McDonalds of Virginia
Chapter 11 -
After the Surrender
After the surrender, I opened a law office in
Harrisonburg, Virginia. A few days after the opening and before any
clients had appeared, I was sitting in my office when my brother
William, who had just gotten off the stage from Staunton, made his
appearance, very much to my surprise. He at once unfolded a scheme which
he and Ned had concocted, which was that they should rent a large farm
in Clarke County, Virginia. Ned was to run the farm and William was to
open a classical school in connection with it.
He earnestly urged me to join in the
enterprise, and without much consideration I consented. The law office
was closed in the next five minutes. The next day William and myself
were on the way to Clarke County. The Cool Spring Farm was rented of Mr.
Frank McCormick, and a flourishing school established. In 70-71, I
removed to Berryville and formed a law partnership with my friend Ami
Moore, which lasted until the fall of 1890, when the partnership was
dissolved and I removed to Charles Town, W. Va., and formed another
partnership with my son-in-law, Frank Beckwith. In the year 1894, I was
elected a member of the Lower House of the Legislature from the Counties
of Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson. I was a candidate for re-election for
a second term in 1896, but was defeated by a majority against me not
exceeding twenty-five votes. My opposition to a bill introduced for the
purpose of turning over the Berkeley Springs to trustees to be leased
and exploited by a syndicate composed, in part, of the hotel keepers of
the town and others, caused Morgan County to give a majority against me
of nearly eight hundred. When the bill was before the House I had
denounced it earnestly as a scheme of the worst kind of graft. The
donor, Lord Fairfax, had expressly provided in his deed that the
property was to be used for the benefit of all the people of the State,
reserving one of the most valuable of the Springs to his heirs or
devisees; and there was no power in the Legislature to deprive either
the people of the State or the representatives of Lord Fairfax of their
property without just compensation. The bill was defeated by a large
majority, but the vote was not announced until the next day. In the
meantime, through political juggling, sufficient changes of votes had
been made to pass the bill, and it was so announced the next morning.
That my standing in the house was at least creditable, I give the
following extracts from some of the papers of the State, written during
the session while I was a member or shortly afterwards.
The Clarksburg Sentinel, in speaking of
the members of the House, said:
"Jefferson County has always enjoyed the
reputation of sending good men to represent her in the Legislature, and
she perhaps has never been better represented than at the present time *
* * * * Major A. W. McDonald is said to be the ablest man in either
House. I have frequently heard him spoken of thus by strong Republicans.
He does not often speak in either House, but when he does he is always
accorded the closest attention."
The Clarke Courier, Virginia, published
in a county where he resided and practiced his profession for
twenty-five years, speaks as follows:
"We observe that the name of our former
countyman, Major A. W. McDonald, of Charles Town, is mentioned in
connection with the nomination for Governor of West Virginia. We have
known the Major for many years, and we have never known one more
thoroughly imbued with the cardinal principles of the Democratic Party
than he. He was always outspoken against attempts to straddle vital
issues, and the interest of the people, where they came in conflict with
corporate power, he always fearlessly championed."
The Wheeling Register, referring to his
speech against the bill to lease the Berkeley Springs by the
Legislature, repeating most of the points made by him in his argument,
said as follows:
"Major Angus W. McDonald, of Jefferson,
who has not been heretofore conspicuous in the debates of the House,
made one of the most eloquent and effective speeches of the session."
About the year 1908, I retired from the
active practice of the law.
BY MY GRANDDAUGHTER, ELOISE BECKWITH.
In typewriting the life of my grandfather,
Major Angus W. McDonald, written by himself, I have been impressed with
the fact that much which is worthy of mention in his life has been left
unrecorded, presumably from a spirit of modesty on the part of the
author. I have therefore undertaken to add a few lines on my own
Major Angus W. McDonald
was the oldest son of eighteen children, and is today the oldest living
representative of a family connection which numbers about one hundred
and fifty descendants of his father, Colonel Angus W. McDonald. He was a
gallant Confederate soldier, and one of a family worthy of note for
having furnished a father, six sons and two sons-in-law to the Southern
Cause. In personal appearance Major Angus \V. McDonald is very much
above the average man. His bearing is soldierly; he is six feet, one
inch in height and impresses you at once as a man of splendid physical
In the domain of law he
had few equals. Possessed of a strong analytical mind and an innate love
of truth, he brought to the practice of his profession a ripe
scholarship, a profound knowledge of law and an indomitable energy that
enabled him successfully to cope with the best lawyers in the two
Virginias. His conduct of the great railroad case of the Shenandoah
Valley Railroad Company, with his associates, the late Judge Daniel B.
Lucas and A. Moore, Jr., placed him in the front rank of his profession.
The suit of Crumlish. Adnir., vs. Shenandoah
Valley Railroad Company had its beginning in the Circuit Court of Warren
County, Virginia, October 15, 1875. From there it was transferred to the
Circuit Court of Clarke County, Virginia, where, after several years of
litigation, a decree was rendered adverse to the plaintiffs. Six times
in all the case went to the Courts of Appeals in Virginia and `Vest
Virginia. This contest lasted nineteen years, from start to finish, from
the time that it was instituted in Warren County in 1875, to the time of
final decree in 1895. The fee for this case paid to McDonald and Moore
under their contract amounted to $130,000.00. At that time probably the
largest fee ever received by attorneys in the State of West Virginia.
Some of McDonald and Moore's clients,
notwithstanding their contract, brought suit against them in the Circuit
Court of CIarke County, Virginia, upon the ground of overcharge in their
fees. In this suit the Court held that $17,000.00 had been overcharged.
From this decree McDonald and Moore appealed to the Virginia Court of
Appeals. This Court reversed the Court below and dismissed the bill.
Judge Keith, who delivered the opinion of the Court, saying that not
only no overcharge had been made but that under their contracts the
attorneys would have been ,justified in making greater charges.
Associated with McDonald and Moore in this
case as counsel for the stockholders and creditors of the Central
Improvement Company was Judge Daniel B. Lucas of Charles Town. Opposed
to them were lawyers of high standing in their profession, William H.
Travers, of Charles Town; W. J. Robertson, an ex-Judge of the Virginia
Court of Appeals; Dixon, Dale and Doran, counsels for the Norfolk and
Western Railroad, of Philadelphia, and Hon. Robert T. Barton, of
McDonald, Jr., was married to Elizabeth Morton Sherrard, of Bloomery,
Hampshire County, Virginia, on Feb. 17th, 1857. She was a daughter of
Col. Robert Sherrard and Eliza Morton (his wife) . They had two
children, Annie Leacy and Angus. Angus was drowned in the James River on
Sept. 27th, 1878, while attending William Cabell's School. And the
peculiar circumstances of the tragedy made it most distressing.
He had, but a short time before, returned
from his vacation and was with two of his companions in a. boat on the
river, when they discovered that it was leaking rapidly. Being far from
shore and in deep water, it was quickly decided to lighten the load by
one of the boys leaving the boat and, as Angus was an expert swimmer, he
offered to do so, and accordingly jumped into the water. But an attack
of cramp coming on, soon paralyzed his efforts to reach the shore and
before assistance could be gotten to him he was drowned; and lamented by
all who knew him, for he had many noble traits of character and was
greatly beloved by his schoolfellows and friends.
Angus W. McDonald, Jr., lost his wife May
He married the second
time Miss Mary Elizabeth Riddle, daughter of H. R. Riddle and Sallie
Houston (his wife) on June 5th, 1894.
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