Maclellans Have Long Been Associated With Provident Insurance

  • Friday, June 24, 2005

The Maclellan family has long been synonymous in Chattanooga with Provident Insurance Company. Until 1970, there had never been a “non-Maclellan” as president of Provident except for its earliest days.

The family traces back to Scotland. John Maclellan was in the retail shoe business, and his son, Thomas, was born at Castle Douglas in June 1837. Castle Douglas is a small market town in Dumfries in southwest Scotland. Thomas took a position with the Bank of Scotland. When a call went out for bright young men to serve abroad in branches of the Bank of British America, his name was among those recommended. Thomas Maclellan was given a position in Canada as manager of the bank branch at St. John, New Brunswick. It was there he met Helen Jardine, daughter of the prominent St. John business and civic leader, Robert Jardine. Jardine was a native of Ayrshire, who was intended for the law but liked business better. He and his brother operated Jardine & Company. Jardine had his hand in every aspect of the development of St. John, including the electric, the gas, the water, the railway system, the sailors home and even the cemetery.

Thomas Maclellan in 1889, when he was 62, decided to move on to America and make some investments. He settled first at Topeka, Kan. While there, his son, Robert Jardine Maclellan, attended Washburn College. Thomas Maclellan also had a daughter, Dora.

Thomas Maclellan found a new challenge in Chattanooga – at 65 when most men are about to go into retirement. He came in 1892 to help operate a struggling, but promising, insurance company that had been started in 1887. Provident Insurance Company then had offices in the Temple Court Building with a staff of three or four persons. It was in one room with a single sales agent. The architect, Reuben H. Hunt, was then the president and A.S. Glover was treasurer. Provident was reorganized in 1910 with Thomas Maclellan named president. The firm moved to the Keystone Block at the triangular corner of Georgia Avenue, Cherry and East Ninth. A handsome 12-story headquarters was later designed by Hunt for Provident at 721 Broad St. This building, later known as the Maclellan Building, opened in 1924.

The Thomas Maclellans soon threw themselves into the life of the community. He became an elder at the Second Presbyterian Church. They resided in an old house at 518 Walnut St. Thomas Maclellan devoted himself to building up Provident Insurance Company. The company first focused on coverage for employees of lumber camps and coal mines in Tennessee. By 1916, it had spread to 15 states and had annual premiums of $700,000. Macellan finally took some time off, spending a summer in his native Scotland. In 1916, he went up to Plymouth, Mass., where his son’s family was spending the summer. He was walking along Shore Road at Manomet late on the evening of Aug. 8 when one car tried to pass another and struck him. He died later that evening. He was 79. The body was brought back to Chattanooga for burial at Forest Hills Cemetery following funeral services at his home on Walnut Street.

Alexander Chambliss said of Thomas Maclellan, “I have never heard any man speak ill of him and I have never heard him speak ill of any man, and yet I have known him intimately for many years. We have had no cleaner, purer, sweeter character live among us in all these years. Unostentatious, so retiring as to be almost shrinking in disposition, he has never been in the limelight, but pursuing his quiet way he has built up one of the biggest and strongest institutions we have, one of our largest financial feeders.”

Helen Jardine Maclellan had died in March of 1909 at the Walnut Street house after an extended illness. Margaret Maclellan, an unmarried sister of Thomas Maclellan, died the same year on Walnut Street. Dora, sister of Robert J. Maclellan, married B.G. Brown. She had “a gentle sense of humor, a graciousness, a generosity, and a kindness that was lived out in her service to others. She was active in her community and church and desired that every person, young and old, have access to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ
After a life filled with serving others, teaching Bible classes, and living simply and modestly,” Dora Maclellan Brown died on Feb. 24, 1974, at the age of 94. The chapel at Covenant College on Lookout Mountain is named in her honor.

The Maclellans were living at St. John when Robert Jardine Maclellan was born on March 26, 1874. He moved along with his parents and sister to Topeka, then to Chattanooga. As a young man, he worked with the U.S. Engineers on a project on the Tennessee River in 1892-1893. Then he joined Citizens Bank and Trust Company as an accountant and he worked a short time in the county trustee’s office. He was cashier for the Richmond Cotton Oil Company for seven years. In 1905, he became secretary of Provident, and, on the unexpected death of his father, he rose to the president’s post.

It was also in 1905 when R.J. Maclellan embarked on a four-month tour of Europe. And, when he got back, he married Cora Rebecca Llewellyn, daughter of manufacturer Morgan Llewellyn. Their ceremony was conducted on Nov. 22 at 8:30 a.m. at Second Presbyterian. It was a double wedding ceremony along with Webster Colburn and Leila Owen Llewellyn. They were married so early in order to make the noon train. The Colburns were headed to St. Louis to live and the Maclellans to a honeymoon at Niagara Falls. All four lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

The R.J. Maclellans named their first son, Robert Llewellyn Maclellan, when he was born in 1906. The second son, born in 1912, was Hugh Owen Maclellan. A daughter, Helen Margaret, was born in 1908. She married Walter Hoyle of Charlotte, N.C. Her second husband was Jere Tipton. The Maclellans lived at 28 Bluff View, where they had a beautiful river view. Their close neighbors on the river bluff were the A.W. Chamblisses and the Linus Llewellyns. Linus Llewellyn was a brother of Cora Llewellyn Maclellan

The island just below the bluff was first known as Ross’s Landing Island, then as Chattanooga Island. It mainly remained wild through the years, though the Kestersons farmed it at one time. Later, there were vagrants who camped out there and some billboards were erected, though they were later washed away in a freshet. To protect their view, the Maclellans and other residents of Bluff View went together to buy the island from W.H. Burk. The owners, R.J. Maclellan, Linus Llewellyn, August Raht, Walter Henson and Alexander Chambliss were together known as the Cliff Dwellers. E.Y. Chapin later bought the Lwelleyn share. In 1954, R.J. Maclellan decided to transfer the island to the Audubon Society for a wildlife refuge. By that time, he had bought up most of the other shares. In his honor, it was renamed Maclellan Island.

The Maclellans also began to rent different houses for the summer months on Lookout Mountain to escape the heat of the city. One was the old Whaley house on Sunset Circle and another was the Mrs. I.G. Phillips home on West Brow Road. The Maclellans kept a pony on the mountain, and young Hugh would ride all over the mountain. Just after World War I, the Maclellans bought a permanent home on Lookout. It was on East Brow Road where Col. James A. Whiteside had located his first residence. The house was bought from Tom Whiteside. It was a rough hewn brown-stained clapboard house with white trim and a large porch facing the city. The Maclellans in 1933 tore this house down and built a new house in its place that included chestnut paneling.

Robert J. Maclellan was known for his “deep faith in God and his Christian principles that have always had a part in influencing his decisions in business and is further evidenced in kindnesses, gentility, consideration and appreciation of the work of his associates.” Like his father, he was a leader at Second Presbyterian Church. He headed Provident until 1952 when his oldest son, R.L. Maclellan, became president. R.J. Maclellan then became chairman of the board. One of his avocations was golf, and he often played at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club with J.B. Pound. Pound later recalled that “it was nip and tuck who won. However, we usually evened things up and very little money passed between us. I surprised Bob one time when we were on the golf course by telling him that I wanted to give him a nice insurance policy, and asked him if he would like to have a policy for about $20,000 to be written on a good risk. Of course, he thought that was wonderful and so did I. Thereupon I gave him a policy on the life of J. Garnett Andrews for $20,000. This has been more than 20 years ago and the policy is still in force.” Pound also recalled that “for a number of years Bob and I have jointly owned a valuable tract of land on the east brow of Lookout Mountain in Georgia. We have refused to sell any part of this land, having agreed between ourselves that this property will become more valuable, and we will leave it as a nest egg to our families.”

It was June 1956 when R.J. Maclellan died unexpectedly at his Lookout Mountain home as he was dressing for work. He was 82.

Robert Llewellyn Maclellan attended the Duvall School and McCallie School. He attended Dartmouth College, where he was editor of the Dartmouth Pictorial Magazine. His successor as editor was Nelson Rockefeller. R.L. Maclellan met Katrina Howze of Duluth, Mn., while she was in Chattanooga visiting Sarah Houston. Their marriage was Sept. 2, 1939, at Duluth. Her parents were Gerald and Kathrina Richardson Howze. R.L. Maclellan joined Provident as an auditor in the life department. He then became agency secretary of the life department, then a vice president. He became president of Provident upon the death of his father. He headed Provident until 1970 when he became chairman of the board and chief executive officer. At this time, Henry Unruh was named president. R.L. Maclellan was active in development of Chattanooga’s downtown. He was an elder at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church. R.L. Maclellan was attending a trade meeting in New York in 1971 when he was stricken and died. He was 65. His children were Robert Howze “Scotty” Maclellan and Anne Llewellyn Maclellan. Anne died in a traffic wreck in Atlanta.

Hugh Owen Maclellan attended McCallie School and Cornell University. He began courting Charlotte Fowler, who lived on the other mountain – Signal. She later commented, “Hugh soon grew tired of driving to and from our summer residence on Summertown on Signal Mountain twice in one night (about 80 miles) so he married me to save gasoline and to get some sleep.” Hugh O. Maclellan attended McCallie School and Cornell University. He was also active in the Provident management for many years after joining the firm in 1935. He became vice president in 1948 and vice president and treasurer in 1955. He became senior vice president in 1965 and president of Provident in 1972. Hugh O. Maclellan was an elder at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church and was active in support of many Christian organizations, including Covenant College. He was named Christian Leader of the Year in 1985. One of his efforts was supporting Bible in the public schools. Hugh O. Maclellan died in 1994 when he was 81. Charlotte Maclellan lived until 2004 when she was 90.

Their children are Hugh O. Maclellan Jr. and Charlotte Anne Maclellan Heffner, who lives in Atlanta. Hugh O. Maclellan Jr. attended Vanderbilt University and the Wharton School of Finance before joining Provident in 1963. He later became more involved in the family’s foundation and he was a leader at Chattanooga Christian School. He married Nancy Browne. Their children are Chris, Dan, Cathy and Elizabeth. Nancy has two sister, Patty, Mrs. Cartter Frierson, and Barby, Mrs. Tom Gifford.

In 1945 the Maclellans had formed a family foundation. A group of private and public trusts, the Maclellan Foundation was incorporated by Dora Maclellan Brown, Robert J. Maclellan and Robert L. Maclellan. In a letter written by Dora Maclellan Brown she addressed the philosophy of the family for present and future reference, so that future trustees of the Maclellan Foundation would never loose sight of the Christian principles it was founded upon. "The foundation of the Maclellan family has been truly Christian. It is the most valuable heritage we have to pass on to future leaders ministering under this name. …my own Christian experience has been so precious to me, I long to use my means in a way that will give this privilege to others," she wrote. R.J Maclellan was the first president of the Maclellan Foundation. Through the years, members of their families have served on the Board of Trustees. R.J.’s descendants have also contributed to the management and administration of the Maclellan Foundation. R.L Maclellan succeeded his father as president. Hugh O. Maclellan Sr. was the foundation president for nearly 20 years. Hugh O. Maclellan, Jr. said the ultimate goal of the Maclellan Foundation in making grants and funding organizations is to fulfill The Great Commission. Today, the Maclellan Foundation supports over 100 ministries and charitable organizations each year. Its purpose is “to serve strategic international and national organizations committed to furthering the Kingdom of Christ and select local organizations that foster the spiritual welfare of the Chattanooga area.”

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