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.


Archibald and Mary McDonald

March 20, 2010

Keith’s grandparents were Archibald and Mary McDonald.  Archie and Mary settled in International Falls sometime after 1905.  They had migrated from the Upper Ottawa River Valley to Bemidji, Beltrami County, Minnesota.  Their children felt they were getting to old to manage their farm in Chichester, Pontiac Co., Quebec so the remainder of the family made the move to Minnesota.  Two of their sons, Ronald and Alexander, were already in Minnesota.  So Mary, Archie, and two other children, Jack and Nellie, moved to Minnesota around 1901. 

Mary McDonald

 

Archibald McDonald

 

I have so very few photographs of my great grandparents.  These two photos are taken from a much larger family picture I will share in the next post.  It really focuses in on their faces, clothing and personalities.   

This was taken in Bemidji in 1905.  My great-grandfather looks like a sea-captain in this photograph.  He wasn’t a sea-captain but he was the locks master for the Culbute Locks located on the Upper Ottawa River.


International Falls and the Rainy River!

March 10, 2010

Learning about an ancestral location is fun.  So here is a little bit about one of the places in my families history.

International Falls lies on the banks of the Rainy River.  My family settled there.  The Rainy River follows the international boundary line between the United States and Canada.  This city is at the very top of the State of Minnesota.  If you stand on the United States side and look across, you see the lights from Canadian homes and businesses.

Rainy River

Here is a link to a map of the town:

http://www.rainylake.org/annual_attractions_map.pdf.

International Falls was first a part of Itasca County up to 1906 when it came under Koochiching County.

Smokey Bear

I traveled to International Falls twice so I know a tiny bit about the area.  I visited there in 2000 and then again 2001. I went there to learn more about my dad’s family, the McDonald’s and to meet my cousin Mary McDonald Louiseau. Mary was 87 years old at the time. She was my grandfather Ronald’s niece and a cousin to Keith. Her father was Jack McDonald brother to Ronald.  The photos are from those trips.

International Falls is famous for being the coldest city in the United States.  They have a giant thermometer in the town square to keep track of the temperature.

Here is a link to some Google images of International Falls:

http://www.ci.international-falls.mn.us/photogallery.html.

http://www.ci.international-falls.mn.us/index.aspx

Wikipedia gives a nice description of the city at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Falls,_Minnesota

There are two huge Lumber mills that sit on the banks of the Rainy River. You drive across this very narrow 2 lane bridge to get to the Canadian side which is named Fort Francis. Don’t forget that Canadian money!  I am sure the crossing requires more identification then it did back in 2000.  So be prepared!  Some time in the early 1900′s they built up the river and made a dam across it.

The website of Koochiching County has a section on history and nice article on E. W. Backus the “last of the lumber barons.”  Keith’s father, Ronald, worked for this man in the early 1900′s per family history.  Ronald was a lumberman. In this article there is a picture of E. W. and other pictures that show the river, lumber mill and more.

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

Learning about the history of ancestral locations is challenging but rewarding.  See the link for the home page to the Koochiching County history pages to the right under “Favorites” where you will find more history about the area.


Ronald and Grace’s Children

February 27, 2010

Evergreen Cemetery

 

Keith was the youngest son of Ronald and Grace McDonald.  There were eight children born to Ronald and Grace.  Keith was the 7th child.  

The first child born did not survive and even the sex and name are unknown.  It is buried in an unmarked grave at the Evergreen Cemetery  in Brainerd, Crow Wing Co., Minnesota under the name “R.S McDonald’s child.” The baby shares the space with it’s grandfather George A. Barclay, grandmother Ammarilla Spracklin and their son George Alexander, brother to Grace. I discovered this child when I obtained burial records from the Evergreen Cemetery.  They have a directory of the dead which was not online years ago.  The photo above is the cemetery and specifically the Barclay grave area.      

McDonald Children about 1915

 

According to the writing on the back of this photo of the McDonald children, Keith is responsible for using a pin to poke out the eyes on his face! In order from left to right:  Keith, Jean, Eddie, Miriam, Gordon and Vivian. The birth order is reversed in this photo.  Vivian was the oldest and Keith the youngest.  

The Children of Grace and Ronald S. McDonald:    

1. Infant McDonald born and died on the same day of 29 August 1899.   

2. Leola Vivian.  Vivian was born on 12 May, 1902 in Grand Rapids, Itasca Co., Minnesota.   

3. Gordy was their first-born son.  His formal name was Ronald Gordon and he is sometimes confused with his father. Gordon was born on the 3 of May, 1904 also in Grand Rapids, Itasca Co., Minnesota.   

Sometime after Gordy’s birth, Ronald and Grace moved to International Falls, Minnesota.   I have not been able to pin down the actual location where they lived in Grand Rapids, Itasca Co., Minnesota. Grace and Ronald do appear in the 1905 Minnesota State Census in International Falls, so the move was made by then.  Itasca was a very large county and Koochiching was carved out of it about 1906.     

 McDonald Children born in International Falls:     

 4. Miriam Audrey followed on 15 January, 1906 and was born in International Falls, Koochiching County, Minnesota.  Miriam was the one who planted the seed that started me on the family genealogy.   

 5. Eddie was next. Her formal name was Edna Lorraine and she was born 28 March 1907. 

 6. Laurie Jean was born 30 June,1908.     

 7. Next was Keith Barclay John the youngest and 2nd son born 13 March, 1910.  This man is the one that this blog is dedicated to. 

  8. The last child was Grace Elizabeth born Dec 1911 who died the day before her mother and is buried with her in the cemetery in International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota. 

Death Certificate Grace Elizabeth

 

The sources are a variety of documents like newspaper announcements, letters, a baby book, my Aunt Miriam’s notes, death certificates for some of them, on-line death indexes, etc.


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