Little is known of John McConnell, the McConnell family, and their correspondents. This sketch is drawn from information in the letters, census records, and city directories. Rev. John McConnell (June 24, 1825 - February 15, 1913) was a pastor in the Reformed Church in the United States, popularly known as the German Reformed Church. He served in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War and was in Mexico from about 1847 until 1849. As of 1859, he was serving as pastor to a congregation in Corydon, Indiana. A dispute in the church prompted McConnell to resign and to accept an offer from his friend, J. L. Swander, to serve two congregations near Salina, Pennsylvania. Leaving his wife Rachel and son [Yeakle Xenophon, born 1853] in Corydon, McConnell went to Pennsylvania. His assumption of the pastorate was complicated by the fact that a Mr. G. A. Albright was already leading one of the two congregations, though without the approval of the classis, the regional governing body of the German Reformed Church. The classis approved McConnell, not Albright, and McConnell served churches in Pennsylvania at least until the 1880s, though he maintained a farm in Corydon until selling the land in 1885.
McConnell corresponded regularly with his brother, George McConnell, who lived in Baltimore. In the 1850s and early 1860s, George pursued a variety of trades, sometimes simultaneously, but still suffered from unemployment and poverty. In 1862, his situation was dire enough that his wife, Catharine, wrote to John asking for assistance. In better times, George ran a lottery, a sash lock business, and a land company, as well as serving as a church sexton, making coats, and working as a messenger at the McKim & Company Bank in Baltimore. In August 1875, he was hired as a night watchman at the National Exchange Bank, where he was still working in 1884. George had two sons: John F., born in 1848, and Elias, born in 1854. John F. was a skilled telegraph operator but had difficulty keeping a job due to his alcoholism, which also caused him to separate from his wife, Jennie Riddle. George was greatly troubled by John F.'s dissipation, which also was a source of conflict between George and his brother John. Elias was more successful, working as a printer and paper merchant. He and his wife Florence produced three grandchildren: George Leo, born in 1880; Katie Florence, born in 1882; and another boy born between 1882 and 1884. Other family members included George and John's sister Lizzie, who died in the early 1880's, and another sister, who died in 1870, leaving a son who was admitted to the Wormelsdorf, Pennsylvania, Orphan's Home. This orphaned son may have been the same Joseph Sharp McConnell who wrote to John from the Baltimore Manual Labor School in 1873.