Nellie McDonald becomes caretaker of Grace’s children!

March 1, 2013

Nellie or rather Ellen Elizabeth McDonald migrated with her parents from Chichester in 1900/1901 and lived with them in Bemidji till they moved to International Falls in 1905. She was living with her parents and brother Alexander in 1910 per the U.S. Federal census.

At the end of December 1911 Grace, the mother of Keith and his siblings, died of pneumonia and the effects of childbirth see the post dated July 18, 2010 “An Unexpected Tragedyhttp://macdonellfamily.wordpress.com/?s=Tragedy. Nellie became their caretaker.

Nellie on the porch

Nellie on the porch

Just exactly when Nellie joined her brother Ronald in bringing up his six children is unclear.  I have not been able to track her clearly from 1910 to 1920.  I cannot tell if she was with him in Grand Prairie, Alberta.   I  think Nellie did not became the caretaker of the children till just before 1920 but I might be incorrect.  Until I find more information that can pinpoint when Nellie was with them I will have to speculate.  Her niece Miriam implied that she took over right after their mother Grace died, but so far the facts are not agreeing.

Miriam writes that they all moved to the Riverside Drive house after Grace’s death which implies Nellie was involved from 1912 onward? ( Just click on the photo and it will open up for you, remember to hit your back button or close a tab to return to this blog.)

Miriam’s Notes about Nellie!

The parents of Nellie and R.S. where Archie (1912) and Mary (1913) who were living in 1911 when Grace passed, so Nellie would probably not leave them because they were aging.  According to the above paragraph they moved into the Riverside Drive house and that would make sense.

I did find Gordon and R.S. in the Edmonton, Alberta 1916 census.  I did a thorough search of the Canadian 1916 census to try to find  Nellie with the rest of the children but I was unable to locate her or them.

An Ellen McDonald appears in the International Falls city directory of 1917-1918.  This person was a civil servant on 421 1st St., pg. 19.  I ponder if that is her?

I do know for sure that by January 1920, Nellie had joined the family and from 1920 to her death in May of 1947 in Yakima, Washington, she lived with her brother Ronald (R.S.) and followed him wherever he went from that point on.

Her niece, Miriam, held Nellie in high esteem and wrote that she deserved a place in heaven for taking on the momentous task of raising six children that were not her own. Miriam was apparently Nellie’s favorite.

As far as I can recall none of my aunts, my uncle, nor my father talked about Nellie much.  There could be reasons for that.  It may have made them sad, or it was a long time ago.

NOTE:  Please don’t be like me and not ask questions, I wish I had regarding Nellie and the family.


A Scandal in Koochiching County circa 1918!

January 19, 2013

Koochiching County, Minnesota’s north boundary touches the Canadian border.

Koochiching broke off from Itasca County and became its own county in 1906.  Keith’s father, Ronald (R.S.) was there to help plat the town of International Falls and at one point he was acounty commissioner.

Here are past posts about R.S. McDonald and his involvement with International Falls.  You can go to the archive box on the right of this blog and search for May 2010.

  • May 15, 2010 “Commissioner R.S. McDonald
  • May 10, 2010 “Ronald S. McDonald – A Dam is Built!”
  • May 2, 2010 “Ronald S. McDonald or known as just R.S.”

My hubby and I have visited International Falls on several occasions in 2000 and 2001 enjoying the sights and doing genealogical research.

My cousin was born and lived there but passed in 2007, at the age of 94.  I met her when she was 87.  She was one of the reasons I went there to visit.  She was the daughter of John (Jack) and Sarah McDonald, Ronald’s brother and sister-in-law. She was my father, Keith’s, cousin.  I have shared in this blog several of Mary’s stories about her father and mother.  She didn’t have any stories to tell me about my family because she was about 3-4 years old when Ronald left International Falls and was too young to know them.

The first time we went to International Falls (2000)we flew from Minneapolis in an airplane with propellers and 3 seats – 1 on one side and two on the other.  I remember thinking as we flew over the wild landscape below:  “This is your fault Dad.”  Remember, my father, Keith was born in International Falls.  See the post dated March 13, 2010 “A Baptism In International Falls!”

If memory serves the plane landed in Grand Rapids, MN and then continued it journey to International Falls.  I spent the flight looking out the window and studying the landscape as we flew over and was fascinated by it.  The plane’s altitude was not the usual 32,000 feet.  It seemed we were very close to the ground.  I mostly saw trees, water and some open land.  It looked very wild to me.

The airport in International Falls was very small.  We exited the plane by walking down the steep stairs and across the field to the terminal.  It was interesting to see my hubby try to make car rental arrangements.

At the Falls International Airport there is a photograph of the airport with the airplane on the ground.  It is just like I remember:  http://www.internationalfallsairport.com/the-airport/  After visiting International Falls we headed south to Bemidji, Pine River and Brainerd and end the trip in Minneapolis.

The second time we visited in 2001,  we drove up to International Falls from Minneapolis.  Our route took us to Brainerd, to Pine River, through Walker, to Bemidji, passed Blackduck and then onto International Falls.  From International Falls we drove to Grand Rapids down Highway 71 and then we went east on Hwy 2.  From Grand Rapids, we headed over to the eastern side of Minnesota through Cloquet and Willow River and back to Minneapolis.  These were places that Ronald (R.S.) and Grace knew and lived.

Black Duck Park

Black Duck Park

On both occasions we have driven Highway 71.  The road is very very straight and there are no changes in altitude.  The two books I refer to below, written by Drache, were being read at the time and I know I read one of them as we drove along.

International Falls is a cool city.  I enjoyed my visits there.  Everything is easy to find and get too.  The second time were were there a big storm was brewing and someone was mentioning twisters.  I thought it was great but my hubby was not too excited and kept rushing me to the motel, as if that would help if one came.

You can go across the border over the bridge between the two big lumber companies and visit Fort Francis which is in Canada.  How much of International Falls my Dad, Keith, remembered is hard to say for he was born in March 1910 and left there when he was about 5 or 6 years old.

So, I do have some idea of what the county of Koochiching is like and some familiarity with International Falls.  The idea that my grandfather got caught up in a court case about land fraud seems amazing to me.  I am not saying he was innocent just very interesting and I wish I had more information about the events.  I have tried to piece together as much as possible but have not yet looked at court records.  So I have more do to on this subject.

Here is what I have found out so far:

If you want to learn about the region of Koochiching you need to read this book:  “Koochiching, Pioneering, Along the Rainy River Frontier,” by Hiram M. Drache, The Interstate Printers and Publishers Inc., 1983.  It has photographs which are very interesting.  I particularly like the Falls before and after the dam was built.  I also like pictures of the logging activities.  Mr. Drache wrote a very detailed book.

If you want to know more about the land issues in the area, you might want to read this booklet about the peat or muskeg swamps in the area.  At the time R.S. was there they were trying to do “ditching.” The idea was to drain the land for farming.  This booklet is at Google Books.

Bulletin Volumes 16-17 Minnesota Geological Survey, Bulletin No. 16 The Peat Deposits of Minnesota,” by E.K. Soper, United States Geological Survey, United State Bureau of Mines, University of Minnesota, 1919. page 172 “Koochiching County.”

There are approximately one million acres of wet or swamp lands in Koochiching County, and most of this area is covered with from 2 to 20 feet of peat.  The average depth of the peat in the county is about 7 feet, and there are at least 750,000 acres of muskeg swamps over which the peat will average 7 feet thick. 

There are several types of peat bogs in the county, but by far the commonest is a typical muskeg swamp, forested with tamarack, or spruce, or both.  

So why am I interesting in peat and muskeg swamps, well read on…

The second book is:  “Taming the Wilderness, The Northern Border Country 1910-1939,” by Hiram M. Drache, Interstate Publishers, Inc., 1992.  Mr. Drache writes:

“Chapter IX The Unyielding Wilderness – Much of the Northern Border Country was not attractive to settlers who were interested in farming.  Except for those who cut the trees and left, the homesteaders soon realized the futility of their efforts.  The tree-covered muskeg virtually prohibited farming and travel in the area.  To overcome the obstacles and provide the proper environment for agriculture, it was necessary to drain the land to provide roads. 

Mr. Drache goes on and on for pages about the ditching problems in the area.

“These problems were compounded as land was abandoned once the timber was gone and were intensified by corruption among those involved in ditching, road construction, and financing on the local level. Illegal activity in 1916 involving as much as $200,000 in public funds caused Governor J.A.A. Burnquist to suspend County Auditor L.H. Slocum and three county commissioners – R.S. McDonald, William Harrigan, and Harold Royem…The Rev. Thomas Howard headed a group of over 100 citizens who held a mass meeting before the commissioners, asking them to explain what they had done to bring about the suspension of county officials.  The group approved the governor’s action and passed a resolution condemning the actions of the Northwestern Construction Company, which had received funds improperly for work on State Highway No. 5, 9, 20, and 24 and had abandoned the jobs prior to completion…Commissioners McDonald, Harrigan and Royem stood trial for knowingly letting county bonds be sold at a 5 percent discount.  The investigation produced 13 indictments against Slocum; 5 against G.A. Elder, a broker; and 2 against R.S. McDonald.  The case against Slocum was dismissed for lack of evidence.  This undermined the county’s chance of a major recovery, because it was believed that this was the strongest case it had against any of the accused.  The verdicts totaled $64,744.22 of which slightly over $15,000.00 eventually was paid.  There was little hope of collecting any additional amounts, because most of the individuals being sued were not financially “responsible.”  pg. 247.

The Footnotes at the end of the chapter are also interesting, pg. 262:

…transcript of testimony on Case #21,492, January 19, 1917 County of Koochiching vs. George A. Elder, et. al.

Note:  The case number did not show up at the Minnesota Historical Society in 2007 but I believe they do have these cases now?

This reference in the Bibliography might be interesting to see:

 Bibliography pg. 349:  County of Koochiching vs. George A. Elder, Commercial Investment Co., John Nuveen & Co., R.S. McDonald, William Durrin, Harold Royem, and L. H. Slocum, Defendants.  Transcript of Testimony of Trial at Brainerd, District Court, 15th Judicial District, commenced January 17, 1919.  

The International Falls Press and Border Budget report on Thursday June 13, 1918 several articles about the county investigation (Vol. 12, No. 17). In the article on the left “Fake Reports on Cost and Result of Investigation,” my grandfather’s name appears four times.

Land Troubles in Koochiching 1918

Land Troubles in Koochiching 1918

Here is the continuation of the front page county investigation which overlaps some of the first photograph:

Land problems Koochiching lower page

Land problems Koochiching lower page

I found this online just recently:  The Bemidji Daily Pioneer, 1904-1972, Sept. 9, 1916 page 8, Image 8, Library of Congress, Chronicling America. Provided by the Minnesota Historical Society.  Has an article “Governor Promises Full Inquiry into Koochiching Affairs – More Officials of Koochiching County Removed by Gov. Burnquist.”  The article is on the front page last column and page 8 not page 4 as it says at the bottom.

I also found this tip at Google books referring to State cases?

The Executive Documents of the State of Minnesota for the Year, Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Minnesota to his Excellency the Governor, Part I 1918, Syndicate Printing Co., Attorney General, pg. 21, District Courts of Minnesota, Criminal Cases:

915 State vs. Slocum.  Auditing and allowing a fraudulent claim against Koochiching County. Found guilty. Paid $2,000.00 fine.

920 State vs. George A. Elder. Auditing and allowing fraudulent bills to be paid out of county funds.  Found guilty. Fine $5,000.00

917 State vs. R.S.  McDonald, Indicted. Auditing and allowing fraudulent bills to be paid out of county funds.  Koochiching county.  Party left country.  Extradition requested. 

Again, I have a lot more research to do on these court cases.  It would be interesting to see what they reveal about R.S. and his involvement and the final outcome for Keith’s dad.


Sarah M. (Burns) McDonald passes!

October 25, 2012

Sarah’s Tombstone

Jack had died in December of 1949 and Sarah, his wife, followed just shy of two years.  They are both buried in the St. Thomas Cemetery in International Falls.  This cemetery is part of the Forest Lawn Cemetery and there is a link to it under Minnesota Links on the right side of this blog.  They have the burials online.

Jack and Sarah appear in the 1930 U.S. Census living in International Falls, Koochiching County,  Minnesota with their daughter Mary C. McDonald.  It was Mary who cared for both of them at the end of their lives.

John and Sarah McDonald 1930 Census

Sixth Street, line 6, 903, 247, 271, McDonald, John A. Head, 0, $3000., M, W, 60, M. 32, no, yes, Canada English, Father and Mother Canada-English, English, 00, 43, 1901, NA, yes, Janitor, Public School, 6×44, w, yes, no. McDonald, Sarah, wife – H, F, W, 56, M, 28, no, yes, Canada-English, Father Northern Ireland, Mother Irish Free State, English, 00, 43, 1901, NA, yes, none. McDonald, Mary C., daughter, F, W, 17, S, yes, yes, Minnesota, Parents Canada-English, 64, 43 0, yes, none.

Source:  John McDonald Family, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota, Third (Part of) Block No. 56  lines 1-5, Block no. 55 lines 6 to 50. RD#36-21, SD#2, Sht #13A (154), enumerated April 11, 1930, Carl. V. Linsten.

Ten years later they are still a family of three:

Sixth Street, Line 56, 903, 49, 0, 2500, no, McDonald, John A., Head, M, W, 71, M, no, 4, Canada-English, NA, same house, blank for parents, yes – – – -, 60, Janitor, Public High School, GW, 52, 1800, no. McDonald, Sarah, wife, F, W, 65, M, no, 5, Canada-English, NA same house, blank for parents, no, no, no, no. H, o , o, no. McDonald, Mary, daughter, F, W, 27, S, no, H-4, Minnesota, same house, blank for parents, yes – – -, Bookkeeper, County Treasurer’s office, GW, 52, 932, no.

Source:  John A. McDonald Family, 1940 U.S. Federal Census, International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota, Ward #3, SD# 12, ED# 36-198, Sht# 2B, enumerated on April 4, 1940, Dorothy P. Barkovic.

Here is the Death certificate for Sarah.

Sarah’s Death Certificate

Sarah was a resident for 50 years in International Falls, MN, died at the Falls Memorial Hospital, lived at 903 6th St., died Oct 25, 1951, female, white, widowed, date of birth Feb 18, 1874, age 77 yrs., housekeeper, owns own home, born in Canada, citizen of the USA. Father George Burns, mother Katherine Burns, spouse John A. McDonald #4201. Did not serve in armed forces, no SS#, informant was the Memorial Hospital in International Falls. Died of congestive heart failure and coronary sclerosis, no autopsy. Burial on Oct 27, 1951 at St. Thomas Cemetery in International Falls, MN, filed Oct. 27, 1951. Handled by Green Mortuary, International Falls, MN.

Source:  Sarah McDonald, Certificate of Death #7429, Oct. 25, 1951, Minnesota Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, FHL#2139363. 

Appearing in The Daily Journal, International Falls, Friday, October 26, 1951 is an article about Sarah.

Sarah Burns McDonald “Mrs. McDonald”

Sarah McDonald, City Resident Since 1904, Dies. Mrs. Sarah MacDonald, a resident of International Falls since 1904, died late Thursday in Memorial hospital following a year of illness. She was 77. Death was attributed to heart ailment. The deceased was the widow of J.A. (Jack) McDonald, one-time mayor of the Falls. One daughter,  Mrs. Gilbert (Mary) Louiseau —-Sixth St. survives. Funeral services are set for 8 am Saturday in St. Thomas church with Fr. Edward Lamontagne officiating. Interment will be in St. Thomas cemetery. The Rosary will be recited at 8 pm today in the Green Mortuary chapel. Mrs. McDonald, the former Sarah Burns, was born Feb. 18, 1874 in eastern Canada and moved to the United States immediately following her marriage in 1901. The couple lived in Bemidji before moving to the Border City. The late husband of the deceased served as mayor of International Falls from 1922-24 and was long active in municipal and fire department affairs. He was employed as engineer-custodian of Alexander Baker school for 32 years. Mr. McDonald died Dec. 11, 1949.

This is what Sarah’s daughter said about her mother when I visited her in 2000:

Her mother came from Pembroke, Ontario, Canada. She remembers going back to visit her grandmother Catherine who lived in a big brick house in Pembroke with her son whom Mary called “Uncle George.” Mary said that George was wealthy. Sarah was very social and she kept a good home and always had help around the house. Sarah was known as Mrs. McDonald, probably a gesture of respect. Her mother would cook and set a nice table. Jack and Sarah’s home was a social place for the town, people were always coming over and stopping by.

The spelling of Sarah’s middle name was shown as “Mariah” in the Koochiching County Courthouse records.

Sarah was a member of a very well-known and large family in the Pembroke,  Renfrew County, Ontario and Chichester, Chapeau areas of Pontiac County in Quebec.  They were the Burns family and my friend and almost cousin Elaine Burns Brown has featured them on her website at:  http://www.personainternet.com/etbrown/  I also have this under my links specifically:  Family History Websites of Interest on the right side of this blog.  I highly recommend that you go there and study her website it covers Burns, Hughes, Somerville, Gentle and also McDonald and more.


Jack McDonald succumbs – 1949

October 11, 2012

3rd version: Jack with his sibling and nieces

Here is another photograph like the ones I featured in the last post.  This time Jack has a straw hat on and he is standing in between his two siblings.

LtoR: Vivian, Nellie, Jack, R.S., Miriam.  If you study the photo and focus on Jack and R.S. you can see some resemblance.

Jack gave me quite a challenge regarding his death.  I could not find any evidence of his passing in the International Falls records.  I finally figured it out.  The reason was he died in Moose Lake, Carlton Co., Minnesota on the 11th of December 1949.

Carlton Co. at Moose Lake in the State Hospital. Residence was Koochiching Co., International Falls, 983 Sixth St. Length of stay in the hospital 9 mos, 8 days. Full name: John A. McDonald, male, white, married. Spouse Sarah McDonald, her age 76, Dated of his birth Jan. 14, 1869, he was 80 years 10 mos and 27 days. occupation: Janitor. Born in Chichester, Quebec, Canada. Father’s name Archibald McDonald, born in Canada. Mother maiden name Sarah McDonald born in Canada. Funeral Director – James F. Morine, Duluth, MN. Died December 11, 1949 – arteriosclerosis and senility etc.

Source:  Death Certificate, John A. McDonald, #1983, Reg. No. 155, Moose Lake, Carlton Co., Minnesota, Dec. 11, 1949, State of Minnesota Vital Statistics, Minnesota Historical Society Death Certificates.

Note:  The date given for his birth is Jan 14, 1869.  The St. Alphonsus Church records have January 3, 1869?  They also have Sarah as his mother and it should be Mary.  His tombstone reads 1870.  His death certificate gives the Jan 14th date.  Also the number for the house he lived in might be a little off.

John A. 1870 to 1949

There is an obituary article from the The Daily Journal of International Falls, dated December 12, 1949. It reads:

“John A. McDonald, 903 Sixth street, one-time mayor of International Falls and a resident of the community since 1904, died Sunday at the age of 70. He passed away at an out-of-town hospital after an illness of more than two years. Time and place of funeral services will be announced in a later issue of the Journal. The Green Mortuary will be in charge. Familiarly known as “Jack,” Mr. McDonald served one two-year term as major from 1922 to 1924. Prior to being elected to the No. 1 office in the municipality he represented Ward III on the city council for four years. He was also one of the first members of the Falls fire department and maintained an active interest in the organization until he resigned in 1941 because of his health. Mr. McDonald was well-known to thousands of children whom he encountered in his work as fireman-engineer at Alexander Baker school. He joined the school custodian staff in 1913, shortly after the AB building was constructed. Upon his retirement in 1945 he had 32 years of school service to his credit. Born in Chapeau, Quebec, Jan. 14, 1869, Mr. McDonald emigrated to the United States as a young man in 1901 and settled in Bemidji. The same year he was married to Miss Sarah M. Burns, who survives. The couple moved to International Falls in 1904 and Mr. McDonald soon established a dray line, which he operated until 1913. In the latter years he joined the school building staff. Surviving, in addition to his widow, are a daughter, Mrs. Gilbert (Mary) Louiseau, and a brother, Alex, both of International Falls.”

This obituary notice really gives a great overview of Jack’s life.

He is buried with his family in the Forest Hill Cemetery which includes the St. Thomas Cemetery.  The burial site is dominated by this large tombstone with McDonald on it. If I recall, I was told by the family, that Jack and Archie bought the plot and had this stone installed.

McDonald Tombstone


Jack and Sarah (Burns) McDonald Settle in Minnesota

August 16, 2012

Archie, Mary, Jack (John), Sarah and Nellie all settled in Bemidji, Beltrami Co., Minnesota first and lived there till about 1905. 

This is one of my favorite photos of Jack.  I do not know where it is taken but I think he looks very dapper.

Jack McDonald (John Archibald)

According to the Minnesota State Census for 1905, Jack and Sarah had relocated to International Falls, Minnesota.

Source:  Minnesota State Census, 1905, Village of International Falls, Twp. of Koochiching, Itasca Co., Minnesota, enumerated by Harvy Gale on June 30, 1905, Line 74, Sht#2, Image 269, Ancestry.com.

Line 74, McDonald, John A., male, age 36, born in Canada, both parents born in Canada, 4 yrs. in Minnesota, 8 months in International Falls, laborer. Line 75, McDonald, Sarah, female, age 31, born in Canada, both parents born in Ireland, 4 yrs in Minnesota, no occupation.

1905 Minnesota State Census for Jack & Sarah

Note:  Please note that Koochiching is not a county yet and it is part of Itasca County for about another year.  This means that if you are looking for records you need to consult Itasca County for the early years.

Meanwhile Archibald (Archie) and Mary McDonald, the parents, were still residing in Bemidji and their daughter Nellie was with them. 

Source:  Archibald McDonald Family, 1905 Minnesota State Census, Bemidji, Beltrami Co., Minnesota, ED#14, enumerated June 1, 1905, Ancestry.com.

#49 McDonald Archie, Lake Blvd, #1101, M., 70 years, white, born in Canada, lines thru parents birth with no data entered, location, resident 3 yrs., 9 mos.; same for district, occupation: retired.

#50 McDonald, Mary, Lake Blvd, #1101, Female, age 68, white, born in Canada, parents born in Scotland both, resident 3 yrs. 9 mos, same for district, retired.

#51 McDonald, Nellie, Lake Blvd, #1101, Female, age 30, white, born in Canada, both parents born in Canada, resident 3 yrs 9 mos., same for district, occupation: housekeeper.

In my post dated March 3, 2011 I wrote about John (Jack’s) birth – Archie & Mary’s Children:  John Archibald McDonald.  

I also wrote more about Jack and Sarah in the posted dated August 17, 2010 “Jack McDonald and Sarah Maria Burns!”  In this post I described the children of Jack and Sarah McDonald that I am aware of.  We suspect that there were more babies that did not make it or perhaps miscarriages. 

Sarah with a baby?

I also wrote about Bemidji in the post dated February 2, 2012 “Life in Bemidji.” In this post I featured the Bemidji city directory that I found at the Beltrami County Historical Society.  The page featured Archie and John for 1904.  The picture above was provided by Elaine Burns Brown. 

In the last post dated July 20, 2012, I talked about Jack and Sarah’s marriage.  I was unable to find any news about this event in the local newspapers, therefore, I speculate that sometime after August 1901 and probably before the winter set in they went to Glengarry County first.  This was so Archie could revisit his childhood home.  After this visit they made that final move to Minnesota.  They first settled in Bemidji living there for about 4 years or slightly less and then heading for International Falls.  Jack apparently went ahead by 8 months and may have been in International Falls by 1904.

I wonder how they traveled from Chichester? Did they take the train from Waltham down to Ottawa and the go by coach to Glengarry County.  It is fun to speculate.

This was a big move. 

As far as I can determine by the census, Archibald, Mary, Ronald and Grace, Jack and Sarah, Alexander and Nellie were all living in International Falls by 1905 or after.  Angus disappears after 1897 after he came back to Chichester for the birth of his daughter Helen Mary in August of that year.  He reappears in the Seattle 1910 U.S. Federal Census.  What he did between 1897 to 1910 I have yet to figure out.   

My family left behind many friends, memories and more in Canada, and I am afraid the ties slowly began to disappear as they continued to live in the United States.  Later on Robert R. McDonald, a son of Duncan McDonald, Mary’s brother’s family migrated to Bovey, Minnesota. 

If you are familiar with International Falls it is right on the northern border of Minnesota and it takes just a few minutes to cross the bridge to Fort Francis and you are back in Canada.  So they really didn’t wander that far from their Canadian roots.

Wikipedia has an article about the town of Fort Francis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Frances

Here is information about the border crossing and a great picture of the bridge that crosses the Rainy River between International Falls and Fort Francis.  My hubby and I drove across that bridge when I visited there in 2000 meeting for the first time with Mary McDonald Louseau, Jack’s and Sarah’s daughter.  She was 87 years old at the time. 

http://www.ezbordercrossing.com/list-of-border-crossings/minnesota/international-falls-fort-frances/

Here is a picture that I took on our walk along the Rainy River.  I wanted to see what my Dad’s (Keith)  childhood might have been like and wondered if he played along this river.  There house was very close by.  He would have been very young, being born in March 1910.  Ronald left International Falls in 1915 and headed back to Canada ending up in Grand Prairie.  I have posted about these events in past posts.  My Dad might have played along this river being 4-5 years old at the time.  It is more likely that the older children like Gordon, Vivian, Miriam, Eddie and Jean had adventures along its shores.  I can see Gordon carefully holding his little brother’s hand as they walked along.  Yes, I am getting a little romantic in my musings!

Looking across the Rainy River to Canada


Life in Bemidji!

February 2, 2012

Archie’s sons decided that their parents were getting too old and brought them down from Chichester to Bemidji after 1901.  Why they went to Bemidji instead of going to International Falls may have had something to do with access.  It was not easy to get to International Falls back then.  Taking the train was a rather circuitous route to International Falls and it was probably not big enough yet in terms of population.  Koochiching County would not break off from Itasca till 1906.  So International Falls was lagging behind Bemidji by about 5-10 years in development.  It also might have had something to do with E.W. Backus, the lumber baron, establishing himself in International Falls. 

Bemidji was growing and logging was big by 1900, according to online histories.  Bemidji is in Beltrami County, Minnesota in the northwestern part of the state.  It is spread out around two large lakes:  Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving. If you are coming from International Falls you enter the city on Hwy 71 and make your way to the center of town.  I have visited Bemidji twice and did a little more exploring each time.

A main street in Bemidji a very charming town!

The Beltrami County Genweb has a nice listing for sites and places to research.  They haven’t finished some of their projects like  a cemetery listing so check back periodically. 

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mnbeltra/

There were some interesting articles on the history of Bemidji around 1900 at this website, click on News Clips:

http://www.bemidjihistory.com/index.php

I visited Bemidji in 2000 and then I visited the Beltrami County Historical Society in 2000 and 2001:  http://www.beltramihistory.org/  They are located in the train depot that has been restored.   Very nice facility.  Always check hours before you visit.   They are at 130 Minnesota Ave. SW in Bemidji.  I found a very old city directory that featured my family. 

1904 Bemidji City Directory

 
It reads:
McDonald, Archie 1101 L.B.
McDonald Elmer E, res. 1287 Lake Boulevard, attorney Bailey & McDonald
McDonald, John 1215 Bemidji, employment office
McDonald, J.R. cruiser, bds Merchants hotel
 
Archie is of course, Keith’s grandfather and my great-grandfather.  John is probably “Jack” the son of Archie and Mary McDonell? I am guessing about that?  Elmer and J.R. are not known.  I checked the 1900 U.S. Census and the 1905 Minnesota State Census but I didn’t get any hits for Elmer.  I was curious to see if any information might come up.  It is interesting that John is listed as working at an “employment office.”  Apparently there were those men who would hire the men for the lumber camps so employment offices were frequent. There is no mention of Alexander, Nellie or R.S. McDonald in this city directory. 
 
On June 1, 1901 a lien was recorded in the courthouse in Beltrami regarding J.O. McDonald and R.O. McDonald.  I think this is R.S. and J.A. McDonald my grandfather and uncle “Jack?”  Remember I talked about a deed in which R.S. and Grace McDonald purchased a house near Lake Bemidji in the a lated post dated January 5, 2012?  Well this is the same lot, block and location!

Al [Granby], Plaintiff against J.O. McDonald and R. O. McDonald, defendants. Lein of $6.70 against the Lot 6, Block 1 Lake Park addition in Bemidji, Beltrami Co., Minnesota. [    ] 

Archie, Mary and Nellie were still in Bemidji according to the Minnesota State census for 1905, Ancestry.com.

#49 McDonald Archie, Lake Blvd, #1101, M., 70 years, white, born in Canada, lines thru parents birth with no data entered, location, resident 3 yrs., 9 mos.; same for district, occupation: retired.

#50 McDonald, Mary, Lake Blvd, #1101, Female, age 68, white, born in Canada, parents born in Scotland both, resident 3 yrs. 9 mos, same for district, retired.

#51 McDonald, Nellie, Lake Blvd, #1101, Female, age 30, white, born in Canada, both parents born in Canada, resident 3 yrs 9 mos., same for district, occupation: housekeeper.

By 1905, John (Jack), Alexander (Alex) and R.S. McDonald are living in Koochiching Twp., Itasca County, Minnesota which  International Falls is a part.  It would not be long before Archie, Mary and Nellie followed them.  See the post dated March 27, 2010 “McDonald’s Settle in International Falls,” for a comparison of the 1905 Minnesota State Census for the various members of this family. 

So for about 3 years and 9 months Archie and Mary McDonell were taking up residence in Bemidji and their daughter Nellie was with them?

During that time Archie and Mary became grandparents with the birth of their granddaughter Leola Vivian on May 12, 1902 in Grand Rapids, Itasca County, Minnesota.  She was a child of R.S. and Grace (Barclay) McDonald.  See the post dated June 5, 2010 “Darling Vivian,” for more information about this birth. 

They receive great news again on 3 May 1904 when Ronald Gordon McDonald another child of R.S. and Grace (Barclay) McDonald was born.   See the posted dated July 9, 2010 “Brother Gordy.”  

The family group portrait which I feature in the post dated March 20, 2010 “Archibald and Mary McDonell’s Children,” was taken in Bemidji about 1905.  It features Nellie, Mary, Jack, Archie, R.S. and Alexander but not Angus the oldest son.

The move from Canada to the United States was completed by around 1901-1902.  Archie and Mary would live the rest of their lives in Minnesota.  John (Jack), Nellie (Ellen) and Alexander (Alex) would remain in the United States.  R.S. ventured back to Canada for a short time from about 1915 to 1919 but eventually end up in the United States till his death.  The move from Bemidji to International Falls took place around 1905 to 1906.  Having lived in Chichester, Pontiac Co., Quebec they all had knowledge of the logging industry and so they followed the lumber which would bring prosperity and other types of employment.

In summary so far:

In past posts the life of R.S. (Ronald Sandfield) and Grace (Barclay) McDonald has been featured.  R.S. being a son of Archie and Mary McDonell.  I talked about their marriage in 1898, their children and their lives in International Falls.  R.S. was employed with the International Lumber Co. and also was a commissioner in the area.  The death of Grace and the death of his parents Archie and Mary were also featured.  I stopped with R.S.’s decision to leave for Grand Prairie, Alberta in 1915.  At that time I stepped back in time and described the life of his parents, Archie and Mary,  in Chichester, Pontiac County, Quebec.  Sharing what I knew of the family and its origins.  Then I showed how they migrated to the United States by first going to Bemidji and then to International Falls.  Archie and Mary had siblings and family in the Pontiac County, Quebec and I described what I knew of their families based on Aunt Nellie and Aunt Miriam’s charts. 

My goal now is to talk about the other children of Archibald and Mary McDonell in more detail.  I have mentioned Angus McDonald, the oldest son, and that he left the family after 1881 and may have returned around 1898 only to leave again.  What happened to him?   John or rather Jack and his wife Sarah Burns whom he married just before leaving Canada in 1901.  What happened to them?  Jack was a very interesting man.  Nellie, she devoted her life to raising R.S.’s children after the death of Grace in 1911.  So she followed him wherever he went.  Alexander he remained in International Falls.  From there I will resume the story of R.S. McDonald  from 1915 to his death in 1947.  R.S. and Grace had eight children of which six survived to live out their lives to very advanced ages in some cases, all as United States citizens.

The spelling of McDonell changed to McDonald after the move to Minnesota. 

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Note:  If you get a x where a picture was try clicking it and it will open into another window and show up.  Remember to hit the back around to return to the post.


Archie visits Glengarry County?

January 19, 2012

Aunt Miriam’s notes suggested that Archie went to Glengarry County to visit before he headed to Minnesota. (See the post before this.)  Unfortunately, it is not known where Keith’s grandfather was born or even if he was born in Glengarry County.  There are many McDonald, Macdonell, MacDonald families who lived in that area and it is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Miriam’s notes read “he grew up.”  Does that mean he was born there in Glengarry County or does it mean he only lived there as a boy?  Why did he leave and head up to Chichester, Pontiac Co., Quebec?  Did he go with family or did he strike out on his own? 

At this time, his great-granddaughter does not have enough information to determine the answers to these questions regarding Archie.  Hopefully a trip to Ontario this Spring 2012 will open that door.  (See trip page at the top of this blog). 

A review of the Canadian Census and more for Archibald reveal the following:

1861 – born U.C. age 27 which means his birth year would be about 1834. 

1871 – born Quebec, age 39 this means his birth year would be 1832. 

1881 – born Ontario, age 45 this means his birth year would be 1836.

1891 – born Ontario, age 60 this means his birth year would be 1831

1901 has his birth date as October [5] 1837 in Canada written over with Quebec.

On his death certificate for Minnesota his birth date is listed as 1829 and that Archie was born in Quebec, by his youngest son Alex.

So we have a mess.  Then we throw in the spelling of McDonald, McDonell, Macdonell and it is means checking all forms of the name in research.  With all the border changes in Canada that also adds a challenge as well as Glengarry County’s changes. 

Glengarry - Archives Ontario

According to the St. Alphonse church records his parents were John and Sara McDonell.  His daughter’s charts have the name “Roy” as his father?  There was no mention in the record that they were deceased.  See the posts dated June 30, 2011 “A Mystery – Roy Macdonnell?” and June 17, 2011 “Nellie’s Charts – Her Father Archie McDonell’s Family. “

His siblings’ names were:  Ronald, John, Kitty, Angus, Duncan, and Sarah.  He was the youngest.  That side of the family has not been as easy to find as his wife, Mary’s which I discussed in past posts.  Keith’s sister Eddie said that “Kitty was a weaver.”

He spoke Gaelic at one time but had forgotten it by the time he visited.  All the above suggest he was born in Canada.  There is no indication that he spoke French even though he lived in Chichester, Pontiac County, Quebec. 

The visit to Glengarry took place about 1901 or 1902 and then Archie and Mary headed for Bemidji in Minnesota.  It is not known if Mary went with him? 

So many questions about the origins of Archibald McDonell who might have been Patrick Archibald McDonell. 

 


Archie and Mary McDonell say goodbye to Chichester and head for Bemidji!

January 5, 2012

Archie was about 63 years old in 1901 and Mary, his wife, was about 61.   The story in my father Keith’s family, as told by his sister Miriam, is the sons of Archie and Mary decided it was time for their parents to retire from the farm.  As I have discussed in a past post Archie’s position as lock master had ended in the middle 1890’s.  Remember Ronald and Alex had already made the move to Minnesota and their older brother Angus he was gone, although I believe he came back and his daughter Helena Mary was born there 19 August 1897?  John (Jack) was quoted in later years as saying to his daughter Mary:  ” We (Sarah and Jack) didn’t like all of the king and queen stuff still going on in Canada.”   So the decision to immigrate to Minnesota was made for whatever reason or reasons. 

When did the move take place?

In the 1901 Canadian census for Chichester, Pontiac County, Quebec we find Mary and Archie still living in the area along with their son John (Jack).  

McDonald, Archie, farmer, 63 years old. Birth date is October [5,] 1837. Place of birth is Canada, which is written over with Quebec. Racial origin is given as Scottish, nationality is Canadian. Religion is Catholic. He can read, write and speaks English. His mother tongue is English. McDonald, Mary, birth date is March 13 , 1840, 60 years old. McDonald, John birth date is June 16, 1872, he is 28 years old. 

Source:  1901 Canadian Census, Chichester, Pontiac Co., Quebec CC Film #T6538, 1800 Pontiac, pg. 116. 

Note:  The birth year of John is questionable in this census.  His baptismal record has 3 June 1869 as indicated in the St. Alphonsus Church Records. 

The other interesting fact is that Ellen (Nellie) their daughter is not in this census?  We see that Alexander is also missing along with Ronald and Angus.  I cannot find Ellen, Ronald nor Angus in either the Canadian or U.S. Census in 1901 or 1900.  I have looked everywhere and have given it several tries based on what I know of their lives at the time. 

John (Jack stayed) was highly motivated to stay a little longer because he was about to get married to Sarah Maria Burns.  The 1901 Canadian census was supposed to be enumerated on March 31, 1901 and completed within a month.  Their marriage took place in August of 1901.  I wonder if this event is in the newspaper there?

pg. 356 #6916 McDonald, John Archibald (Archibald McDonald & Mary McDonald) 8/20/1901 to Sarah Burns (Geo.Burns & Cath. McMahon).

Source:  Marriage Due Comte De Pontiac 1836 -1973, pg. 356 #6916, Pub. No. 26, Editions Bergerson & Fils Engr., Montreal, P.Q. FHL#971.4215.K29.  Other versions are on CD-Rom

Or the Drouin Collection at Ancestry.com

Source:  Ancestry.com, Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967 database, Chapeau, Parish, St. Alphonse, Pontiac County, Quebec.  Registres Photographies  Aug Greffe De Campbell’s Bay, No. 17,  20 August 1901.

What this means is the family didn’t leave Chichester, Pontiac County, Quebec until after this marriage took place.  Again, I refer you to Keith’s sister Miriam’s notes about Archibald and Mary and the family which I have shared before in a past post on Archibald.  (Click on the image to make it bigger and remember to hit the back button to return to this post. 

Miriam's Notes on Archie and Mary

 
Archibald, as the notes reads, went to Glengarry, Ontario where he grew up to visit after 40 years and had forgotten his Gaelic.  He was the youngest of seven children – five boys and two girls.  Miriam goes onto to say that the sons made the decision to move their parents. 
 
In preparation for the arrival of Archibald and Mary in Bemidji, their son Ronald (R.S.) and Grace, his wife, (Keith’s parents and my grandparents) bought a house right next to Lake Bemidji.  I had the good fortune to view and tour the house that my family lived in when I visited Bemidji in 2001.  The owner at that time, a very nice lady kindly gave me a tour.  They were renovating the home at the time.  The house is north of the Lake Watch Bed and Breakfast (may not be there anymore) where I stayed in 2000 when we passed through the first time.  The address is 1101 Lakeside Blvd., Bemidji, Beltrami Co., Minnesota.   I do have a photo of the house and remember the inside well.  It was several stories with an enclosed porch and had these old steep stairs to the upper floor. 
 
Ronald and Grace purchased the house from a Wm. Dibble on 29 January 1901.  I found this deed at the Beltrami County Courthouse in Bemidji.  They would not let me see the originals, so I looked at the film using the machine they had in the Registrar of Deeds office.  I will go into further detail on this deed in another post.   Since I cannot find my grandparents in the 1900 U.S. census, this deed is significant in that is places my grandparents, Ronald and Grace in Bemidji in the early part of the 1900’s.

Beltrami Courthouse in Bemidji


Glengarry in Ontario, Canada – Origins of Archibald McDonell?

July 8, 2011

Keith’s sister Miriam writes that Archibald went back to his birth location before he migrated to Minnesota from Canada in 1901.  This information has been shared before but it is worth repeating here:

Archibald & Glengarry, Ontario

Unfortunately, Glengarry, Ontario changed in size over the years so Archibald’s birth location could be very difficult to pin down.  His death certificate from Minnesota didn’t reveal any names for his parents.  No obituary was found in the International Falls newspaper at his death in 1912. 

To find a John and Sara McDonell in the Glengarry area of Ontario or for that matter a Roy Macdonell,  is like finding a needle in a haystack because of all the John McDonell/Macdonell/McDonald etc. spellings.

Keith’s sister Miriam was guessing about our MacDonell heritage.  She did do some research and here are some of her thoughts as she tried to understand the Scottish clan system:

Re: MacDonell

Miriam writes more on the Clan System:

The Clan System and more...

Miriam references Prebble.  This is a book by John Prebble titled “The Highland Clearances,” published by Penquin Books in 1963 and again in 1969.  Her niece found copies in a Scottish store in Annapolis, Maryland on a little road trip years ago. They also had Prebble’s “Glencoe” published first in 1966 and again in 1969. 

The Michael Fullar book was a little harder to come by but a copy was secured as well.  It is really called:  “Your Scottish Clan Heritage.” This large book was published in 1973.  It is almost like a coffee table book with big pages and wonderful photographs and maps. 

Miriam didn’t stop there and continues with yet more Notes:

Notes - The First Use of MacDonell...

Again she refers back to Michael Fullar’s book and to John Prebble’s “The Highland Clearances.”  She even tries to identify Scottish words and their meanings.

Miriam did her best and for that the family is grateful.  The origins of Archibald McDonell are still unknown but then genealogical research is never done. 

There were many forces that sent the people of Scotland to North America and beyond.  Since Miriam did her research back in the 1970’s and 1980’s more books have been written on this subject of the Highland Clearances and immigration of the Scots to Canada and for that matter to the Colonies and later the United States.  It is a big subject and would take years to study.   

Here are a few titles that might be of value in learning about the settlement of Canada by the Scots:

“A History of Glengarry,” by Royce MacGillivray and Ewan Ross, Mika Publishing Co., Belleville, Ontario 1979.

“The People of Glengarry, Highlanders in Transition, 1745-1820,” by Marianne McLean, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991.

“A Dance Called America, The Scottish Highlands the United States and Canada,” by James Hunter, Mainstream Publishing, 1994

“The Highland Scots of North Carolina, 1732-1776, by Duane Meyer, University of North Carolina, 1957 and again in 1961. 

I have found the books by Lucille Campey to be very informative.  Here are a few of her book titles:

“The Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada 1785-1855, Glengarry & Beyond,” Lucille H. Campey, Natural Heritage Books, 2005

“Fast Sailing and Copper-Bottomed Boats, Aberdeen Sailing Ships and the Emigrant Scots They Carried to Canada 1774-1853, Lucille H. Campey, Natural Heritage Books, 2002

“An Unstoppable Force, The Scottish Exodus to Canada,” Lucille H. Campey, Natural Heritage Books, 2008. 

Ms. Campey has a website:  http://www.scotstocanada.com/ She also has her books listed in more detail at her website.  She has added some lists of ships that came to Canada. 

Miriam did not mention another event and that was the subject of Loyalists.  That is a whole other topic.  Just be advised that a great many Scots who lived in the Colonies were loyalists and ended up in Canada after the American Revolution.  They came from North Carolina, New York and other locations and settled in places like New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and of course Glengarry in Ontario, Canada.

“Research Guide to Loyalist Ancestors, A Directory to Archives, Manuscripts, Published and Electronic Sources, by Paul J. Bunnell, F.A.C.G., U.E., Heritage Books, 2006.  Paul is a frequent vendor at major conferences like NGS, FGS and others.  Very nice man easy to talk to. 

Here are a couple of genealogical research strategy books for Canada:

“Finding Your Canadian Ancestors, A Beginner’s Guide,” by Sherry Irvine and Dave Obee.  Ancestry Publishing 2007.  I attended a lecture by Dave at a local genealogical society conference and Sherry is well known in APG which I am a member of.  Here is his website:  http://www.bunnellgenealogybooks.citymaker.com/page/page/994036.htm

“In Search of Your Canadian Roots, Tracing Your Family Tree in Canada, by Angus Baxter, 3rd Edition, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1999.  This is getting a little old but it was a classic in its time. Since 1999 the Internet has opened up a lot in Canadian research. 

Hint:  Click on Miriam’s notes above and they will get bigger, remember to use the back button to return to this post.


Jack McDonald & Sarah Maria Burns!

August 17, 2010

Jack McDonald

Jack McDonald, brother to Ronald and Uncle to Keith, made his home in International Falls and lived a long life there.  His formal name was John Archibald but everyone called him “Jack.”  The photo of Jack was taken in his daughter’s home where she had it resting gently again a lamp in the living room.

On the 20 of August 1901 he married Sarah Maria Burns in Chapeau, Pontiac County, Quebec.  Sarah was part of a very large family that settled in the Chichester/Chapeau area on the Upper Ottawa River.  You can learn more about the Burns family and its connections at this website: http://www.personainternet.com/etbrown/ You can explore more of the website and other surnames.  Click on the Byrns/Burns link and you will go to the detailed pages on the family with photos: http://www.personainternet.com/etbrown/burns.htm  You will find the McDonald’s link. 

He migrated with his wife and his parents to Bemidji, Beltrami County, Minnesota shortly after his marriage.  Jack and Sarah spent about 4 years in Bemidji before they moved permanently in 1905 to International Falls.  It is possible they had a child, maybe two, while living there and they did not survive.

Sarah and Jack McDonald - Int'l Falls

John (Jack) and Sarah McDonald’s children:

1.  George Archibald/Alexander who was born February 28, 1907 and died on March 2, 1907.  This information was taken from the birth register at the Koochiching County Courthouse in International Falls in 2000.

2.  There is a baby buried in the family plot at the cemetery in International Falls named Emma Loretta born September 3, 1911 and died that following October 16, 1911. 

3.  Mary Catherine Genofevan McDonald was born 3 January 1913 in International Falls and died in 2007 in Otter Tail Co., Minnesota.  Mary is buried next to her husband Gilbert Louiseau in the McDonald plot in the St. Thomas Cemetery that is a part of the Forest Hill Cemetery group in International Falls. Mary was 94 years old and I was very lucky to have known her.  Mary and Gil had 3 children who are living and grandchildren. 

Daughter Mary

Jack and Sarah made a good life for themselves in International Falls.  Jack became well-respected in the town and ran for political office.  There home was frequented by many friends.  He was responsible for keeping the children warm and seeing that the boiler at the Alexander Baker School had warmed the building before school began.  Jack was also a volunteer fireman with the International Falls fire department along with his brother Alex.


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