Archival Documents

Roderick McDonald fonds [textual record]

Creation Date(s): 1897-1901, 1907, 1912, 1966

Physical Description:
0.5 cm of textual records

Bio Sketch / Admin History:
Roderick McDonald was born on July 8, 1863 in Galmisdale, Isle of Eigg, Scotland. He lived in Glasgow for several years, eventually leaving his home in Inverness, Scotland, to travel to the United States at the age of twenty-two. He left Glasgow on the steamer, Ethiopia, arriving in New York on August 17, 1885. McDonald crossed the continent on the Canadian Pacific Railroad and traveled south from Vancouver, British Columbia, to his aunt’s farm in Lowell, Washington.

McDonald worked on his aunt’s farm for about a year before moving to Seattle, Washington, where he learned that the affluent hops producer, Ezra Meeker, was interviewing for bookkeepers. McDonald traveled to Puyallup, Washington, where he successfully interviewed for the bookkeeping position. He began work in 1889. One year later McDonald entered his employer’s family when he married Meeker’s daughter, Olive Grace, on October 5, 1890.

The 1890s were difficult years for the Meeker enterprises and the hops industry collapsed under the twin pressures of insect infestation and economic depression. In response, Meeker turned to mining. He formed the International Mine Development Company in 1896 and named Roderick McDonald as one of the company’s trustees. The mining venture never materialized and when McDonald and his father-in-law joined the Klondike stampede in 1898, their object was not mining, but provisioning.

McDonald and Meeker traveled down the Yukon River in September 1898 with supplies to sell to the Klondike miners. Upon arrival in Dawson City they opened up the Log Cabin Grocery, from which they sold desiccated vegetables and other foodstuffs freighted in from the south. McDonald’s wife and infant son, Wilfred Gordon (b.1899), joined him in Dawson in June of 1900, at which time he relocated to Grand Forks.

Between 1904 and 1908 McDonald worked for the North American Transportation and Trading Company (NATT Co.) store in Dawson City, until the company sent him to Eagle, Alaska, where he remained until 1910. He was then transferred back to Dawson City to manage the company’s dry goods department. In 1912 the NATT Co. closed their stores and McDonald took work with the Northern Commercial Company in Forty Mile. The post at Forty Mile closed in July 31, 1915 and the company transferred McDonald to their Dawson store. During his time in the Klondike McDonald also acquired some placer mining claims, although he never realized any real wealth from them.

The McDonald family remained in Dawson City until 1918. Roderick McDonald was very active with St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. In 1918 the family left the North, moving to a fruit ranch that they owned in Penticton, British Columbia. Roderick McDonald died on June 2, 1943. He was predeceased by his wife, Olive (d. December 12, 1936), and survived by a brother, William McDonald, two sisters, Flora Fowler and Elizabeth McDonald, a son, Wilfred Gordon MacDonald, and a granddaughter, Margaret Jean MacDonald.

Scope and Content:
This fonds consists of textual records relating primarily to some of Roderick McDonald's business interests in the Klondike, where he lived between 1898 and 1918. Records include: a letter to McDonald from his father-in-law, Ezra Meeker; a post card; placer mining grants; a tax receipt; a promissory note; bills of sale; a free miner's certificate; a note; a canceled cheque, and biographical information written by McDonald's son, Wilfred Gordon MacDonald.

Accession Number(s): 1983.72, 1990.18

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