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The Moorsfield Press

            On April 21, 1919, architect Hugh McLellan established the Moorsfield Press in the cottage behind his house in Champlain, New York.  In 1922, he moved the press to the basement of the Session House (current Knights of Columbus Hall).  The name of the press was derived from Champlain founder Pliny Moore, whose land grant was referred to as the “Moorsfield Grant” (Pliny spelled his name as "Moor" in 1785).  Hugh was a descendant of Pliny Moore and had become profoundly influenced by the Moore papers he had.   

    Hugh established his press to print historical papers in order to preserve and distribute them.  Almost as soon as the press was established, his brother and friends asked him to print for their businesses.  As word got out that Champlain had a printing office, business orders came to the press.  Hugh hated the commercialization of his press but needed the income to supplement his semi-retirement from architecture.  This quickly became his main business which his son Woody continued until the early 1980s. Over the years, though, they still published historical material but sometimes it took years or even decades to publish a document. 

                 The Plattsburgh Daily Press of Wednesday, May 26, 1920, and Plattsburgh Sentinel of May 28, 1920, noted the establishment of the Moorsfield Press:


            Clinton County has an acquisition in the cause of letters and the art of fine printing in the establishment of the Moorsfield Press at Champlain, owned and conducted by Mr. Hugh McLellan, historian and Lincoln collector of that place who has also in his profession as architect won international fame by his statues of Champlain at Plattsburgh and Crown Point. 

             The work of the Moorsfield Press is mainly in historical lines, with a variation this spring in the publication of a charming short Christmas story by the school-girl daughter of the proprietor, Miss Dorothy McLellan, who is a pupil at the Bishop Hopkins school at Burlington.  This brochure entitled “The Carol Singers” is a delightful piece of work, interesting in composition and exquisite in typographical workmanship reflecting high credit on the publisher as well as on the talented authoress. 


             Clinton County has an acquisition in the cause of letters and the art of fine printing in the establishment of the Moorsfield Press at Champlain, owned and conducted by Mr. Hugh McLellan, historian and Lincoln collector of that place who has also in his profession as architect won international fame by his statues of Champlain at Plattsburgh and Crown Point. 

             The work of the Moorsfield Press is mainly in historical lines, with a variation this spring in the publication of a charming short Christmas story by the school-girl daughter of the proprietor, Miss Dorothy McLellan, who is a pupil at the Bishop Hopkins school at Burlington.  This brochure entitled “The Carol Singers” is a delightful piece of work, interesting in composition and exquisite in typographical workmanship reflecting high credit on the publisher as well as on the talented authoress. 

            In a letter written to his cousin, John N. Moore, Esq., on July 1, 1920, Hugh described his interest in gathering family historical information and printing it:        

            You probably do not know that during the past several years I have been greatly interested in gathering together and studying whatever letters, papers, etc. I could find bearing on the early history of Champlain and especially on the life of our ancestor Judge Pliny Moore.  In those years, I have accumulated quite a mass of material. 

            Since coming to Champlain to live I have renewed my boyhood hobby of printing, and have already printed a few pamphlets on Lincoln etc.

            A newspaper published on December 17, 1931, had a short note about the letters of Thomas Nye that were published. 


             The Moorsfield Press, of Champlain, has just issued an interesting brochure edited by Hugh McLellan in which are reprinted two letters written by Thomas Nye relating to a journey made by him in 1837 from Montreal to Chicago where he visited Ariel Bowman and obtained the hand of his daughter, Corinna, in marriage.

             In an interesting foreword Mr. McLellan says that Mr. Nye was the youngest son of Elias and Elizabeth (Bartlett) Nye and was born in Carver, Plymouth County, Mass. on August 23, 1801; graduated from the University of Vermont in 1822 and took up the practice of law in Montreal after several years of study in the office of John Boston.  He died May 15, 1877 in Montreal and was buried in the family vault in Glenwood Cemetery, Champlain.

             The booklet, of which only 48 copies were published, is nicely printed on laid paper and attractively bound.

            By 1936, Hugh had completed his transcriptions of the Pliny Moore papers.  It had taken him about 20 years to type the 3000 letters and other material in his collection.  He now had a huge collection of material that was readily available for his inspection.

            Between 1937 and 1939, Hugh published the quarterly magazine called the Moorsfield Antiquarian.   Eight 75-page volumes were published.  Hugh printed a number of family papers that he owned including papers about Pliny Moore, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Nye.   Hugh had called this venture a “fiasco” but his historical pamphlets and booklets are now an important part of Clinton County history.  Besides the Moorsfield Antiquarian, Hugh also published short papers with his press concerning other family papers that he owned.  A listing of all of the historical publications of the Moorsfield Press from 1919 to 1932 was printed.  Many of these publications have been reproduced here. 

        A July 3, 1937, newspaper article about Hugh’s quarterly magazine stated: 



             The first issue of "The Moorsfield Antiquarian," a Quarterly Magazine of American History, has just been published by the Moorsfield Press, of Champlain, with Hugh and Charles W. (Woodbury) McLellan as editors.  Its contents include:

             "John Jacob Astor Correspondence — Fur Trade with Lower Canada"; "Lincoln's Visit to Richmond in 1865"; “On the Outbreak of the Papineau Rebellion”; "Letters from New Madrid, Missouri"; "Opening of the Pacific Telegraph in 1861"; "A Frontier Committee of Safety"; and "Inscriptions from Old Graveyards".

             The magazine is nicely printed on deckle edge book paper and bound in an attractive cover.  For the most part the text mater is in the form of old letters, valuable and interesting historical documents.  The magazine is to be issued quarterly at the subscription price of $8.09 a year.

             Hugh McLellan is widely known as a local historian and has a large and valuable collection of letters written by and to early settlers in the Champlain Valley.  His son, Woodbury McLellan, co-editor of the "Antiquarian," has been associated with his father in gathering and classifying the letters and other historical matter.

    Three months later, Hugh published the second quarterly issue of the Antiquarian.  A note was published on September 2, 1937. 



             The second number of the "Moorsfield Antiquarian," a quarterly magazine of American history edited and published by Hugh and Charles Woodbury McLellan, of Champlain, is off the press and not only presents a most attractive appearance but contains a large amount of interesting and valuable historical material.  The magazine is entirely hand-set, is printed on a good quality of deckle edge book paper and is made up of 152 pages.

             The contents include:

             "Garrison Orders, Burlington, Vt., July 13—Aug. 4, 1813," with an alphabetical list of names appearing in the orders;  "The 1860 Presidential Campaign"; "Letters of Cassius M. Clay to Cephus Brinerd"; "John Jacob Astor Correspondence, Part 2"; "A Minnesota Farmer in 1862"; "Dupree & Janqueray and Jacques Rouse"; "An Address to the Grand Jury of Clinton County"; "An After Effect of the Civil War"; and "Inscriptions from Old Graveyards in Altona, Chazy and West Chazy."

             The Rouse story is a copy of an address to the grand jury charging Rouse, the first permanent white settler in Rouses Point and a captain in the State Militia, with a "murderous assault" upon the complainants.  It would appear to have been a battle of words only as no blows were struck and only the feelings of the men were injured.  There is no record of the disposition of the case, if it ever came to trial, and it might be inferred that it was a spite affair as it is mentioned that Rouse had an action pending against them at the time. 

             Copies of the magazine may be obtained from the Moorsfield Press at Champlain.

             By February 1938, Hugh had published another set of articles for his Antiquarian.  A March 17, 1938, newspaper article notes this.

 Moorsfield Antiquarian” Has Interesting Articles

             The February, 1938, issue of the "Moorsfield Antiquarian," a quarterly publication of the Moorsfield Press, Hugh and Charles W. McLellan, of Champlain, contains a lot of exceptionally interesting material of interest to North Country people. 

             Among the articles is one under the title, "Pierre Huet de la Valiniere, Priest," which shows, through the reproduction of certain correspondence between Judge Pliny Moore and the Catholic missionary that the earliest Catholic church on the Northern New York shares of Lake Champlain was built in 1790 at what is now Cooperville instead of at Split Rock, in Essex County, as contended by some historians.

             Other articles include: "From Alleghney [sic] to Lake Superior"; "The Journal of George M. McGill; "The John Jacob Astor correspondence on the fur trade with Lower Canada"; "Carlyle and Lord Russell on Lincoln"; "A Letter from Lord Stanley, of Alderley, dated in 1864"; "A Southerner On Reconstruction"; "A Letter from, Elyria, Ohio, in 1837"; and "Inscriptions from Old Graveyards."

             One of the inscriptions taken from a stone in the Perrys Mills Cemetery and copied in the article is on the stone above the grave of John True, who died on April 27, 1850, at the age of 30 years and three months.  It reads as follows:

            Was born in Ireland brought o’er a child,

            And lived in Bogtown, meek and mild.

            Lamented by one, lamented by all,

            Who heard of his fate or sad, downfall.

            By crossing a rapids in this river,

            Life, soul and body soars did sever.

            If God deprived him of some reason,

            We trust his soul is now in heaven.

             Another rather peculiar epitaph in the same graveyard is that on the stone of Titus Perry, who died in December, 1857.  It is:

             Thou has gone to rest in Jesus' love

            I hope to go soon and meet the above.

An inscription on a stone in the Stevenson lot reads:

            "Elizabeth, daughter of John and Mary Stevenson, murdered, Dec. 26, 1832, in her 18th year."

         In June, Hugh published yet another group of articles in his Antiquarian, as a June 9, 1938, newspaper article reveals.



             Another very interesting issue of "The Moorsfield Antiquarian" has come from The Moorsfield Press at Champlain, edited by Hugh and Woodbury McLellan.   Articles include:

            "With the American Fur Co. in the Michilimakinac Dependencies," a series of letters written by Samuel Ashmun, Jr., and John H. Fairbank, Champlain youths who tell of their adventures with the American Fur Co. in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota between the years 1818 and 1822.  The letters were all addressed to Bartlett Nye, who had intended to accompany them West but who had changed his mind at the last minute.

            "With General Butler at New Orleans," a letter from John Coddington Kinney to Miss Eliza Button dated May 30, 1862, gives interesting sidelights on the daily lives of the soldiers during the Civil War.

            Other titles in the May issue include:

            "Maine Troops on Lake Champlain and the Loss of the Eagle and the Growler, May‑July 1813"; "Letters from California‑1852 to 1859" (Wallace W. Bordwell to Benjamin Booth);  "The Year 1781 at Saratoga," Col. Marinus Willett's Regiment of Levies (From the Pliny Moore Papers), and "Inscriptions from Old Graveyards." 

            In the latter department, a regular feature of "The Antiquarian," the inscriptions reproduced are from the old graveyard at Odelltown, Que., four miles north of Rouses Point. Among them the following family names appear:

            Brothers; Canfield; Durham; Fisher; Force; Geddes; Hatch; Johnson; LaBounty; McCullough; McFarlane; Masten; Paro; Schriver; Shipley; Smith; Statcliff; Tate; Tompkins; Willsey; Wilson, and Woodworth.

            For several years, Hugh published his historical papers using the Moorsfield Press.  He soon realized he needed to supplement his income.  Since Champlain did not have any commercial printers, he found himself printing for businesses.  In a 1932 Moorsfield Press publication, Hugh described how the Press was becoming more of a business venture and less of a historical publication press.



Moorsfield Press, Champlain, N. Y.



            THE MOORSFIELD PRESS was established in 1919 as a private press, primarily for the printing of such unpublished historical matter as seemed worthy of preservation.  It was really the rebirth of an old interest in printing, and after my father's collection of Lincolniana had gone to Brown University, it became, with my interest in the history of the Champlain Valley, my principal hobby.  It was not my intention to produce merely fine examples of printing, but rather to follow the typography of the eighteenth century in America.

             There was no thought of making the Press a commercial venture, and its productions were distributed freely.  But, because of the lack of other printing facilities in the community, the Press was compelled to devote itself to commercial work, almost to the exclusion of the publications which had brought it into being.

             The old desire remained, however, and it is now the intention of the Press to continue the production of these historical pamphlets.  But the policy of distribution will be revised, so that the Press may receive some return for the use of its facilities; in other words, a price will be placed upon each publication to cover the cost of its production.  In this way the various items will be distributed to those persons and libraries that are seriously interested in them.

             Twenty-one of these monographs have already been issued, in limited editions, as noted in the subjoined list.  These include five items of Lincolniana.  The larger number, however, have been drawn from material in my historical collection, consisting mainly of the papers of Judge Pliny Moore, (1759‑1822), which may be divided into three groups, as follows: Columbia County, N. Y., before the Revolution; the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution; and Clinton County, N. Y., and adjacent parts of Vermont and Canada, from 1787 until Judge Moore's death.  These papers include correspondence with Elkanah Watson, James Dean, John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Mooers, Peter Sailly, James Woolrich, John Tayler, John Williams, etc.; also many papers relating to the activities of American and British forces on the Canadian frontier during the War of 1812.

             The John Jacob Astor correspondence will be issued shortly; also several unpublished items of Lincolniana, an Orderly Book of the War of 1812, and the documents of a Committee of Safety during the warscare of 1807.  It is hoped that sufficient interest will be shown to permit the printing of a large number of these monographs.  Announcements of future publications, as issued, will be sent to those requesting them.                                                       

                    HUGH McLELLAN
     Champlain, N. Y.

List of publications of the Moorsfield Press

Additional information on the Moorsfield Press related to Winfred Porter Truesdell

Additional information on the Moorsfield Press from the collections of the Clinton County Historical Association


Hugh McLellan

            Hugh McLellan was born on November 28, 1874, in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and died in Rouses Point, New York, on December 30, 1963, at the age of 89.  Hugh does not appear to have had a middle name even though his brother Malcolm did. 

            Hugh married Margaret Bowman of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after he met her at school in Paris.  They were married in September of 1902 by her father, who was president of the Theological Seminary in that town.  They had two children named Dorothy and Woody.  Dorothy was born in France when Hugh was going to school.

             As a child, Hugh liked to draw.  His father, Charles, gave him a printing set and Hugh soon became very proficient with it.  His father later sent him to Columbia University's School of Architecture in 1894.  Hugh also studied architecture in Paris at the school Ecole des Beaux Arts where he met his wife.

          Hugh wrote out a short biography of himself for a publication sometime between 1904 and 1907.  At the time, he was an architect in New York City.  He later had a son named Woody in 1907.  Woody McLellan would help with the press and later took over operation of it until the early 1980s.

 McLELLAN, Hugh.   B.S. (Arch.) Architect Dipl. par le Gov. Francais. 

            Business Address, 1123 Broadway, New York City.

Personal Record.

            Born, Bloomfield, N. J., November 28, 1874; Father, Charles Woodberry McLellan, American; Mother, Elizabeth Matilda Nye, American; Nearest living relative, Father, Champlain, New York; Early education at Friends’ Seminary, New York, and Cutler’s, New York.  Married, 1902, Margaret Angela Bowman; Daughter, Dorothy, born in Paris, 1904. 

College Record.

            Date of entry, October 1894; Conditions 1st year French Translation and Chemistry; Course, Architecture; Graduated with Class of ’98; Degree, B. S. (Arch);  Participated in “Architects’ Games” each year.

 Society interests.

            Columbia University Club; Soc. of Beaux-Arts Architects; Soc. des Architectes Diplomes.

 Professional record.

        After leaving College took course in architecture at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France, from 1898-1904, receiving diploma in 1904.  Now in business as architect at 1123 Broadway, N.Y. City.

hugh mclellan
                of the moorsfield presds

Left:  Hugh McLellan at the start of his architectural career, circa 1915. 
Right:  Hugh McLellan in the mid-1950s when he was transcribing gravestones in local cemeteries.
Photos from the family collection of the website author. 

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