Life in Bemidji!

February 2, 2012

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

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

A main street in Bemidji a very charming town!

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

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

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

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

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

1904 Bemidji City Directory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In summary so far:

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

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

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

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


Archie & Mary’s Children: George James McDonell

May 11, 2011

George James McDonell was born to Archie and Mary 22 July, 1878 but he is missing from the enumeration of the family in the Census of 1881.  So far no burial information has been found for George James but more research needs to be done in this area.  The gap between Alex and his baby brother is 6 years so the possibility is there that there might have been other children or miscarriages?  It is interesting to speculate. 

Source:  Baptism, Marriage and Burial Index, St. Alphonsus Church, 1846-1920 FHL# B60, #1029797.  

Archie's Locations

I have tried the Drouin Collection at Ancestry but cann’t find George James McDonell.  He is in the index for baptisms for Volume 11 Folio 379.  These I copied from the microfilm index.  I have had trouble finding family with this online collection. 

Jack, George’s older brother, named a child of his “George Archibald. ”  This child didn’t survive. Uncle Gordy, Keith’s older brother and a son of Ronald and Grace, was given the baptismal name of “George.”  Apparently little George’s death affected his family greatly.

This concludes the births of the children of Archie and Mary.  In summary there were 8 children born to Keith’s grandparents:  John, John Alexander, Angus, Ronald (R.S.) , John Archibald (Jack), Ellen Elizabeth (Nellie), Alexander Thomas, and last George James.  Three out of eight children apparently did not survive and burial information was not found in the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church records.  I am very interested in the middle names of “Thomas” and “James” and wonder if these are Archie’s family names?

There will be additional future posts on Angus, Jack, Nellie and Alex and of course Keith’s father Ronald.


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. 

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?


Grace Barclay McDonald

May 29, 2010
Keith’s mother Grace was busy raising a family while her husband Ronald (R.S.) was involved with the lumber business and politics in the town of International Falls. 

Grace about 1896

 

This photo is of Grace as a young girl and it is this young girl that my grandfather Ronald fell in love with and met somewhere in Minnesota.  Maybe it was when he visited her father in Pine River to talk about lumber? Maybe it was on the train to St. Paul/Minneapolis where she attended school?  Miriam her daughter didn’t seem to know the story of how they met or even the date of the marriage as was reflected in her notes that she sent me.  

Ronald and Grace were married in September of 1898 and eventually settled in International Falls with their family.  I wrote about the marriage in my post dated February 20, 2010.  

Grace Barclay

 

Keith’s cousin Mary McDonald Louiseau told me when I visited her in 2000, that Grace liked to read so the library at their home was filled with books.  There is no date on this oval photo of Grace.  

Grace in the Snow

 

Here Grace is sweeping the snow?  Not sure why, but I enjoy the look which reminds me of her daughter Eddie.  I like the contrast in the pictures of my father’s mother and my grandmother.  I have very little information about her.  I think these photos start to show a little of her personality.  In this snow photo she is in a rather shabby dress.  For some reason I think she was pregnant at this time? I do not know the year this snow photo was taken. 

Grace and her children Jan 1911

 

In this picture Grace looks lovely and happy.  Written on the photo is the year 1911.  Left to right:  in the back row is Vivian,  Gordon, and Grace.  In the front row is Miriam, Eddie, Jean and then baby Keith, main star of this blog.  Grace is holding Keith, my dad, close.  If you look closely you can see that Miriam and Eddie’s hair is cut like a boy’s hair cut.  I am wondering if there was a lice problem? 

I have had the good fortune to know all of these siblings of my father Keith.  They were very much a part of my life.  The only one I never knew was Grace for she died very young as you will see.  

I have another blog that I am writing that covers Grace Barclay McDonald’s parents and ancestors.  It is called the “Barclays of Pine River, The Lives of George and Amarilla Barclay.”  You will find it at: http://barclayspineriver.wordpress.com/  Grace’s ancestry goes back to the Mayflower through Grace’s grandparents Elizabeth Keller Spracklin and Daniel Dair/Dare Spracklin.  I will eventually talk more about Grace’s earlier years in that blog up till she meets Ronald (R.S.).


Commissioner R. S. McDonald

May 15, 2010

Int'l Falls & Ft Francis

 

Keith’s father was commissioner for the city of International Falls. Miriam said in her notes about her brother Gordon, Keith’s older brother, “we have pictures of him campaigning for his father.” Unfortunately, I have never seen those photographs.  

“To end the isolation, reduce costs and provide better public service, residents of northern Itasca were now demanding a county of their own with easier access to the county seat. Following an aggressive campaign for voter support, leaders of the movement then petitioned for an election. The proposal for county division went on the ballot in the general election of Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1906, and carried by a resounding majority of 800. The votes were then canvassed in St. Paul and on Dec. 19 Gov. John A. Johnson issued the proclamation which created Koochiching with International Falls as the county seat.
 

While elated by the news, backers of the division movement postponed a public celebration because opponents were contesting the election. Finally the dispute was settled in court — in favor of the new county group — and a victory celebration took place March 6, 1907, in the Falls village hall. The village hall, built in 1904, served as county headquarters until the court-house was completed two years later. The initial county board appointed by Gov. Johnson consisted of R.S. McDonald, Hugh Mclntosh, Nels L. Olson, Fred Smith and Charles M. Bowman. Bowman, a resident of Big Falls, failed to qualify for office and didn’t serve.”  

from New County is Born, History of Koochiching County website, April 10, 2010.  See link to the History of Koochiching County on the right. 

There is an interesting explanation of events regarding the  appointment of Annie Shelland as Superintendent of Schools.   

“Annie Shelland..knew that she could walk to all schools in the 3,200 square-mile county.  Her appointment was opposed by only one commissioner, R.S. McDonald, who felt that no woman was capable of making the rounds to the schools. (pg. 128).” 

“Annie Shelland was opposed by R.S. McDonald of the county commission, because he did not believe that a woman would be capable of walking the distances under the conditions required of a county superintendent (of schools.) pg. 30.  Annie was appointed in January of 1907. “ 

These excerpts are taken from the book:  

Koochiching, Pioneering Along the Rainy River Frontier, by Hiram M. Drache, Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc., 1983. 

Annie went on to prove R.S. wrong and had an exemplary career as Superintendent and contributed greatly to education in Minnesota.  She died in 1964 at the age of 85 years old.  I think she was hardy enough! 

The photo above is from the National Park Service proposal website for a Voyageurs National Park site.  There are many great photos of the area.  

http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/voya/proposed/area.htm


Keith and Gordon – Two Brothers

April 24, 2010

Gordon and Keith

Keith had a great relationship with his older brother Gordon.  In this photo Gordon is standing proud and holding firmly to his little brother’s hand.  Keith is next to him on the elephant with a happy face.  This photo of the McDonald brothers was probably taken about 1911 in International Falls.  Gordon was born 1904 and Keith was born in 1910 to Ronald and Grace McDonald.  There was 6 years difference in their ages.


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