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Maclean was originally known as Logan Bridge, because it was a river-crossing place. In 1860 a simple low-level bridge was built here. It is possible that earlier bridges were built at the same location. A township was surveyed here in 1863, with one acre allotments on either side of the river. Pat McGoldrick chose an allotment on the north bank of the new town prior to the formal registering of the land, and began to build what became the Union Hotel. At the same time, Barney McCabe had a hotel on the south bank of the river. After the land was surveyed for subdivision in 1863, it was named after Alexander McLean, the Surveyor General of New South Wales from 1856 to 1861.
Many people have incorrectly assumed that the township was named after Peter McLean, who was later the local member of parliament. However, Peter McLean was still living in Scotland in 1863, and didn’t arrive in Queensland to select land in Oxley until 1865. Peter McLean later moved to the Albert River, to a dairying property he named Belivah. McLean was elected to parliament for the Logan Electorate from 1876, when the high level-bridge was built. The bridge was named after him, creating confusion about the town name.
In 1873, James Wearing arrived in Queensland and obtained work at Markwell's Cryna estate south of Beaudesert. He selected land at North Maclean in 1874 and built the St Aldwyn's homestead. James’ son Joseph worked with his father, and began acquiring land around his father's estate. Both men used the land for grazing and dairying. Joseph Wearing was a member of the Stockleigh and Maclean school committees and a member of the Yeerongpilly Divisional Board. St Aldwyn's was the location of an early rafting ground for timber getters.
Joseph Wearing's sister Elizabeth married neighbouring farmer Christopher Thompson Junior. His father had come to the Logan district in the 1860s and was involved in the cotton industry while he saved money for his wife and children to join him. Christopher Junior attended the Stockleigh school, and started timber getting with a bullock team. Following an accident, he increased his property holdings around his homestead Dungappin, and concentrated on dairying and grazing. The house was located in the centre of Sharon Drive, which is accessed via St Aldwyn Road at North Maclean.
Other land holders in North Maclean included James Scott and his friend William Stalker. Both were watchmakers originally from Scotland. As watchmaking was not profitable at the time, Scott worked as a ganger on the roads. His property, Ratha, was the receiving office for the mail from 1901 until 1917. Stalker worked a variety of jobs, including as coachman for Governor Bowen. He is best known for the award-winning ginger beer he brewed with a friend. Dark and Stalker's ginger beer won prizes at the Paris Exhibition, and prizes at the Brisbane and Sydney exhibitions between 1879 and 1880.
Other significant settlers in the Maclean district included stonemasons W Clarkson and W Warbuton, who both worked on the Brisbane Treasury Building and the General Post Office.
A new high-level bridge was built at Maclean during World War II. It opened in April 1940 and was strategically important to the district because American and Australian servicemen could cross the river on their way to the Camp Cable and Canungra training areas. The bridge washed away during a flood in 1947.