McClees family holds reunion in Tyrrell

Published 6:52 pm Saturday, August 3, 2019

Forty-two members of the McClees family gathered at Norman Smith Legion Beach on Albemarle Sound on July 20.

The event was the biennial reunion of the descendants of Dennis McClees, a 17-year-old Scots-Irish immigrant who was shipwrecked in the mouth of Alligator River in 1735.

McClees was a member of the militia in Alligator in 1754, bought 100 acres on South River, a tributary of East Lake, in 1760, and died in the county in 1774.

Descendants in generations 7 through 10 were present. Eldest to attend were Mary Kate Daniels, 95, of Virginia Beach, Va., and her sister Alberta Elliott, 92, of West Hartford, Conn., daughters of Herbert L. Swain and Olena McClees Swain, both natives of Tyrrell County.

Senior member of the clan at the time of her death last February was Dr. Olena Swain Bunn of Greensboro, aged 100. Her grand neice, Jessica Lola Nix of Hartford, Conn., eulogized Dr. Bunn during the gathering.

Youngest family member present was 8-month-old Ben Lilley, son of Christian Lilley and Grace Pledger of Madison, New Jersey. Pledger is the daughter of Denise McClees of Columbia.

Dennis Ray McClees Jr. and wife Pauline Abong McClees of Honolulu, Hawaii, traveled the farthest to join the group.

Lola Elliott-Hugh of Hartford, Conn., produced and exhibited a video recap of the two previous family reunions at Legion Beach.

A visible reminder of their connection, family members stepped forward by generation to a wall-mounted family tree and placed their leaf on its proper branch.

After the program ended, a dozen or more family members trekked to the McClees cemetery (in use from 1831 to 1887) between Goat Neck Road and Albemarle Sound in the heavily wooded Palmetto-Peartree Game Lands.