With a dream to live in the land of opportunity, Robert (Bob McClelland left his home in Northern Ireland in 1929 when he was just 19 and set out for America to join his two sisters who already lived in the states. Bob quickly settled in and worked as a bridge maintenance worker who helped to build the San Mateo Bridge. In 1937, he married the woman of his dreams, Lillian Wilson. She was the daughter of Rebecca and Walter Wilson, also Irish immigrants. Lillian was born in the city but moved to a Marin County dairy farm in Five Brooks, between Olema and Bolinas, when she was a toddler.
After they were first married, Bob and Lillian tried their hands at raising chickens. Realizing this was not their future, in 1938 they bought a milk route from a Swiss Italian man in Marin County who milked six Brown Swiss cows. The couple soon established themselves in Novato and began milking 18 Brown Swiss by hand, separating the cream from the milk and bottling it under McClelland’s Dairy with the slogan: “From She To Thee.” They sold the milk by the pint or quart on a milk route that was driven by Bob. However, with the pressure of running a family dairy farm and milk delivery route, Bob's health began to decline. In 1947 they decided to sell the cows, and Bob took a less stressful job as a cattle dealer.
During this time the couple managed to raise four children. However, as time went on they began to restock the family farm with cattle. Their eldest son, Robert, showed great interest in the dairy, and the herd was re-established in the early ‘50s. Robert purchased several animals to exhibit at the fairs and was extremely active in 4-H and FFA. He showed his animals, winning numerous awards at the local, state and national levels. In addition, he competed in other events such as dairy cattle judging, and he was one of the first to export cattle by plane from the area to South America.
Tragically, Robert was killed in an automobile accident at 19, the same age his father immigrated to America. However, Bob and Lillian continued in the dairy business with their three other children, Rebecca, Saralee and George. In 1964 they bought property in Sonoma County. Bob had worked on the ranch before starting in the dairy business and had always been interested in the property for its scenic rolling hills and cool coastal climate.
The family moved to the Sonoma County ranch, now the current home of McClelland’s Dairy, and started milking cows November 23, 1965, when George was just 13. At the time they were milking 120 Holstein cows and still owned the ranch in Novato. The Marin County ranch was eventually sold. Today, it is a housing development and remembered only by the designation of McClelland Drive.
When young George was in high school he worked on the family farm milking cows and feeding calves. In April 1971, he married his high school sweetheart, Dora. She was from a farming family in Sonoma County and grew up on her uncle Phillip Bordessa’s ranch. The couple had three children: Jennifer, Jana and Robert.
In the early days the family worked long hours. George did the milking and fed calves and Dora took care of most of the crops on about 200 acres. Bob and Lil were still very much involved throughout their entire lives and never stopped working. Unfortunately, Bob passed away one morning after chores in 1987 and Lillian passed away in 1999.
Currently the dairy is still family operated with George and Dora partnering with their daughter Jana. Their son Robert started his own family farm in 2005 and now operates it with his wife, Jolynn, and young sons, Collin and Luke. George and Dora’s oldest daughter Jennifer decided to branch out from the dairy industry and is an online marketing director. Farming is still in her blood, as when she visits the farm with her son Walter, he loves to see the cows!
The McClellands credit their success to the strong work ethics instilled by Bob and Lil and the hard work of the team of people on the family farm today.