Lancer Letter – The General

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

It’s time for a little vacation for me so this week and next, I’ll be rerunning a previous Lancer Letter. I first published this one upon the 150th anniversary of the death of General John McLane who died in the battle at Gaines Mills. I think it important to always know and understand our history so for those of you who don’t know, here’s a story of how I came to learn more about the General.

In early July of 1998, I received a call in my office at the high school. The lady on the other end of the phone, Stella Helmer, explained that her son had decided to trace their family tree. The roots took them back to John McLane in Erie. She called the Erie Book Store to see what information they had and the person at the book store asked if she had contacted the school. It was then she knew that a school district had been named for her great grandfather. (McLane’s daughter, Mary McLane Parsons, was Stella’s grandmother.)

In my discussion with her, I learned that she and her son lived in Woodstock, Vermont. By coincidence, my wife and I had planned a trip to Vermont that was to take place two weeks later. So, we met Stella and her son for lunch in Woodstock, a lovely New England town with many historical buildings. After lunch, we went to her historic and beautiful home on the Ottauquechee River. There they shared with us some treasures from the General’s possessions: the pencil drawing of the inside of his tent, his trunk, and one boot spur. They also have a portrait of the General that is a copy of the original hanging in the Education Center. We took a picture with them standing in front of their mantle where it was displayed and you can see the resemblance between George and the General.

When we were visiting, George told us of his cousin Randy who now lives in Maine. Randy is the family member who is in possession of the General’s saber, hat and epaulets. When we began the Lancer Legacy Award, Randy was good enough to email us pictures of the saber. We took the pictures to local ancient weapons expert, Cecil Plouse, who was able to locate and order replicas for us to award to Legacy winners.

Here are some other interesting tidbits about the district’s history:

The original portrait now hanging in the Education Center (the one in the high school lobby is a copy) was in the possession of McLane’s 71 year old grandson, John McLane, at the time of its donation. John lived in Alberta, Cananda and decided along with his sister, Lucy Neely McLane, and children Barbara Jane McLane and Robert Luis McLane, that the new school should have it.
The first graduating class of the newly formed General McLane Junior Senior High School was 1960; however, the students were housed at Edinboro and McKean High Schools but were considered the first General McLane Class.

The current high school was occupied as a grades 7-12 school in fall of 1960 and dedicated in April of 1961.

General McLane was not a school district until July 1, 1969. Until that time, it was considered a “joint junior-senior high” only and the elementary schools retained separate boards until the district formed in 1969.

The state’s original plan for consolidation of school districts would have placed Edinboro and Albion together in the same district and McKean and Girard would have been together. Erie county, led by our solicitor Jim McDonald and our beloved Jim Parker, petitioned the state successfully for our present configuration.

Finally, did you know that General McLane is the only school district to be named after a person and not a location? Think about it.

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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