Peter McClelland


Peter McClelland

(1809-1886)

Senior Warden of Waco 92 from 1864-1865

Mclennan County Sheriff 1873

Founder of McClelland Hotel (Roosevelt Tower today)

recent drawing by James R. Carr of the Brann-Davis shootout

recent drawing by James R. Carr of the Brann-Davis shootout shows the McClelland Hotel in the background

Of all the great pioneers and civic leaders to which Waco owes its gratitude, Peter McClelland might be the most forgotten despite his impact on the daily lives of Wacoans continuing more than a century after his death.

McClelland was born August 15, 1809 in Abingdon, Virginia. His father was a Scottish immigrant and was rather poor. As a young man, Peter moved to Illinois where he found work as a wheelwright but in 1853, he arrived in the fledgling village of Waco, Texas which would eventually become a full-blown city with a landscape forever bearing the mark of Peter McClelland.

He opened a business as one of Waco’s first grocers and it flourished as he built a well-known reputation. The success of his grocery business allowed him to venture into livestock and then construction. This led to McClelland building a hotel downtown in 1872 which was four stories high and offered a then-outstanding 103 rooms. It was known as the best place to stay in central Texas for many years and boasted an elegant ballroom fit for all occasions. Decades after his death, the hotel changed ownership when Conrad Hilton made it his third hotel in the state of Texas. It again sold during the Great Depression and was renamed after America’s deliverer during those dark days, the Roosevelt Hotel. It still stands today, having undergone massive reconstruction throughout the years and far exceeding its original size as McClelland constructed it in 1872. Yet, without his early endeavors, the Roosevelt Tower and Ballroom could not have become the social and financial hub it is today.

While acting as an ownership partner with Brother Thomas Killingsworth in a brick business, McClelland was appointed to serve as Mclennan County’s Sheriff in 1873. He continued his business life and rose to the position of president at State Central Bank in 1876.

Brother McClelland died September 24, 1886 and his estate was estimated to be worth $500,000 at the time of his death. That translates to more than twelve million dollars today so suffice it to say that that hopeful young grocer who was getting started in 1853 Waco did pretty well for himself. His will was the subject of some dispute and fell into a decades-long journey through the court system. Future Texas legend William Lambdin Prather built part of his reputation as a lawyer on handling the case. Prather’s father was also a member of Waco Lodge 92.