James Donaldson – an honored pioneer and highly respected citizen of Ogle County has resided here since May 1839 and for many years was prominently and actively identified with its agricultural interests.  He bore his part in the early development and prosperity of this region but Is now living retired upon his farm on section 12, Eagle Point Township only three miles northwest of Polo.
A native of New York, Mr. Donaldson  was born on the shores of Lake Champlain, Washington County, January 4, 1821 and is son of William Donaldson who was born in Northumberland County, England, May 5, 1795 of Scotch ancestry and there grew to manhood.  There he was  also married to Miss Isabella McDonald, who was born at Berwick on the Tweed, England of Scotch ancestry.  Being reared on a farm, the father early became familiar with all the duties which fall to the lot of the agriculturist and engaged in farm work in his native land until 1820 when he emigrated to America and first located in Washington County, New York where he continued to engage in agricultural pursuits for four years, during which time two of his children were born.  His next home was at Little York, Ontario, Canada and there he engaged in his chosen occupation for fifteen years.  Coming to Ogle County, Illinois in 1839 he bought a claim of three hundred and twenty acres in what is now Eagle Point Township, forty acres of which had been placed under cultivation and a log house erected thereon.  In that primitive residence the family lived while the farm was being developed and improved.  Later a good frame house was built, also a good barn and outbuildings and an orchard set out.  The father was one of the most enterprising and successful early farmers and having prospered in his life work he was at length able to lay aside all business cares and spend his last years in east and retirement.  He sold the farm to his youngest son and upon a part of the place erected a residence where he lived until called from this life in March, 1870 at the age of seventy-five years.  He wife survived him for some time, passing away in November 1884 and both were buried in Fairmont cemetery, where a substantial monument marks their last resting place.

In the family of this worthy couple were nine children, four sons and five daughters all of whom reached years of maturity.  Walter, the eldest was born in England and spent his last days in Brookville township, Ogle County; James our subject, is the next in order of birth; John is now living retired in Morengo, Illinois; Margaret is the wife of John S. Miller, an old settler and substantial farmer of Eagle Point Township, Ogle County; Isabella is the wife of Patterson Pringle of Morengo; William was a resident of Ogle County but is now deceased; Elizabeth is the wife of Eber Smith of Buffalo Township this county, Jane is the wife of Alexander Hawver of Dedham, Carroll County, Iowa and Flora W. is the wife of John Bruce of Dedham, Iowa.

James Donaldson of this review was about eighteen years of age when he accompanied the family on their removal to Ogle County and he was of great assistance to his father in opening up and developing the farm from wild land.  When his services were not needed at home he would work for others at farm labor.  He and his brother Walter were experts in the use of the ax and in the groves of this region were employed in getting out the timbers for many of the houses and barns of the early settles.  Until twenty-five years of age he continued to aid in the operation of the home farm and then located upon a one-hundred tract in Eagle Point Township which his father gave him.  To its improvement and cultivation he devoted his attention with most gratifying results and made his home thereon for a quarter of a century during which time he bought more land adjoining making a valuable tract of four hundred and eighteen acres.  Later he built on the farm where he now resides and now has one of the best improved farms of the township.  There is a large and substantial residence and good outbuildings.  Mr. Donaldson met with most excellent success in his farming operations but for the past ten years has lived retired, enjoying a well earned rest.

On the 31st of May 1848 was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Donaldson and Miss Locada J. Seavey who was born in Sandwich, New Hampshire, January 8, 1831.  Her father, Joshua Seavey was a native of Rye Beach, the same state and there grew to manhood and married Miss Betsy Webster, a cousin of the great statesman, Daniel Webster.  In 1840, Mr. Seavey came to Illinois and settled near Dixon in Lee county where Mrs. Donaldson was reared.  To our subject and his wife were born nine children, namely: Elizabeth Isabel who died at the age of sixteen years; Mary Josephine, who died at the age of fourteen, Walter Atwood, who died at the age of fifteen, John James who died at the age of six; Alice who married M.P. Strall and lived in Iowa where she died in September 1891 leaving ten children; Emma Frances who married  Zelus L.  Shafer and also lived in Iowa where she died in October 1891 leaving an infant daughter, Emma Frances who now lives with our subject Frances who now lives with our subject and is attending the home school; William who is married and he and his brother carry on the home farm; Gertie, wife of Nelson B. Sweet a farmer of Eagle Point Township; and Sherman B., who owns and operates a farm in Buffalo township, this county.  There are now fourteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  On the 31st of May, 1898, Mr. and Mrs. Donaldson celebrated their golden wedding at which time all of their living children and grandchildren in this vicinity were present and a most enjoyable time was passed.

Politically, Mr. Donaldson is a Jeffersonian Democrat, having cast his first presidential ballot for James K. Polk in 1844, and for each succeeding candidate of his party but two.  In 1896 he supported Palmer and Buckner on the gold Democratic ticket.  He has never desired office, preferring to give his attention to his own interest.  For sixty years he has been a resident of Ogle County and has watched with interest almost its entire growth and development.  He has seen the wolves and deer disappear, town and villages spring up, the railroads and telegraphs introduced and the wild land transformed into fine farms and good homes.  He has borne his part in the work and has ever been recognized as one of the valued and useful citizens of his community one honored and respected by all who know him.

Transcribed by Denise Border

Biographical Record of Ogle County


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