Michael McDonald            -- Mini Bio


Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald was the oldest son, and third oldest child of Andrew and Emily (Rath) McDonald.  He was born on the family farm on Stag Creek, in Low Township, Gatineau County, Quebec on 14 April, 1854.  The family, which eventually included eight children (three boys and five girls) lived on a 300 acre farm that was mostly covered by deciduous forests, lakes, ponds and streams.  Their first home was built by Andy on top of a gentle hill overlooking Stag Creek.  A natural outcropping of rocks created a small waterfall about three feet high, and also backed up the creek to make a nice swimming hole for the children.  It was a delightful place in the summer, but most of their time was taken up with hard farm work and clearing more land for their animals and crops.

Stag Creek meanders around to the north and east for about five miles until it empties into the Gatineau River, which flows southward to Ottawa.  About eight miles from the farm, to the southeast, is the little Catholic parish of St. Camillus, in Farrellton, Wakefield Township, Gatineau County, where Michael was taken to be baptized when just nine days old. 

Michael spent his youth working on his father’s farm, which was difficult in the humid summers and miserable in the cold, dark winters of the north, but it was a beautiful land and they shared these hardships with the surrounding families, most of whom were Irish Catholics too. 

A new road was cut through the woods connecting the McDonald farm on the west with the Gatineau River, near Brennan’s Hill, on the east.  This is still known as McDonald Road to this day.  Michael’s parents, Andrew and Emily, built a second home, a small log cabin, along side of the new road, where Andrew operated the local post office, and where he also sold some whisky and a few other goods to the neighbors.

As Michael grew he became acquainted with the family of Patrick and Mary (Kelly) Sullivan, who attended church at the same parish.  This family lived about four miles to the north of the McDonalds and that was not a difficult trip for a young man in love.  He had noticed their daughter, Eleanor Sullivan, and a romance developed that led to their marriage on 19 September 1880 in St. Camillus.  Not long after their wedding, the Sullivans, who were involved in the logging business, left the area and moved to Wisconsin, leaving Eleanor behind with her new McDonald family. 

Andy wanted to help his son get a start in life and so deeded him a strip of 100 acres along the western edge of his farm.  Here Michael and Eleanor built a home and began farming on their own.  Here too they had a large family of ten children, three of whom died in infancy.  Their remaining seven children grew to maturity in this area, one of which, Thomas Michael (who was actually baptized as Michael Thomas—the grandfather of Bette Jo McDonald Nebeker) was born in their home on 28 September 1883, and baptized in the Catholic parish on 17 October of the same year. 

This young Thomas was the third son of Michael and Eleanor to be born within about two years of each other.  Michael’s brother, Tom, also married about this time and had two boys, of about the same age, in rapid succession.  One can only imagine all the trouble these five McDonald cousins created for their parents, grandparents and all the neighbors as they began to grow.

After many years of living and working close to one another on adjacent farms, Michael and Eleanor decided to make a change in their farm.  Many of their older children had grown and moved away, and for some reason, Michael sold his farm and moved to a rented place across the Gatineau River near the village of Polimore, Quebec.  However, they didn’t stay here long.  They saw that a number of their children had begun to settle in Montana and other western locations, so they decided to pull up stakes and follow the flow westward. 

Eleanor had not seen any of her family in many years so they first headed toward Wisconsin to visit many of her siblings who by now were getting up in years themselves.  It was a great reunion for her especially, but both of them enjoyed the time spent there.

Next they caught a train for Montana and settled near Flathead Lake where some of their children, Tom, Bill and Mary, were living.  Here they thought to make a comfortable home for their remaining years.

Michael was aging and soon began to show signs of dementia.  Eleanor took care of him as long as she was able but in time it became necessary to place him in a nursing type home.  The nuns near St. Ignatius, Montana had a home where they cared for the old and infirm and Michael went there for his last four or five years.  He died there on 17 September 1926.  His family took him to Missoula, where he was buried in St. Mary’s Catholic cemetery on the north side of that town.

Eleanor moved to Spokane where she helped one of her daughter, Anastasia, raise her three boys after having gone through a recent divorce.  She died on 29 January 1940 and was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Spokane. 

Michael & Eleanor Sullivan McDonald

while visiting family in Wisconsin

Michael McDonald

In Missoula

Andrew McDonald’s 300 acre farm (in rectangle) at Stagsburn, Low Township, Gatineau Co., Que.

Michael McDonald (Andy’s son) received the western 1/3 of this farm for his family.