R.S.’s Traveling Card – Knights of Columbus

January 31, 2013

R.S. McDonald was involved with the Knights of Columbus.  He was issued a Traveling Card on 11/24/1919 by the Koochiching Council #1540.

For R.S. McDonald

For R.S. McDonald

This places my grandfather R.S. in Cheney, Washington by 1919.

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal benefits society.  This website explains their founding principles.  http://www.kofc.org/un/en/about/index.html  I called the International Falls office of the Knights of Columbus to find out if I could get more information on R.S. but they were unable to comply.  You never know about these types of organizations but it is still worth a try to seek them out and inquire.


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.


Alexander Thomas McDonald passes in 1955

November 22, 2012

I never met my great Uncle Alex.  He died with I was 7 years old and we did live quite a distance from each other.

Photo:  The following photograph is of Alexander visiting with his nephews, Keith is on the left and Gordon is in the middle.  This photo below is an interesting contrast between the photo of Keith as a little boy sitting on Alex’s knee for the Fireman’s conference in the post dated:  August 7, 2010 “Alexander Thomas McDonald, Fireman.”  Photo is probably circa 1930’s.  Keith was about 5 feet 5 inches so we can see that Alex was probably just a tad taller and solidly built.  The men may have been short but they were stocky in build.

Uncle Alex with Keith and Gordon

When I visited my cousin Mary, Alex’s niece, in 2000 and 2001 and she told me stories about Alexander.

Alex never married but he did have on occasion ladies he was fond of.  He used to go down to the Boston Cafe at the same time every day.  He was fond of Sadie Rule who worked there.  He also had fancy cars and use to take his girl Jean for drives. Jean was a nice lady. 

Sarah, her mother, used to have Alex over for Sunday dinners every week.  Alex lived with Mary for a time towards the end of his life when he started getting sick but he was too regimented a person and did not understand what life was like for a family.  Alex visited her in the hospital when she had her 2nd child and while he was sitting there he had a stroke (1952).  He died of pneumonia in 1955 with complications (throat cancer).”

In an article in the Fireman’s Centennial Book, International Falls, 1982 this appears:

“Gil” Louiseau retires 1982….Gil Louiseau retired from the International Falls fire department September 15, 1983 after serving 26 years…Gil’s wife Mary, is the former Mary McDonald, whose father Jack and Uncle Alex were early day fireman with the International Falls Fire Department. Uncle Alex served as relief driver and caretaker of the team of horses which were the only ‘horsepower’ the early day department had to haul the water wagon to fire locations within the city…”

Alex is mentioned on page 3 in the Volunteer Fireman listings of 1900-1992. On page 12 there is a photo of the horse team and both Alex and Jack are listed. On page 21 there is a picture of the firehouse were Alex was stationed.  

Falls Firemen 1917

Obituary found in the Daily Journal, International Falls, MN on November 4, 1955. This newspaper obituary notice was in the files of the Koochiching Public Library.

Alex McDonald, Falls Resident since 1904, Dies. Alex T. McDonald, 80, pioneer resident of International Falls, died late Thursday night at the Falls Nursing home, where he has made his home for several years. He had been confined to his bed for about a week. Born in Chichester, Que., November 25, 1874, he moved to Duluth in 1897. From there he came to International Falls in 1904 and has lived here since that time, except for a brief period spent in Western Canada. McDonald operated a dray line in the Falls for 11 years, and was city weighmaster from 1919 to 1947, a period of 28 years. He never married. A niece, Mrs. Gilbert Louiseau of the Falls, survives. Rosary service will be conducted at Green Mortuary Sunday evening at 8 o’clock. Requiem high mass at St. Thomas Catholic church is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Monday. Interment will be in the family plot of St. Thomas cemetery. Funeral arrangements were made by Green Mortuary.

Alex’s death certificate states the following:

Alexander died at the County Nursing Home, 2 miles south of International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota. Died Nov. 3, 1955, Male, white, never married, date of birth Nov. 25, 1874, age 80 years. City Weighmaster, ret’d, city employee. Born in Chichester, Quebec, Canada. Citizen of the USA. Father was Archibald McDonald and Mother was Mary McDonald. He did not serve in the US Armed forces, no SS#, informant was Mary C. Louiseau of Inter’l Falls. Died of pneumonia lober, 1.5 days. C. B. Will, M.D. Filed Nov. 22, 1955 by Registrar. Green Mortuary handled the arrangements.  Source:  Alexander T. McDonald, Certificate of Death #7718, Nov. 3, 1955 FHL#2139432.

Weighmaster definition: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-a-weighmaster-do.htm

Overview of the McDonald plot in St. Thomas Cemetery International Falls

Alex is buried with his father, mother, brother Jack and others in the family plot in the St. Thomas Cemetery in International Falls.  This cemetery is part of three cemeteries located east and south in the town of International Falls.  You will find a link on the right side of this blog to the Forest Hill Cemetery in International Falls where you will find a listing of burials for all three cemeteries.

Alex’s tombstone in St. Thomas Cemetery

NOTE:  Much to my frustration Alex’s birth is inconsistent and different dates are given on his tombstone, his death certificate, obit and from the St. Alphonsus Church records.  This is not unusual.  The question is which one is more reliable.  I think I lean toward the St. Alphonsus church records because the parents were alive at that time and knew the priest. The priest is still not directly involved in the actual birth but closer to the actual event. The parents are the ones who know the actual dates of birth but over time even they can forget.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It is now time to behind International Falls and refocus on  R.S. (Ronald), my grandfather and his movements.  Remember that Ronald (R.S. ) left International Falls about 1915 and headed up to Grand Prairie, Alberta where he  established a store but lost it because a partner gambled it away.  The loss of the store was not the end of my grandfather’s troubles.  He was involved in a court case regarding about land in Koochiching County and I will share that in the next post.


Alex McDonald – 58 years in Minnesota!

November 11, 2012

Alexander Thomas McDonald spent 58 years of  his life living in Minnesota. He came down before his parents, Archie and Mary,  in 1897 and  lived in Duluth, Minnesota for a while.  I found an Alex McDonald in the city directories in Duluth, but it is difficult to know if that really was him?

Alex McDonald

I shared about Alexander Thomas McDonald the youngest son of Archibald and Mary McDonald in several previous posts:

1.  Archibald and Mary McDonald’s Children, dated March 20, 2011.  This post has the wonderful family photograph of the McDonald’s except for Angus the oldest brother.

2.  Alexander Thomas McDonald, Fireman, dated August 7, 2010.  There are several photos in this post showing Alex in his fireman’s uniform.  The 2nd photograph has Keith sitting on his knee.

3.  Archie & Mary’s Children:  Alexander Thomas McDonald, dated March 31, 2010 in which I share the birth of Alex and his record from the St. Alphonsus Church records.

Alex apparently decided to become Naturalized and applied for his Certificate of Intention #175 on 30 January 1905:

State of Minnesota, County of Itasca, Alex T. McDonald, appeared in the District Court of the 15th Judicial District for the State of Minnesota.  He was born in Canada about the year 1872 and emigrated to the United States an landed at the Port of Sault Ste. Marie on or about the month of November 1897.  It is Bona fide his intention to become a Citizen of the United States and renounce forever all fidelity to the Queen of Great Britain..whereof he is a subject, signed Alex T. McDonald, 21 November, 1898, I.D. Rassmussan, Clerk.  This is a true copy signed January 30, 1905, I.D. Rasmussan, Clerk.

Certificate of Intention

Source:  Declaration of Intention of Alex. T. McDonald, #175, County of Itasca, State of Minnesota, copy given to the compiler by his nephew.

Certificate of Citizenship, United States of America, District Court Co. of Itasca, State of Minnesota, Naturalization of Alex T. McDonald, 23rd day of Feb, 1905, Seal of the said Court on the 23rd day of Feb 1905, I.D. Rassmussen Clerk.

Source:  Certificate of Citizenship, Alex T. McDonald, Itasca County, Minnesota.  copy given to the compiler by his nephew.

Koochiching had not yet been established as a county and was part of Itasca County things were slowly developing in northern Minnesota at this time and it was difficult to get around until the train came.

The Minnesota State Census indicates that Alex was living in International Falls in 1905. If the information is correct Alex migrated to International Falls by 1899:

Line 8, McDonald, A. T., male, age 31, white, born in Canada, both parents born in Canada, 8 years in Minnesota, 6 yrs in the enumeration district, laborer.

Minnesota census

Source:  1905 Minnesota State Census, Village of International Falls, Twp. of Koochiching, County of Itasca, State of Minnesota, line 8, Sht #2, enumerated on June 1-20, 1905 by Harvey Gale, Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.

Note: Minnesota State Census went online at Ancestry.com a couple of years after I had done my research at the FHL and the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul in the census.

The U. S. Federal Census for 1910 is very interesting because Alex was listed as the head of the household. I was expecting Archibald to be head based on family stories.

12/14 – McDonald, Alex, head X, male, white, 34 years old single, born in Canada and also his parents were born in Canada.  Lived in this country 12 years, naturalized.  Speaks English, is a teamster and operates a dray line.  Nellie, sister, female, white, 38 years old single, born in Canada and parents too, 10 years in this country and not naturalized, no occupation given.  Archie, father, male, white, 80 years old, married, 49 years, born in Canada, parents born in Scotland, in this country 8 years, naturalized, speaks English, no occupation.  Mary, mother, female, white, 76 years old, married 49 years, 5 children of which 4 are living, born in Canada, parents born in Scotland, in this country 8 years, speaks English, no occupation.  All can read and write.

Source:  1910 U.S. Federal Census, Alex McDonald & Others, International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota, SD#8, ED#92, enumerated April 15, 1910, National Archives, Pacific NW Region, Seattle, WA.

Jack and brother Alex in International Falls

Here Alex is buying lots 9 and 10 in block 53 in International Falls.  At this point I have no way to verify if this is the house that the family said was built by Archie?

Deed Record G pg. 38, The Koochiching Co. and Alexander T. McDonald on the 17th day of Sept. 1908 at 1 p.m.  Frank S. Spang, Register of Deeds.  On the 15th of April 1907 Alexander paid $500 for lots 9 and 10 in block 53 of International Falls.  Instrument no. C 327.

Source:  Deed Record Book G, pg. 38, Alexander T. McDonald, #C327, Koochiching County, Minnesota, from the Koochiching County Courthouse Call #38 C No. 327, September 14, 1908, 1 pm.

Alex later sold the lots on March 8, 1920 at 9 am to John McGivney for $2600.00, #25889, No. 39, pg. 121.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census Alex is rooming with another person:

Line 95, 4th and Second St., X/60/91, McDonald, Alex, Head, renting, male, white, age 46, single, years of immigration and naturalization unclear, not in school as of 1919, able to read and write, born in Canada, parents both born in Canada, native tongue English, able to speak English, occupation Driver, Fire Barn, working.  Line 96 at same address as Alex. Thomas, Arthur, boarder, male, mulatto, age 50, single, not in school as of 1919, able to read and write, born in Kansas, parents both in Kentucky, janitor, bank, working.

Source:  1920 U.S. Federal Census, City of International Falls, Co. of Koochiching, Minnesota, SD#8, ED#52, Ward #3, Vol. 41, pg. 4, Ancestry.com.

In review, things had changed greatly for Alex.  His sister Nellie was with Ronald (R.S.) helping with raising the six children in Cheney, Washington.  Archibald and Mary and both passed 8-9 years earlier.  John (Jack) his brother had a family and daughter to raise even though they were in the same city and lived not far from each other.

R.S. and brother Alex in Cheney 1924

During the 1920’s Alex headed west and visited his brother R.S. and sister Nellie.  He attended the wedding of his niece Vivian to Hilary McKanna in 1924.  Year’s later Vivian would ask her uncle to sign and affidavit to help her establish her birth date and location so she could obtain social security.  These two events will be covered in future posts.

The 1930 U.S. Census reveals that Alex is still in International Falls

Line 46, Alexander T. McDonald at City Hall #356, 460 under head lodger, Rents, personal property $20.00, he does not live on a farm, Male, White, 56 years old, Single, parents are Canadian-English and so is he. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1897 and is naturalized. His occupation is fireman at the City Fire Dept.. He is not a veteran. Alexander has listed under his name Bert Budde and Henry LeBlanc. I am familiar with these names and they are also listed as fireman with the City Fire Dept.

Source:  1930 U.S. Federal Census, International Falls, Koochiching Twp., and County, Dist #20, ED#36-20, SD #2, Sht #21A #139, dated April 16, 1930, Ancestry.com.


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 McDonald becomes Mayor!

August 31, 2012

I visited with my cousin Mary in 2000 and 2001 and she shared several stories of her father. 

She told me that he was Mayor of International Falls for a period of approximately 2 years (1922-1924).   He was talked into it by several of the town “big shots.” Prior to his service as major, he served on the city council.  He was very active in the politics of the city. 

Jack and Sarah’s home was located on 6th street on the southwest corner and was a familiar place in town.  People would come by  to visit with Jack and “Ms. McDonald” as they called Sarah, Mary’s mother.  Sarah set a good table. John Archibald McDonald was best known as “Jack” to his family and friends.

Mary described her dad with a great deal of affection. He was a kind man and always knew the right thing to say and do. She couldn’t wait to get home from school to see and talk to her dad.

Jack visits his siblings!

Photo:  Jack is on the left and here he is visiting with two of his siblings.  Nellie is in the middle and Ronald (R.S.) is on the right.   

2nd photo: Miriam, Jack, Vivian, Nellie and R.S.

Photo:  This is another version of the photo above and this time we include Jack’s niece Miriam on the left, Jack, Vivian another of Jack’s nieces, Nellie and Ronald (R.S.) He is the father of Miriam and Vivian.  The date is 1938. 

The 1938 date means that the family was still in Spokane because Vivian is there and she lived east in Opportunity with her husband Hilary.  It also could have been taken in Yakima were Ronald and Nellie moved to be with Miriam who was teaching school in Yakima.  These are my father Keith’s family:  his sisters, uncle, aunt and father.

Jack was often fond of joking that he was “only the janitor of the school.”  Jack actually helped to build the Alexander Baker school and then he took on the task of caring for the boiler there. He would get up and go to work in the early morning to turn the boiler on to heat the school for the little children who attended. 

http://www.businessupnorth.com/nl_1209_2.shtml

International Falls is considered one of the coldest cities in the U.S., so Jack’s service was probably very much appreciated.

The Alexander Baker School 2001

Earlier in his residence in International Falls, he ran a dray service sharing the work with his brother Alex.  In a small town like International Falls the inhabitants frequently had several jobs to support the family.

International Falls 1st City Directory

Page 64 features McDonald Dray & Transfer, Alex McDonald propr. 1107 6th st. Tel 51. McDonald, Alex, propr McDonald Dray & Transfer, 1107 6th st. Tel 51.

McDonald John A. janitor Alexander Baker School, 903 6th st, Te. 286. On pg. 19 it reads, McDonald Ellen, civil servant, 421 1st st., McDonald John, lab, 221 Nelson St.

Source:  First Annual Directory, International Falls and Additions Rainier, Minnesota and  Fort Francis, Ontario.  Landgraf & York Publishers, International Falls, MN, 1917-18, pg. 64 and pg. 19. Koochiching County Library.

NOTE: What is a Dray line.  It has not been easy to get a good description or explanation of this type of occupation.  Dray refers to a wagon draw by either horses or oxen and here is the best that I could do. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagon 

Here is page 9 of the International Falls City Directory:

Page 9 of the International Falls City Directory

Notes about page 9:  There are several McDonalds listed.  Ellen McDonald is in civil service.  Is this Nellie?  It this is her then this means that she may not have gone with her brother R.S. till much later? I have not been able to get enough information on Nellie’s activities and when she actually took up the task of caring for R.S.’s children. 

John is listed as a laborer.  There is also an Arthur and Malcolm McDonald who are unknown to me? R.S. is not listed which would be correct. He left about 1915 for Grand Prairie, Alberta.  There is no Alex which is odd.

Here we see Jack and Sarah living in International Falls in the 1910 census:

22/24 McDonald, John, head, 46 yrs. old, married 8 years. Born in Canada (L), parents the same. 8 years a citizen, Speaks English. Teamster of a dray line, employed. Sarah, wife, 46, married 8 years. Born in Canada (L), parents born in Canada (L). In the US 8 years, speaks English no profession.

Source:  John A. McDonald Family, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota, SD#8, ED 92, Sht# 2-A, April 15 or 16, 1910, by [     ].

Jack, Sarah and their daughter appear in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census.  Apparently they did apply and became naturalized in 1909.  Acording to Ancestry.com they are on a list of naturalizations held at the Iron Range Research Center.  I will have to put this on the To Do List.

Line 48, 903/463/457, McDonald, John, Head, home owned, mortgage, male, white, age 50, married, immigrated to US 1902, naturalized in 1909, not at school in 1919, able to read and write, born in Canada, parents born in Canada, mother tongue English, janitor, school, working. McDonald, Sarah, wife, female, white, 45 yrs old, married, immigrated 1902 naturalized in 1909, born in Canada, not in school in 1919, able to read and write, parents both born in Ireland, native tongue English, able to speak English, no occupation. McDonald, daughter, female, white, 7 years old, single, able to read and write, born in Minnesota, able to speak English, no occupation.

Source: John McDonald Family, 1920 U.S. Federal Census, International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota, SD&ED 53, Ward 3, Sht. #23A, enumerated January 28, 1920.

Jack served with the International Falls fire department.

A Flash back to 1910 Falls Fire Dept banquet

The original newspaper article was cut off but it is probably the International Falls Daily Journal, 4/8/1949 – North Country Album – Early Day Photos of Your Centennial Year Scrap Book.

Jack is the J.A. McDonald they list. (Click on the photo and it will appear in a bigger size, then hit your back button to come back to this blog.)


R.S. McDonald Leaves International Falls!

October 5, 2010

Papa 1910

What made Keith’s father R. S. (Ronald) decide to leave International Falls is sort of a mystery?  He left International Falls for Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada and opened a store.   

Life was never the same after Grace’s death 1911, so maybe R.S. just felt there was nothing in International Falls to keep him there.  In addition the loss of both his parents may have been another factor.  Archie passed in 1912 and then Mary in 1913.  Maybe he felt it was just too much for him.  His two brother’s John (Jack) and Alex still lived in International Falls and continued to do so until their deaths decades later.    

Nellie (Elizabeth Ellen), his sister, also lived in International Falls with the parents and her brother Alex.  Nellie was to play and important part in the lives of R.S.’s (Ronald’s) children.  It is unclear if she went with him to Grande Prairie or stayed behind in International Falls.  At some point she does join her older brother to help him raise the children.   

The house on Riverside drive and land had been purchased in 1907 and the family and lived there since.  Here is the description of that purchase:  

Purchased by deed lots eleven (11) and twelve (12) in block forty-six (46)  in Koochiching County from the Koochiching Company, based out of Iowa) on 1 st of April 1907 (except taxes of 1905 and 1906 if any) for $1500.00.  Witnesses present were Washington Gray and F.B. Parsons.  Representatives of the Koochiching Company were Wm. F. Brooks and C. J. Rockwood.  It was filed for record on the 22nd of April 1908, at 10 o’clock a.m. and signed by Frank. [S] Lang Register of Deeds by J.A. Crouse Deputy.  Page 24, Deed Record (E crossed out and replaced) G, Instrument #2431.  Frank E. Lang was the Registrar of Deeds and J.A. Crouse was the Deputy at the recording of the deed on 22nd of April, 1908.   

The sale:  

Deed of Sale Lots 11 and 12

 On December 31st of 1915 the same lots eleven (11) and twelve (12) of block forty-six (46) of International Falls, Minnesota were sold to a M.E. Withrow for Six thousand ($6000.00).  The witnesses were W. V. Kane and M. Frank.  It was signed by W. V. Kane as Notary.  Deed Record 28, Koochiching Co., Minnesota, Instrument #23431, pg. 6.  Frank E. Lang was again the Registrar of Deeds at the recording of the deed on 1 Jan, 1916.   

So from 1916 to approximately 1919 Ronald and family were probably living in Grande Prairie, Alberta until his partner gambled away the store and all was lost according to family lore.     

Below is a picture of the store:  McDonald Land and Trading Company, The Store of Quality – Hardware, Furniture, Groceries, Shoes, Clothing, Dry Goods and more…   

McDonald Store

R.S. (Ronald) apparently had partners:  E.E. Petersen, Papa and Henry Otto are written on the photograph below.  In very light writing is the words:  Smokey Point.   

The Three Partners

Keith and his siblings didn’t talk much about their experiences in Grand Prairie, Alberta.  The only piece of information comes from sister Miriam who comments briefly in her notes about her brother Gordon:   

Gordon was bright. Good in math.  Learned his geometry in grade 8 in Grande Prairie, Alta.    

Memorabilia in the form of a postcard appears in sister Eddie’s “Pile of Junk” book:   

Grand Prairie - Postcard

More research needs to be done on this period of time from 1916 to 1920 in deeds, mortgages, school records and newspapers in the Grand Prairie area to see if more information comes to light on this vague time in Keith’s siblings and father’s life.    

The next time we find R.S. (Ronald) he is in living in Cheney, Spokane Co., Washington in 1920.  The children are with him and his sister Nellie is there as well.    

Before we study that part of Keith’s family history let us go back further in time to learn about the origins of the McDonald’s and where they came from in Canada. 

Photo at beginning:  Ronald appears in a full length fur coat and the photo is dated 1910.  Although it is five years before he leaves International Falls, I think it is apparent that Ronald was not unprepared for heading north deeper into Canada. 

Mary McDonell Passes!

September 19, 2010

No sooner did Archibald pass than Keith lost his grandmother Mary.  I found a death certificate at the Family History Library on Film #2138530.  She passed on 8 September, 1913 #6084. 

Mary McDonald 1834 to 1913

Mary Elizabeth McDonald died in International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota, died on Sept 8th 1913, female, white, widowed, date of birth March 13, 1834, 79 yrs, 5 mos, 25 days.  Housewife, born in Canada.  Father’s name Alex McDonald born in Scotland, mother Mary McPherson, born in Scotland.  Informant was Nellie McDonald, International Falls.  Filed Sept 10, 1913.  Died of old age, signed by Robt. Monahau M.D.  Burial International Falls, MN on Sept 10, 1913.  

This time the informant was Nellie (Elizabeth Ellen) her daughter and Nellie seemed to know more about the family and who Mary’s parents were.  Nellie lists them as Alex McDonald and he was born in Scotland.  The mother is Mary McPherson but other records have the name as Ellen.  The doctor might be spelled “Monahan.” 

Fortunately the International Falls Press newspaper had an obituary notice for Mary, published on 11 September 1913, pg. 2.  Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul. 

Mrs. McDonald Passed Away 

On Monday night last Mrs. Mary McDonald quietly passed away at the home of her son Mr. R.S. McDonald where she has resided since the death of her husband, Mr. Alex McDonald about a year ago.  Mrs. McDonald has been gradually failing for the past few months and finally passed away in her sleep at the good ripe old  age of 79 years.  She was a good woman, of large and good family, true to her church, and people and helpful to all with whom she came in contact.  She is survived by five of her children Angus, who lives in Seattle, Wash. Ronald, S., Alex, John and Miss Nellie who reside in this city.  The funeral services were conducted at the Catholic church by her pastor Rev. Fr. Killeen yesterday and her remains were interred in the local cemetery by the side of her husband. 

As usual obituary notices are helpful and can have mistakes.  They list her husband as Alex and his name was Archibald.  

Mary is next to Archibald in the St. Thomas Cemetery which is part of the Forest Hill Cemetery grouping.  She resides with him in the plot with the large monument towering above.  She also has a simple stone plaque: 

Mary's Final Resting Place

The dates given for Mary are 1834 to 1913.  The obituary notice mentions her large family and this is true as we will come to learn in future posts. 

Keith’s father Ronald had lost his wife and now both of his parents.  It must have been hard times for the family.


Archibald McDonald Dies Peacefully in His Sleep!

September 8, 2010

Archibald McDonald/McDonell

Keith was only 2 years old when his grandfather Archibald McDonald passed.  Archie went to bed one night and the next morning it was discovered that he had peacefully died in the night.  

The International Falls newspaper was studied for an obituary notice but none was found.  The Rainy River newspapers were also searched and failed to reveal anything about his death.  The Koochiching County Courthouse clerk of the court for probate was contacted to see if their was an estate file but none was found. 

The Minnesota Historical Society has death certificates via their online index and at the society library.  I found this at the Family History Library on film #2138519, dated April 18, 1912.  

Archibald McDonald died in International Falls, Koochiching Co., Minnesota on April 18, 1912. Male, white, married. Date of birth not known but the year 1829 was entered, about 83 yrs old. Occupation: carpenter, was born in the Province of Quebec, name of father unknown, believed he was born in Scotland, name of mother and her birthplace unknown. The informant was Alex McDonald, of International Falls, Minnesota. Filed April 20, 1912. Died of old age, patient went to bed in good health and was found dead in early morning. Mary C. Ghostley MD, April 20, 1912, International Falls. Buried in International Falls, April 20, 1912. 

Apparently his youngest son Alexander didn’t know much about his father’s origins or who the parents where.  There is a lot of confusion about Archie’s birth location.  Keith’s sister Miriam gives the date as 1827.  Alexander writes that he was about 83 years of age which would mean he was born in 1829.  The 1901 census for Canada gives 1837.  The exact birth and location have not been verified.

McDonald Tombstone

Archibald is buried in the St. Thomas Cemetery which is part of the Forest Hill Cemetery in International Falls.  The large McDonald monument marks the spot of the cemetery plot.  Archie’s tombstone is further defined by a simple plaque with his name.  He rests next to his wife, sons and daughter-in-law Grace. 

Archibald's individual stone

As you can see the tombstone has 1835 to 1912 for his lifespan.  

The origins of Archibald are shrouded in mystery at this time.  I do know that he lived for many years in the area of Chichester and Chapeau, Quebec on the Upper Ottawa River from 1861 to 1901 when he immigrated to the U.S with his children.  We will visit those years in a couple of posts.


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