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.


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.


The Migration to Minnesota Begins for the McDonell’s!

December 23, 2011

Ronald S. McDonald, Keith’s father and my grandfather, appears in the Minnesota State Census for the year 1895.  He is living in Hennepin County, Minnesota.  He has been living in Minnesota for 4 years.  This may mean he might have left home right before the Canadian census for 1891 was enumerated?  He would have been 25 years old by that time and probably wanting to strike out on his own.  

McDonald, Ronald, age 29, male, white, born in Canada, 4 yrs in state, 4 years in dist, Lumberman, 12 mos. employed, parents of foreign birth – yes, yes, was not enumerated before – no. Source:  Minnesota State Census 1895, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, pg. 7.  Ancestry.com.

Note:  The counties around the area of the twin cities in Minnesota are Ramsey (St. Paul) and Hennepin (Minneapolis) so you do have to pay attention when doing research or check the documents for both counties.

Apparently, Ronald or better known as R.S. decided to become naturalized.  Naturalization is not easy to find in the early years before about 1906 when they changed the laws.  It is usually in the court where the person applied.  I made an educated guess and wrote to the court in Hennepin county and was very lucky. 

1. A.R. McPherson swears that he knows Ronald S. McDonald and that he has resided in the country for over 5 years and one year past and is of good moral character. Followed by Ronald S. McDonald swearing allegiance to the United States and the State of Minnesota and renounces his allegiance to the King of Great Britain. Ronald S. McDonald is granted citizenship and it is Signed by David T Simpson, Judge District Court, Dec. 16, 1901.

2. Second document stating that Ronald S. McDonald had appeared on the 15th Day of October in 1894 and made his declaration of intention at that time to become a citizen of the United States. Signed by the Clerk of the Court (unreadable) and the Deputy of the Court on Dec. 16, 1901.

Source: State of Minnesota Fourth Judicial District, Hennepin County, Minnesota #341-6, December 16, 1901, Witnessed by A. R. McPherson and signed by the Clerk of the court (unreadable).

One of the Naturalization papers for Ronald McDonald

This helps to place Keith’s father in the United States and Minnesota in and before October 1894 or earlier. 

My Aunt Miriam wrote the following about her father: 

Ronald McDonald Mini Bio

 
R.S. did know and worked for E. W. Backus the “last of the lumber barons.”  In the papers of the Minnesota Historical Society I was unable to find any actual employment records for my grandfather in E. W.’s files.  E. W. Backus can be Googled and you will find information about him.  I found many manuscripts and articles at the Koochiching County Historical Society. 
 
An email to the librarian at Grand Rapids, Minnesota inquiring about schools of the type mentioned in my Aunt Miriam’s notes informed me that the town was too small to support a school of this type.  So this means R.S. probably attended in one of several locations like Duluth, Minneapolis, or St. Paul which would make more sense for the time period. 
 
Brother Alexander was shortly to follow and from documentation it looks like he came into Minnesota about 1897 and was living probably in Duluth.   Single individuals are hard to pin down in the census and in city directories. 

An Unexpected Tragedy!

July 18, 2010

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

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

Grace McDonald 1910

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Rapids Obituary 

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

Grand Rapids Examiner, no date given.”

 

Holly Apostle Church 1906

  Obituary Notice Intern’l Falls

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

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

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


Brother Gordy!

July 9, 2010

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

His full formal name is:  Ronald Gordon George McDonald

Baby Gordon 1904

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

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

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

Gordon & The Public School

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

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

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


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.


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