Born in 1805 in Tobermory, Scotland, Donald McLean joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1833 and was sent to Fort Alexandria in New Caledonia after his arrival in the Oregon Territory. He served in New Caledonia from 1833 to 1837, gaining the reputation of being a ruthless "enforcer" who was often employed by the HBC to hunt down any Aboriginals who were suspected of murdering any Company personnel. "He would dash upon a band of savages," wrote John Tod, "& in case a murderer was not found, he would take their horses, break their canoes, & commit such like deprecations." After the murder of Chief Trader Samuel Black in 1841, Donald McLean was despatched from Fort Colvile by Chief Trader Archibald McDonald to participate in a punitive posse of twenty men that harassed the Aboriginals in the Fort Kamloops area. In his wake, John Tod felt obliged to return all the horses that McLean had taken from the Aboriginals and pay for property that McLean had destroyed. McLean, who was known for wearing a bullet-proof, was cleared by HBC officials after a series of alleged colc-blooded murders in the Quesnel area in 1849.

McLean was placed in command of Fort Kamloops in 1855. Rather than accept a transfer away from his family in 1860, he chose to remain in the B.C. Interior as a settler with his mixed blood wife Sophie at Hat Creek near Clinton. The McLeans farmed and operated a stopping house for travellers on the Cariboo Wagon Road. Known for his severe treatment of Aboriginals, John McLean was killed near Chilko Lake on July 17, 1864, by some of the Tilhqot'in (Chilcotin) Indians who were being pursued by McLean and others for their part in the so-called Chilcotin War that arose in response to Alfred Waddington's attempts to build a road to the goldfields via Bute Inlet. [See Waddington entry] His place in British Columbia will be forever secure as the father of the province's most notorious outlaw gang, the so-called Wild McLeans consisting of Allen McLean, Archie McLean, Charley McLean and Alexander Hare. When the gang was hanged together at New Westminster on January 31, 1881, after they had surrendered for trial on December 13 during a siege at Douglas Lake, 16-year-old Archie McLean gained the dubious distinction of being the youngest murderer ever executed in B.C.

[BCBW 2005] "Forts and Fur" "Crime"