McLean, Ephraim Walton (1816–1896)

By: Margaret S. Henson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 28, 2020

Ephraim Walton McLean, entrepreneur and Texas Ranger, the second child of Dr. William Byars and Margaret (McKinney) McLean, was born in Christian County, Kentucky, in 1816. He was a nephew of Thomas F. McKinney and of John McLean, the first United States congressman from Illinois. His grandfather, Ephraim McLean, was a founder of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1818 the family moved to Hamilton County, Illinois, where McLean's father and uncle operated a saltworks at nearby salines and maintained an inn on the Goshen Road. In the mid-1820s, the McLeans moved to Randolph County, Missouri. McLean moved to Texas in May 1836 in company with James Prather McKinney, the younger brother of Thomas F. McKinney, traveling overland through Nacogdoches to Quintana. Both young men became employees of McKinney and Williams; McLean bought the schooner Columbus from his uncle in 1837, but it was wrecked soon afterward. He then went to Galveston, where he constructed the palmetto wharf for McKinney and Williams. He searched for silver in the Washita Mountains and in 1839 joined a company of rangers serving on the southwestern boundary. In 1840 he was in command of a detachment at Corpus Christi, and two years later he raised a company to serve as escorts for Texas traders along the border. In 1846 McLean joined a volunteer company under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston at Corpus Christi, but as soon as possible he transferred from the infantry to the more glamorous mounted ranger company under Ben McCulloch and John C. Hayes. He participated in the storming of Monterrey and then joined the command of Winfield Scott as a quartermaster, in which post he transported supplies from Veracruz to Orizaba. He went to California seeking gold in 1849 and returned to Texas in 1855. He had contracted dysentery during the Mexican War, and the condition worsened. He worked for the meat-packing plant at Poolville in Galveston County after the Civil War and finally moved to Galveston, where he lived quietly on a modest pension. He never married, but his three widowed sisters, Artemesia McKinney, Sally Taylor, and Mary Susan Moore, took care of him. He died on January 31, 1896, and is buried in Galveston.

Galveston News, October 18, 1896. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Margaret S. Henson, “McLean, Ephraim Walton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 28, 2020