bio- Sawyers



JAMES A. McDONALD.--Coming to California thirty-three years ago, James A. McDonald is numbered among the successful orchardists of Santa Clara County, and he can look back on a life filed with varied and interesting experiences, from his boyhood days in the Maritime Provinces, to the time spent in balmy, tropical Honolulu, and then by way of severe contrast, three years spent in the frozen North, in the first gold rush to Alaska. His birthplace was Cape Breton, Canada, and he tracts his ancestry back to the McDonalds and Macdonalds of Inverness and Glencoe, Scotland. Augustine and Mary (Giles) McDonald were his parents, the father born on Prince Edward Isle. Grandfather Angus McDonald and Great-grandfather Ronald McDonald came from Morarshire, Scotland, and settled on Prince Edward Island, and this was the family home for many years. There Augustine McDonald followed his trade as a builder, until his marriage, when he made his home on Cape Breton Island until his death at the age of ninety-two. Mrs. Mary Giles McDonald's grandfather came from Scotland to Prince Edward Island, and here her father, Donald Giles, was born. When a young man he came with his wife and child in an open boat to Cape Breton while it was yet a wilderness, and was one of the first settlers there, taking up land and improving it and becoming well-to-do. He built two vessels, one for each son, and for years they were engaged in trading along the Atlantic Coast. Mrs. McDonald passed away at the age of seventy-seven, the mother of thirteen children, seven of whom are living.

The fifth oldest of the family and the only one in California, James A. McDonald attended the schools of his home neighborhood until he was twelve years old, and shortly after he entered a dry goods store in Sidney as a clerk, continuing in that line of work until 1888, when he came to San Francisco. Wishing to get into the great outdoors, he followed ranching at San Rafael for five years and engaged in the same line at Hopland, Mendocino County. He next served as a deputy under Sheriff McDade at San Francisco, then went to Honolulu, where for three years he imported horses from California, selling them in the Hawaiian Islands. At the time of the first gold rush to Alaska, in 1898, Mr. McDonald made his way to St. Michael and then up the Yukon to Dawson; it took from July, 1898, to June, 1899, to make the trip, as the party was frozen in en route. He was at Fairbanks when there was only one old prospector there, and they had to walk across from Rampart City. At Dawson the Canadian Government was building a telegraph line to Whitehorse, and he entered their employ, working on the boat handling the wire, and helping install the first telegraph instruments at the station at Dawson. After the line was completed he was mate on the steamer taking people to Whitehorse, and on the way down the river they lost the boat. All on board escaped watery graves, Mr. McDonald coming ashore bareheaded, and they walked 250 miles to Dawson, camping out nights. He continued to prospect, but after putting in three years there he returned to San Francisco in 1901, via Cape Nome.

At old St. Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco, on April 30, 1904, Mr. McDonald was married to Miss Elizabeth Byrne, the daughter of Garrett J. and Annie (McCloud) Byrne, pioneers of San Francisco, who are represented on another page of this history. Mrs. McDonald was born at San Francisco and educated at the Dominican Convent there; she is a cultured woman of much capability and the union has proven a very happy one. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. McDonald took up their residence on Glenbrook Farm, the Byrne homestead since 1879, and since then Mr. McDonald has devoted his time to horticulture, having reset and improved the ranch until sixty acres are now in full bearing orchard of prunes and apricots. It is beautifully located on Stevens Creek and is one of the show places of the country. Mr. McDonald is also roadmaster in the the fifth supervisorial district, having filled this office since 1905, very creditably to himself and the public, as the road in that district well testify to his ability in that line. He is a member of the San Jose Council, K. of C., and is greatly interested in the improvement of the Santa Clara Valley, this wonderfully favored section of the globe.

Transcribed by Joseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 495