Tuesday, April 22, 2014

ALEXANDER FINDLAY MACDONALD - Leader, Pioneer, Man of 3 Nations

A man of Faith, Integrity, Discipline and Obedience  

Alexander Findlay Macdonald lived nearly 78 years in three countries, approximately one-third of his life span respectively in Scotland, the United States, and Mexico. He was one of thousands of Scots who left their homeland in the 1800s to settle far-flung lands around the globe. However, he was different from most of his countrymen - - because religion and his desire to serve God was the motive for his emigration.                           

 Scottish Highland Heritage
Alexander (also known as Sandy) was born on September 15, 1825 in the Scottish hamlet of Camas-Luinie (spelled Camusluinie in older records and pronounced "commus-lynee") located in one of the remotest spots of the Highlands. Camas-Luinie lies in the northern district of Glenelchaig in the parish of Kintail in the western portion of Ross-shire, near the west coast of Scotland where the Isle of Skye comes within a mile of the mainland.

 Kintail was (and still is) populated largely by Macraes, and was the ancestral homeland of this clan. Three of Alexander Macdonald's four grandparents were Macraes, and his Macrae ancestors had lived in Kintail and surrounding regions since the 1400s. His Macdonald ancestors came to Kintail in the 1700s, probably from the Lochaber district in Inverness-shire some 30 or 40 miles to the southeast.

  Eilean Donan Castle
His people were poor, and although he descended from some distinguished lines both locally and nationally (his ancestors included Ranald Macdonald, Good John of Islay, and Somerled), his immediate family members were farmers, tailors, and illegal whisky distillers. His father was Duncan Macdonald, born in the Kintail hamlet of Carr, located on a hillside overlooking the ancient and storied Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. About 1820, an epidemic in Carr caused most of its inhabitants to evacuate the village, and Duncan went with his older brother Farquhar over the mountain to Camas-Luinie, a village of Macraes, where they both married Macrae brides. Duncan married Margaret Macrae sometime in the early 1820s, and their first child Alexander Findlay was born there, followed two years later by a daughter Isabella. 
Camas-Luinie, Kintail Parish, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland 
Move to Perth

Duncan and Margaret were desperately poor, and their ancestral Highland home offered no hope of improvement. So in 1829, the couple with their two small children moved to the Scottish city of Perth, about 35 miles north of the capital of Edinburgh. Relatives had preceded them and probably helped them get settled. Duncan found work operating a beetling mill (part of Scotland's textile industry) at Ruthven Mill two miles outside of Perth. The family made their home in the mill itself, and there in 1831 Margaret gave birth to twin daughters, Ann and Margaret, who both died soon after birth.
The Macdonald family later moved to the center of Perth living in a narrow alley named Cutlog Vennel where Alexander and Isabella grew up. Duncan and Margaret apparently had ambitions for their dark-haired, dark-eyed son, and saw that he received a good education at King James VI Hospital School. The city dwellers of lowland Scotland looked down on the Highlanders flocking to the cities, and considered them uncivilized bumpkins. Alexander grew very tall and strong, and he and his father spent many hours punching and tussling so Alexander could learn to defend himself against those who thought themselves his betters.    

After finishing his schooling, Alexander received training as a ship's carpenter and worked in the ship building industry in Perth. Though not as large as the Glasgow shipyards, Perth's location on the River Tay with easy access to the North Sea created a thriving ship industry. Alexander sailed on the maiden voyages of new vessels, making repairs and adjustments as needed. Some time in this era, he attended the University of Edinburgh, although he did not receive a degree. This was a remarkable achievement for someone from his lowly station in the class structure of British society. Alexander's education would serve him well throughout his life.

Life Changing Decision – Becoming a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The defining experience of Alexander F. Macdonald's life was his meeting missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. In November of 1846, Alexander and his ship mate, David Ireland, were paying court to two sisters, the daughters of John and Christina Graham of Perth, and John Graham had invited the missionaries to his home on one of the evenings Alexander was visiting.  Although not known to be a religious seeker before this time, Alexander was struck by the missionary's message of a modern prophet in America who had visions and translated scriptures from golden plates engraved by ancient prophets in pre-Columbian America and buried for centuries.
He wrote later that he was immediately convinced of the truth of the missionary's words, and sought to join the church through baptism.  Although Alexander was 21 and legally an adult, Alexander's father Duncan fiercely opposed his son's desires, and the missionaries advised him to wait.   Always impatient and man of action, Alexander waited as long as he could and finally insisted on baptism in the River Tay on January 2, 1847. The missionaries asked him how his father would respond, and Alexander replied he would surely receive a beating. Alarmed, the missionaries cautioned him to not to strike his father no matter what happened. 

A somber Alexander trudged through the streets of Perth, soaking wet from his baptism, entered the family home, and announced what he had done. His outraged father began raining blows on him, and since his six-foot-four-inch son did not return his punches, Duncan thought he was going too light. So he increased the strength and intensity of his blows, and still Alexander stood impassive, his arms hanging to his sides. Duncan finally stopped only because he was too exhausted to continue, and muttered angrily, "I hope that's enough." 

It was indeed enough, for although Alexander had not struck his father, his anger had mounted mightily during the barrage. He left the house that night and immediately left on a voyage to the Maritime provinces of Canada where he sought out Mormons in Newcastle, New Brunswick. By the time he returned, tempers of both father and son had cooled, and Alexander became active in the local branch of the LDS Church in Perth. To his delight, Elizabeth Graham, the young woman he had been courting and in whose home he had met the missionaries, had also joined the LDS Church.  Her father also had expelled her from their home and she had gone to Edinburgh to live with a Mormon family. 

Alexander's First Mission

In 1850, Alexander was called on a full-time church mission and he set out on a preaching tour through the cities of eastern Scotland. During one of his visits to Perth, he and Elizabeth Graham (by then back in her family's home) became engaged, and a while later they were married.  During this period, Duncan Macdonald, and Alexander's sister Isabella joined the Church, as did most of Elizabeth Graham's family. 

Mission authorities transferred Alexander and Elizabeth to Liverpool, England, the headquarters of the British Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where Alexander's abilities were recognized and his missionary duties increased when he was called to be president of the Liverpool Conference...  

Immigration to America and Utah

In early 1854, Alexander, age 28, and Elizabeth Macdonald left Liverpool in a company of several hundred other European Mormons and sailed to the United States, arriving at the port of New Orleans and took a river steamboat up the Mississippi River to a staging area in Kansas. There they joined a wagon train and arrived in Salt Lake City on October 1, 1854. Alexander's father Duncan Macdonald accompanied them as did Elizabeth's mother and sister. (Margaret Macrae Macdonald had died in Glasgow in 1853, and John Graham had died earlier in Perth. Margaret Macdonald never joined the LDS Church.)
They rented rooms to live in, and Alexander immediately joined the religious and intellectual life of the city. He had already met many of the leaders and members of the Church in Scotland and England and was by no means a stranger. Along with others, he helped organize the Universal Scientific Society with the goal of holding educational, intellectual, and fine arts events. 

During the first several years of their marriage, Elizabeth had suffered repeated miscarriages, and in England she had begun to despair of ever having children. However, she received a Priesthood blessing in Liverpool promising her children. In February of 1855, four months after their arrival in America, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Alexander Findlay Macdonald, Jr. He was the first of eleven sons Elizabeth would eventually bear. 

Springville, Utah

Soon after arriving in Utah, Alexander obtained employment in Springville, Utah, about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City. After the baby's birth, the family moved there, and the family made their home there for six or seven years. Alexander's abilities propelled him to positions of prominence, and he was elected mayor of the town and chosen a Counselor to Bishop Aaron Johnson.

The family built a home, his father, Duncan, married the widow Ann Leslie Thompson, also a Scottish immigrant, and the family appeared to settle into a peaceful pioneer existence.  Alexander started a Springville branch of the Universal Scientific Society and gave lectures on history, current events, and the Indians. He also produced and acted in plays.

Clash with a Federal Army

However, this quiet life did not continue. Rumors had circulated in the East that the Mormons were a subversive lot, dominated by a sinister cabal of leaders headed by Brigham Young. An army was dispatched to Utah to put down the alleged Mormon rebellion, and Utah was thrown into turmoil. By 1858, Johnston's Army had arrived and established Camp Floyd west of Utah Lake. In 1859, a federal judge opened court in the county seat at Provo, and Alexander Macdonald was called in to serve on a grand jury. However, that was just a ruse to deceive him, and as soon as he arrived at the court he was arrested along with a few other men. All those involved knew there was nothing to charge him with, and that the authorities merely wanted to intimidate him into implicating Brigham Young, their real goal, in several crimes. However, the federal authorities picked the wrong man in A. F. Macdonald. Although they kept him under armed guards 24 hours a day, most of the time with a cocked pistol held against his temple, Alexander resisted their efforts to lie or betray his leader. He knew that Brigham Young was not guilty of any crime other than espousing and leading an unusual and unpopular religion. Still they kept A. F. Macdonald imprisoned, and finally after a month, fearing the incensed citizenry of Utah Valley would rescue Macdonald by force, the authorities decided to transfer him to Camp Floyd. They tied him straddled to a cannon and hauled him for several days to the army headquarters. Army diarist Albert Tracy records: 

“Of our convoy of prisoners, one McDonald, stood not less than six feet three, and towered above the guard like a giant. . . . He strode with an air of martyr-like defiance, and seemed to be high in favor with the lookers on. The remaining prisoners were downcast, or, perhaps, dogged of manner, and seemed less confident.” 

Clearly, Alexander was not threatened although he was treated cruelly by his 7th Regiment captors. Thomas Ackley, another  military officer recorded in his journal how Alexander Macdonald, sleeping in the guard house hall, exhausted after the long march from Provo, was nearly murdered by an imprisoned soldier. Walking into the room with his ball and chain,  “One of these fellows let his iron ball drop, . . . intending for it to strike the Mormon in the head, and would have killed him had it not been that he threw up his arm to save himself, but broke his arm.” (The diarist later identifies the injured man as Alexander Macdonald who was denied medical treatment for his broken arm.) 

Ackley later expressed amusement at observing Macdonald and other prisoners working “. . . with large sacks of sand tied to them, others with large logs of wood strapped to their backs for punishment. . . . .”

Later Alexander was confined to small adobe room, barely large enough for him to stand, and with only a small pile of straw as bathroom facilities. A frantic Elizabeth tried to visit him and bring him bedding and food, but she was turned away.  One of the officers had Macdonald brought to his quarters at night to secretly teach him the doctrines of Mormonism. Alexander later told his wife that the young captain believed the teachings but feared that joining the church would jeopardize his military career. Eventually the Army was embarrassed into releasing A.F. Macdonald and he returned to his wife and sons in Springville. 

The Macdonalds and Polygamy

It was in Springville that Alexander and Elizabeth Macdonald entered the practice of plural marriage, when in 1856 Alexander married Sarah Johnson, a beautiful and refined Englishwoman. Later her relatives forcibly took her away to Nevada and forced her into a relationship there. She died young after giving birth to two children who also died. Very little is known about her except that she was tall, blonde, beautiful, and was born in 1839 in Liverpool, England. . 

Called to Provo, Utah – Manage Tithing Office, City Councilman,
Provo Tabernacle, Provo Canyon Road

Church leaders had taken notice of the young Scottish convert, and Brigham Young called Alexander to move to Provo in the early 1860s to manage the Church's tithing office there. (This set the pattern for the remainder of Alexander's life in which calls from his leaders directed all his activities.)  Tithing was paid largely in kind in the form of potatoes, grain, butter, milk, eggs, hay, cattle, horses, and other goods.  Storing, preserving, and distributing these goods was no small task and Alexander proved himself an able manager.

The Saints of Provo had been working on building a Tabernacle for over a decade, but the project languished and an impatient Brigham Young assigned Alexander Macdonald to take charge of completing the Provo Tabernacle - which was soon finished and dedicated under his direction.  Alexander spoke often in the new meetinghouse.

He owned a drug store and had a farm on the shores of Utah Lake in what is now Orem. He built one of the finest homes in town on 100 South between 100 and 200 East, led in building the Provo Canyon Road and a bridge over the Provo River. He also helped start the Provo Woolen Mills. He was an officer in the Provo School of the Prophets, initiated a beekeepers’ association, and worked on a number of other business and community projects.  He was also elected a City Councilman and served ten years as Postman.

In 1864 Alexander married two more wives, both Scottish-Agnes Aird and Elizabeth Atkinson (always called "Lizzie" in the family)-and in 1870 he married his last (5th) wife, Fannie Van Cott, daughter of LDS general authority, John Van Cott, and cousin of Apostles Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt.  Fannie, a telegraph operator, was 20 years old at the time of their marriage and AF was 45 years old.  Fannie initially lived with AF and his fist wife, Elizabeth Graham.  They ran a large home in Provo, similar today to a motel, where traveling church authorities stayed.  Their first child, John Van Cott Macdonald, died as an infant while they were living in Provo.
Fannie Van Cott is Alexander's 5th wifeWe come through her line - daughter Lucy  
Macdonald Home Raided

In 1870, U.S. soldiers stationed west of Provo, raided the Macdonald home and vandalized it because Alexander would not sell them alcohol he carried in his store on Center Street.  Alexander stocked liquor for medical treatments and knew the soldiers were buying it for recreational purposes.  The soldiers found liquor elsewhere and, got drunk, then decided to take revenge on Macdonald, who was absent from the home.  They terrorized his wives and children and sacked the entire lower floor, breaking out all doors and windows and scattering bedding, dishes, and furniture in the street. The so-called “Provo Raid” enraged the citizens and embarrassed the military authorities. Alexander accepted their apologies and reparations. 

Four of Elizabeth Graham Macdonald's younger sons died in Provo and were buried in the Provo Cemetery where Alexander placed a large obelisk to mark their graves.   Elizabeth's eleventh and youngest son died in Nephi, Utah, while the family was traveling to St. George, and he was also buried in the family plot in Provo.   Agnes Aird Macdonald and Elizabeth Atkinson Macdonald both gave birth to daughters who died as infants in Provo.  By 1872, Alexander Macdonald had fathered 18 children and by the time the family was finally settled in St. George in 1872, eleven healthy children filled the Macdonald households.  
Springville, Utah

On 20 May 1857 the 51st quorum of Seventy was organized at Springville, Utah with AF Macdonald, Noah T. Guyman, Lorenzo Johnson, Spicer W. Crandall, Abraham Day and Hamilton H Kerns as presidents.  AF was a surveyor of the area and he served as mayor of Springville and as a Stake President.

Called to move to St. George – Stake Presidency, Mayor, build Temple

In the early 1870s, Brigham Young called Alexander Macdonald to move to St. George to manage the construction of the St. George Temple and to take charge of the tithing office in far southwest Utah.  Construction had just begun on the large temple, and most of the Church's tithes were flowing there to support this huge building effort.  Alexander moved his large family to St. George in stages, and bought homes and property in Middleton, Utah, next to St. George.  He built Fannie her first home in Middleton.

In Utah's Dixie, Alexander Macdonald's was called to the Stake Presidency and was elected mayor of the city.  He, his wives, and his older sons worked vigorously to build the temple and to improve their own personal situations, and Alexander was involved in many civic and commercial projects. However, Alexander retained his property in Provo and told Brigham Young he wished to return there to live when the temple was completed.  Brigham agreed.  

The Macdonald family prospered in St. George, and his older sons grew to young manhood. His aged father, Duncan Maccdonald, who had loved his son and followed him to America, died in St. George on September 12, 1876. Duncan's widow, Ann Leslie Thompson Macdonald, moved back to Springville to her children.

In St. George six more children were born, four of whom died there as infants or toddlers.

Alexander anticipated the completion of the St. George temple in early 1877 so he could move back to Provo - - But Brigham Young had other plans in mind, and during the dedication services of Temple, the Church president announced from the pulpit that A.F. Macdonald and two of his sons were called to Scotland on a mission. The family took the news in stride, and the wives set about to support themselves and the missionaries. All were committed to hard work, and no end to it was in sight.
St. George Temple

Alexander did not forget the purpose of the temple, however, and he gathered family records and performed some of the first ordinances in the St. George Temple, some of first vicarious endowments for the deceased in that temple.  

Called on a Mission to Scotland

In 1877, A. F. Macdonald left with his sons Alec (Alexander F., Jr.) and Aaron for Scotland, traveling eastward by train, an improvement over the ox-drawn wagon Alexander had driven 23 years earlier.

In Scotland, Alexander was made President of the Glasgow Conference, and he attacked his work vigorously as he did every task. In later years, Andrew Duthie, a Scottish convert of that era who had settled with the Macdonalds in the Mexican colonies, commented that when Alexander and his two stalwart sons arrived, the Scottish saints were somewhat awe-struck by the towering threesome. “They looked like the gods!” he told Colonia Juarez resident W. Ernest Young.

 Alec paid a visit to his father's home area of Kintail and became acquainted with relatives there. Alexander himself spent several weeks there in August 1877, visiting and recording over 100 pages of invaluable genealogical data of hundreds of names and families of his relatives, data that formed the foundation of subsequent family genealogical research.  Aaron Macdonald's journals paint a vivid picture of their missionary experiences in Scotland, including visits to their Aird, Graham, Macdonald, and Macrae relations.

On his return from this mission, he was in charge of 170 emigrating Saints sailing aboard the steamship Wyoming. This tired company arrived in Salt Lake City on June 11, 1879. (see letter from AF at the end of this document)

Called to Lead Settlement in Arizona – Surveyor, Stake President, Mayor

Alec McDonald (A.F.'s eldest son preferred this spelling of his surname) returned from the mission after a year, and Alexander and Aaron returned the summer of 1879. They planned their return to Provo when they got back to Utah. However, Brigham Young had died while they were away, and senior Apostle John Taylor now was the President of the Church. Not long after Alexander reported his mission to President Taylor, he was surprised to learn that he, Alexander, was called to go to Arizona to assume leadership of the settlement there known as the Salt River Mission (Maricopa), present day Mesa, a few miles east of Phoenix. 

Ever obedient, Alexander took his families and began the move to Arizona.  His wife Lizzie wrote that she and her daughters  moved to Arizona in a covered wagon.  It was a two to three month trip from St. George, Utah to Mesa, Arizona.  Elizabeth and the two little girls settled in the little community of Jonesville, located three miles north of Mesa. 

Alexander arrived in December 1879 to find the colony with an array of problems among themselves and with the local Indians. Within hours of arriving in the Mesa area, several Indian chiefs visited the new Mormon leader with complaints which Alexander later learned had merit and needed attention.  Alexander was always very interested in the Indians he encountered after he immigrated from Scotland to the American West. He had studied them and their cultures when he lived in Utah, and he continued that interest in Arizona. He did not neglect their spiritual welfare and called several people to labor as missionaries among the Indian people in Arizona, including his wife, Elizabeth Atkinson Macdonald.

He was called to serve as the first Stake President of the Maricopa Stake, and also was elected in 1883 as the first Mayor, where he provided the leadership to incorporate and form the first city charter.  Fannie was the first town's postmistress.

As always, he plunged in to solve the problems and carry out the myriad activities required to develop raw land into a productive settlement and a rough frontier culture into some semblance of spiritual and cultural refinement. As he had done in Springville, Provo, and St. George, A.F. Macdonald set about surveying roads, canals, and ditches, and overseeing the construction projects. He built many buildings-houses, schools, churches, stores, barns.   The street named BASELINE was his "baseline" measurement in surveying in the Valley of the Sun.  The Macdonald family home was located a little south and west of the Mesa Temple, and the street "Macdonald" in downtown Mesa is named after him.

Only one child was born in Mesa, Lucy Lavinia, to his wife Fannie Van Cott. Tragedy struck again however, when in 1883 an epidemic of small pox swept through the Mormon settlement and killed Alexander and Fannie's son John V. Macdonald, age 11. The next summer, 24-year-old Aaron J. Macdonald, perhaps one of A.F.'s most promising children, died also, leaving his young widow and infant son.  Alexander and his wives pressed on in their duties.  (Lucy Lavinia married Oscar E. Bluth). 
Fannie Van Cott Macdonald with Lucy (top), Fannie and Byron

Called to Colonize Northern Mexico –
Negotiator with the Mexican President, Mexican Mission Counselor

As part of A.F. Macdonald's leadership responsibilities after arriving in Arizona, he was instructed by the Church leaders to begin explorations for Mormon colony sites in northern Mexico. Brigham Young had always looked to the far north (Canada) and the far south (Mexico) as logical and natural extensions of Mormon settlement.

Alexander traveled often to Sonora and Chihuahua, the bordering Mexican states with exploring expeditions – and in 1884 it became urgent that Mexican Colonies be formed.  The United States government had become progressively more determined to eradicate Mormon polygamy, and the federal marshals in Arizona were particularly diligent. A.F. Macdonald and other LDS leaders spent much of their time in federal custody or hiding to avoid arrest. They felt their marriage practices were their religious responsibilities and deemed federal opposition to be religious persecution. God had commanded them to practice plural marriage, and they felt it their duty to oppose the government. Church efforts to maintain the legality of plural marriage had preoccupied the leaders during the preceding decades.

Called by President John Taylor to Find Land in Mexico for Mormon Refugees

Shortly after the birth of his daughter Lucy (24 November 1884), A.F. Macdonald left Mesa, by Church assignment, to find a place in Mexico to settle the hundreds of Mormons refugees fleeing the polygamy prosecutions.
He made three trips into northern Sonora, the third of these in November and December of 1884, with a group headed by apostles Brigham Young, Jr., and Heber J. Grant. There were twenty-four people in the group, one other stake president (Christopher Layton) besides himself, and representatives from all of the frontier towns in Arizona. They went as far south as the mouth of the Yaqui River, made friends with the Yaqui Indians, and were invited to settle on some of their lands. Because the Yaquis were at that time at war with the government of Mexico, the Mormons were accused by the press of collaborating with the Yaquis against Mexico. Colonization there at that time had to be abandoned. Copies of the Book of Mormon, however, were later sent to the Yaquis through missionaries and some Yaquis were baptized.

Later at a conference in St. David, Arizona, because of the illness of apostle Brigham Young, Jr., Alexander was appointed to take his place. There he met with Apostle Moses Thatcher, who notified the Saints of the failure to find suitable lands in Sonora and told them that explorations would continue in Chihuahua with Alexander in charge.

Pacheco - Temple Hill Vision (Dream)

From LDS Church records:  "January 15, 1885 John Campbell and Alexander F. Macdonald left Christopher Layton at Corralitos and they rode up the San Diego Trail and on westward about 15 miles to the Corrales Basin - - arriving about noon on the 3rd day (Jan 18, 1885).  They intended to go on over the range into Sonora, Mexico.  Upon arriving they prepared a meal under a cedar tree, among the willows, on the east side of the creek.  After dinner President Macdonald (43 years old) lay down in the shade of the cedar tree and went to sleep, while John Campbell went scouting around the valley.  Upon Campbell's return President Macdonald said, "This is the place...we have gone far enough.  We will return to Corralitos." 
Temple Hill in the background with Pacheco River

Lucy Macdonald Bluth said that her father had told the family that he had a dream and in vision had seen a small Temple on that hill.  He knew that from that point the light of the gospel would be taken throughout Mexico with leadership from the Colonies.  M.F. Trejo, a Mexican national and friend of AF Macdonald, was the man who translated the Book of Mormon into Spanish - and the promise of the Book of Mormon being taken to the Lamanites flourished - and continues going strong throughout our generations.

From LDS Church records:  "Saturday, January 18, 1885 a party was organized with Francis M. Lyman as president of the company, Apostle Teasdale as Captain and Recorder - and GC Richardson captain of the guard.  Isaac Turley was called as Comissary, Alonso Farnsworth and Edmond Richardson called as Cooks, MM Sanders and Israel Call as Packers - and AF Macdonald and Jesse N. Smith as Committee.  Passing the Piedras Verdes river they camped at Cave Valley, July 23rd.  At noon the next day we killed three deer in the Corrales Basin and camped on the bluff of the west side of the valley where we hoisted the American Flag at half-mast in honor of the 24th of July (Pioneer Day).  Ten men and eighteen animals were in the party."

"Ten years later at Casas Grandes Apostle Francis M. Lyman met AL Farnsworth and told him to go and locate the ground where he, Lyman, had hoisted the Flag, and to mark the tree that the Flag was on and write the names of the ten men on it - - asking people to perceive it.  I did this."  (AL Farnsworth Salt Lake record)  Apostle Lyman asked Edward Stevenson, one of the seven Presidents of the Seventy, to dedicate the ground at that spot and to preserve a record of it.  The two men located the spot and did as they were assigned.  

 Settling in Colonia Juarez - Relocation - Miracle of Water

Alexander's patience and negotiating skills were finally rewarded with the purchase of 200,000 acres of land in the valleys near Casas Grandes and in the mountains to the southwest. The lands were secured and titles were established for “Colonia Diaz,” named for Porfirio Diaz, “Colonia Juarez,” named for Benito Juarez, and “Colonia Pacheco,” honoring their benefactor, the governor of Chihuahua.  
At first the families lived in dugouts, and there were many trials.  Alexander F. Macdonald commenced to survey the new town site.  After working the land, beginning to build homes, the colonists found that they had to relocate and start over again in an area where there was not enough water.  The stunning news that their town site was located two miles below the northern boundary of the San Diego Ranch and not on the lands which they had purchased!  The legal owner stubbornly refused to sell or trade, although he was offered twice as much land in exchange, and the colonists had to pull-up-stakes, abandon their improvements, and move two miles north to the land to which they had title.  There was hardly any access to water in this area and the saints were very concerned.   

On New Year's day, 1887, a party of settlers drove up in their wagons and carriages to dedicate the new town site. The sun shone brightly, and the day was sufficiently warm that an outdoor meeting was not unpleasant.   The services commenced at 11:00 a.m., with Elder Erastus Show, of the Council of the Twelve, conducting and Elder Moses Thatcher offered the dedicatory prayer. He petitioned the Lord that every hard feeling might be banished from the minds of the Saints.  Miraculously, an
earthquake came and opened up springs and the river then had sufficient water for the community of Colonia Juarez! 
 Alexander surveyed, engineered and supervised the construction of canals for water to be brought from the Piedras Verdes River, and an irrigation system for the town of Colonia Juarez.  George W. Sevey and Miles P. Romney located the line for a new canal on the northeast side of the river. This ditch was three miles long and was completed within a few months.  AF also surveyed the canal system that took water to the two Colonia Dublan Lakes.  These systems are still in use today.

Alexander chose three lots on the main street of Colonia Juarez and after liquidating his property in Mesa, Arizona, he built comfortable homes on two of them for his wives, Agnes and Fannie. He was the first to use concrete in building homes in Mexico.  He sold the third lot to John C. Harper with the condition to build a hotel on it.

Fannie records that she and her two children, Byron and Lucy, travelled by train in June of 1887 from Mesa, Arizona to El Paso, Texas - and from there into Mexico by team and wagon.  Fannie was 35 years old.  She was adept at making candies and raising vegetables which were sold to purchase needed commodities.  She was also the postmistress in Colonia Juarez, running the mail our of her home.
Mexican Mission Presidency and Mexican Colonization and Agricultural Company

The colonization had two organizations, ecclesiastical and economic. The church organization, officially the Mexican Mission, was headed by Elder George Teasdale, one of the Twelve Apostles, with Alexander F. Macdonald as First Counselor, and Henry Eyring as Second Counselor. The economic organization was called the Mexican Colonization and Agricultural Company, headed by John Henry Smith, one of the Apostles in Utah.  A.F. Macdonald was named General Manager, and was the director of land matters in Mexico. 

His responsibilities required that he travel often to Utah and Mexico City, and other places.  Also, when the Juarez Stake was organized on 8 December 1895, Alexander was called as the first Stake Patriarch, serving under Anthony W. Ivins as Stake President. 

With prolonged absences, his wives and families carried on their homes without him, yet when he did make an appearance in one of his homes, he naturally assumed the role of husband and father, in short, the patriarch. This created tensions because the families were used to operating without him, and it sometimes resulted in strained family relationships. 

By this time, most of his children from Elizabeth, Agnes, and Lizzie were grown or nearly so, and were scattered throughout Utah and Arizona. His wife Fannie, however, was much younger, and was still bearing children.  She had A.F.'s last child, Flora Hermosa, in Mexico in 1888. 

Stilling longing to live in Provo, Utah, Alexander felt he had sacrificed all his personal desires to answer the call of those he believed to be true prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ. He was not merely colonizing the great American West, a grand enough concept in itself, rather he was building the very Kingdom of God on the earth as he felt The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be. 

He was deeply wounded, therefore, to learn that some of his fellow colonists in Mexico had sent a letter to Church leaders in Salt Lake City complaining about his work in Mexico regarding land distribution and other issues. They went so far as to request he be removed from office. Three apostles (Brigham Young, Jr., John Henry Smith, and Francis M. Lyman) were sent to investigate the matter, and all three reported that Macdonald had made difficult decisions, but, in their estimation, he had made the right decisions.                                       

 Moving to Colonia Garcia

Macdonald was vindicated, but he was also hurt, and partly because of his feelings and partly because Colonia Garcia needed settlers, he moved there at age 70.  His wife Agnes went with him, but  Fannie Van Cott would not follow him, and because she wanted her children to be well educated, she stayed in Colonia Juarez where her children could attend the Juarez Stake Academy.   

Colonia Garcia was a remote settlement up in a mountain valley, and he built a simple log cabin to live in. He still owned that simple cabin when he died. One wonders if he every contemplated the irony of his life-he had the skills to acquire wealth which he had demonstrated over and over. In Provo, St. George, and Mesa he still owned beautiful homes, farms, orchards, stores, and other holdings where he could live in comfort and security. Yet he felt he was living for a higher cause, and when his son Wallace wrote him that he was now old and could move back to Mesa and live comfortably, Alexander fairly thundered his response that he was doing as he had been called to do by his Priesthood leaders, and he was not ready or willing to retire. 

A Leader in Every Way

Alexander was always on the cutting edge of the Mormon frontier, laboring to bring order and progress under primitive conditions. He worked in the western American deserts to build cities, temples, churches, houses, forts, mills, farms, stores, factories, roads, bridges, dams, canals, orchards, and companies.  He brought the refining influence of education, the arts, and intellectual pursuits to pioneer settlements. He delivered lectures on English history, beekeeping, mechanics, and the American Indians. He participated in plays, debates, and dances. He promoted and organized parades, pageants, and celebrations. He negotiated disputes between farmers and ranchers, between Indians and whites, and between Americans and Mexican landowners and government officials. He traveled thousands of miles every year to perform his duties and to attend conferences, board meetings, and government sessions. 

He continued through the last decade of the nineteenth century to buy new tracts of lands for future Mormon settlements. He traveled often to Utah and Arizona on Church business. He attended the dedication of the great Salt Lake temple in April 1893, and was part of a sacred prayer circle with the Church's First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other general authorities and invited leaders.  
Temple Work
He engaged in a prodigious amount of temple work for his ancestors and relatives, and is considered one of the great early genealogists of the Church when little or no Church assistance was available in gathering names and conducting genealogical research.  

Agnes Aird Macdonald Murdered

On February 23, 1898, while Alexander was away on a conference trip, a trusted employee, a young Mexican boy that the family had taken in, burglarized their home in Colonia Garcia and murdered his wife Agnes Aird, age 59.  He was shocked and returned immediately. Agnes's son James was living in Garcia, and her other two sons, Wallace and George, came from Arizona to hunt down her killer. They were warned by an Apostle to give up their search or they would lose their lives. Much folklore arose over the death of Agnes Macdonald, but the facts have been carefully researched and are now largely known, but he final fate of her murderer, Teófilo Parra, is however still unclear. With Agnes's deaths, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Atkinson Macdonald left her home near Mesa, Arizona, and went to Garcia to be with her husband. She also cared for the four children of her daughter Elizabeth when she died in 1902. 

Called to Serve as Stake Patriarch

In 1895, LDS Church authorities organized the Mexican Mission into the Juarez Stake. Anthony W. Ivins, an able man from St. George, was called to be president, with Henry Eyring and Helaman Pratt as counselors. Alexander F. Macdonald, then over 70 years of age, was ordained a Patriarch and also called as president of the High Priests Quorum, fitting duties indeed for a proven and seasoned veteran.  Both AF and Ivins held the Sealing Power to perform marriages outside of the temple.  He wanted his daughter, Lucy, to travel with him as his scribe, but her mother, Fannie, put her foot down and would not allow her to leave her education.  He continued on the board of directors of the Mexican Colonization and Agricultural Company, and made frequent trips to Utah for meetings and temple work. He also traveled about the colonies in Mexico giving patriarchal blessings.   

In 1902 Joseph F. Smith, then President of the Mormon Church, was visiting the Macdonald home in Colonia Garcia. A.F. Macdonald provided his comfortable red velvet house slippers to the visiting president, and young Marguerite (granddaughter, and daughter of Bessie) was unhappy at seeing someone else with her Grandpa's slippers on, scolded President Smith, saying, "Off trodes shun," which translated means, "Take off Grandpa's shoes!"

Old Age and Ill Health

Lizzie continued to live in Colonia Garcia while Fannie maintained a home in Colonia Juarez. Through the 1890s, Alexander's health began to decline.  In the early spring of 1903 he and Lizzie went to El Paso to seek medical help, with Agnes Ayrd's son, Jim Macdonald, driving the wagon.  The doctors diagnosed him with advanced Bright's disease, a condition that kidney and urinary tract failure. The doctors told him there was nothing they could do, that they could only put him in the hospital to await death.  He decided he would go home to Colonia Garcia to die, and got on the train with Lizzie. By the time they got to the station in Nuevo Casas Grandes (the main train station used by the Mormon colonists) Alexander was nearly comatose.  Lizzie helped him off the train and kind strangers helped get him to the home of the Elldredge family, editor of the El Progresso newspaper and kind Americans living in the area. They put him to bed, and after recovering partial consciousness for a few moments, the honorable old Scotsman died. It was 21 March 1903.  

Lizzie immediately contacted Church authorities in Colonia Dublan, the Mormon town only two miles away, where his daughter Lucy Macdonald Bluth lived. They came and took the remains to Colonia Dublan where they dressed him appropriately and held the funeral the following day.  Helaman Pratt, a member of the stake presidency living in Colonia Dublán took care of the funeral plans.  ACF was buried in the Colonia Dublan Cemetery, although he never lived there. He had expressed his desire to be taken to Provo for burial, so the Young brothers who dug his grave, bricked the sides so that the casket could be retrieved later. His body was never taken to Provo and still remains to this day in Dublan Cemetery. 

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Atkinson stayed in the log cabin home in Colonia Garcia with her four grandchildren until the Exodus of 1912 when she went to Lehi, Arizona, where she died ten years later on February 4, 1922.  She was buried in Mesa City Cemetery. She had four daughters, two of whom died as infants, and one who died as a young mother of four.  Her sons grew to adulthood, but all save one died before she did. 

After AF's death, Lizzie returned to Colonia Garcia and remained there for approximately 9 more years.  In 1912 when the Mexican Revolution broke out they were forced to quickly leave Mexico with very few belongings.  Lizzie, thinking she would only be gone a short time,  buried AF's journals and records in a trunk in a shallow dry well, thinking that the family would return to claim them at a later date.  Some family members have tried to locate them, but with no success.

Fannie Van Cott stayed in her home in Colonia Juarez where she raised her three surviving children of the five she bore. She wanted her children to be well educated and she supported herself by running the post office.   In September 1921 Fannie moved to Colonia Dublan after her youngest daughter Flora (who was married to Loren Taylor) died, leaving 3 young children.  Fannie cared for these grandchildren until Loren was married to a widow, LaVetta Cluff Lunt (mother of LaRee Lunt Bluth and Ora Lunt Bluth).  After Loren remarried Fannie moved in with her daughter Lucy and Lucy's husband Oscar Emmanuel Bluth.  Fannie died at 80 years oldl on the 21st of December 1930 and was buried next to her husband and daughter, Flora, in the Colonia Dublan cemetery.

Alexander Findlay Macdonald was the father of 26 children, 14 of whom grew to adulthood. Two of the 14 (Heber and George) had children but no grandchildren, so their lines have died out. The posterity of the twelve other children was estimated to number around 5,000 people as of the year 2008.

Alexander F. Macdonald's Wives and Children
A.F. Macdonald married five women, and had children with four of them:
Elizabeth Graham married 20 May 1851 in Scotland (11 sons)
Sarah Johnson married 20 Jan 1856 in Springville, Utah (no children) (she left)
Agnes Aird married 20 Oct 1864 in Salt Lake City (6 children)
Elizabeth (lizzie) Atkinson married 20 Oct 1864 in Salt Lake City (4 children)
Fannie Van Cott married 1 Aug 1870 in Salt Lake City (5 children)

The following charts give a summary of the children of A.F. Macdonald from each of his wives.
Children of Elizabeth Graham Macdonald
Alexander F., Jr.12 Feb 1855Salt Lake City, Utah5 Feb 1916Goldfield, Nevada60
Graham Duncan3 Jul 1856Springville, Utah27 Feb 1908Kanab, Utah51
Joseph Booth23 Dec 1857Springville, Utah16 Jan 1942St. George, Utah84
Aaron Johnson12 Jul 1859Springville, Utah5 Jul 1884Mesa, Arizona24
Samuel Whitney 16 Nov 1860Springville, Utah20 Oct 1868Provo, Utah7
Israel Hope25 Sep 1862Springville, Utah3 Apr 1865Provo, Utah2
Heber Chase4 Jul 1864Provo, Utah12 Jul 1903Prescott, Arizona39
Macrae4 Feb 1866Provo, Utah1902Kanab, Utah36
Brigham Alma19 Feb 1868Provo, Utah16 Apr 1869Provo, Utah1
Smith12 Jan 1870Provo, Utah12 Jan 1870Provo, Utah0
Abraham Owen3 Apr 1871Provo, Utah1 Nov 1872Nephi, Utah1
Children of Agnes Aird Macdonald
Wallace Aird4 Sep 1865Provo, Utah3 Jul 1952San Diego, Calif.86
Agnes19 Feb 1868Provo, Utah6 Sep 1869Provo, Utah1
George Aird9 Feb 1870Provo, Utah12 Nov 1931Phoenix, Arizona61
James Alexander29 Nov 1871Provo, Utah17 Dec 1940Mesa, Arizona69
Arthur Aird (twin)19 Sep 1873St. George, Utah2 Nov 1873St. George, Utah6 wks
Flora (twin)19 Sep 1873St. George, Utah19 Sep 1873St. George, Utah0

Children of Elizabeth Atkinson Macdonald
Margaret Atkinson29 Oct 1865Provo, Utah14 Jun 1935Mesa, Arizona69
Annetta24 Jun 1867Provo, Utah7 Jun 1868Provo, Utah1
Elizabeth Graham27 Aug 1874St. George, Utah23 Oct 1904Colonia Morelos, Sonora, Mexico30
Maude Atkinson27 Aug 1876St. George, Utah5 Jul 1878St. George, Utah2
Children of Fannie Van Cott Macdonald
John Van Cott3 Mar 1872Provo, UtahAug 1883Mesa, Arizona11
Scott Van Cott1 Dec 1874St. George, Utah1 Feb 1875St. George, Utah2 mos.
Byron Van Cott14 Sep 1877St. George, Utah20 Jun 1953El Paso, Texas75
Lucy Lavinia24 Nov 1884Mesa, Arizona22 Jul 1949Phoenix, Arizona64
Flora Hermosa22 Apr 1888Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico12 Sep 1921Colonia. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico33


Letter from Alexander F. Macdonald - May 25, 1879
Sunday morning, 8 o'clock.
President William Budge,

Dear Brother,--As you are aware we left the Mersey on Saturday afternoon, May 24th, the weather being all that could be desired. The sea was dead smooth, and everything else going right; the Saints all felt in the best of spirits. Everybody enjoyed the walk on the upper deck of the Wyoming for a short time, and then came the call for dinner. So far as I could judge ample justice was done to this meal by both young and old; but in answer to a question I put to one of the stewards I received the reply, "I don't think, Sir, we shall have so many to dinner tomorrow." It did not take me long to arrive at the conclusion that the steward meant that many would be absent from the table through seasickness.
The ship is traveling well. There is a strong headwind against us, but the vessel is well down in the water, and her splendid machinery is driving us along very steadily. Up to present time (3:30) there is not the slightest sign of seasickness. Old and young are in good spirits, and all feel pleased that the Lord has opened the way of their emancipation from Babylon.
About 4 o'clock, just after the purser had got the tickets all satisfactorily checked, the president of the company (A. [Alexander] F. Macdonald) called the Saints below and intimated that it was necessary they should meet together to perfect the organization of the company. The meeting was opened by singing and prayer. This over, President [Alexander] Macdonald addressed the company, remarking that as they were now fairly started on their voyage, it was necessary to prepare for what was before them. He then expressed the pleasure he felt at meeting so many of the Saints under the present circumstances, and went on to counsel them to bear with one another on the journey, to help those who were sick, and otherwise to put any matters in order which might require attention. He then stated that he had that morning, at a meeting of the elders held shortly before the vessel sailed, been unanimously appointed president of the company, with Brother Jacob Scharrer as his first and brother Joseph E. Cowley as his second counselor and Elder J. Bull, Jr., as chaplain. The whole of the above was put to the meeting and unanimously sustained. Arrangements were then made as to the time when meetings should be held, and as an adjunct to these, Brother S. [Samuel] L. Adams was appointed chorister, with power to elect others to assist him in the singing. Brother William J. B. Carter was elected as captain of the guard, with power to call others to assist him when necessary. Brother J. [Joseph] E. Cowley briefly addressed the Saints, counseling them to follow the instructions of the president. President Macdonald stated that Brother John Irvine had been appointed to act as clerk to the company, and concluded by explaining that Elder Orson Pratt would have liked to have been present at the departure of the Saints that morning, but owing to his being so busily engaged at present he had to forego that pleasure. However, Elder Pratt had instructed President Budge to tell the Saints from him that while the Lord had promised to preserve them, which he most assuredly would do, all his promises were conditional that unless they lived in a right way before the Lord, they were not entitled to be the recipients of the blessings promised. The meeting then concluded. Benediction by Elder W. J. B. Carter.
8 p.m. The Saints were called together for prayers, and shortly afterwards nearly all had retired. Weather still fine. Strong head wind, but no sea.
Sunday Morning, 5 o'clock. All well. Only one or two slight cases of sickness.
8 a.m. Arrived off Queenstown. Morning fine, and all the people seem hearty and busy at breakfast. Not only is there no sickness on board, but the appearance of the weather seems to indicate that this state of things will continue some time longer. All well.
A. [Alexander] F. Macdonald, President,Jacob Scharrer, Counselor,J. [Joseph] E. Cowley, Counselor,John Irvine, Clerk. [p.343]
BIB: McDonald, Alexander F. [Letter], Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 41:22, (June 2, 1879) p. 343. (CHL)



No comments:

Post a Comment