Queer Places:
Columbia University (Ivy League), 116th St and Broadway, New York, NY 10027
330 Indiana Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
820 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006
Rock Creek Cemetery, 201 Allison St NW, Washington, DC 20011, USA

Dr. John Moore McCalla (1832 – April 30, 1897) had been a resident of Washington for fifty years at the time of his death, graduated in medicine, after a course at Columbia College, now known as Columbia University, but owing to ill health he was obliged to discontinue practice of his profession.

He was the son of Maria Frances Hogg (1798–1860) and John Moore McCalla (1793-1873), who was born near Lexington, KY, and moved to Washington, D.C., in 1845, at which time he purchased a property (now numbered 330 Indiana Ave NW) from Mrs. Joseph Wood, the wife of a prominent artist, for whom it was built in 1833. This continued to be his home until his death in 1873, with exception of seven years (1848 to 1855) a portion of which time it was rented to a Rev. Cushman, who conducted a ladies' school there. When war with England was declared in 1812, McCalla, then but nineteen years old, was among the first to respond to the call for troops. He soon rose to the rank of adjutant and afterwards obtained the rank of brigadier general. In the report made by the commanding general of the actions of January 18 and January 22, 1813, he was named among those who had distinguished themselves in those battles. McCalla was second auditor under the Polk administration, but after that time his profession was that of lawyer and claim agent.

Born in Lexington, KY, John Moore McCalla, Jr. moved with his family to Washington, DC in 1845 when his father, General John McCalla (Sr.), a hero of the War of 1812, received a government appointment as second auditor of the US Treasury by President Polk. After completing school, he attended Columbian College and National Medical College, graduating with a degree in Medicine.

In June 1860 Dr. McCalla was given a temporary position as Special Agent for the US Government on the Star of the Union on an American Colonization Society trip to Liberia to take a group of Africans to Liberia. The Star carried 383 persons from the slave ship Bogota. The government promised that the return voyage would be nothing like the trip to the Americas. They were to have large ships, a set of new clothes, good, well-cooked food, medical care, sleeping berths, bathing facilities, and protection from the weather. One of McCalla's tasks was to see that the government's end of the "bargain" was upheld. As it turned out, conditions were still problematic, but it was likely out of McCalla's control. The Star of the Union was one of three ships making the return, with 1138 people total. Of those, only 823 survived, most from illness, and many because they had never recovered from the first ocean voyage. Over 100 were reported to have been ill when they boarded the ships.

Dr. McCalla kept a journal of his only sea voyage, from which he returned in the autumn of 1860. He turned to the practice of medicine, and in 1863 signed a contract with the Army as Acting Assistant Surgeon (for $100 per month in Washington, $113 if in the field), a position he held at least into November of 1865. In 1864, he married Helen Varnum Hill (1837–1906). They would have five children, only of two of which survived infancy: Isabel Hill McCalla Goldsborough (1870–1912) and Louisa Georgia McCalla Thompson (1871–1956).

After his service with the Army, McCalla returned to his medical practice, but within just a few years he gave it up because of poor health. He took over management of the Varnum family's real estate holdings in the District of Columbia. Dr. McCalla died in 1897 at 65 years of age.

Dr. McCalla lived at 820 17th St NW, just blocks from Lafayette Park, the central gay crusing area of the city in the XIX century. The house (demolished) was built in 1866 by McCall for his family.

Dr. McCalla was an active male bisexual in the second half of the XIX century. His papers, at the Historical Society of Washington, were transcribed and edited by Mark Herlong, Ph.D., who has extensively researched the clubs, social activities and other events recalled in the McCalla papers. McCalla's memoirs reflect the pressures and activities of local male bisexuals during the period. Herlong summarized the papers in a presentation to the 30th annual Washington, DC Historical Studies Conference in November 2003. McCalla helped found the Misanthrope Club, whose members were largely bisexual or homosexual. Members included: John A. Baker, Seaton Munroe, John Franklin (attorney and organist of St. Paul’s), Eugene Phillippe Jacobson (Congressional Medal of Honor winner), Col. W.G. Moore (private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson superintendent of district police from 1886 to 1898).

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  1. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/38919512/john-moore-mccalla
  2. https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/mccallafamily/
  3. https://archives.lib.wvu.edu/repositories/2/resources/5302
  4. https://www.cowanauctions.com/lot/civil-war-dr-john-m-mccalla-jr-assistant-acting-surgeon-in-the-union-army-large-archive-3209434
  5. Gay and Lesbian Washington by Frank Muzzy Arcadia Publishing, 2005 - History - 128 pages