Marian Alice McClellan

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Carol Clanton

The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.

At a Glance:

Birth: March 31, 1941, Cripple Creek, Colorado

Death: September 7, 2019, Reno, Nevada. Buried in Lovelock’s Big Meadow Cemetery

Maiden Name: Wright

Race/nationality/ethnic background: Caucasian

Married: J.W. McClellan, Nov. 3, 1967

Children: daughter, Megan McClellan of Upper Valley, Lovelock; son, John Hill 

Primary city and county of residence and work: Lovelock, Pershing County, Nevada

Major Fields of work: County commissioner, activist, assayer


First woman Pershing County Commissioner promoted mining, roads, sewer and water system

A place in history was secured when Marian Alice Wright McClellan, 78, the first woman elected as a Pershing County Commissioner, died Saturday September 7, 2019, at Renown Medical Center in Reno.

McClellan and her husband were owners of several small businesses, mining ventures and claims, a mobile home park and an assay laboratory in Upper Valley.

Marian was born March 31, 1941, in Cripple Creek, Colorado, to Alice and F.M. Wright. She grew up in Colorado, Arizona and Utah with her two brothers, Dan and Dale Wright.  She graduated from high school in Moab, Utah. 

She married J.W. McClellan on November 3, 1967 in Coleman County, Texas.  Prior to coming to Lovelock, he was a U.S. Air Force pilot stationed near Frankfurt, Germany.  The family moved to Pershing County in 1972.  Marian’s father owned F.M. Wright Mining Company and the couple and her brothers joined her parents in the business.  She took a class at the University of Nevada, Reno on assaying to ensure miners would have good assays on their ore.  She was an assayer for around 20 years.

In 1978 she became chairman of the Pershing Concerned Citizens (PCC).  The group was organized by ranchers, miners and small business owners to protect their rights against the U.S. government’s encroachment with wilderness designations by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other government entities.

She testified at the Nevada Legislature hearings on BLM wilderness proposals and the need to keep Nevada lands open to all citizens.  Only one area in Pershing County was designated as wilderness at that time.  She held the chairmanship for more than 10 years.

Pershing County faced several economic changes in the early 1980s and 1990s. Following the Interstate 80 bypass of Lovelock, its county seat, in 1982, economic development and government projects slowed down. Her service to the county was instrumental in keeping local businesses viable and strong.  

McClellan was an activist in the “Sagebrush Rebellion” as she worked with members of the Nevada Miners and Prospectors, a group of small independent miners, to improve mining economic conditions.  Later she was appointed as a member of Nevada Legislative Committee on Public Lands from 1985-1992.

Elected to the Pershing County Board of County Commissioners in November 1984, she began working with Commissioners Maher, Frank Rutherford and Roger Mancebo in January 1985 to improve economic conditions throughout the county.

As commissioner representative on the Pershing County Roads Department, she sought improvement on the roads in Grass Valley, Imlay, Cosgrave, Mill City as well as in Upper Valley and Lower Valley.

Serving as the commissioner and county representative to  the  Imlay sewer and water systems board, McClellan and the board sought grant funding for a complete new sewer and water system.  The project was mandated because of the health risks to the towns’ residents who were pouring bleach down the lines to disinfect the pipes. Other facilities like the fire departments in Imlay and Grass Valley were also updated.

She also represented the county on the Economic Development Authority which included the Tourism Board and the Community Center Board.  The authority was able to convince state officials to build the Lovelock state prison (Lovelock Correctional  Center  facility), northeast of Lovelock. In 2019, McClellan supported the prison system plan to build a minimum-security camp in Pershing County. 

The tourism board also sought to bring conventions to the county’s fairly new building. The Nevada Association of County Commissioners agreed to hold their annual meeting there after an invitation from the local board.  While commissioner, she also served as a vice president of NACCO in 1992. Marian was a member of Soroptimist International of Lovelock for several years.

Researched and written by Carol Marshall-Clanton

Sources of Information

Interviews with Lacey Donaldson, Pershing County Clerk; Meagan McClellan; and Robert Maher, former Pershing County Commissioner.

Brenn, Courtney. “3 rural Nevada Sites considered.”  Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), Feb. 1, 2019, p28.

Brenn, Courtney. “Pershing candidates back economic growth.” Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), Oct. 29, 1984, p25.

Mejia, Mariana.  “Four Pershing candidates hold nearly identical views.”  Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), Oct. 29, 1980, p34.

“Miner elected.” Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), March 7, 1980, p32. “Protest formed against program to designate wilderness areas.” Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada), March 5, 1979, p3.