An Unexpected Tragedy!

July 18, 2010

It was close to the Christmas of 1911 and Grace was pregnant with her 8th child.  Something went wrong.  She had the baby prematurely.  The baby Grace Elizabeth died on December 22, 1911. Grace died the following day on December 23, 1911.  

The family was stunned! Her daughter Eddie said:  “It was never the same.” 

Grace McDonald 1910

The stories that have come down say that Grace was not to have any more children, implying that she was not a strong person.  I don’t believe it!  My research tells me that Grace was just like her father, smart, strong-willed and determined.  

The photo is of Grace McDonald about 1910 and from a cousin who shared a photo album with me. 

Her death certificate from the Minnesota Historical Society #6079 reads:   

“Grace Barclay McDonald, DOD: December 23, 1911, Born April 10, 1882, age 30 yrs. 7 mos. 23 days, Occupation: Housewife, Birthplace: Pine River, MN, Father: Geo. A. Barclay, Born: Hartford, CT, Mother: Ammeria Barclay, Born in Aringo, Iowa, Signed by R.S. McDonald of International Falls.  Cause of Death: pneumonia, lobar complicating pregnancy at about six and one half months. Signed by Mary Ghostley, MD. At place of death 4 days, disease contacted at house in Intern’l Falls. Apparently Grace died at the Northern Minn. Hospital.” 

Grace Amarilla Barclay McDonald died of pneumonia complicated by a premature birth.  There were no antibiotics in those days.  Granted she had given birth to 8 children from 1898 to 1911, two of them did not survive.  As you can see the death certificate has a few strange comments like Grace’s mother is written as “Ammeria” when it is really Ammarilla/Amarilla.  The town where Ammeria was born is written as “Aringo, Iowa.”  I think they mean Maringo, Iowa Co., Iowa.  When the informant fills out a death certificate it is easy to make errors in times of grief.

The children were as follows:  Vivian was 9 years old, Gordon was 7 years old, Miriam was 5 years old, Eddie was 4 and Jean was 3 and Keith was at 18 months.  Keith probably didn’t have any memories of his mother.  He never talked about her.  I am sure the impact of her death was felt by the others and that is what affected my father Keith.  I do believe that it changed their father Ronald forever.  

Grand Rapids Obituary 

“Mrs. R.S. McDonald Dead – Mrs. R.S. McDonald, for many years a resident of Grand Rapids died at International Falls on Saturday morning, Dec. 23. An attack of pneumonia, during the ravages of which a child was born was the cause of her death causing also the death of the child. The funeral services were held at Holy Apostles church on Tuesday, Dec. 26th, at 10 o’clock and were largely attended, the mother and child occupying the one casket. Mrs. McDonald was formerly Miss Grace Barclay. She was born at Pine River, Minn. and had lived in this vicinity all her life, and she leaves a host of friends who mourn over her death. She is survived by her husband and six small children, the oldest a girl of about nine years, and her mother, Mrs. Dawes of Pine River. Mr. and Mrs. McDonald came to Grand Rapids in the autumn of 1898 and lived here from that time until the latter part of 1904, when they took up their residence at International Falls, where Ronald is general superintendent for the International Lumber company. During their six years of residence here Mrs. McDonald endeared herself into the hearts of all our townspeople and although it is more than seven years ago since she left here the news of her death has cast a shadow of gloom in the hearts of her many friends here. Many a woman’s handkerchief in Grand Rapids has been moistened with tears by the sad news of her death and it’s hard for them to realize that the news is really true. The most heartfelt sympathies of this community are extended to the stricken husband in his hour of bereavement.” 

Grand Rapids Examiner, no date given.”

 

Holly Apostle Church 1906

  Obituary Notice Intern’l Falls

Death of Mrs. R.S. McDonald – It was with great sorrow that the residents of the city learned of the sudden and unexpected death of Mrs. Ronald S. McDonald, last Saturday morning. While many knew that she had been in the hospital a few days suffering with pneumonia, none realized that she was critically ill and the news of her death cast a deep gloom over the city where she had lived so long and was so well-known and universally beloved. Her remains together with those of the baby that was prematurely born during her short illness were removed to the library of the home where they remained until the funeral which took place at 10 o’clock last Tuesday morning from the Catholic church, of which she was a faithful member, appropriate services being touchingly conducting by her pastor, Rev. Father Kileen followed by interment in the city cemetery in the presence of a large number of sorrowing friends. Mrs. McDonald’s maiden name was Grace A. Barclay, she was born at Pine River, April 2nd, 1882 and was married to Supt. R.S. McDonald of the International Lumber Co., in 1898, who survives her together with their six small children and her mother Mrs. A. Dawes of Pine River. Deceased was a devoted wife, and a loving mother and during her almost seven years residence here has won for herself and family many good friends.

CARD OF THANKS – We hereby wish to express to our many friends and acquaintances our heartfelt, gratitude for the sympathy they expressed and the many kindnesses they showed to the children and ourselves during the recent sad bereavement, caused by the death of Mrs. R.S. McDonald – R.S. McDonald, Mrs. A. Daws. International Falls newspaper, no date given.”  

Keith’s mother Grace was only 29 years old at her death.  Officially her birth was 10 April 1882 and her death was 23 December 1911.  The first obituary from Grand Rapids was found among her daughter Miriam’s things in an envelope carefully saved.  The 2nd obituary notice was from the International Falls Press dated December 28, 1911 under Local News 3rd column over.


Brother Gordy!

July 9, 2010

Grace and Ronald welcomed their first son Gordon who was born on the 3rd of May, 1904 in Grand Rapids, Itasca Co., Minnesota.  He followed Vivian.    

His full formal name is:  Ronald Gordon George McDonald

Baby Gordon 1904

I always knew him as Uncle Gordy! Miriam, his sister, wrote about her brother… 

Gordon was bright. Good in math and learned his Geometry…Gordon had the same genius mechanical ability as other McDonalds and so did Keith.  We have pictures of him campaigning for his father….” 

As I remember him, Gordon was a quiet man but very intense.  He would visit his younger brother Keith in the years to follow and they would talk for hours in the basement of our house while my dad worked on his engines or fixed the car.    

Gordon & The Public School

I love this photo of my Uncle! The frown and the suspenders holding up his pants!  The location is International Falls and the building behind might be a school or the courthouse.  The Alexander Baker school was not built-in 1913 and this building is much earlier.  

I can just see Gordy running freely about International Falls.  I wish I had thought to ask him questions about the family but I was too young and shy.  I will talk about what I do know of my Uncle Gordy in future posts.  I have a few very interesting stories about him, unfortunately not enough.    

The photos of Gordon campaigning for Ronald, his father, have gone missing.  I am assuming the campaigning was for Ronald’s position as commissioner?  I suppose I could try the newspaper to see if I could find anything in International Falls but that would be slogging work!  It is a thought?


“A Collection of Junk!”

June 25, 2010

Keith’s sister Eddie had a scrapbook which she titled:  “A Collection of Junk!” In that scrapbook were many things that young girls collect and treasure.  It does say in the front that the “book belongs to Jean,” and in the back it says:  “The property of Edna L. MacDonald, Cheney, WA , USA.”  Most of it is filled with memorabilia with Eddie’s name on it.  I wonder what the story was that tipped the scale to Eddie.  It is just an old ledger book repurposed, a bit worse for wear with things falling out of it and missing items.  There are items from each of the siblings in this scrapbook.    

One item was a picture of a Geisha and at the bottom is the name “Vivian.”  Written below the picture is says that Vivian had colored this in grade school.  It places it about 1907 – 1908.  

Geisha, by Vivian

 

I think it is a very good job at staying in the lines.  I am wondering if Vivian traced it and then colored it?


Darling Vivian!

June 5, 2010

 

Baby Vivian 1901

 

While Ronald was working for the lumber company in International Falls his children were growing up.  They must have been proud parents for Grace authored a baby book for her daughter Leola Vivian.  

Vivian was Keith’s older sister.  Vivian was the 2nd child, the first did not survive.  Vivian was born on May 12, 1902 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  She was 8 years older than her baby brother Keith.  

Vivian’s baby picture, featured above, is a rare photo.  I have very few of the early years of Keith’s siblings.  If you look close you see Grace’s handwriting next to the photo.  This scrapbook page is from a project that I did that celebrates the lives of my dad’s siblings, my aunts and uncles.  

This is not the only baby photo of Vivian there is an earlier one.  On the pages of the Baby book is an imprinted photo.  This photo burned onto the facing page.   The actual photo is missing.  The impression photo is very light in color and faded but the image was there.  

Grace also preserved a lock of her daughter’s hair in this baby book and it was still intact.  

Vivian has been included in photographs with her siblings in past posts and she is always the tallest one in those photos.  In real life she was a tiny person coming in at 4 feet 11 inches as an adult.  She had a strong spirit. 

The following pictures are of Vivian as a little girl.  They are amazing.  

Vivian 1904

 

Darling Vivian

 

Vivian 1905

 

Grace celebrated her daughter by writing in and filling out a preprinted baby book.  As far as I know, this is the only one that she created for her 6 children.  The original of this book is in the possession of my cousin Grace’s great-granddaughter.  A photocopy was taken of the book and a transcription was also done to preserve the information contained.  I will share more from the baby book in the next post.  It is a brief view into family life for my grandparents.


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: http://barclayspineriver.wordpress.com/  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.).


Time Capsule Opened 2006!

May 21, 2010

The website for the Koochiching County History had Board Minutes dated July 11, 2006 where they opened a time capsule in 2006 revealing many articles of the history of the area and photographs.  It is very exciting to see that R.S. McDonald is listed as one of the photographs among many.  See the links to the right for a link to the History of Koochiching History.

I do not know what photograph was used but here is one that was given to me by my cousin a descendant of Ronald and Grace. It was contained in an oval silver frame.

Ronald Sandfield McDonald

This photo was probably taken some time around early 1900′s.  Keith’s father, R.S. was very handsome, dressed impeccably all his life and had a wonderful mustache till he shaved it off in the early 20′s.


Commissioner R. S. McDonald

May 15, 2010

Int'l Falls & Ft Francis

 

Keith’s father was commissioner for the city of International Falls. Miriam said in her notes about her brother Gordon, Keith’s older brother, “we have pictures of him campaigning for his father.” Unfortunately, I have never seen those photographs.  

“To end the isolation, reduce costs and provide better public service, residents of northern Itasca were now demanding a county of their own with easier access to the county seat. Following an aggressive campaign for voter support, leaders of the movement then petitioned for an election. The proposal for county division went on the ballot in the general election of Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1906, and carried by a resounding majority of 800. The votes were then canvassed in St. Paul and on Dec. 19 Gov. John A. Johnson issued the proclamation which created Koochiching with International Falls as the county seat.
 

While elated by the news, backers of the division movement postponed a public celebration because opponents were contesting the election. Finally the dispute was settled in court — in favor of the new county group — and a victory celebration took place March 6, 1907, in the Falls village hall. The village hall, built in 1904, served as county headquarters until the court-house was completed two years later. The initial county board appointed by Gov. Johnson consisted of R.S. McDonald, Hugh Mclntosh, Nels L. Olson, Fred Smith and Charles M. Bowman. Bowman, a resident of Big Falls, failed to qualify for office and didn’t serve.”  

from New County is Born, History of Koochiching County website, April 10, 2010.  See link to the History of Koochiching County on the right. 

There is an interesting explanation of events regarding the  appointment of Annie Shelland as Superintendent of Schools.   

“Annie Shelland..knew that she could walk to all schools in the 3,200 square-mile county.  Her appointment was opposed by only one commissioner, R.S. McDonald, who felt that no woman was capable of making the rounds to the schools. (pg. 128).” 

“Annie Shelland was opposed by R.S. McDonald of the county commission, because he did not believe that a woman would be capable of walking the distances under the conditions required of a county superintendent (of schools.) pg. 30.  Annie was appointed in January of 1907. “ 

These excerpts are taken from the book:  

Koochiching, Pioneering Along the Rainy River Frontier, by Hiram M. Drache, Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc., 1983. 

Annie went on to prove R.S. wrong and had an exemplary career as Superintendent and contributed greatly to education in Minnesota.  She died in 1964 at the age of 85 years old.  I think she was hardy enough! 

The photo above is from the National Park Service proposal website for a Voyageurs National Park site.  There are many great photos of the area.  

http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/voya/proposed/area.htm


Ronald S. McDonald – A Dam is Built!

May 10, 2010

Telegram!

 

Keith’s father Ronald received a telegram on January 24, 1905  from a C.J. Rockwood that indicated that the construction of the dam across the Rainy River could commence.  The telegram was presented in the Koochiching Press on the front page!   

Although I was unable to find information showing that R.S. was involved with plating the town of International Falls at the courthouse, I did find this comment in a manuscript titled:

 “Interesting Village History: Historical Review of This Issue Covers Matters of Importance from the time of original entry of the land.”  Copied from the International Falls Echo, January 5, 1906 and prepared by a Judge Berg for the Holler PTA in 1934.  

This manuscript was found at the Koochiching County Historical Society and it makes the following statement: 

 “During July 1904, R.S. McDonald arrived from Grand Rapids and commenced the work of clearing 240 acres of land that now constitutes the townsite.  Employment was given to many men in the work of clearing and stumping and grading streets.  The sale of business lots had been opened a month before and for a time it seemed that early power development was to make good the shortage financially caused by the slump in the business.  But suddenly came the news that the power promoters and the Canadian government had locked horns, and that everything was to be held up pending the results of the negotiations.  A telegram in January, 1905, to Mr. McDonald brought the glad news that the contract for the construction of the dam had been let to Maguire and Penninman….” 

The book: Koochiching, Pioneering Along the Rainy River Frontier, by Hiram M. Drache, Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc., 1983 on page 93 makes this statement about R.S. 

 “Albert Enzman came to the area by virtue of being hired at the Duluth employment office in the fall of 1904.  He and about 25 others were brought to International Falls by R.S. McDonald, superintendent of the International Lumber Company. (pg. 93)” 

Google Books currently has a copy online of:  Hearings Before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives on H.R. 15444 – Extending the time for constructing a dam across the Rainy River.  

This book covers the testimony of the parties involved and goes on for many pages.  Ronald does not appear  in the pages but it does give background information on the events surrounding the building of the dam across the Rainy River which involved both the U.S. and Canadian governments and many business interests.  

Once again the Era of Backus article at the History of Koochiching County Website has great photographs of the building of the dam before and after, and the lumber companies at that time.  Here is the direct link to this article:  

http://www.co.koochiching.mn.us/history/Hist02.htm 

This information is also found in the book:  History of Koochiching County, published by the Koochiching County Historical Society in 1983, pages 11 to 13. You can find a copy in the Reading Room of the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.


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 and Gordon – Two Brothers

April 24, 2010

Gordon and Keith

Keith had a great relationship with his older brother Gordon.  In this photo Gordon is standing proud and holding firmly to his little brother’s hand.  Keith is next to him on the elephant with a happy face.  This photo of the McDonald brothers was probably taken about 1911 in International Falls.  Gordon was born 1904 and Keith was born in 1910 to Ronald and Grace McDonald.  There was 6 years difference in their ages.


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