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James C. McDonald

of Virginia, Tennessee & Ohio

With thanks to Scott Messinger and Bruce E. Warnock

The portrait below is based on family letters from 1909 supported by census and cemetery data as well as a number of biographies (several of them kindly transcribed by Scott Messinger) which can be seen in full on the McDonald biographies page. The information on Mary Ann Melvin and family comes from Bruce E. Warnock's website on the Melvin family.

JAMES McDONALD was born in Botetourt County, Virginia on 23 Sep 1776 to John I McDonald of Scotland. After the death of his mother he moved with his father and siblings to Tennessee around 1785 where his father bought the Old Daniel Boone farm on the Tennessee River.

James was married in Tennessee around 1800 to young Mary Ann Melvin who was born 4 Aug 1784 in Jefferson County, Virginia. Mary Ann was the daughter of Joseph Melvin (born about 1740) and his wife Hanna. Of Joseph and Hanna Melvin's seven children, five were born in Jefferson County, Virginia (James III b. c. 1775; Jane b. c. 1782; Wiliam b. 1784; Mary Ann b. 1784; Joseph b. 9 feb 1788) and the youngest two in Knob Creek, Washington County, Tennessee (Rhuba b. c. 1790; John b. 1799). Mary Ann's father, Joseph Melvin, died in Washington County, Tennessee in 1817.

According to a biography of James and Mary Ann's youngest son, Malay, published in 1887 in the Biographical and Historical Record of Ringgold and Decatur Counties, Iowa, James and Mary Ann moved to Kentucky immediately after marriage. They left Kentucky about 1806 for Ross County, Ohio in the area which was soon to become Madison County, Ohio on its formation in 1810.

I believe the timing of their move is explained by this land patent. It testifies that one thousand acres of land in Ohio were granted to "James McDonald and his heirs and assigns forever", signed by the President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, and the Secretary of State, James Madison, on Christmas eve of 1807. This land was originally part of military warrant No. 2418 to Thomas Seayres, a "Lieutenant in the War" (of independence, 1776) and the rights had been assigned (sold) first to Robert Means and then to James McDonald. The land was surveyed in 1804, and James and family would probably have been planning their move shortly after that date.

1807 Land Patent to James McDonald

James and Mary Ann settled in Union Township, Madison County where they had a dozen children, but only seven grew to adulthood:

  1. Mary McDonald - b. 1801, married Benjamin Ferguson (Forgason) 20 Jun 1822, lived in Iowa
  2. George McDonald - b. 1803 in Tennessee, married Malinda Ferguson and had several children, second wife Mary - see below.
  3. Phebe McDonald - b. 1805, married Squire L. Ferguson 23 Dec 1825; later became Mrs. Luffburrough, lived in Iowa
  4. Elizabeth McDonald - b. 1808, married John Davis, lived near Califonia, Madison County, OH
  5. Charity McDonald - b. 1811, married 29 Aug 1830 to Walker Graham (Grayham) and lived in Indiana
  6. John McDonald - b. 1814, died unmarried 4 Jun 1841 (see below)
  7. Malay McDonald - b. 16 May 1823 in Madison County, Ohio, married Mary Ferguson - see page for Malay McDonald

Page 99 of the 1830 Federal Census of Union Township, Madison County, Ohio shows James and family with his eldest son George and family living nearby.

James was widowed on 11 Apr 1836 when Mary Ann died at the age of 52. She was buried in the Lower Glade Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio.

On 4 Sep 1850, the 1850 Federal Census of Union Township, Madison County, Ohio shows James McDonald as an elderly widower living with his niece Mary (McDonald) Rubert (daughter of James' brother John I McDonald) and her husband Andrew Rubert. James had amassed $2,500 worth of real estate.

1850 Census extract for James McDonald

James McDonald died later that same year on 2 Dec 1850 and was laid to rest alongside his wife, Mary Ann (Melvin) McDonald in the Lower Glade Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio.
Lower Glade Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio
Lower Glade Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio
Headstone for James McDonald, 1776 - 1850
Dec 2, 1850
Aged 74 Yrs

Headstone for Mary Ann (Melvian) McDonald, 1781 - 1836
Wife of
Mar 14, 1836
Aged 54 Yrs
8 Months 1 day

James and Mary Ann's unmarried son John lies with them:
John McDonald
June 4,
Age 26 yrs
6 mo. &
18 days

Headstone for John McDonald, 1814 - 1841

George G. McDonald, 1803 - 1883

George G. McDonald was the eldest son born to James and Mary Ann (Melvin) McDonald. He was born on Christmas Day 1803, when the family still lived in Tennessee, and was raised on his father's farm in Union Township, Madison County, Ohio. On 22 Dec 1825 George married Malinda Ferguson (Forgeson) of Franklin County, Ohio. She was born 23 Dec 1805 in Lexington, Kentucky. They lived with George's parents on the farm in Union for three years until George bought a 385 acre farm in Deer Creek where the couple raised their own family. The couple had thirteen children, though few outlived their parents and only Mary Ann outlived her father. The ones we know of are:

  • James - b. 15 May 1829, died 10 Aug 1850 (age 21), buried in Oak Hill Cemetery
  • Mary Ann - b. c. 1831, married Judge Fulton of Columbus, Ohio
  • Thomas - b. 4 Aug 1832, died 30 Aug 1870, buried in Oak Hill Cemetery
  • John - b. 4 Jul 1834, d. 14 May 1836 (age 1), buried in the Lower Glade Cemetery
  • infant daughter - b. 17 Jul 1837, buried in the Lower Glade Cemetery
  • infant son - buried in the Lower Glade Cemetery
  • Charity - b. 22 Jun 1842, d. 23 Apr 1853 (age 10), buried in Oak Hill Cemetery
George G. McDonald, 1803-1883
George G. McDonald
from 1883 biography

George was on his farm on 18 Jul 1850 at the time of the 1850 Federal Census of Deer Creek Township, Madison County, Ohio. He was living with his wife Malinda (also known as Belinda) and children and had real estate valued at $6,000. George and Malinda had already buried three infants in the Lower Glade family burial ground.
  • George McDonald, age 46, male, Farmer, born Tennessee.
  • Belinda McDonald, age 45, female, (no occupation), born Kentucky
  • James McDonald, age 21, male, Clerk, born Ohio
  • Mary A. McDonald, age 19, female, (no occupation), born Ohio
  • Thomas McDonald, age 17, male, (no occupation), born Ohio
  • Charity McDonald, age 7, female, (no occupation), born Ohio
  • James Wagoner, age 11, male, (no occupation), born Ohio
1850 Census of Deer Creek for George G. McDonald & family

Headstone for infant son John of George & Belinda McDonald
son of George G. &
Belinda McDonald
died May 14th 1836
aged 1 year 2 mo
& 23 days
Headstone for infant daughter of George & Belinda McDonald
daughter of
George G. & Belinda
McDonald born
July 17th 1837
Headstone for infant son of George & Belinda McDonald
son of George G. &
Belinda McDonald
born (blank)

The 1860 Federal Census of Deer Creek was taken on 14th July 1860, and shows the family sadly reduced to George and his son Thomas. George's wife Malinda had died just a few months earlier, on 8 Mar 1860 and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.
Name Age Sex Colour Age Occupation Personal
592 632 George G. McDonalds 56 M 76 Farmer $24,600 $2,000 Tennessee
Thomas McDonalds 27 M 76 Farmer $1,600 $800 Ohio

In 1878 George gave his original farm to his daughter (presumably Mary A. McDonald), and although he still owned a further 288 acres of farmland he retired from active farming and moved to London, Madison County, Ohio. By the time of the 1880 census, he was found there with his second wife Mary and a 21 year old nephew, William Fergenson (probably his first wife Malinda Ferguson's brother's son).
Name Relation Marital
Gender Race Age Birthplace Occupation Father's
Geo. G. McDonald Self Married Male White 76 TN Retired farmer TN TN
Mary McDonaldWife Married Female White 63 KY Keeping House MD KY
William FergensonNephew Single Male White 21 OH OH OH

George G. McDonald lies buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Madison County with both his wives:
John McDonald
4 Jul 1834 - 14 May 1836
(Buried in the Lower Glade Cemetery)

Thomas McDonald
4 Aug 1832 - 30 Aug 1870

George G. McDonald
25 Dec 1803 - 28 May 1883

Headstone for George McDonald & sons

George's first wife, Malinda,
and second wife, Mary:

Headstone for Malinda (Ferguson) McDonald
BORN Dec 23, 1805
DIED Mar 8, 1860

Headstone for Mrs. Mary McDonald, 1817 - 1903
BORN May 27, 1817
DIED Oct 1, 1903

George and Malinda's
10 year old daughter
Charity, and 21 year old
son James lie with them
in Oak Hill Cemetery:
Headstone for James McDonald, 1829 - 1850
BORN May 15, 1829
DIED Aug 10, 1850

Headstone for Charity McDonald, 1842 - 1853
BORN Jun 22, 1842
DIED Apr 23, 1853

For further reading on James McDonald and family, see the McDonald biographies page for the original texts of various biographies including his father John I McDonald and his son Malay McDonald in which he is mentioned.

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email to Annemarie Bruinsma Hanlon / Copyright 2004 - 2009 / Last updated 27 Feb 2010