A.W. McDonald visited here…and stayed

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the John A. McClanahan family burying ground, located two miles north of ‘Twin Churches’ in Carson Township.

Bowling Green, a pioneer village from the 1830s, occupied the site more than 170 years ago, with John A. McClanahan as storekeeper and doctor.

The McClanahan Family Cemetery is situated on the west side of the road. Almost directly across from it, on the east side of the road, is found the McDonald Family Cemetery.

This cemetery is fenced and contains a veterans marker for Asa Wellesley McDonald, who died on March 17, 1891, at the age of 57 years, a veteran of the Civil War. He served with Co. F, Seventh Illinois Cavalry.

Lucinda B. Nichols, his wife, who was born 1840 and died on May 24, 1917, also has a stone here. One other marker, for their daughter, Margaret L. Langdon, born in 1880 and died in 1945, stands within the enclosure.

The location of the two cemeteries in such close proximity, yet separate, begs the question of ‘Why?’ I dont have the answer. Maybe someone else does.

When I first visited the McDonald cemetery some years ago to check tombstone inscriptions and photograph the tombstones, I didnt know anything about A.W. McDonald, not even his first name.

The other evening, as I was looking for something else in the 1910 ‘Encyclopedia of Illinois and Fayette County,’ I turned the page and in front of me was a biographical sketch of Major Asa Wellesley McDonald.

It cleared up a little of the mystery of why his cemetery was on Bowling Green Hill, near that of the McClanahan family.

Asa was married in 1859 to John A. and Susan McClanahans daughter, Susan. She died sometime in 1867, and two years later Asa married a second time to Lucinda Nichols Bridges. Susan is probably buried with her parents in the McClanahan cemetery, but doesnt have a stone.

Asa was born June 17, 1833, in Ontario, Canada, and was of Scotch extraction. He was the son of John and Margaret McCartney McDonald. His mother was born in Nova Scotia; his father in Canada.

How he came to settle in Illinois is interestingand it was all by chance.

Asas sister, Nancy, married Edward Butler, and they had located in Fayette County in 1858. Asa, with his elder brother, Arthur B., came to the state to visit their sister and were pleased with the countryside.

Their mother soon joined them, and then the father. Both parents subsequently died in Fayette County. The two brothers bought out the interests of their brother-in-law, Butler, but Arthur soon sold out and moved to Vandalia to pursue the study of law. He practiced in Vandalia for a number of years before his death at the age of 70.

Asa and his brother, Arthur, along with their brother-in-law, Edward Butler, became naturalized citizens while living in Fayette County.

Asa mustered in the Civil War at Ramsey and first made captain, then major. During this long period, he saw hard service and retired from the Army with injuries that included the loss of one eye.

While his brother, Arthur, found more interest in law, Asas interest was in the land. He added several plots of ground to his original holdings, and seven years before his death bought the original farm where he had first settled, and where his mother died.

His home was that fine old mansion atop one of the highest points of land in the county, built in the 1850s by Dr. D.B. Goldsmith in the Queen Anne style.

Asa married four times. His first wife died in Canada, leaving one son, Charles H., who lived in Carson Township near his father, and was a former sheriff of Fayette County. His second wife died without issue.

Asa married a third time, this time to Susan Caroline McClanahan. She died eight years later, after the close of the Civil War. Susan left one son, Arthur Wellesley, who accidentally drowned at the age of 32.

On July 16, 1869, Asa married Mrs. Lucinda Nichols Bridges, who was born in Carson Township on March 14, 1843, the daughter of Strother and Mary Carson Nichols, and was the widow of John Bridges. Their children included Julia, Jennie, Maggie, Donald and Viola McDonald.

With the aid of the biographical sketch published in 1910, A.W. McDonald became more than a name on the veterans marker on Bowling Green Hill.

And, he had an interesting story to tell.

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