ARCHIBALD B. MCLAREN.
Among the many well known mining men of Southern Illinois, the popular superintendent of the Chicago Big Muddy Coal and Coke Company, of Marion, is one of the most efficient. He has spent most of his life in this work, and save for a short period has pursued his vocation in the state of Illinois. Mr. McLaren has behind him a long line of sturdy Scotch ancestors, he, himself, having been born in Dunfermline, Scotland, on the 6th of January, 1873. His father was William McLaren, who was born in the same little Scotch community in 1850, and his mother was Miss Mary Kennedy, whom William McLaren had married in his native Scotland. Five years after the birth of Archibald the family came to the United States, sailing from Glasgow to New York and thence by way of the Great Lakes making their way into the interior of the country, through Chicago as the gateway. They made their way down to Streator, Illinois, where they remained until 1884, when the father decided to try his fortunes in the south, and moved to Charleston, Arkansas, where he expected to engage in mining, which industry had been his means of livelihood in the “Auld Countree.” Conditions not being favorable there, he loaded his family and his household goods upon two ox-carts and made his slow way across the state into the sparsely settled territory of Oklahoma, passing through the densely peopled Choctaw nation, whose many strange and weird customs made a deep impression upon the Scotch wanderers. Reaching McAlester, Oklahoma, he established his family at Krebs, in the vicinity of which place he resided during the several months he spent in the territory. Here it was that his son Archibald was first instructed in the proper methods of mining coal, for that was the father's business. When he returned to Illinois some time later he continued as a miner, and has followed that vocation in the central part of the state ever since, at present being at work in the mineral field about Cuba, Illinois.
Mrs. McLaren died in 1883, at McAlester, Oklahoma, leaving three children, Archibald B.; Annie, the wife of William Townsley, of Cuba, Illinois; and Lizzie, who married George Craft, of Cuba, Illinois. Besides the loss of his wife Mr. McLaren lost his mother and a son during his residence in Oklahoma. He later married Eliza Lewelling, at Streator, Illinois, but has no children by this second marriage.
Owing to the migratory life of the family and the primitive condition of part of the country in which his youth was spent, Archibald B. McLaren gained only snatches of education and after he was grown and married did not possess even a common school education. As a mere lad he was induced to enter the mines at McAlester, by the advice of a physician, who told him, in brief, “either mine or move.” Burrowing into the depths of the earth seemed to agree with him, and he worked at his father's side then and for some time after the family returned to Illinois.
While living at Streator he left the mines to take up railroading, but he preferred the life underground and in less than a year was back in the diggings. In 1895 he left this locality and went to Carbon Hill in Grundy county, where the Star Coal Company had other mines. Here it was that ambition awoke within him, and the interesting event that enabled him to become, instead of one who works with his hands, one who works with his head, took place. At this time he was a coworkman with other miners, as black and grimy as any one of his fellows, with no thought of ever becoming anything else, but he had wise friends and a wonderful wife, and at the advice and urging of these he was persuaded to take a course in the Scranton Correspondence Schools on the subject of mine managing. His wife was a powerful
factor in his success, encouraging and aiding him in doing the work efficienty, and later helping him to prepare for the examination. How thorough had been his preparation was shown by the ease with which he passed the state examination. He was appointed a manager by the Star people some time before he left their service.
From Carbon Hill Mr. McLaren came to Williamson county in 1901. Mr. Goodall, the superintendent of the Chicago Big Muddy, and the man who had originally developed the property, was about to retire. Mr. McLaren was offered the position, as his successor, which he accepted, and has held ever since. This position is one of the most responsible superintendencies in the Marion vicinity, the mine giving employment to some three hundred men and producing about eighteen hundred tons of coal daily.
Mr. McLaren met his wife at Streator, when they were both children, and he was a boarder in the Peters' home, of which family she was a member. She was Emily, the daughter of Joseph Peters, and was born July 1, 1878. Her father was a native of England and Mrs. McLaren was born across the water. As a young boy, while he was attempting to master the science of digging coal, she was wont to aid him in his attempts to master fractions, as she later helped him to equip himself for the position he now holds, so in literal truth she has been a helpmate. The children of this union are William, Joseph, Eliza, Mary and Esther.
Mr. McLaren is a Republican, but evinces no special interest in the game of politics, although he holds himself ready to accept any civic responsibility with which he may be shouldered. He served Carbon Hill as a councilman, and has also performed a life service for Marion, acting from the Third ward. He is at present serving his third term on the school board. He is an active member of both the Masons and the Knights of Pythias, being a member of the Blue Lodge and of the Chapter at Marion, and belonging to the Mt. Vernon Commandery, to the Oriental Consistory and to the Medina Temple at Chicago. He was made a Knight of Pythias at Streator, was transferred when he went to Carbon Hill, and again on his removal to Marion. Here he is a member and chairman of the Knights of Pythias building committee, and is also a member of the joint committee of the Knights of Pythias and the Masons on the erection of their hall in 1911. He is likewise a member of the building committee of the Methodist church in the erection of their new edifice, under construction in 1911. He was one of the promoters of the Citizens Trust and Banking Company, holding stock in that institution, and he is also a stockholder in the El Dorado, Marion and South Western Railway Company.
The above long list of outside interests goes to show that Mr. McLaren has not allowed the responsibility of business cares to wholly absorb him, but has sought a wider field of activity. Scarcely enough credit can be given to this man, who simply through inertia might have allowed his splendid faculties to atrophy, but instead set to work and overcame his early handicap. In doing this he did not, after having reached the goal, turn from his old friends, but in his good fortune always has an eye for the ill fortune of others, is glad to help any man with his counsel and advice, just as he himself was helped. This is perhaps the true reason for his popularity.