John McClellan was a native of Ohio who had emigrated with his parents and siblings to Oregon in 1850. In the early 1860s McClellan made some unsuccessful attempts at mining and prospecting in Idaho. In 1863 he claimed 80 acres on the north side of the Boise River to the west of the present day 9th Street. He built a cabin with Dr. William J. Thompson who had an adjoining homestead claim. By April 1864 McClellan and Dr. Thompson petitioned the Territorial Legislature to franchise the Ada Ferry Company, which gave them a monopoly on river crossing 1 mile either side of 8th Street, where there had already been an established ford across the river used by Native Americans. The rope drawn ferry boat was built by McClellan out of Logs he floated down the river and sawed into lumber. It was reportdedly a “miserable, one horse affair” (Witherell, 1989).

In 1866 with a newly renewed ferry license plans were made to build a toll bridge. When the Boise City Bridge Company (McClellan and Thompson) opened their bridge for use in December 1867 the ferry was taken apart. It was a profitable business but they sold their controlling interest by October of the next year. The crossing was, and still is the main entrance into the city, where Ninth and Capitol Streets cross the river today.

After the sale of the business McClellan spent his time farming and bee keeping. He developed the Riverside Addition which was platted in December 1890. He built a frame house at 525 S. 12th Street and lived there with his sister Letta Ann. McClellan is buried in Boise's Pioneer Cemetery along with his sister and his mother. "Pioneer Cemetery Walking Tour"

In 1910 at age 83 he was honored along with other Idaho Pioneers at the 75th birthday celebration of James A. Pinney (the mayor of Boise when Idaho Territory became a state).

McClellan crossing historical marker* McClellan's claim


Image courtesy Pam Demo, Boise’s River Street Neighborhood, Lee, Ash, and Lovers Lane/Pioneer Streets, the South Side of the Tracks (Thesis MA: University of Idaho, 2006)

*Photo by P. Browning copy permission for educational purposes only.

Works Cited

“Brief Local News.” The Idaho Daily Statesman, 28 February 1910 “Pioneers of Idaho Around the Festal Board.” The Idaho Daily Statesman, 2 October 1910 Johnson, Richard Z., ed. Illustrated History of The State of Idaho (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1899) Witherell, Jim. History Along the Greenbelt (Idaho State Historical Society, 1989)