Archie & Mary’s Children: Alexander Thomas McDonald

March 31, 2011

Archie and Mary McDonell welcomed their seventh child Alexander Thomas McDonell. 

He was born 2nd December 1872 in Chichester and baptized the 17th of December 1872 at the St. Alphonsus Church in Chapeau. 

Alexander's Birth Record

Source:  Baptism, Marriage and Burial Index, St. Alphonsus Church, 1846-1920 FHL# B131, #1029798.  Also on Ancestry.com under the Drouin Collection. 

Alexander, or better known as “Alex,” lived a long life passing away at 82 years old in International Falls and he is buried next to his older brother John (Jack) and his parents.  Alex never married but family lore states that he had several girlfriends, liked fancy cars and smoked big cigars.

Uncle Alex

Alex is featured with his nephew Keith in his fireman uniform in the posted dated:  August 7, 2010.


Archie & Mary’s Children: John Archibald McDonald

March 3, 2011

Keith’s Uncle John Archibald McDonell was born 3rd of June 1869 in Chichester and baptized on 14 June 1869 at the St. Alphonsus Church in Chapeau. 

John's Baptismal Record pg 1

John's Baptismal Record pg2

Source:  Baptism, Marriage and Burial Index, St. Alphonsus Church, 1846-1920 FHL# B11, #1029797.  Also on Ancestry.com under the Drouin Collection. 

John was better known as “Jack” by his many friends and family.  He lived till the age of 80 years old and is buried in the St. Thomas Cemetery (part of the Forest Hill Cemetery group)  in International Falls, Minnesota next to his wife Sarah Maria Burns a local girl from the area of Chichester and Chapeau.  Sarah came from a very large family featured at this website by Elaine Brown – Murtagh Byrns and Sarah Grier Descendants:

http://www.personainternet.com/etbrown/burns.htm

Jack and Sarah had a rough time building their family.  I have only been able to find three names of children born to them but apparently there were more, maybe 5 that did not survive.  Keith had the pleasure of knowing one child that survived to adulthood.  Her name was Mary.

Jack (John) A. McDonell


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.


Jack McDonald & Sarah Maria Burns!

August 17, 2010

Jack McDonald

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

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

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

Sarah and Jack McDonald - Int'l Falls

John (Jack) and Sarah McDonald’s children:

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

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

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

Daughter Mary

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


Alexander Thomas McDonald, Fireman

August 7, 2010

Keith had pictures in his photo collection of his Uncle Alexander, younger brother to his father Ronald.  Alex was in a uniform in two of them.     

Alexander in Uniform

This photo (above) was a puzzle.  I didn’t know what the uniform represented.  I was to learn from a cousin that Alex was a fireman with the International Falls fire department in the early years.  Alex is the one in the middle.  I do not know the names of the two men that are on either side of him.  The photo was taken on main street in International Falls and when I was there I scouted out the location.  Some signs are still there and you can see about where they stood.    

Alex with Keith on His Knee

In this 2nd photo, Uncle Alex is seated with two children on his knees.  He and the other man are in the same uniforms.  The one on the left knee is Keith, Alex’s nephew, and the little girl on the right is unknown.  The little boy standing to Alex’s left and the man standing behind him in uniform are also unknown.    

This is one of my favorite photos of my father Keith when he was a child.  He would have loved the fire house, the horses and all the activity like the parades and visiting with his Uncle at his work.   

Mary, Alex’s niece, knew him very well and describes his work as a fireman. She told me this story back in 2000 when I visited her and her family in International Falls:    

 “Alex was a fireman and he lived at the fire station. This was back in the days when they used horses to draw the fire truck. The horses were so well-trained that when the fire whistle blew they would go stand ready to receive the harnesses that just seemed to fall in place on them. The fire house had two big doors out front and behind that was an area for the stalls to keep the horses in and then behind that were bunk beds where the men would take turns sleeping. The firehouse is up from the Ace Hardware store in International Falls. It is now a converted apartment house and has aluminum siding on it. His fellow firemen were Bill Keenan and Bert Budde. If I can remember there were two teams of horses.”   

Alex also participated in the 1910 Fireman’s convention and again in 1917 he participated in the Fireman’s Line Up and Parade in International Falls.   

I learned a lot about my grandfather’s family through the stories told by my cousin Mary and her family back in 2000 and again in 2001.  I am very grateful for the time I spent with them.


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