Piecing Together the Chronicles of John L. McNair

John L. McNair | 1808 - 1877

A Founding Father of Brodhead

John L. McNair's story is particularly interesting as he is one of the original Brodhead founders, having held pivotal roles in our pioneer town's success. He was also brother and business partner of Miles M. McNair.

A Chronological Overview

  • 1808 
    • birth of John L. McNair
  • 1850
    • occupation listed as "Farmer"
  • 1855
    • census records show five household members: John L. Caroline, Sophia, Pierpont, and Eugene
  • 1856 
    • John L. is one of the original proprietors to work with E. D. Clinton, and secure the train depot in Brodhead
  • 1857 
    • John L. becomes Brodhead's 1st Station Agent
    • John L. & Caroline are founding members of Brodhead's Congregational Church
  • 1860
    • occupation listed as "Agent"
  • 1870
    • by this time, John L. and his family were living in Washington, Iowa
    • occupation listed as "Dealer in agricultural machines"
  • 1877
    • death of John L. McNair

John L. McNair 

John L. McNair & Brodhead

John L. McNair came with his family to Brodhead in 1850

John L. is considered one of the founders of Brodhead. He owned a great deal of land, built one of the earliest homes, was the first Station Agent, and like his brother Miles M. ... he was an entrepreneur. 

John L. McNair & the Railroad

Via the Green County Genealogy Society :

"The Mineral Point branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul Railway passes through from east to west. After having no luck securing land in Decatur, the railroad agent came to Brodhead. An agreement was struck with the proprietors of Brodhead, some of which were: Edward BRODHEAD, E. D. CLINTON, John P. DIXON, John L. McNAIR, I .F. MACK; Erastus SMITH; and John L. V. THOMAS."

Via Genealogy Trails :

"Early in 1856 E. D. Clinton, agent for the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad, started west from Janesville to secure the right of way for the railroad through Green county, and also get subscriptions for stock ... after negotiations closed and the bargain was completed the proprietors of Brodhead were: Edward Brodhead, of Milwaukee, then chief engineer of the railroad; E. D. Clinton, John P. Dixon, of Janesville, John L. McNair, I. F. Mack, Erastus Smith and John L. V. Thomas. The town proprietors donated the railroad company a right of way and depot grounds."

Brodhead Depot

John L. McNair & the Congregational Church

Via Genealogy Trails :

"The first services of this denomination were held by Rev. James Jamison, at the house of Henry Clinton, in the summer of 1856. The Church was organized by the same minister on the 28th of February, 1857, services being held in the dining hall of the Clinton Hotel. The society was designated the "First Congregational Church of Brodhead." The first members were as follows: E. D. Clinton, Amanda Clinton, James T. Sherman, Abby T. Sherman, John L. McNair, Caroline P. McNair..."

"The first officers were: Deacons, E. D. Clinton, I. W. Thayer and John C. Wingate; clerk, I. F. Mack; treasurer, John L. McNair; trustees, I. W. Thayer, R. E. Taft, M. L. Burnham, E. C. Clinton, H. P. Clinton and R. Love. Services were held at the Clinton House until the erection of the school house, which was then used by the society as a place of worship until 1861 when the church edifice was built."

Congregational Church | Brodhead, Wis.

John L. transitioned from his occupation as Station Agent, and became business partners with his brother Miles M., while leveraging his early farming experience, and sold agricultural equipment commercially

Beyond evidence of his considerable landownership, John L.'s wealth is also noted in census records that show live-in hired help, for working both his farm and tending to their home.

John L. McNair

The John L.McNair Family

  • Caroline Pierpont - WIFE - (1809-1894)
  • Edward - SON - (1850 - ?)
  • Sophia - DAUGHTER - (1840-1836)   occupation: teacher ... like her uncle Miles, Sophia lived a long life, having lived to well over 96 years of age
  • (William) Pierpont - SON - (1842-1901)
  • Eugene - SON - (1845-?) occupation: Dealer in agricultural machinery
  • Sadie - DAUGHTER - (1848-?)


  • via Green County Genealogical Society
  • via Wisconsin Genealogy Trails
  • via the 1912 Opinions and Decisions of the Railroad Commission
  • via 1850 FEderal Census
  • via 1870 Federal Census