ENTRY

Maclin C. Wheeler (1854 or 1855–June 6, 1916)

SUMMARY

Maclin C. Wheeler represented Brunswick County in the House of Delegates. Born into slavery, he may have received some education and learned to read and write. Working as a laborer he became interested in politics and joined the Readjuster Party. Elected in 1883 to a two-year term, he voted against a successful measure that allowed the Democratically controlled assembly to appoint all election officers and give them control over who could register and be allowed to vote.  After his term Wheeler remained involved in party politics and was a committee member at a September 1886 convention of mostly African Americans to nominate a congressional district candidate. He owned land and such personal property as horses, cattle, hogs, and farm equipment. In 1899, Wheeler entered into a contract giving the Brunswick Lumber Company the right to harvest the timber on his property and the right to construct buildings and railways to haul the timber. In 1903 he was one of twenty-four men named to the petit jury pool for the federal district court’s spring term. Wheeler died in 1916.

Early Life and Political Career

Wheeler was born into slavery in Brunswick County and was the son of William “Buck” Wheeler and Eliza Turner Wheeler. Little is known about his childhood, but he may have received some education and learned to read and write. He appears in the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census records as a farm laborer, and in the latter he was identified as Mack Wheeler. On December 29, 1881, M. C. Wheeler, as he was also sometimes referred to, married Maria (sometimes Mariah) Tucker in Brunswick County. They had eleven children, including six daughters and three sons who survived childhood, and a niece who later lived with the family.

It is not clear how or when Wheeler became involved in politics. He appears to have supported the Readjusters, a biracial party that had been organized in 1879 to advocate reducing payments on Virginia’s large pre–Civil War public debt to make more money available for the public schools. Many Republicans joined forces with the Readjusters, and in August 1883 Wheeler was described as the “coalition nominee” for Brunswick County’s seat in the House of Delegates. On November 6, he defeated a white Conservative by a vote of 1,565 to 1,153 to win a two-year term. The coalition lost its majority in both houses of the General Assembly that year, and as a result Wheeler received low-ranking assignments to the Committees on Labor and Poor, on Officers and Offices at the Capitol, and on Immigration. Not particularly active during the term, he proposed an unsuccessful bill to revise the act relating to the crops that could be exempt from being seized for the collection of debts. He opposed a bill extending the time period for Brunswick County’s repeal of the fence law to take effect. Despite his explanation that both white and Black voters supported the repeal, thereby requiring landowners to fence in their property rather than requiring livestock owners to fence in their animals, the eighteen-month extension was approved.

Democratic Party leaders in the General Assembly called it back into special session in August 1884. During the session the assembly passed over the governor’s veto a law usually known as the Anderson-McCormick Act, which allowed the assembly—controlled by Democrats—to appoint all election officers and give them control over who could register and be allowed to vote. Along with the other Black delegates, Wheeler had voted against a similar bill that was passed and vetoed by the governor during the regular session, and he again voted against the bill when the delegates passed it over the governor’s second veto.

Later Life

In 1885, Wheeler either did not seek reelection or did not receive the Republican nomination. He remained involved in party politics and was a county delegate in September 1886 at a convention of more than one hundred Republicans, the majority being African American, that met in Petersburg to nominate a candidate for the Fourth Congressional District, which then included Petersburg and eleven counties in the southern part of the state and along the North Carolina border. Wheeler was appointed to the Committee on Permanent Organization.

He purchased fifty acres of land for $150 in January 1885. Three years later Wheeler used the property as collateral for paying a debt, and by 1890 he had accumulated a number of liens against his property. During a years-long lawsuit filed by one of his creditors, Wheeler was warned multiple times by the court that his property would be sold at public auction to pay his debts. By January 1894 the various liens were settled in such a way that he retained his property. In June 1899, Wheeler entered into a contract giving the Brunswick Lumber Company the right to harvest the timber on his property for a period of seven years, including the right to construct buildings and railways to haul the timber. He paid taxes on fifty-four acres of land until his death as well as on such personal property as horses, cattle, hogs, and farm equipment.

In 1903 he was one of twenty-four men named to the petit jury pool for the federal district court’s spring term. Maclin C. Wheeler died of acute dysentery on June 6, 1916. He was buried in a Brunswick County cemetery.

MAP
TIMELINE
1854 or 1855

Maclin C. Wheeler is born into slavery in Brunswick County to parents William "Buck" Wheeler and Eliza Turner Wheeler.

1870 and 1880

Maclin C. Wheeler appears in the 1870 and 1880 manuscript census records as a farm laborer.

December 29, 1881

Maclin C. Wheeler marries Maria Tucker in Brunswick County. They have eleven children, including six daughters and three sons who survive childhood, and a niece who later lives with the family.

August 1883

Maclin C. Wheeler is the "coalition nominee" or Readjuster nominee for Brunswick County's seat in the House of Delegates.

November 6, 1883

Maclin C. Wheeler defeats a white conservative by a vote of 1,565 to 1,153 to win a two-year term. He receives low-ranking assignments to the Committees on Labor and Poor, on Officers and Offices at the Capitol, and on Immigration.

August 1884

Maclin C. Wheeler votes against the successful Anderson-McCormick Act, which allowed the assembly to appoint all election officers and give them control over who could register and be allowed to vote.

January 1885

Maclin C. Wheeler purchases fifty acres of land for $150.

September 1886

Maclin C. Wheeler sits on the Committee on Permanent Organization at a convention of mostly African American Republicans to nominate a candidate for the Fourth Congressional District.

June 1899

Maclin C. Wheeler enters into a contract giving the Brunswick Lumber Company the right to harvest the timber on his property and the right to construct buildings and railways to haul the timber.

1903

Maclin C. Wheeler is one of twenty-four men named to the petit jury pool for the federal district court's spring term.

June 6, 1916

Maclin C. Wheeler dies of acute dysentery and is buried in a Brunswick County cemetery.

FURTHER READING

Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Va.: Guide Quality Press, 1945.

CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Deal, John & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Maclin C. Wheeler (1854 or 1855–June 6, 1916). (2023, January 09). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/maclin-c-wheeler-1854-or-1855-june-6-1916.
MLA Citation:
Deal, John, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Maclin C. Wheeler (1854 or 1855–June 6, 1916)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (09 Jan. 2023). Web. 29 Jan. 2023
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