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.


World War I – My McDonald Cousins Serve!

March 15, 2012

Over there, over there!
Send the word, send the word, over there!
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming ev’rywhere!
So prepare, say a prayer, send the word, send the word to beware!
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back ’til it’s over Over There!*

Angus and Louisa’s two sons George and Lorne both participated in World War I.  The two brothers served out of Alaska as indicated on their tombstones.  I will talk about the two brothers in this post. 

Alaska Draft WWI

Photo:  The photo was sent to me by an individual years ago.  He recognized one of the soldiers but unfortunately I do not know for sure if George and Lorne are in this photo?  I tried to seek permission from the person to post but they have not responded.  So I will post the picture and give the link here to more information.  The photo is the last one on the right of the website:  http://www.uib.no/People/hhiso/juneau/frontpage.htm

I also tried to find any other website that might have more information about this photograph but did not succeed at this time.  I have not done much digging in Alaska history but I do know they have a great archive. 

The state archive  http://www.archives.state.ak.us/ and their state library:  http://library.state.ak.us/

George W. McDonald

George W. McDonald

George William McDonald born 16 Dec 1892 in Ironwood, Gogebic, Michigan and died in Seattle, Washington on 2 November 1957.  Buried in Calvary Cemetery, Seattle, Washington 6 November 1957.   As far as I know George did not marry or had any children. 

World War I draft card - George McDonald

George’s World War I draft card is in two pieces.   

Page 2 of the WWI draft card - George McDonald

He does state that he was born in Ironwood, Michigan.  It was signed on Nov. 19, 1917.  How much actual service he participated in I do not know.  There is more research to be done on George’s life and maybe someday I will have the opportunity. 

Funeral Record

I have not taken the time to find an obituary notice on George as the above Funeral announcement suggests.  It might be very interesting to seek. 

Apparently George was a patient at Firland:

Firland Sanatorium, Seattle’s municipal tuberculosis hospital, opened on May 2, 1911, to help combat what was at the time Seattle’s leading cause of death. Firland was located on 34 acres in the Richmond Highlands area, 12 miles north of the then-border of Seattle (in 2002 this first Firland site falls on the Shoreline/Seattle border). The hospital served there until its move to a former Naval hospital (at 15th Avenue NE and 150th Street) in 1947, and continued to treat TB patients until its dissolution in 1973. A leading founder of Firland Sanatorium was the railroad magnate Horace C. Henry (1844-1928), whose son Walter had died of TB.”

This link at History.Link gives some very interesting information about Firland and pictures as well. 

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=3928

Lorne Sanfield McDonald

Lorne S. McDonald's tombstone

Lorne Sanfield McDonald was born 19 January 1894 in Brainerd, Crow Wing Co., Minnesota according to his World War I draft card.  I have been to Brainerd on several occasions to do research on my dad’s mother’s family the Barclay’s.  I refer you to the right side of this blog for the link to Barclay’s of Pine River.

As far as I know Lorne did not marry or have any children. 

Lorne S. McDonald Draft Card

Part two of the draft card:

Page 2 of Lorne's draft card

Lorne’s story is very sad.  He was one of many who died in World War I of the Spanish Flu epidemic.  It hit in several waves and killed more soldiers before they saw combat.  Lorne was one of those soldiers.  Aunt Miriam wrote about him in her notes:

Lauren died of influenza in boot camp during WWI.

When I first tried to research Lorne and the influenza there was nothing on the web at the time.  Now there are many articles and websites that discuss this pandemic.  It was world-wide and it killed 20-40 million people.  This website has some interesting links to survivor stories and more.  http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/  Just Google it and you will get hits by the thousands.  Here is another site:  http://1918.pandemicflu.gov/

We live in a world with treatments for these illnesses like pneumonia, tuberculosis and influenza but back then they did not.  Remember the flu is viral and requires different treatment.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza

George, the brother, apparently was assigned to go and retrieve Lorne’s body from Camp Dodge where he passed.  Rachel the younger sister wrote to my Aunt Miriam in a letter about the events surrounding Lorne’s death:

Jan 2, 1977 – Dear Miriam and Jean: Hope you wont mind if I make one letter both of you. I have tried to make note of dates you wanted but not to proud that I do not have more information. Several years ago Helena was leaving for Japan with her son and family and being born in Canada needed certain information. Well I went to customs as I knew Dad had taken out U.S. papers but because I was born here, I couldn’t get any news. Helena later found the information she needed, but I never knew.

My Dad was a restless man, never stayed in one place long, that is how we went to Juneau, Alaska. He had several good jobs finally was back in Seattle. My brothers went in the army – the 14th Infantry – went to Fort Seward, Haines, Alaska, then shipped out to Camp Dodge, Iowa, where Loren died of the flu in 1918. George was assigned to bring Loren home and buried in Calvary Cemetery. That was our first hard blow to all of us.

I think a gentlemen called at house to trace Dad’s “tree” so Dad told ___ – The man was so elated to trace back to some King – Dad just smoked his pipe and said – I don’t think the Kings credit would be worth a dam at our grocery story. So you see there was not much history to look up. If I have not given the info – you would need – let me know.

I have not seen Helena for several years – guess she & Jim thought Gerry and I were a couple of Hillbillies for settling here but we are happy here and we think this mountain town is beautiful. Today we had a little snow and we hope for more. I know this letter is a “jumble” but chalk it up to old age. I am just over the effects of a Swine Flue shot, and believe me I would rather have the flu. Three weeks of pain and misery. Must ring off and hope you girls will have a very good 1977….

Love Rachel.

I was very excited to find this letter among the papers of my Aunt Miriam.  Rachel tells me so much I already had determined about Angus’s personality and more about her brother Lorne.  She was living in Darrington, Washington at the time she wrote this letter.  I actually went up to Darrington to see if I could find out more about them.  I walked the cemetery there but didn’t find their graves till later.   There is more in this letter that verifies for me the family history but because of living descendants I will hold off.   The city website of Darrington has some wonderful pictures:  http://town.darrington.wa.us/

Camp Dodge was in  Iowa http://www.iowanationalguard.com/Museum/IA_History/BuildingCampDodge.htm

Another challenge with Lorne was the spelling of his first name.  I now go with what was written on his tombstone and draft card.  On his draft card he wrote that his name is “Lorne Sanfield McDonald.”  Again we have the reference to the name “Sanfield.”  Ronald his cousin and Keith’s father was “Ronald Sanfield McDonald.”  Miriam wrote they were named after the Premier of Ontario.  I am still keeping an open mind on that topic.

There is much more I could do on George and Lorne but as always time, money and focus can take you away.  I do know that they rest peacefully next to their parents in Calvary Cemetery in Seattle.

*World War I Music and Songs:  http://www.ww1photos.com/WW1MusicIndex.html


The Family of Angus McDonell, Eldest Son!

February 16, 2012

Angus Lawrence McDonell was the oldest living son of Archibald and Mary McDonell.  According to his brother Jack, who stated in a direct and simple manner:  “Angus left home!” 

From what I can figure from the Canadian Census he left home after 1881 and headed probably to Wisconsin.  This is where his wife Louisa was born.  

Angus was born in Chichester on 6 August, 1864 and was baptized 13 August 1864 at the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Chapeau.  The priest wrote his name as Agnes in the records.  I believe it to be him because the date matches the date I have for his birth on his death certificate and from my Aunt Miriam’s notes.  I refer you to my past post dated January 29, 2011 “Archie & Mary’s children: Angus McDonell.”

Angus was one of my first attempts at genealogical research and it was so much fun that I got hooked.  Of course, one question answered lead to another and Angus was not easy and I still have big gaps in his research.

Keith, my dad, never mentioned or talked about Angus.  Angus was sort of  a legend to me as a child.  I always had this idea that Angus was in the woods somewhere sort of like “Paul Bunyan.”  I am not being mean, just a fancy of a child. 

Angus married Louisa Jane Hanson about 1891.  She was born 12 September 1866 in Scandinavia, Waupaca, Wisconsin.  I obtained this information from her death certificate and her obituary.  Her parents were Ole Hanson born in Norway and Lena who was born in Sweden.  She had at least two siblings:  Albert H. Hanson born about 1853 and Frank G. Hanson born about 1858.  This information is taken from U.S. Federal census. 

A Man and Woman - Angus & Louisa - Could this be them?

The photograph is a very big guess on my part.  I found it in my Aunt Vivian’s (older sister to Miriam and Keith) photo album.  I know that she visited her uncle in Seattle and that is where she met her husband Hilary McKanna.  I think it is Angus and that might be Louisa but she seems a bit older and that causes me to hesitate?  I tried to find the house but was not successful.  If I found the house I might be able to trace back to who owned it?  There was nothing written on the back or anything to indicate who these people are other than the context of the photographs and their position in the album. 

Here is the Collage showing the series of photographs!

Angus was not in the family portrait that was taken in Bemidji in 1904-1905. I have featured that photograph on this blog in the posted dated March 20, 2010 “Archibald and Mary McDonald’s Children.”

Angus and Louisa had at least 4 children:

1.  George William McDonald, born 16 December 1892 in Ironwood, Gogebic, Michigan.  He died  2 November 1857 in Seattle, King Co., Washington.  George served in WWI.  He died of tuberculosis in a home in Seattle.  The story is Keith, my father, visited him on occasion.  As far as I know George didn’t marry or have children.  

2.  Lorne Sandfield McDonald was born 19 January 1894 in Brainerd, Crow Wing Co., Minnesota.  He died of the influzena in WWI on 15 October 1918, at Camp Dodge, Polk Co., Iowa.  He never married. 

My Aunt Miriam talked about this family in her notes and spelled his name “Lauren.”  It is interesting that he had the middle name of Sandfield, like my grandfather Ronald.  Miriam said they were named after the first premier of Ontario:  John Sandfield MacDonald.  So far I have yet to find any family connection? I am keeping an open mind on this topic!

3.  Helena Mary McDonald, was born 19 August 1897 in Chichester, Pontiac Co., Quebec.  She died on 31 August 1979 in Silverton, Marion Co., Oregon.  She was married 3 times.  First to Claude Penglase probably before 1920, Jack, and then a Grant Standford Capps who may have died on 24 December 1985 in Tacoma, Pierce Co., Washington but this has yet to be verified.   This means that Angus did go back to his birth home and visit the family. 

Helena Mary name seems to get changed around a lot.  She was called either Helena or Mary depending on the record.  She was never buried in a cemetery instead her ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean near Portland according to the funeral home listed on her death record.

Helena Mary had at least one son by the name of George Robert Penglase born 8 November 1921 in Seattle, King Co., Washington and died 31 January 1958.  He was buried on 19 February 1969 in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon at the Williamette National Cemetery there.  He served in WWII and Korea and apparently his body was moved at some point.  This is why there is a different burial date.  George married a Lucy June Moen about 1940 in King County, Washington and that ended in divorce.  They had 3 children, 2 girls and 1 son who served in the military and past in 2005. There are living descendants of this family. 

4. Rachel McDonald was born in Brule, Douglas, Wisconsin 16 October 1899.  She died 3 March 1988 in Lynnwood, Snohomish Co., Washington.  Rachel married first to Otto Frances Berg born 17 January 1894 in Minnesota and died 21 February 1973 in Seattle, King Co., Washington.  They had one son Donald Frances Berg born 11 March 1924 in Astoria, Clatsop County, Oregon.  I had the honor to meet Donald and his family. He had suffered a terrible stroke and could only answer my questions with a nod of his head.  He did marry and have 4 children.  He died in 2005 and the funeral was a full military service with the gun salute.  I occasionally hear the sounds of guns and wondered what it meant.  Now I know! There are living descendants of this family in the area. 

Rachel remarried to a Gerald P. Jameson born 18 August 1899 and died 26 January 1986.  They were married about 1956. 

Donald, Rachel and Gerald are buried in the Holyrood Catholic cemetery in north Seattle, Washington just 5 minutes from my home.  

So you see when I did this research on Angus’ family I was total amazed that they were so close. I have a vague memory of my Dad and Mom talking about someone and I think it was George and maybe we did visit him? I was about 10 years old and kids hear things or events happen but it doesn’t always make sense?  

Why my family didn’t share all this or talk about this, well I have my theories? Aunt Miriam did give me notes but they were brief.  They did point the way. 

My advice is to encourage you to ask and ask now!  Be gentle and probe carefully but most of all be patient and maybe the family will open up.


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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