Notes for Rufus Lee McDonald

A Wilson Family Tree

Notes for Rufus Lee McDonald

"History of Buchanan County, Missouri", Steam Printing Company, St. Joseph, Missouri, 1881 (obtained from

R. L. McDonald was born near Harrisburg, Kentucky, May 19, 1832. His father was a farmer of that neighborhood, and here the subject of our sketch resided till he was nineteen years of age, when he left his home for the West, and settled in St. Joseph, Missouri, where he engaged as a clerk in the store of Donnell & Saxton. In 1853, he was received as a partner in the business. A short time previous to the breaking out of the civil war, he purchased the interest of his partners, and became sole proprietor of the concern, a general retail dry goods house, then located on the corner of Fourth and Felix Streets. In 1865, he associated with himself C. H. Buckman and F. L. McLain, and under the name and style of R. L. McDonald & Co., engaged in the wholesale trade. In 1867, F. L. McLain retired from the partnership for the purpose of engaging in the retail business alone. He was succeeded by George Henderson. In 1872, Colonel J. H. Dayton became a member of the firm. In January, 1877, Dayton and Buckman both retired from the partnership, and W. A. P. McDonald became a partner. Since that period, this gentleman and George Henderson, Jr. have composed the Co. of the concern. In December, 1880, the elegant structure of the present business house of this firm, a brick faced with cut stone, on the northwest corner of Fourth and Francis streets, was completed and occupied. This is the largest structure of the kind in the city, having a frontage of one hundred feet on Fourth Street, running back one hundred and forty feet on Francis Street, and is four stories high, with an elegantly lighted basement, opening on the grade of Francis Street. The floor space of the entire building includes 70,000 square feet. The stories are of unusual height, the basement being twelve feet, the first floor twenty feet, the second seventeen feet, the third sixteen, and the fourth story twelve feet. This house, the largest west of St. Louis, distributes its sales over twelve states and territories, employing constantly about twenty traveling salesmen, besides the sixty of seventy engaged in the house. R. L. McDonald was married May 16, 1857, to Miss Mary A. Wilson, daughter of General Robert Wilson, formerly United States Senator from Missouri, and niece of Armstrong Beattie, deceased. They have had seven children. Of these, John, Maggie, Mattie, Robert, Annie and Marie survive.

There is some interesting history in the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Walnut Park Farm Historic District (1999; obtained July 2017 from Missouri Department of Natural Resources web site,, including this bit:

As a pioneer St.Joseph businessman in 1864, McDonald assembled and dispatched to California a wagon train of supplies and around a hundred young mules bought on-the-cheap. McDonald's brother-in-law James Wilson was in charge of the wagon train, which McDonald joined in Salt Lake City after traveling there by stagecoach. McDonald accompanied the procession to San Francisco where the mules, now fully grown, were sold to the U.S. government at a large profit. With the proceeds, McDonald traveled via the Panama Canal [sic -- the Panama Canal did not yet exist at that time (comment by MLW)] to New York City where he purchased vast quantities of new merchandise for his store. The entire episode was "highly successful...though one fraught [mainly the trek to California (comment in original)] with much danger."

There is some information about Walnut Park Farm in the notes for Marvin Middleton Davis (husband of Rufus’s daughter Annette).

The name on his death certificate is Rufus Lee McDonald. Can't read cause of death. Place of death was at home (811 North 9th).

Note: Some of the information in these pages is uncertain. Please let me know of errors or omissions using the email link above.    ...Mike Wilson

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