George McDonald


George McDonald


REV. GEORGE McDONALD, the leading character in this sketch, was born February 25, 1825, in Donegal township, Washington Co., Penn., near West Alexander.

George McDonald, his grandfather, was a native of Scotland, from either Rosshire or Sutherlandshire, and related to Flora McDonald, the heroine of two dynasties and two continents.  George McDonald's ancestors were the Lords of the Isles off the west of Scotland for centuries before these islands became subject to the king of Scotland. Grandfather McDonald was twice married: first to Miss Gordon, and they had one son William. After the death of his first wife, he married Barbara McDonald, the result of which marriage was two sons, John and George. He (grandfather) immigrated to America in the good ship "Janet," in 1773, and located on the Potomac near Mount Vernon. After the close of the war for Independence, he with his family crossed the Alleghanies, and purchased a farm on Chartiers creek, near the present county home. Here his son John was born. There he remained from 1780 to 1792, when he purchased and moved to a farm in East Finley township, south of Claysville, where he passed the remaining years of his life. He was a most devotedly pious man, and active in the building up of the church in his region. A Presbyterian of the regular Scotch type, and among the founders of the Presbyterian Church of West Alexander, he never let worldly affairs interfere with his religious duties. Not only was he punctual in attendance on the means of grace, but watchful for the peace and prosperity of Zion. He was known as the "Scotch singer," and often led the people in the service of song. He died November 25, 1811, and was laid to rest beside his wife, who had preceded him, in the church burial ground at West Alexander.

John McDonald, son of George, was born in 1788, in Chartiers township, Washington Co., Penn., but in early life went with his parents to their new home in East Finley township. In his early manhood he married Margaret Byers, of the same county, daughter of Thomas and Margaret (Shannon) Byers, the former of whom was a son of Samuel Byers, who was born in Chester county, Penn., where the connection had resided for generations. Samuel was there married to Jane White, and their children were: William (who settled near Maysville, Ky.), Samuel, James, Thomas Ebenezer (of Mercer county), Andrew, Nancy and Rachel. Samuel Byers, Sr., came west from Chester county in 1777, and located on a farm near Canonsburg. He was a stanch Presbyterian and did good work in planting the church in that region. Thomas, the son, with his wife was most courageous in battling with danger in their new home in East Finley, because of the attacks of Indians. The following are the names of their children: John, a physician; Sarah, wife of Adam Wylie, M. D.; Thomas, a farmer, married to Margaret Hamilton; Jane, wife of David Stewart; Margaret, wife of John McDonald; Anne, wife of Andrew Yates; James, a farmer, married to Mary Stevenson; Nancy, wife of John Brice, a farmer; Rachel, wife of Hugh Wilson, a merchant; Samuel, a farmer, married to Anne Wilson, and William, also a farmer, married to Rebecca McCurdy, and then to Miss Thorn. One son and five sons-in-law were ruling elders in the Presbyterian Church. Thomas Byers was a vigorous farmer and a prominent business man. He was a bright example of Christian piety. In 1813 he was installed an elder in the Presbyterian Church of West Alexander, which office he filled with great acceptance, being called the peacemaker of the Session.

John McDonald after marriage remained four years on the old home farm in East Finley township. At that time he purchased a farm in Donegal township, south of West Alexander, where he passed the remaining years of his life. The following are the names of their children: Thomas (deceased), Barbara (wife of Thomas Frazier, Esq.), Mary S., Eliza J., George, John McC., Thomas, William and Rachel M., all three deceased. Mr. McDonald was always in keeping with the advance of the age, and being a friend of liberal education, gave all his children favorable opportunities for mental culture in the academy at West Alexander. He often filled offices of trust in the community. After the death of his wife in May, 1867, he moved to West Alexander, remaining there till his death, December 11, 1868. But his example in the church shone most conspicuous. He made profession of his faith in early life. In 1828 he was elected an elder, and about the same time Sabbath-school superintendent, both of which offices he filled forty years. Of him his last pastor (Rev. W. H. Lester, Sr., D. D.) writes: "He was a wise counselor and a man in whom the pastor could safely confide; warm-hearted and true in his devotion to the church; a faithful student of the Word of God, and prompt in the discharge of Christian duty, he will long be remembered by the people as a truly devoted and pious man. His Godly life was an ornament to religion. His most special gift was prayer. He loved the Savior and the church; but in prayer he excelled. He would take the congregation in the arms of his faith, and lay them down at the mercy seat for a blessing. His words were so plain and Scriptural; his tones so simple, childlike and tender, it could only have been the Spirit making intercession. Deeply moved himself, he deeply moved others. He was pre-eminently a man of prayer. He gave his only two surviving sons to the ministry."

Of each of the sons the following is a brief record: Each (of the sons) labored on the farm with their father till entering their life work, as opportunity afforded, he being a vigorous farmer. They both were educated in the West Alexander (Penn.) Academy, in the branches belonging to the college course, and each labored with their father on the farm. Rev. George McDonald, after having completed the classical course pursued in college, at West Alexander Academy, engaged for some years in teaching in the public schools, and afterward taught two and a half years in the academy of West Alexander. During this period he commenced the study of theology under Dr. John McCluskey, his pastor, and completed the course of study under Rev. William H. Lester, D. D., Dr. McCluskey's successor. In April, 1857, he was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Washington. Soon after licensure he received a call to the Presbyterian Church of Beallsville, Ohio, where he continued to labor more than twenty-five years, giving a portion of his time to the churches of Woodsfield and Powhatan, Ohio. In the winter of 1883, he received and accepted a call to the church of Upper Ten Mile, Prosperity, Penn., and continued his labors till May 20, 1890. Since his resignation of the pastorate at Ten Mile he resides at West Alexander, and is interested in evangelistic work, not feeling sufficiently vigorous to assume the full responsibility of the pastoral work. Mr. McDonald was married, May 20, 1858, to Martha S. Blayney, of West Virginia. The following is a brief account of their children: Nannie Maggie is the wife of Elmer Ellsworth Miller, a merchant of Beallsville, Ohio (she graduated from Steubenville Female Seminary in 1879); John M., a physician, was a student of Washington and Jefferson (Penn.) College (afterward he attended Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, and graduated in April, 1885; he is married to Ada C. Baker, of Barnesville, Ohio, and they now reside in Columbus, Ohio; he is a Presbyterian and a Republican); Rev. Charles H. graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in the class of 1886 (the same year he entered Union Theological Seminary (N.Y.), from which he graduated in 1889, was licensed and ordained in 1889, and went under commission of the Board of Home Missions to Alexandria, S. Dak., where he labored two years. Early in 1892 he received and accepted a call to the pastorate of the first Congregational Church of Woodbridge, N. J. He was married November 24, 1892, to Mary M. Bell, only daughter of James R. and Mary C. Bell, of West Alexander); Mary Elizabeth, the youngest, has attended the Washington Female Seminary (she is still at home with her parents, and is giving considerable attention to music). Like the parents the children all take great delight in music, and are blessed with great power of voice. Mr. McDonald being an instructor of music, led the choir of the old home church for several years.

Of him another friend (Rev. W. H. Lester, Sr.) writes: "Mr. McDonald's ministry was marked by faithfulness in labors, and witnessed precious ingatherings. Thoroughly evangelical in spirit, and Biblical in his pulpit ministrations, his aim has been the conversion of souls and the building up of Christians in the faith. He has also been a self-sacrificing and faithful pastor, thus making full proof of his ministry. Seldom was his seat vacant in the church courts. In each of the congregations to which he ministered, he left the testimonials of a truly devoted minister of the Gospel." And yet another friend thus says of him : "Rev. George McDonald inherited (as did also his wife) the sturdy character of their Scotch and Scotch-Irish ancestry, and in early life received careful religious training. At the age of twenty-one he made profession of his faith in Christ. At nineteen years of age he entered on his classical course in West Alexander Academy, and after completing the full course of study, he was for some time actively engaged in the public school department; later was for two years and a half a teacher in the West Alexander Academy. In 1853 he commenced the study of theology under Rev. John McCluskey, D. D., licensed by the Presbytery of Washington in 1857, and was ordained by the Presbytery of St. Clairsville in April, 1860. Soon after licensure he took charge of the congregation of Beallsville, Ohio, of which he was the installed pastor till April, 1883, giving for most of that period a portion of his time to the congregations of Woodsfield and Powhatan as stated supply. In 1883 he was called to the church of Upper Ten Mile, Penn., where he labored more than seven years. He now resides in West Alexander, his native place, with his noble wife, who has always been a source of strength and comfort to him in his work. They were both fine singers, and led the choir of West Alexander Presbyterian Church for a number of years. Their musical talent was valuable to them, especially in the Sabbath school, where they were always prominent and active, he as superintendent and Bible teacher, and she in charge of the infant department, until the loss of her hearing compelled her in later years to give up the work she so dearly loved. She had peculiar tact for winning and interesting little ones, and was never more at home than when surrounded by her little flock. Her memory will always be green in the hearts of the many she had taught, who will see her no more in this world. Her faithful sowing will cause many, besides her children, to rise up and call her blessed. Mr. McDonald was accustomed to instruct, free, the Sabbath school and any others who wished, in music, and thus was instrumental in having exceptionally good singing in the school. He was also very successful in training for special exercises, and had much executive ability. Always deliberate, being firm in his convictions and of unalterable purpose, with careful outlook, he seldom failed to accomplish what he undertook.

"His ministry was richly blessed with signals of Divine approval, by several revivals occurring under his pastorate. The influence of his preaching and example was for righteousness, in building up a moral, God-fearing and Sabbath-loving people. Several ministers have gone out from under his pastorate. His labors, particularly in his first field, were arduous and exposing, but were performed cheerfully in honor of Him who he served. The seed thus faithfully sown will bring forth fruit to be gathered by other reapers. He still takes delight in Evangelistic work, and rejoices in any opportunity to do service for the Master. He has been a faithful and unobtrusive minister of Christ, and is regarded universally, by those who know him, with marked esteem and love."

Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, PA, 1893, page 233


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