September 27, 2019

This article is about a couple and family that a few of you knew and maybe a few will remember.

I decided to write about George and Elizabeth Donald after he was mentioned in the recent Beltz article. “Shifting Scenes Vol. I” has an interesting and informative article about them written by Jessie May Donald Burns, a daughter, who was married to Richard (Dick) Burns. I feel you will enjoy the history and life of this couple and family. There is enough information for two or three articles so bear with me.

Jessie writes: “George and Elizabeth Donald homesteaded near the East Fork Brakes on Thompson Creek in the Ridge Community of Carter County. George was born March 29, 1885 in Gamrie, Scotland. Elizabeth Taylor Donald was born on December 24, 1884 at Portsory, Banffshire, Scotland. They were married November 24, 1905 in Fordyce, Scotland. They sailed from Port Glasgow, Scotland and it took seven days to cross the Atlantic. They arrived in the United States on May 12, 1907.”

Why did the young couple leave Scotland and come to the U.S.? It’s not told, but many individuals left their home country to come to the U.S. for freedom, job opportunities and homestead land. Carter County had many of these people.

“They settled at Marysville, Missouri where the two oldest of the family, Betty and Bill were born. My mother was very homesick for the first while in the United States. She was pregnant, lost her appetite and was getting weak from it all. The doctor confined her to bed. This continued for some time. My dad would say he left Missouri because mom spent too much of her time sitting in the cellar crying.”

They came by train to Spearfish, South Dakota and there was a case of scarlet fever on one of the cars. All of the passengers were confined to the train and their personal belongings were removed and burned.

They lived in Spearfish for a short while and in 1910 moved to Ridge, Carter County, Montana.

Jessie also wrote about life on the homestead in Carter County for the family:

“The first two years in the Ridge community dad worked for Angus “Gus” Crinklaw. In his spare time he built the first home and broke sod on his homestead. The first home was a two room house of hand hewed logs built near the breaks. During these years, dad raised and broke horses which were sold to the United States Army and the Canadian government or to anyone that wanted to buy a saddle horse or team.”

Jessie reports that the second house was built to accommodate a larger family with Jinks, Isabell, John and Stuart being born during these years. She describes the new house as having four rooms built in a “L” shape. It was built of hand hewed logs and had a bedroom in the attic. They moved into the new home in 1915.

Her dad enjoyed farming and working with horses and planted feed crops of oats and corn. He tells of the first time he and a neighbor, Joe Hayes, planted alfalfa using a hand seeder.

My, how farming has changed during the past years! I am always amazed at the energy, ability and strength that homesteaders of the day had. Let’s not forget the women of this time either as Jessie reports that more children were born during this time which made a total of six.

Later, the Donaly family was enlarged more with Mary, Lem, Charlie, Jessie May, Helen and Lola joining them. It’s not stated, but I presume they were “home delivered.”

If, like me, you come up with a total of twelve children and wonder what happened to all of them, I will disclose that information in a later article.

More on this interesting family next time. . .


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