Benjamin Perry McDonald, late of Fort Scott and one of the best known men in eastern Kansas in his day, was born at Lock Haven, Pa., Oct. 8, 1839, and died at Dallas, Tex., where he and his wife were sojourning, on Feb. 16, 1909. He was a son of John and Deborah (Reeder) McDonald, the former a native of Scotland and the latter of Pennsylvania. The mother was a cousin of Andrew H. Reeder, the first territorial governor of Kansas. John McDonald landed in the United States on the last day of July, 1827, and became one of the prominent business men of Pennsylvania, having been the discoverer of coal at Tarrantsville and Queen Run. His marriage to Deborah Reeder was solemnized at Lock Haven, where they passed the remainder of their lives.
Benjamin P. McDonald was educated in the public schools and at Dickinson Seminary, completing his schooling at the age of seventeen years. Upon leaving school he started west, and on Aug. 1, 1857, arrived in Fort Scott, then a frontier village. He at once preëmpted a claim of timbered land, which he purchased after four years. The following spring his brother, Alexander (afterward United States senator from Arkansas), and E. S. Bowen arrived in Fort Scott with a sawmill; and Benjamin made his start in life from the sale of the timber on his claim, a large part of the lumber being used in building up Fort Scott. He helped to survey and lay out the town, and preëmpted an additional quarter section of land. He then became a clerk in the store of Crawford & Company, where he remained until 1861, when he and his brother Alexander purchased the business, which was then conducted under the name of A. McDonald & Brother. During the war they realized handsome profits by furnishing supplies to home guard companies and volunteer organizations before they were mustered into service, and to the Army of the Frontier, running a number of freighting trains for sutlers and supplying General Blunt's command from Fort Scott to Little Rock, Ark. Their transactions, in one year amounted to $2,500,000. One entire wagon train, worth a quarter of a million dollars, was captured by Confederates. In connection with their mercantile business the McDonald brothers operated a private bank. In 1867 Benjamin purchased his brother's interest in both bank and store, and gradually closed out all except the bank, which in 1871 he reorganized as the First National Bank of Fort Scott, of which he was president for about eight years. In 1870 he and his wife went to New York City, where they resided for some two years, though he never disposed of his home in Fort Scott.
Early in the '70s Mr. McDonald became interested in railroad building. In 1874 he built the line southeast from Fort Scott to the coal fields twelve miles distant. This line was afterward purchased by the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis railroad. In 1881 he built twenty miles of railroad on Long Island, N. Y.; in 1888-89 he built the Sherman, Dennison & Dallas railroad, now a part of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas system; in 1901 he built the Fort Scott, Iola & Western from Iola to Moran, this line also being owned by the Missouri, Kansas & Texas; in 1902 he built the Dallas, Cleburne & Southwestern from Cleburne to Egan, and was president of this company at the time of his death. The line is now operated under a trackage contract by the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Company. He was a director of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis Company and it predecessors from the earliest history of the line until it passed into the possession of the St. Louis & San Francisco Company. He was personally acquainted with the promoters of the southern branch of the Missouri Pacific railroad, and was always a great friend of the enterprise, which is now a part of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas system. He became a director in 1872, while the road was being built through the Indian Territory, and during the receivership of H. C. Cross and George A. Eddy Mr. McDonald served as treasurer by their appointment. His appointment was confirmed by the United States circuit court of Kansas, and the same court approved his accounts, which were found to he perfect in every respect. It is said that he had a more thorough and intimate knowledge of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroad than any man living, and this knowledge was always turned to good account for the benefit of the company, with which he was so long and so closely identified. His death occurred after an illness of only five days, and the news came as a shock to his many friends connected with the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Company, who prepared a beautifully bound, hand printed memorial, which was presented to Mrs. McDonald as a token of the appreciation and esteem of his old associates. Mr. McDonald was one of the founders of the American Cotton Company, which perfected the round cotton bale, and he was always interested in every movement for the moral and material advancement of the community in which he lived. Prior to the war he was what was known as a Union Democrat, but he was never an active political worker in the interests of any party. He was prominent in fraternal circles, having been a Thirty-second degree member of the Scottish Rite Masonic consistory at Fort Scott; a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. At the time of his death he was one of the oldest Masons in Kansas, having been initiated into that time-honored order in February, 1861, and receiving his Master Mason's degree on July 18 of the same year. His religious affiliations were with the Episcopal church.
On Nov. 21, 1860, Mr. McDonald married Emma A. Johnston, a stepdaughter of John A. Miller, who came with his family to Fort Scott on March 10, 1860, and engaged in the hardware business. This union was blessed with four sons, viz.: George A., who died in infancy; William A., who married Norma Grant Conger, a cousin of the United States minister to China, and now lives in Cleburne, Tex.; Charles B., president of the People's Bank of Fort Scott, married Gertrude Richardson, who is now deceased; Benjamin Perry, Jr., now a resident of Birmingham, Ala., married June Graber, daughter of Gen. William H. Graber, of Dallas, Tex. William A. and Norma G. McDonald have two daughtersEmma Abbie and Norma Will; and Benjamin P. and his wife also have two childrenBenjamin Perry III and Emma Louise.
Practically all of the active portion of Mr. McDonald's life was passed at Fort Scott, and in death he is not separated from the old, familiar scenes. His remains were brought from Dallas and were buried from the old home, under the auspices of the Masonic fraternity and the Episcopal church. He now sleeps upon the banks of the Marmaton, which he loved so well, and his widow still occupies the old home, made dear to her by so many hallowed associations.Pages 1600-1602 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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