One of Riverside's most well-known residents was Abner Reid McClelan. Born in 1831, A.R. McClelan became a prominent businessman and politician, but he always remained interested in the affairs of his hometown and was concerned about the well-being of the residents of Riverside.
A.R. was the son of Squire Peter McClelan, a local shopkeeper, and Lucy Robinson. He was born in Riverside, where he attended school before going on to study business at the Old Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy. After graduating from the Academy he went into business. A.R. was known as a very smart businessman and soon became quite wealthy.
At the age of 23, A.R. McClelan got involved in politics. He was elected as a Liberal member to the House of Assembly in Fredericton, in 1854, where he gained valuable skills and contacts from many of the older and more experienced politicians with whom he worked. McClelan was a staunch prohibitionist. When a bill was introduced in 1857 to repeal prohibition, McClelan was one of only two members of the legislature to oppose the bill. McClelan was also a strong and active supporter of Confederation. In 1866, A.R. and the Liberal Party were elected on a Pro-Confederation platform, and McClelan was appointed as Provincial Commissioner of Public Works. In 1867 he was appointed to the Senate in Ottawa by Royal Proclamation. He served as a Senator for 29 years before accepting an appointment by Prime Minister Laurier to serve as the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick. A.R. held the position from 1896 to 1901 when he retired from public life and returned to his home in Riverside.
While a Senator, McClelan married Anna B. Reid of Harvey. In 1905 due largely to his influence and financial backing the local one room school houses were consolidated into one large modern school. The Riverside Consolidated School was opened in 1905.
At the time it was built it was the most modern school in the Province. A.R. himself had donated $5000 towards construction of the new building. The Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy also benefitted from McClelan's commitment to education. He served as a governor of the college and also as vice-president of the alumni association. As he was especially interested in scientific education, he provided funds that were instrumental in the establishment of the "McClelan School of Applied Science" at the Wesleyan Academy. Later in life, at the age of 67, McClelan's work in support of education was recognized by an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree from Mount Allison University. Two years later he was also given an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of New Brunswick.
Since he and his wife had not had children when A.R. McClelan died in 1917, he left the bulk of his estate to be used for educational and philanthropic purposes. As a result, the McClelan Memorial Hospital was built in Riverside in 1922.
The hospital was partially funded by the McClelan estate, and was first managed by the ladies auxiliary. Annual funding was provided by the McClelan estate along with funding from both the Provincial and County Governments. However, the funding provided proved to be insufficient. The floor furnace heating system used to heat the building, and the buildings water supply were both inadequate. There was not enough furniture or operating room equipment, and the kitchen was not properly equipped. By 1926 the hospital had no x-ray machine, no staff dining room or dormitory for the night nursing staff. The hospital was eventually replaced in 1963 by a new Hospital, built in Albert.