Joseph Baldwin McClaren, known as J.B. or Joe, was born in August 1874 on a farm in Shenango Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, the son of Uriah and Lucy (Baldwin) McClaren. His father was a well-respected local citizen who tended a large farm along the Butler Road. His paternal great grandfather was Robert McClaren, who came from Ireland sometime in the early 1800’s and was one of the earliest settlers of what became downtown New Castle.
Joe McClaren was raised in Shenango Township and had several brothers and sisters. One of his sisters, Frances McClaren, became a longtime English teacher in the New Castle school system. Another sister, Mary “Minnie” McClaren, was also in business and operated a millinery shop (selling women’s hats) in New Wilmington.
As a young adult Joe McClaren trained as a blacksmith with the company in Wilkinsburg in Allegheny County and relocated to New Castle in about 1899. For some time he worked for the Lawrence Carriage Works before starting his own business as a blacksmith, carriage maker, and overall handyman. His first wife Jennie Forbes of Slippery Rock Township, with whom he had a son named Everett F. McClaren in 1907, died of tuberculosis in August 1909 while receiving care at a hospital in Pittsburgh. He was remarried in August 1912 to a widower from Grove City named Ida MacKay and they made their home at #416 Whippo Street in New Castle. The McClaren’s were devout members of the Second United Presbyterian Church for many years, but were also closely associated with the Center United Presbyterian Church in Shenango Township.
In the early 1910’s his business was co-located at #306 Grove Street with the Weir Brothers clothing firm. In early 1912 they erected a new two-story building at that same location – of which he soon occupied the first floor. For a while he was associated in the blacksmith and carriage business with a man named Ed Sidley. By the late 1910’s an opportunistic McClaren had transitioned to making the hardware and framework for trucks and buses as the McClaren Body Manufacturing Company. He also repaired furniture and performed other odd jobs and remained in business throughout most of the 1920’s. It’s likely his business was closed in the early days of the Great Depression.
McClaren passed away from a heart ailment in July 1948 at the age of seventy-three. A memorial service, led by the Reverend J. Calvin Rose, was held at the Cunningham Funeral Home at Chestnut and East Washington Streets before he was laid to rest in Oak Park Cemetery. His wife Ida, at the age of seventy-nine, died in November 1950 and was buried next to him.
This photo shows an early school bus that Joe McClaren produced at his plant at #306 Grove Street in New Castle. (c1922) Full Size
A notice mentioning a consolidation involving McClaren’s company and another firm located on Wabash Avenue in Mahoningtown. (Jan 1922)
A notice advertising the various services offered by McClaren’s company in the late 1920’s. (May 1927)