John McClarty, lawyer, legislator, and Confederate cavalry officer, was born in Breckenridge County, Kentucky, on May 8, 1823. His parents, Samuel and Letitia McClarty, moved the family to Texas in 1845 and were among the first settlers of Rusk County. John McClarty was elected district attorney of the Sixth Judicial District by the First Texas Legislature. When the Mexican War broke out, McClarty resigned in order to lead a group of infantrymen. He was mustered into service on July 1, 1846, as captain of Captain McClarty's Company, First Regiment Texas Foot Riflemen, and led his unit to the seat of the conflict on the Rio Grande, where he served under Zachary Taylor.
After the Mexican War, McClarty returned to Rusk County where he practiced law. One of his specialties was handling suits against the United States for not settling claims stemming from the Mexican War. He served as the postmaster for Henderson, Texas, from 1853 to 1856 and was the editor for the Southern Beacon from 1858 to 1859. McClarty was also active in politics and was elected to the Eighth Texas Legislature in 1859. John McClarty married Margaret Young Harwood on August 21, 1853, in Henderson. The couple had four children: Jane Graham, Charles W., John Pinkney, and Eliza S.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, McClarty joined the Seventeenth Texas Cavalry on March 15, 1862, and was elected as major and later promoted to lieutenant colonel. His unit served in the Trans-Mississippi during the war, but McClarty was forced to resign on October 22, 1862, due to ill health. He passed away four years later in 1866.