Grace Barclay McDonald

May 29, 2010
Keith’s mother Grace was busy raising a family while her husband Ronald (R.S.) was involved with the lumber business and politics in the town of International Falls. 

Grace about 1896


This photo is of Grace as a young girl and it is this young girl that my grandfather Ronald fell in love with and met somewhere in Minnesota.  Maybe it was when he visited her father in Pine River to talk about lumber? Maybe it was on the train to St. Paul/Minneapolis where she attended school?  Miriam her daughter didn’t seem to know the story of how they met or even the date of the marriage as was reflected in her notes that she sent me.  

Ronald and Grace were married in September of 1898 and eventually settled in International Falls with their family.  I wrote about the marriage in my post dated February 20, 2010.  

Grace Barclay


Keith’s cousin Mary McDonald Louiseau told me when I visited her in 2000, that Grace liked to read so the library at their home was filled with books.  There is no date on this oval photo of Grace.  

Grace in the Snow


Here Grace is sweeping the snow?  Not sure why, but I enjoy the look which reminds me of her daughter Eddie.  I like the contrast in the pictures of my father’s mother and my grandmother.  I have very little information about her.  I think these photos start to show a little of her personality.  In this snow photo she is in a rather shabby dress.  For some reason I think she was pregnant at this time? I do not know the year this snow photo was taken. 

Grace and her children Jan 1911


In this picture Grace looks lovely and happy.  Written on the photo is the year 1911.  Left to right:  in the back row is Vivian,  Gordon, and Grace.  In the front row is Miriam, Eddie, Jean and then baby Keith, main star of this blog.  Grace is holding Keith, my dad, close.  If you look closely you can see that Miriam and Eddie’s hair is cut like a boy’s hair cut.  I am wondering if there was a lice problem? 

I have had the good fortune to know all of these siblings of my father Keith.  They were very much a part of my life.  The only one I never knew was Grace for she died very young as you will see.  

I have another blog that I am writing that covers Grace Barclay McDonald’s parents and ancestors.  It is called the “Barclays of Pine River, The Lives of George and Amarilla Barclay.”  You will find it at:  Grace’s ancestry goes back to the Mayflower through Grace’s grandparents Elizabeth Keller Spracklin and Daniel Dair/Dare Spracklin.  I will eventually talk more about Grace’s earlier years in that blog up till she meets Ronald (R.S.).

Ronald S. McDonald or known as just R.S.

May 2, 2010

Miriam, Keith’s sister, writes in her notes that her father Ronald was born in Chapeau, Quebec in 1866.  His parents were Archibald and Mary MacDonell.  Ronald learned about the lumber business growing up on the Upper Ottawa River and came to Minnesota where he started working for the Backus & Brooks Lumber Co. 

Grand Rapids, Minnesota was not very big in the early 1900′s and according to the public librarian, via an email to me,  there was no business school at that time.  It is more likely that R.S. got his business education in either Duluth or Minneapolis. 

Miriam goes on to say that Ronald knew how to cruise, to survey and to build logging roads.  As a superintendent he would have been very involved in setting up lumber camps and getting the lumber out.  

At the end of the notes she writes:  “He surveyed and platted International Falls.”

All of the previous comments are true.  However, the statement about the plating is still be to be proven.  In order to determine the truth of this family story I made a visit to the Koochiching County Courthouse in 2001.  A study of the plat maps for the city did not reveal any evidence that Ronald was involved.  His name was not on the maps. 

A time line of events for the history of International Falls is needed:

“Although the International Falls area was well-known to explorers, missionaries and voyagers as early as the 1600s, it was not until April 1895 the community was platted by a teacher and preacher L. A. Ogaard for the Koochiching Company and named the community Koochiching. The word “Koochiching” comes from either Ojibwe word Gojijiing or Cree Kocicīhk, both meaning “at the place of inlets,” referring to the neighboring Rainy Lake and River. The European inhabitants gave the names Rainy Lake and Rainy River to the nearby bodies of water because of the mist-like rain present at the falls where the lake flowed into the river.

On August 10, 1901, the village was incorporated and two years later its name was changed to International Falls in recognition of the river’s role as a border between the United States and Canada. It was incorporated as a city in 1909.”

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia online April 3, 2010.  

More detail is provided by the book:  History of Koochiching County, published by the Koochiching County Historical Society in 1983, pg. 35.

So did Ronald or R.S., take part in plating a city?  It is not clear that he did but there is a possibility that he was greatly involved in many affairs of the city of International Falls as we shall see in future posts.

Keith’s Parents: Ronald and Grace’s Marriage!

February 20, 2010

Ronald and Grace McDonald

Finding my father’s parent’s marriage was one of my first genealogical challenges.  My Aunt Miriam, their daughter didn’t know the exact date of the marriage.  Miriam had sent me a bunch of her notes on our family and she wrote in these notes that her parents got married sometime before the death of Grace’s father, that was all she knew about her parent’s marriage.

Ronald Marries Grace – Miriam’s Notes

I practically tore up the State of Minnesota searching for records to no avail. I wrote to the St. Paul Episcopal church in Brainerd where her parents had a record of their marriage but nothing was found.  I checked with the Cass County and Crow Wing County Courthouse for a marriage record and was turned down.  I studied newspapers for Pine River where her parents lived, and other cities like Brainerd and Walker to see if an announcement had been made.  Nothing was turning up.  Sometimes the information you are seeking turns up in an unusual place.  I have been to the Minnesota Historical Society in St Paul, Minnesota on three separate occasions.  On this trip I was looking for records on Grace’s father George A. Barclay and pulled the Coroner’s Inquest file about his murder.  George was killed on October 28, 1898.  When someone is killed suspiciously a coroner’s inquest is held.  Fortunately for me, Minnesota was conducting these inquests on a regular basis by 1898.  In the transcripts contained in this Coroner’s Inquest file I found that my grandmother Grace had testified and in her testimony she told of her marriage. Grace gave testimony twice at the inquest.  The second testimony is the better one.

Mrs. Grace Barclay recalled says:

I was married the 8th of September in Hudson, Wis., I was at home immediately prior to the marriage.  Came back Oct. 1.  I stayed in Minneapolis from the 4th to the 14th of October. From there I went to Grand Rapids, Minn.  I stayed there a while and went out to a camp for a week, but kept rooms at the hotel all the time.  My husband is superintendent for Backus in the Willow River country.  We were near Cloquet when we heard of the murder of my Father.  Mr. McDonald told me.  I left Mr. McDonald at Cloquet.  He went to the woods and I came home.  I said he would drive across country and will be here tonight,….

Grace and Ronald’s Marriage Record

My grandmother was 16 years old when she married my grandfather Ronald. Grandfather Ronald was 32 years old at the time. I pondered this 16 year difference in their age when I saw the birth records at the Koochiching County Courthouse in International Falls, Minnesota of their children, my Dad and his siblings. I remember saying out loud and incredulously:   “Grandpa what were you thinking?”

Grace and Ronald did marry on September 8, 1898 in Hudson, St. Croix County, Wisconsin.  Hudson is just across the state line between Minnesota and Wisconsin and not that far from Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The distance is 29 miles by our freeway standards.   If you look close at the marriage record you can see there is no identifying county marks on this record.  I do have the Wisconsin Vital records application and the envelope this Marriage record was returned to me in.  You will have to take my word that the marriage was performed in Wisconsin.

In reviewing this marriage record we find the following information:  Ronald S. McDonald is the husband, his father is Archibald, his mother is Mary.  Ronald’s occupation is lumberman and his residence is given as Duluth. He was born in Canada.  Grace’s name is written “Gray A. Barclay.” Her parents are George A. Barclay and Amarilla Spracklen.  She was born in Pine River, MN.  They married on Sept. 8, 1898 in Hudson, St. Croix Co.  (I wrote in the state).  They are white. The ceremony was Presbyterian.  The witnesses were Mike Dorgan and Grace & Charles Burnley.  The witnesses were from Hudson, St. Croix Co.  The marriage was registered September 26, 1898 and the parties were sworn.

What do I think about this information?  Well there are a few pieces of information that are very interesting.   The first is that Ronald’s place of residence is Duluth.  I have suspected that he did live there.  The other piece of information is the marriage ceremony was Presbyterian.  Ronald was Catholic.  Grace her religion was unknown.  He basically married outside his faith.  The witnesses are also intriguing because their names are unfamiliar to me.  Their residence is given as Hudson?  So are these people friends of Grace and Ronald? Ronald was a lumberman and high up in Backus’ business, so he could have had many contacts and his occupation took him to many locations.

The lesson learned: if you can’t find a marriage within the state you think it happened in, then check the surrounding states.

Keith’s Sister: A Tribute to Miriam

February 19, 2010

Miriam Summer in Selah, WA


In writing this MacDonell blog I will mention my Aunt Miriam frequently, especially regarding the McDonald’s and the Barclay’s.  She wrote and prepared about 6-9 pages of notes on the family that I have in my possession.  She wrote them and probably did the research back before 1980 and maybe even earlier.  She was kind enough to send me copies of these notes in 1986 when I asked her about our family.  Along with the notes she sent other charts and pictures which I will share.  I wrote back and asked questions and she responded with more pages.    

It will make more sense for me to share bits and pieces of Miriam’s Notes and Family information as I progress through this blog.  In the post dated February 8, 2010 “Clan Donald.” I have a small part of a section of her notes included “The MacDonalds.” I think Miriam did a great job.  There are some minor mistakes.  There are vague statements she has written that have made it difficult to determine what she was talking about.  Those statements have made it a little frustrating because I can’t ask her questions.  I also wonder what lead her to focus on a particular piece of information.  She references books which I have managed to find and add to the family history library.     

Working with Miriam’s notes and charts, I have learned that when you do genealogy you have to be careful and explain why you used a certain source, or where you got that information.  If you are speculating or throwing out theories then you let the person know that it is a theory and this is why?  When you use a quote from a book.  You need to reference that quote carefully so if the person wants to go back to the source and review the information they can.  It is also wise to make sure you carefully craft a quotation.  Never add to a quotation or alter it at all.    

My Aunt Miriam was about 5 feet 2 inches tall.  She was a school teacher.  She never married.  She taught ninth grade English at the Franklin Junior High School in Yakima, Washington from about 1945 to her retirement in 1973.  She moved to Yakima about 1935 looking for work.  Later in life she traveled the world visiting Scotland, Ireland, England, Europe, Israel, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Guatemala, Hawaii, and Alaska.  She visited the Orient which included China, Singapore, Bali, Bangkok, Japan and walked the Great Wall of China.  She travel to Russia with my mother in 1972.  I will probably share some of those photographs which are not of the greatest quality.  I recently compiled a booklet of her travels along with burning several CD’s of her photographs.  I published it and gave it to the family for Christmas.  Miriam was deeply Catholic.  I have her rosary beads.  She traveled twice on what was called the “Holy Land Tour.”  She went with her sister Vivian  in 1973 and later her sister Jean in 1977.  This tour took them to Rome, Israel and Greece.      

I never sat down with her to talk about the family.  I was not ready in 1986.  It was not until 1998 that I finally plunged in and took off with the family genealogy.  Unfortunately Miriam died in 1997. She was 91 years old.  Her last years were not great, she suffered from dementia. Yes, I missed out again on asking questions.  Still, if I had not asked for the information back in 1986 I would have struggled.  She gave me a starting point.   I wonder what she would have thought about all the information I have gathered? She often said we were “dour Scottish people.”   Thank you Miriam your niece is very grateful that you pointed the way.


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