State the mother still resides at the advanced age of ninety-one years, her home being with her son James. The father was a well-to-do farmer, liberal and generous in the use of his means, and was proverbially kind-hearted and liberal in his views. He was captain of a company during the War of 1812 and some of the Indian wars, afterward he was colonel of militia, and during the war with the Creek Indians acted in the perilous capacity of a spy. His father, James McNair, was one of the pioneers of east Tennessee, in which State he died; he was a soldier of the Revolution and was for many years a Mason. His father was an Englishman, and his mother was of Welsh extraction. James McNair became quite a noted Indian fighter and hunter; his wife was also an excellent shot with the rifle. On one occasion, during the absence of her husband, she heard the dogs barking at some little distance from the house and started out to learn the trouble, and soon discovered that they had treed a large bear. She returned to the house for her gun, and very soon the bear fell a victim to her marksmanship. She skinned the animal without assistance and made meat of bruin. Mr. McNair returned home one night, after quite a protracted absence, to find that his horses had been stolen by Indians. Early the next morning he started in pursuit, and after following their trail for three days, he came upon them in camp, the horses grazing some little distance away. He succeeded in catching his bell-mare, muffled the bell and led her a short distance away, then returned for vengeance. He managed to get his rifle in range of two Indians, fired, and brought them both to the ground, and the rest fled, after which he captured the rest of his horses and returned home with them.

The maternal grandfather, Coonrod Sherertz, was a German and was one of the early settlers of east Tennessee, where he followed the occupation of farming. He died in Knox County when James was a lad, leaving a large family. The children born to Col. Jack and Mary Ann McNair are as follows: Myra, wife of Alfred Davis, of Bradley County, Tennessee; James Claiborne; Martha M., who died in Searcy County, the wife of William Manes; John W., of Fulton County, was a Mexican soldier and a soldier of the Civil War; Price, who died in boyhood in Tennessee; Hepzebah is the wife of James Carter, of Missouri; Delilah is the widow of George Elam, and resides in Kansas; David H. was a Confederate soldier, and was killed during the war; Harriet died in Boone County, the wife of John Manes; Nicholas N. was a member of an Arkansas regiment of the C. S. A., and was killed in battle at Chickamauga; Lee Bruce served in the Confederate Army four years, and was in many engagements; Josiah, who died in Missouri soon after the war, was first in the Confederate Army, but was captured by the Federals and after-ward joined the Northern forces; Irena, who makes her home with her mother, has been blind for nearly a quarter of a century; and McMinnless resides in Searcy County, Arkansa.

James C. McNair spent his early days in tilling the soil, and received but little schooling. In November, 1847, he joined Company C, Fifth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, and started for Mexico, going down the Tennessee River on a flat-boat. At Mussel Shoals the boats collided, and the men seeing their danger, jumped into the river for safety, the result being that one man was killed and one man drowned, and nothing more was ever seen of the boats. The men made their way on foot to below Florence, where they took passage on board a boat bound for Vera Cruz, which place they eventually reached. Mr. McNair was in but one engagement, and that was with guerrillas. At the end of about nine months he was discharged at Memphis, Tennessee, after which he returned home.

September 14, 1848, was married to Harriet, daughter of George and Malinda Manes, natives of Tennessee, from which State they came to Searcy County, Arkansas, in 1851, the father dying here about one year later, and the mother in 1864. They were Methodists in their religious views, and the father was a well-to-do tiller of the soil. Mrs. McNair was born in Rhea County, Tennessee, August 24, 1832, and has borne her husband fourteen children: Martha Delilah, wife of B. F. Henley; Polly Ann, wife of Napoleon Rainbolt; Price Marion McDonald died during the war at about the age of thirteen years; Thela is the wife of L. Q. Thomp-son, of California; William Asbury; Jack, who died in Missouri; Harriet Susan, wife of Clinton Pruitt; Sarah Hepzebah, deceased; James C. W., also dead; Ida Jane is the wife of Dr. William Rogers, of Texas; John F.; David Bruce; Clementine, who died in infancy; and one that died unnamed.

March 26, 1866, Mr. McNair came by wagon to Searcy County, Arkansas, the journey thither occupying two months. He located on the farm on which he now resides, at which time a few improvements had been made, and here he has made his home ever since, with the exception of two years during the war, which was spent in Greene County, Missouri. Mr. McNair is one of the leading farmers of Searcy County, and his estate embraces 240 acres of valuable farming land. He also feeds considerable stock each year, and throughout his section he is regarded as authority on agriculture. He was first a Whig in politics, later became a Republican, and has voted for every Republican candidate for president since the time of Henry Clay in 1844. He was a Union man during the war, but took no part in the struggle. He and his wife are members of the Methodist Church. Mr. and Mrs. McNair have fifty grand-children, all living except five; and eleven great-grandchildren living. Mr. McNair’s mother, Mary Ann McNair, died in May, 1894, being ninety-one years, three months and four days old.

Mr. McNair has been active in church work since he was twenty-six years old, and has held some office in his church for a good many years. He has been a school director, justice of the peace, and overseer of roads. When the war broke out he was ordered to the county seat to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States. Instead of obeying the command he resigned his local offices and took refuge in the mountains. In 1864 he went to Missouri, and May 1, 1866, returned home, where he has since lived, and has earned the respect and admiration of all who know him.


A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region: comprising a condensed general history, a brief descriptive history of each county, and numerous biographical sketches of prominent citizens of such counties. Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers Publishers. 1894.

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1 thought on “Biography of James Claiborn McNair”

  1. Bruce Anthony Miller

    One of the sons of James C McNair was William Asbury McNair. William Asbury had a son named Bruce Napoleon; presumably named after his brother in law and brother. Bruce Napolean McNair married Jewell Ada Battie and had 4 children. The only son was named David Bruce (after his uncle). One daughter was named Anita Jewell McNair. Anita married JC Miller of Oklahoma and they had a son; James Anthony Miller. James Anthony had a son; Bruce Anthony Miller.

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