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.


Miriam’s Birth and Baptism

April 17, 2010

Miriam, sister to Keith, wrote the family history notes which have been of great help in researching the family.  It is only fitting to celebrate her life.  Miriam was born January 15, 1906 and was probably baptized shortly after at the catholic church in International Falls. 

Vivian, Gordon and baby Miriam

This photograph shows three of the McDonald children.  Vivian (Leola Vivian)  is the little girl holding her baby sister Miriam (Miriam Audrey) in her arms.  The little boy to her right is Gordon (Ronald Gordon). 

Grace their mother was pregnant with Miriam when another event took place in her life.  Grace’s Uncle Alexander Barclay, brother to her father George Angus Barclay, died on December 7, 1905 at the Rochester Hospital in Olmsted Co., Minnesota.  Grace started the probate process for his estate.  She could not attend the court sessions because she was “indisposed” and she could not travel after the birth.  Alexander’s estate file has contributed a great deal of information on the Barclay family which I am currently blogging about in The Barclays of Pine River http://barclayspineriver.wordpress.com/.


Ronald and Grace: Family Life!

April 11, 2010

Life was good for Ronald and Grace McDonald’s family during the first 10 years they spent in International Falls.   

1910 U.S. Federal Census

 

 The 1910 U.S. Federal Census for International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota shows Keith’s complete family.  It lists his parents Ronald age 46 and Grace age 28, married 12 years. This places their marriage in 1898.  Grace had 7 children of which 6 are living.  It lists all his siblings:  Vivian age 8, Gordon age 6, Miriam spelled Marian age 4, Edna age 3, Laura age 2 and last Keith who is just a baby at 1/12 years old.  All are born in Minnesota except Ronald who was born in Canada.  

McDonald Children circa late 1910

 

This photo was probably taken in late 1910 or early 1911.  There isn’t any snow on the ground but the McDonald children are dressed in fancy outfits and in heavy coats.   The children are left to right:  Jean (Laurie Jean) , Eddie, Miriam, Gordon and Vivian.  Keith is the one on the ground in front of Gordon.   

Keith, Jean, Eddie

 

Another photo of Keith shows him on the left.  His sister Jean seems to be holding him carefully while he is intently looking at the camera.  Jean is so cute in this photo.  Eddie is on the right in a fancy dress with a hat and coat. It is hard to see her face. I love how her hands are clasped.  I wonder if this was regular clothing or dress up that Eddie is wearing?  The hat is very fancy.  This photo was probably taken in 1911.   

These photos are those postcard photos that were popular back then.  You can flip them over an address them and write notes on them.  Unfortunately nothing was written on the backs of these two photos.   

I think the handwriting of their names was done by their mother Grace.


Grandmother Mary McDonell

April 3, 2010

Mary McDonell abt 1911

This picture is of Keith’s grandmother Mary McDonell holding a baby.  On the photo is written 1911.  This means that the baby is probably my father, Keith.  Unfortunately he is looking away so we cannot see his face.  He would be about a year old.  It would be in International Falls because Mary came with her family from Canada in 1901. 

The real pleasure is studying my great-grandmother in her long dark skirt.  Her wonderful face.  She is intently looking at the photographer.  There is snow on the ground and she is out in the weather without a coat.  I take that to mean she was hardy person or it was a warm day.  

This photo was among Keith’s photo collection so it probably did have some meaning to him.  I love it for this is one of two photos of her that I have.  The first one was the formal portrait of the family shown in an earlier post.  

This photo is a little more of her personality.  My Aunt Eddie, Mary’s granddaughter and sister to Keith told me one day of an older lady who lived upstairs in their house and smoked a pipe.  I believe that lady to be Mary.


Riverside Drive, International Falls!

March 30, 2010

Keith at the Window

Ronald and Grace lived in a house on Riverside drive in International Falls.  It was supposedly the fancier part of town.  The house still stands having been turned into apartments.  It is situated very close to the Rainy River which is just across the street behind a stand of bushes.  You can pick your way to a break in them so you can climb down to the beach.  The house  is just across from the lumber mill.  It is probably very altered from what it looked like back then.    

Ronald and Graces Home circa 1905-1915

When I visited International Falls in 2000 and 2001, I visualized my father Keith running and playing in the town and along the banks of the Rainey River but it slowly dawned on me that he might not have remembered the town that much.  He was only there for the first 5-6 years of his life.  My memories of my childhood go back only to about age 4.  So I wonder just how much my father remembered as I walked the banks of the Rainy River. 

Keith by Window, Riverside Drive

In these two photos of my father he is by the window of their house. You can see a little of the interior of the house.  I was told that  Ronald built this house.  I have not been able to prove that family story.


Archibald and Mary McDonald’s Children

March 20, 2010

McDonald Family 1905

This picture shows Keith’s grandparents and his aunt, uncles and father, Archibald and Mary McDonald’s family.  Starting on the left we have Nellie, Mary (seated), Jack, Archibald (seated), Ronald and Alex (seated).  Keith’s father is Ronald the one standing on the right next and behind Archibald. There is one person missing from this photo.  The oldest son Angus. 

Mary and Archibald actually had eight (8) children.  Five (5) children survived and lived to have full lives.  Two had descendants.  Jack had a daughter and Ronald and Grace had the 8 children listed in a previous post dated February 27, 2010. 

Their children were born in Chichester, Pontiac Co., Quebec.  Their births and baptisms are recorded in the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church registers in Chapeau, Pontiac Co., Quebec. 

The Children of Archibald and Mary McDonald are as follows.

1.  John McDonald born 10 December 1861, baptized 12 December 1861.  This baby must have died before 1871 for he is not listed on the 1871 Canadian census.  A death record nor burial location has been found at this time.

2.  John Alexander McDonald born 18 April 1863, baptized 26 April 1863 and died probably before 1871 for he is also not listed on the 1871 Canadian census.  This child’s death record and burial location has also not been found at this time.

3.  Angus Lawrence McDonald born 6 August 1864, baptized 13 August 1864.  He died 2 May 1931 in Seattle, King County, Washington of pneumonia, He is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Seattle with other family members. Angus is listed as “Agnes” in the records.

4.  Ronald Sandfield McDonald born 22 July 1866, baptized the 26 July 1866. Keith’s father died on the 24 of July 1947 in Yakima, Yakima County, Washington of old age. He is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Yakima, Washington with other members of the family.

5.  John Archibald McDonald (Jack) was born 3 June 1869, baptized 14 June 1869.  He died on 11 December 1949 in Moose Lake, Koochiching County, Minnesota of old age.  He is buried in the St. Thomas Cemetery (Forest Hill) in International Falls, Koochiching County, Minnesota with other family members.

6.  Ellen Elizabeth McDonald (Nellie) was born 26 November 1870, baptized the 26 November 1870.  She died on the 8th of May, 1947 in Yakima, Yakima County, Washington of old age.  She is buried next to her brother Ronald in the Calvary Cemetery in Yakima and with other family members. 

7.  Alexander Thomas McDonald was born 2 December 1872 and baptized the 17 December 1872.  He died the 3rd of November 1955 in International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota.  He is buried next to his brother Jack in the St. Thomas Cemetery (Forest Hill) in International Falls, Minnesota. 

8.  George James McDonald was born 22 July 1878, baptized 27 July 1878 and must have died before the 1881 Canadian census for he does not appear with the rest of the family.  A death record and burial location have not yet been found. 

I will give more details about the records of the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in another post.  This church is located in Chapeau, Pontiac Co., Quebec.  It is across the Ottawa River from Pembroke which is in Ontario. 

Here is information on the Catholic Diocese of Pembroke: http://pembrokediocese.com/web/english/directory/index.shtml


Genealogical Research in Koochiching Co.

March 16, 2010

Traveling to International Falls in 2000 and 2001 was to meet my cousin who was 87 years old.   I did spend a lot of wonderful hours with her and she told me great stories about the McDonald’s.  Now I was very new to genealogy back then but I was learning real fast.

On my first visit there in 2000, the Koochiching County Historical Society was closed for renovation.  So I learned a valuable lesson and that is to always call or email an archive or society before you go to verify hours and to make sure they are going to be open.

The second time I visited was June of 2001.  I wrote a nice letter to the Koochiching County Historical Society well in advance of my visit.  I was just learning about my family so I wrote as detailed a letter as I could at the time.  I had a lot of questions.  A few examples included my grandfather Ronald S. McDonald and his term(s) as Commissioner of the town.  I also asked about my great Uncle Jack McDonald and his time as mayor of the town.  This way when I arrived I would be able to jump right in and seek the information I needed.

The Director, at the time, had no interest in my research.  He led me to the basement of the society and I spent most of my time trying to make sense out of the mess.  He pretty much left me to fend for myself which I prefer but it was difficult to find things.   Frankly, I really don’t think he read my letter.   It was unfortunate.  I know that the Koochiching County Historical Society assists others in research for I have seen their references in other sources.  It didn’t stop me from digging further.

International Falls Public Library

What turned out to be a gold mine was the International Falls Public Library which was just down the street.  A librarian in that library had started a newspaper clipping file.  Among those files I found obituaries, other articles on my family and more.   Always check out the local library for you never know what you will find. Sometimes it is a good resource and other times it is not.   In this case it was great:  http://www.internationalfallslibrary.us/

Of course you have to stop in at the Koochiching County Courthouse which is right there on the town square.  I visited them for the birth records of my family and later for the deeds (land records).  This was my first time in a courthouse and it was a great experience.  They were all very helpful.  http://www.co.koochiching.mn.us/

While there I had learned that my great uncles, grandfather Ronald’s brothers, had been fireman.  So my hubby and I visited the local fire department there in International Falls which is also on the town square and had a wonderful time talking to the fireman.  They gave us coffee (hmm…maybe some cookies?) and a book on their history.  Of course my family is in that book.   http://www.ci.international-falls.mn.us/dp-fire.html   See new link below.

FIREMAN BOOK:  “Proud Traditions: A History in Words and Photos of International Falls – Fire Fighters 1900-1994 – Protecting Life and Property.”

This booklet is compiled from newspaper articles from the various International Falls newspapers and lots of contributors like the Koochiching County Historical Society.

The sky was menacing as I recall in 2001 and there was a threat of a twister on the radio at the time, yet we still went out and had dinner.  We went to  the Spot Fire Restaurant for dinner.  This restaurant had a museum of fireman memorabilia, photos and actual restored fire trucks.  My great uncles were listed on the wall there.  We had a nice chat and tour with the owner.  The food was delicious!  The website seems to be gone.  I hope it is still there?

Don’t forget to check out the visitors information center in a city you are visiting.  They have a lot of good information, maps and more to help you with getting around and familiar with an area:  City of International Falls http://www.ci.international-falls.mn.us/sv-information.html  

http://www.ci.international-falls.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=124

I have great memories of International Falls and my time there.


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.


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