William Naylor McDonald, the third son, was
born in Romney, Virginia, February, 1834, and named for his maternal
grandfather, William Naylor. Private Schools in his home town afforded
ample advantages to an ambitious student and William gladly availed
himself of them.
About the age of
fifteen or sixteen he began to keep a diary and the following extracts
from that will illustrate more clearly than anything else the mind and
spirit of the boy:
"Sept. 1850. I am living in Romney, and
am now sitting in an old castle adjoining the house in which we live. I
go to school at the Institute, the Principal of which is E. J. Heaney.
The studies which I am at present engaged in are Euclid, Astronomy,
Geography, Scholars Companion, Xenophon, Horace and French. I think this
school is very deficient in good order, but otherwise well carried on. I
Iike Mr. Heaney as a man, but as a teacher he is rather passionate at
times. His assistant, John Jacobs, I admire very much as a teacher, and
esteem as a man. * * * * Angus has commenced reading Blackstone, having
decided to become a lawyer.
"Nov. 1st, 1850. I played four games of
chess with Marshall today and beat him two. We had a meeting of our
Society this evening; the question, `Is Slavery favorable to the
existence and perpetuation of a Republican form of Government,' was
abolished and the following substituted for it. `Would the South be
justified in separating from the North Under existing circumstances?' I
was appointed to open the debate in the affirmative and most willingly
do I consent to the appointment, for if there ever was any person more
dissatisfied with the North than I, then that man has to be found.
"Nov. 13th. Didn't study much today,
taking all my time to write my speech for Friday night. I went to the
school house after dinner, but couldn't help thinking about Miss Fox's
wedding and wondering how I would be able to get there. After whiling
away an hour I returned home and commenced my preparations. * * * * Had
a merry time at the wedding, but there were some who had a merrier.
"Nov. 14th, 1850. Nothing unusual
occurred to-day, except that a scholar named William Jacobs offended at
Mr. Meaney, unjustly, in my opinion, ran away from school and Mr. Meaney
sent James Parsons and myself as a committee of two to bring him back,
dead or alive. Pursuant to his command we caught the culprit, who
thinking it was better to walk than to be dragged, walked up with us to
the porch, but would go no farther and drew his knife, threatening to
cut us if we undertook to force him.
"Nov. 17th, 1850. I shared to-day for the
first. time, and next February- I will be seventeen. It was contrary to
the advice of my father, and it was not an act of forethought or
premeditation. The razor was lying near me this morning, I raised it
involuntarily and gave a pull. Having commenced I must finish—so there
"Nov. 24th. Dr. Foote
preached to-day and I went to hear him the first time for a yeas°—I was
going to say, but even if I do stretch with my mouth in talking, I will
not with my pen in writing—so I will shorten it to three months.
"Dec. 10th. -: The boys are getting a
football made now. Sometime ago we purchased one from Baltimore, made of
India Rubber. But as it did not last long we are getting one made here
of leather. Our Society met this evening. The question debated was, `Is
slavery an evil to the Southern people as it now exists?' I can't write,
the boys are all sitting around singing, `Ole Uncle Ned' then with the
speed of lightning striking up a hymn. I'll quit.
"Dec. 15th. William and McNemar, who appear
to be very bright boys, and as I thought, boys of perseverance, have
half determined to give up Greek, thinking it will take them too long to
get through. I am rather under the impression, though, that Williams is
smitten with the charms of Miss Margaret Seymour, for he has only lately
taken the notion to give up Greek.
"Dec., 1850. Christmas is drawing near and consequently it is all the
talk among the boys of the school. Some are borrowing pistols, others
are selling their halls, skates, household and domestic goods at a
sacrifice and some of them, who in the language of the day, are
`completer- strapped,' are actually selling their small articles at
"Jan. 8th, 1851. Morpheus
has laid his drowsy hand upon me and I ain compelled to yield to his
solicitations. I am so sleepy I can hardly hold my pen. Forgive me if I
close this journal.
"Jan. 12th. I
went home with Margaret Seymour to-night. I had never spoken to her
before and I anticipated a good many boys who were surprised at my
"Jan. 17th. Our Society
met this evening and the smaller boys being worse than usual and utterly
defying the authority of the President, I told James Kern, the chief
mischiefmaker, that I would move his expulsion if he continued in his
career of deviltry, but he thought my threatenings were vain and paid no
heed to my warning. I told William Parran (who was as much incensed as
myself against Kern) my feelings on the subject, and had scarcely seated
myself in another part of the room, when more confusion was occasioned
by some misdeed of Kern. Par-ran at once arose and moved his expulsion,
which was warmly seconded; the vote being taken, he was expelled, eight
voting for expulsion and three against, and I was one of the three. My
father accused me of demagooism, for voting the way I did, but I was
innocent of the charge. It was not my wish that he should be expelled,
and I hoped to save him from it by my vote, and seeing the danger he was
in I thought he would, after that, behave himself; for I had no wish to
lose him, being a permanent member and very young he would aid in
supporting the Society after Ed and I, who were the founders of it, had
"Jan. 30th. It is turning
very cold, in fact there is no turning about it, it is already cold and
to-morrow morning we must help to get ice. I look forward to that period
with emotions similar to those of an animal the night before his
'Feb. 8th. Angus, Edgard
and I started this morning at break of day to hunt pigeons, as it was
reported that the fields were literally full of them. Though I have
declared time and again that I would hunt no more, as I always meet with
bad luck, yet the reports of the millions of pigeons, weaned me from my
resolution, and loaded with ammunition and big with expectation, I
started out, but what was the result? Just as I had told the boys when
they asked me to go along. I scared all the pigeons away, one alone
being killed and that not by me.
"Feb. 18th. We were very much frightened at an accident which occurred
to-day. While Uncle Daniel was cutting wood, he saw Harry and Willie
Harper pass by in the direction of the pond, presently Willie came
running back crying bitterly. Uncle Daniel asked him what was the
matter, but Willie replied not and ran on. Uncle Daniel then hurried to
the pond and, to use his own language, `seed some-thin' floatin' on the
water and knowed right away it was Harry. I called Dinah to bring me the
crake, quick, Harry was drowin' ' This set Aunt Dinah nearly frantic—she
ran first one way and then the other—till her cries reached Angus, who
rushed to the rescue and drew Harry out on the bank. Soon the entire
neighborhood was roused and Ed started after Dr. Dailey in his dressing
gown, full tilt, down the street—the tail sticking straight out behind.
Meeting Dr. Notes (old Jack) with a horse, but no saddle he threw his
gown away and mounting the horse, away on eagle wings he flew and found
the Doctor at Mr. Meaney's. Mounting him on the barebacked steed he sent
him flying home and he soon had poor little Harry in a fair way to
"Feb. 24th. Ed got a
letter from Hough and Hough of Baltimore, saying he could get a
situation if he would come at once and he determined to start in two
days. Pa will start to Missouri to-morrow.
"Feb. 28th. A letter from Ed this evening
says that he had gotten a situation in a wholesale silk house.
"March 3rd. Marshall is the greatest old
conjuror! He sent to Baltimore after a book which contains all the
tricks which the conjurors of the day have invented or discovered and
after perusing the the contents he traded it to a boy for an old gun
barrel, with which he intends to make potations. He saves all his money
to buy mixings with.
"March 5th. I
wrote to Pa yesterday giving him an account of an interview with Mr.
Meaney, in which he requested me to become an assistant to him next
year. I have him no answer nor do I intend doing so until I hear from my
"May 1st. I forgot to
mention, strange to say, that old Uncle Daniel died on Thursday, after a
long illness. He had been afflicted for two years with hiccoughs, which
at times almost deprived him of his breath and finally deprived him of
"June 3rd, 1851. I am very
unwell, have been so for two days and though almost overcome with pain
at times, I try to study. I know that I have a task to perform if I
would obtains an education. I study on an average ten hours, five clays
in a week and on Saturdays always work. Except before breakfast when I
study two hours, and after supper, very often two or three hours. On
Sunday I write letters, compositions, read twelve chapters in the Bible,
read poetry, and whenever I come to a beautiful passage I copy it and
when I ride or walk at my leisure I commit it to memory.
"June 2nd. Sister Mary received a letter
from Miss Mary Garishe of St. Louis saying that if Angus would meet her
at Frederick City she would come here and make her a visit. I don't know
why, but I never liked her much. Perhaps it is because my first
acquaintance with her was connected with other circumstances which I
hate to recall for I must say that the Unhappiness I experienced in
Missouri, together' with the other boys, has given ins just cause to
call it the State of Misery.
25th. Mary heard from ;Miss Mary Garishe again to-day. She says she is
about to take the black veil. I know' not why, unless she has been
disappointed in love. Marshall is collecting money from the boys in
order to send up a balloon on the 4th.
"June 29th. I have been reacting `Watts on
the Mind,' for some time past in order to improve my intellectual powers
and exalt my moral character. * * * * My ambition is not prompted by an
unquenchable desire for fame or riches but my endeavors are to obtain
virtue and a character pure and unsullied.
"July 2nd. Since I have been sick I have
been amusing myself by translating Racine into poetry, which I find very
difficult, but am convinced that it is improving as it makes me think. I
also translated Virgil in the same way.
"4th July. We have had a merry day and after
the presentation of a white silk flag, painted by Mother, and given by
the ladies to the Sons of Temperance and the reading of the Declaration
by Mr. Warden, Angus made a speech and I do not speak in the flattering
terms of a prejudiced brother, when 1 say that his was the best oration
I have ever heard delivered on the 4th of July. It was remarkable for
its purity of language and beauty of style. I have also heard that Mr.
Trowbridge thought it the best he ever heard.
"July 5th. This morning Roger Martin came
for me to aid him in making an arbor for the girls who were to cone to
the picnic. With Turley and Alexander to assist, after considerable
labor, we succeeded in making an arbor just below the Sulphur Spring. W
Te had a merry day indeed. Mr. Jacobs was appointed master of the (lay
and Mother, Mistress of ceremonies. Late in the afternoon Pa came over
and proposed that we end the clay with a game of mumble-tile-peg, to be
played by three champions on a side. I was one of the ladies' champions,
and we beat. Roger Martin was the unlucky mumbler. Angus moved that he
be excused from carrying home any of the baskets, but the motion was so
much amended that he finally carried home the largest.
"July S. Mother and I started at five
o'clock this morning to drive down to Warren to visit her sister, Mrs.
Buck. We got to the Blues by eight, where we took breakfast, arrived at
Winchester by four and stopped at Cousin Millicent Tidball's. I then
drove to the hotel, had my horse put up and then went around to Cousin
Hugh McGuire's office. I afterwards found Slicer and we called at the
Green's. * * * * Took supper at the Hollyday's and finally went back to
Cousin .Millicent', where we stayed until about eleven o'clock.
"July 9th. We left Winchester at eleven
o'clock and drove through a beautiful country; * * * * but the toll is
enormous. After getting lost once or twice, we arrived at Mr. Fayette
Buck's at sunset. The Shenandoah is a beautiful river. At Mr. Buck's I
met James DeCamp, the husband of Mother's sister Ellen. From his conduct
I would judge him to be about eighteen, but he is actually thirty years
old and has a boy nine years old.
"July 11. Clover Hill. Mr. De Camp and I went fishing this morning with
little Henry. Our luck was poor and we stayed indoors this afternoon, it
being gloomy weather. I found him as jovial and as full of fun as ever.
He amuses me greatly with his tales of California. I find Mr. Buck to be
an excellent man and a warn-hearted Southerner.
"July 12th. De Camp and I rode into Front
Royal this morning. On returning to Clover Bill, De Camp tried various
experiments on old Morgan, for instance seeing how much he could make
him perspire, per hour and how fast run, per minute. I was also a
kindred spirit for I had a beautiful subject for experiment in Agony
"July 13. We drove to Church
at Front Royal and dined afterwards at Mr. William Buck's and the dinner
was fully up to old Virginia's reputation for such things. I met there a
young man who seemed very clever and very frank, for he told me all his
prospects and some of his inmost thoughts after an hour's acquaintance.
"July 14th. Romney. Our Society met to-night
and Marshall read his lecture which was far superior to any that has
been read. This was shown from the fact that a copy was requested to be
placed in the archives of the Society.
"July 20th. The baby (little Humphrey) is
very sick now. The doctor has been attending him for some time. Pa has
just told me to go over to Howard's Lick on Bob and get some of the
water there for the baby, as it did Ed much good when he was small and
afflicted with the same complaint.
"July 20th. After considerable meditation upon the subject and entirely
uninfluenced by my father, I have determined not to go to the University
this Fall, as I think if I postpone it for another year, 1 will more
readily accomplish my grand object, which I have had in view for two
years, that is to take the decree of A. M.
"July 27th. Little Humphrey is very ill,
indeed they have not expected him to live for some nights. * * * * Pa
received a letter from Ed last night stating that he would be home in
eight or ten days. His success since he has been in Baltimore has been
remarkable. He vent there a perfect novice in the business and after
five months his employer offered him a raise of two hundred and fifty
"July 30th. Little
Humphrey died this morning about nine o'clock. I saw him this morning
and he seemed as if he was alive. I thought I saw him breathe, but no,
his soul had winged its flight on high where saints immortal dwell.
Perhaps it is the circumstances of the moment which bring solemn
thoughts to my bosom. * * * *
"Aug., 1851. I drove to the depot to meet Ed this morning. We stopped at
Springfield returning, where Ed sold five or six dollars worth of King's
Magnetic Fluid for washing, from which he gets fifteen per cent. He
seems to be a thorough-going business man now, and very much changed in
appearance. Before he left here he used to speak of these nice looking
city chaps as mere dandies, and say that he would never be like one of
them, no matter how long he remained in Baltimore. But he comes back
after a residence there of five months, and lo and behold what a change!
He is not foppish at all but very neat and has improved greatly in
language and self-possession. He talks of notes and banks and shipping
like a regular built merchant. He has changed in toto and all for the
"Aug. 3rd. Dr. Foote
preached to-day and none of us vent to church. We sat in the parlour and
talked of our future plans. * * * I will not go to the University this
fall, as from the conversation with my father, he cannot afford it yet.
My mind is made up to go, however, and I will if I must, obtain the
money by labor.
"Aug. 4th. Ed has been trying to sell
some more of the washing liquid which is an invention of Mr. King's, the
gentleman with whom he stayed. Ea is very fond of him, although he is a
Yankee. He gives Ed ten or fifteen per cent on the sales. I am very
sorry that Ed has become so enamored of Mr. King, as I believe it has
some effect on his political opinions.
"Aug. 6th. Ed, Angus and I were at the
office all evening, conversing on our future prospects. Angus said he
wanted a fortune, but that he would be no drudge all his life to make a
living, upon which a gentleman would starve. Therefore he wants to make
his fortune right off. And he believed the best way would be to go to
California where he could dig it. Ed said he wanted to make a fortune,
too, but not by leaps and Jumps, for while he was taking one jump
forward he might take two backward, therefore he would choose a slow but
sure way of making his fortune.
said I didn't want a fortune, but I wanted a big house, and plenty of
children with money sufficient to live like a gentleman and that I also
wanted to he a great orator and a man of learning. That is what I wish
to be. None of your millionairre swells for me. I seek happiness and it
is not to be found in the possession of riches alone.
"Aug. 8th. The Society met this evening and
the question, `Are the French people prepared for a Republic?' was
debated. The affirmative by Mr. Jacobs and myself and by Angus and Ed in
the negative. Ed's usual profundity of thought was developed on this
occasion while his enunciation is greatly improved. And although his
arguments were no stronger than usual, being expressed in such a plain,
clear style, they had a great deal of effect.
"Aug. 11th. Ed intended to go to Hardy
to-day to sell some of his washing liquid, but was prevented by the
"Aug. 12th. Though it was
still threatening rain, Ed determined not to be thwarted again, so he
started off to Hardy on Bob.
13th. Ed returned from his trip to-day very much disgusted with Hardy
and in fact all Virginia. Says they have no enterprise at all. The only
success which attended his efforts in selling his liquid was at Grandma
Peerce's, where he sold several gallons.
"Aug. 15th. I went with Ed to the depot this
morning. It seemed as if I was parting with him for the first time. Next
to my father I love Ed better than anybody on earth.
"Aug. 24th. I received a letter from Will
Bronaugh last night. It was beautifully written. What a genius he is. I
know I shall like him. His letter breathes sentiments and thoughts which
only a warm heart can feel. We also heard from Ed saying there would be
a box of peaches at the depot this morning.
"Aug. 26th. This evening was a great time.
The four rival candidates, Kercheval, Bedinger, and Faulkner and Byrd
spoke. Mr. Byrd said that though he had permitted his name to be used as
a candidate, yet since he had given his consent, things had transpired
which justified his recalling it. Therefore he respectfully withdrew
from the race. Mr. Faulkner spoke next. His whole speech seemed a
defense of his past conduct. He claimed the honor of being the author of
the Fugitive Slave Bill. He explained that although Senator James M.
Mason had brought it before Congress, yet he had brought it to Senator
Mason. Bedinger followed and I thought spoke very well, cutting his
opponent all to pieces. Kercheval came next. His cut at Faulkner was a
mixture of sound sense and nonsense.
"Aug. 27th. The Rev. Mr. Tyng has arrived
and will preach here to-morrow. He is a very handsome man * * * * His
declamation and style are perfect and withal he is a gentleman.
"Aug. 30th. Mr. Walker preached to-night.
His sermon was sensible and argumentative. Mr. Tyng preached this
morning. He satisfied me on one thing, in reference to the Spirit. He
said the Spirit is always moving you and when you did not resist it that
then you believed and were saved.
"Sept. 7th. I have been sick to-day. Marsh and Wood went down to Mr.
Donaldson's after some alumn water. We are to have a public meeting
three weeks hence and I am on the debate. The question, it seems to me,
is full of argument though hard to get at.
"Sept. 8th. My father has been expecting the
dentist all day to attend to his teeth before Court begins, but as he
has disappointed him before, he sent me after him this time.
"Sept. 9th. Superior Court commences
to-morrow. Some very important cases are to be tried. Ex-Governor Frank
Thomas of Maryland is expected to speak in the Donaldson case. Some
lawyers with the Jude will take tea here to-morrow evening. I have been
scouring the country for some peaches.
"Sept. 14th. Mr. Irish, our new Episcopal
minister, preached this morning and again to-night. His composition was
good, but his delivery is bad, though that may have been the result of
embarassment, rather than habit. I think he will improve. His sermon was
better to-night than this evening.
"Sept. 15th. I have done nothing of any account for four or five days.
Too many amusements corning together withdrew my interest from my books.
Court first, then an animal show and a party .
"Sept. 23rd. Angus returned to-day with his
license signed by Judge Parker. He says the examination was not very
rigid, and confesses that he does not deserve a Iicense, but quiets his
conscience on this score by promising himself to read law all winter.
"Sept. 28th. Mr. Irish preached to-clay. My
prediction has proved true, that his had delivery was the result of
diffidence. His sermons were good, both this morning and evening.
"April 30th. To-morrow night is public
meeting. Angus came home to-clay from Martinsburg, having obtained Jude
Samuels' signature to his license.
"Oct. 1st. Our meeting came off to-night. I opened the discussion and
did my best, though my mouth was quite sore from practicing with
pebbles. Mr. Kercheval spoke better than I ever heard him before in a
debate, but his classical recollections are too vivid to permit him to
wander far from his favorite topics, viz: Grecian poetry and phylosophy.
Marshall also spoke in the negative and as usual, made a very sound,
argumentative speech, clear and convincing.
"Oct. 4th. Played ball this morning for the
first time this Fall. I enjoyed it so much that I played again this
evening and paid the penalty of not exercising self-control, for after
resting a few moments I was so sore that I could hardly walk. The world
is full of lessons, and I think I learned one yesterday. If I do not
learn to exercise self-control in my youth it will be the bane of my
"Oct. 6th. Angus
received his license to-night. He is in high spirits. Another letter
from Ed in which he tells of a plan by which each of us can make
twenty-five dollars apiece. But I have so much else to do.
"Oct. 8th. Marshall and I were lying in the
yard this evening wishing for some diversion, when he made the
suggestion that we go out to Uncle Peerce's on foot. No sooner said than
clone, and in a little while we started on our journey of twelve miles.
As exercise of that kind had not been indulged in for some time, each
succeeding mile seemed longer than the one before, but finally, wearied
and worn, at a time when the sunlit beauties of a dying day were merging
into the unwelcome obscurity of an autumn night, we reached Grandma's
and though she was absent our hearts were warmed by the kind welcome of
Cousin John and Cousin Hannah.
"Oct. 9th. We fished this morning, but luck bad as usual.
"Oct. 10th. Marshall, having an idea that at
the Sulphur Spring might be found something which might amuse or vex his
chemical genius, we went over there this morning, I with a gun on my
shoulder, also accompanied by Cousin John. On discovering a squirrel I
fired away twice, but the gun being a rifle, a weapon with which I am
entirely unfamiliar, the squirrel escaped. We went this evening to try
our luck at `hooking suckers.' It was a sport entirely new to me, but I
was never before so completely entranced by any thing of the kind. There
is an excitement about it far exceeding that of fishing or hunting.
"At the moment the hook approaches the mouth
of the noble fish, which scorns to notice a bait, an indescribable
feeling is experienced and let it but be interrupted by an advice-giving
tongue and every damning thought that momentary spleen can engender,
springs up in the bosom of the disturbed sportsman against the
unconscious offender. Not a word is spoken * * * * The hook is
drawn adroitly in the direction of the victim and away he goes!
completely astounded, doubtless at his rude introduction to the land. We
returned home this evening well repaid for our little tramp.
"Oct. 14th. I was sent to the country to-day
to purchase a load of hay, but knowing that I was incapable of judging
of either its quality or its quantity, I requested George Stump to give
me some lessons in the value of hay, which he did. I then went to firs.
Smoot's where I obtained a stack for seventeen dollars. I had a great
time before I could form any opinion of the value of the stack and did
not decide until I fully satisfied myself that I would not be cheated. I
don't know whether I cheated Mrs: Smoot or not.
"Oct. 16th. The two papers here are full of
discussions of the two candidates for Congress, Faulkner and Bedinger.
Kercheval seems a martyr to Bedinger and the cause of secession. He has
filled the Argus lately with articles on the gross inconsistencies of
Mr. FauIkner's political course, in return for which no less than five
new champions have stepped into the arena in defense of Faulkner and
thrown down the guerdon of combat.
"Oct. 20th. Marshall received a bottle of something from Baltimore
to-day labeled `McDonald's Cure for Dyspepsia.' Whether it is an
invention of his own or not we haven't yet been able to find out.
"Oct. 21st. It seems as if the more we work
the more Pa is convinced of our usefulness in that line and consequently
he is contriving plans now for us to execute during our holiday. He has
conceived the idea of building a new ice house.
"Oct. 25th. All of us are working on the ice
house now. * * * * Our party are dreadfully nonplussed at the result of
the election, though there is food for consolation in the fact that our
county has been faithful. Allen and Powell, the States' Right men are
elected by a small majority.
31st. Still working on the ice house, endeavoring to excavate a hole
large enough to suit Pa's purposes.
"Nov. 3rd. Finished digging the ice house
today. Pa got back this evening and offered Mr. Jacobs the position of
Principal of the Institute. Just came from the house where Mary and I
have been singing some songs.
5th. Pa and I went to Mr. Parsons to-day to bet some locust logs for the
ice house. We ate dinner there. I never before had the opportunity of
observing closely the character of Mr. Isaac Parsons, and I confess he
made a most favorable impression upon me. I regard him as a sensible,
unassuming, upright man.
Went. with Josh to haul logs from Mr. Parsons. We couldn't manage some
that were eighteen feet long so I hired George Baxter to haul them.
"Nov. 10th. Still working at the ice house.
School commenced to-day under Mr. Jacobs' administration. I intend to
study Greek again when the ice house is finished, but not before.
"Nov. 13th. As it rained to-day, I studied
"Nov. 14th. Bob and Josh
and I to-day dragged forty-four logs down the hill.
"Nov. 16th. Mr. Vance drove Anne out to
Uncle Peerce's to-day and Wood drove Diary. A great many of the boys
have left our school and gone over to the other, among them Tom
Williams. To say that I blame him would not be true, and to say that I
approve his conduct would also he untrue. What then is my opinion? God
only knows, for I do not. I could almost weep at the thought of his
desertion. One by one I have seen them leave since Meaney has laid his
damning paws upon our school's fortune. Adversity begins to overcloud
our sky and blast our blooming hopes. I have seen them leave one by one,
Reese, Harmon, and others, but not until Williams left, he whom I
thought mountains could not move, did I begin to despair. If there ever
was a boy of honor, it was he. If ever one of truth, it was he. If ever
I had a friend it was he, yet by this woeful step all is over.
"Nov. 19th. Pa has gone away and left the
responsibility of building this ice house entirely on my shoulders.
"Nov. 22nd. Finished the ice house to-day,
that is the log part of it. A meeting is to be held here Monday of the
delegates from Alexandria and other localities interested in the
extension of the M. G. R. R.
23rd. Angus is going with Mr. Rice, the Engineer of the road to help
locate the route. Mr. Rice and Mr. Marshall, President of the Manassa's
Gap R. R., with several other gentlemen, took tea at our house yesterday
evening and Sister Mary charmed them all with her singing. Mr. Marshall
declared that she equalled Jennie Lind. I have been going to see the
girls and of course have gone into extremes as usual, and neglected my
books. I made a resolution this morning to quit, and visit only two
evenings in the week. Anne is going to Winchester next week and she is
overjoyed at the prospect.
2nd. I spent last night at Springfield, where I went in the hope of
getting up a school. I did not succeed in getting many subscribers, but
I am by no means discouraged and will return next Monday, being the day
of the election when all the patrons will be there.
"Dec. 3rd. The idea of opening a school of
which I will be entire master, of launching my bark upon the tempestuous
waves of life, of taking upon myself the duties of a man, and yet being
but seventeen years old, is now the one engrossing subject occupying my
mind. Bright castles built in the flowery fields of imagination gleam at
times upon my vision and methinks I see in the future the fond
realization of the dreams of my youth.
"Dec. 4th. Ed came to-night. He of course
warmly favors my scheme of getting up a school.
"Dec. 6th. Pa and Ed went to New Creek
yesterday. Why they went so soon after Ed's arrival I'm sure I can't
tell. They are talking of saw mills, tan yards and various other
inventions. Pa has already (though by no means given to such flights)
gone beyond the bounds of the material and transformed the old,
moss-covered stone house into a magnificent towering castle,
surrounded—the candle is out. I am done.
"Dec. 10th, 1851. I went to Springfield
to-day, to see about the prospect of getting a school, but I had not
sufficient inducement offered me to locate there. I was challenged as
being a disunionist by one of those whose patronage had been promised
me. I replied that I was exactly what my father was and added that if my
politics were to be considered before I could be received as a teacher,
I didn't care a damn for the school, and turned on my heel and left.
"Dec. 13th. We held a moot court at the
Institate this evening. Marshall being considered both just and
penetrating was selected as Judge, the rest of us acting as counsel,
witnesses, etc. There was a very elaborate discussion on both sides, * *
* and our Judge was about to give his decision in my favor, when Wood
said that the Court was prejudiced in my favor and he would appeal from
its decision. The case was continued amidst roars from each side.
"Dec. 14th. Ed arrived from New Creek this
evening covered with dust and mud, and in reply to our many questions as
to his long absence, he responded that he had turned miller. Whereupon
Susan put up her lip and said, `My brother turned miller,' and Mary
ejaculated, `Just look at his hands! I could lie down and cry.'
"Dec. 15th. Ed started back this morning
before daylight. He thinks there is some prospect of my getting a school
over there this winter of about sixteen scholars.
"Sunday, Dec. 21st. Ed came to-day. He
paints gloving pictures of the grand field for speculation at New Creek,
and though buoyed up with the hopeful spirit of dauntless youth and
endowed with all the fire and energy of his age, yet he does not, in his
castle-building go near as far as Pa does, with plans and new inventions
regarding his mills and factory sites.
"Jan. 3rd. Have been occupied most of the
past week with making a map of Hannibal for my father. He was telling me
the other day that at the age of twenty-five, he, with fourteen other
men, had formed the bold and daring plan of revolutionizing Texas, but
about that time he made the acquaintance of our mother and soon becoming
attached to her, he decided to give it up and settle down.
"Jan. 10th. It has been snowing all day and
we have been out in it most of the time. Wood had to go on an errand
this evening and not wanting to go on horseback, or in the wagon he got
a sled which had no shafts, and endeavored to affix the shafts of the
wagon, but failing he concluded to go shaftless, which resolution was
warmly seconded by Sam Baker, who was to accompany him. They started off
all right, but at the first corner were unable to turn, when Pa happened
along and told them to go back and get the wagon.
"Jan. 26th. Contrary to Pa's advice, Ed
started to New Creek with John and I, who were going after hay. Ed rode
with us as far as we went together and then started to foot it the rest
of the way. Before we separated we were discussing what I had best do
until next Fall (at which time I expect to enter the University) . Ed
suggested that I should be an engineer, which proposition I accepted
very eagerly and decided to consult my father that night, but after Ed
parted with me I felt very lonesome, and wanted to do something that was
more settled ; so after deliberating a little longer about it I resolved
to go to New Creek and see Ed again. After helping John to load the hay,
I started to overtake him. I got along very well until I reached Riley's
about three o'clock, and having heard that he had a pretty daughter, I
concluded I would just drop in and inquire the way, though I knew it
very well. I not only asked the way, but fifty other questions besides,
though not heeding the answers. I finally satisfied myself that she was
not pretty at all. After divers combats with dogs I reached New Creek a
quarter of an hour before Ed. He wished to know why I had taken such a
tramp. I replied, `To see Mr. B. and get a situation as an engineer.' He
replied with a laugh, You had better go back home.'
"Dec. 31st. Ed arrived this evening. He has
been appointed deputy constable and has received from the Post Office
Department the appointment as Postmaster, and he is just nineteen. He
feels quite exalted. He brought the money he had collected from George
Staggs. The scarcity of money is very great over the entire country now.
I am going out to-morrow to try and make some collections. Ann has just
returned from Winchester * She told me she was engaged to S. T. I
slightly hinted that I was opposed to it, not on account of his
character, but he is a widower with two children.
"Feb. 13th. Ed came this evening. The saw
mill has started at last, but under bad auspices. The man who was to run
it for Ed met with a bad accident, and nearly broke his neck. While his
son, who was to assist him, came nearing burning to death. Ed sat up
With him all last night. We went to a Democratic meeting to-night, to
nominate candidates for the county offices. Much to our joy Angus was
nominated by acclamation for the office of Commonwealth's Attorney.
"Feb. 23rd, 1852. Angus had his first case
"Feb. 24th. I have been
assisting Barker and John to put a roof on the ice house to-day. I saw
Miss Jemima Parsons this evening. She looked very pretty.
"March 3rd. I set in to hard study to-day,
although somewhat discouraged by the repeated calls on my time, yet I
endeavor to bear it all patiently. I well know that the times are hard
and with our large family each one must exhibit patience and be willing
to do their part '' * * * and with undaunted front fling his sail to the
breeze if he would win in the end.
"March 5th. Pa received a letter from Duff Green saying he would be here
very soon to pay him the money he owes, which will greatly relieve the
"Mar. 7th. Went with my-
father to Seymour's to-day, where I met a Frenchman, who seemed
delighted to meet with one who could converse with him in his own
tongue, and we talked together until quite late. Upon arriving in
Winchester this morning, I found Slicer still at Dr. Holiday's. I took
tea at Cousin Hugh McGuire's and stayed all night with Hunter, after
calling on some ladies.
Upon reaching home we found a man here to buy a tract of land, and had
the money to pay down.
Our choir met this evening and Miss Jordan was as impudent as ever. Ed,
Angus and I talked this evening of our future prospects. Ed seems
doubtful as to his ultimate plans. Talked a little of going to St. Louis
to settle, which I earnestly oppose.
"Mar. 25th. I have been arguing with Tom
Williams on the political situation and I am surprised at the stand he
takes against States' Rights. He is a thorough-going Federalist, I
believe. I can't understand how he can be so blind to his Country's
interests. He is a worshipper of the leader of the Whig Party."
The foregoing extracts from William's Diary,
although occupying more space in these family chronicles than I had
anticipated are yet so delightful and throw such intimate light on the
family life of the McDonalds, besides affording a most wholesome picture
of the boy himself, that I cannot refrain from inserting them, with but
few omissions, just as written in his diary.
Apart from the personal interest, the study
of character development in the boy and the modest story of his own
aspirations together with his firm purpose to conquer in the race of
life, are most attractive and appealing, and I believe that anyone will
be benefitted by the perusal.
October, 1852, he realized the fond fruition of all his hopes and labors
and entered the University of Virginia. In one of his letters to his
father, he says: "I am rooming with Bob Conrad of Winchester, and as far
as I am able to judge, he is a clever young man and an exemplary
Christian. He suits me very well but whether I suit him I don't know. He
is sitting near me now and shocked to death at my writing a letter on
Sunday. He says, however, that his father told him to room with me, if
In another letter to his
father, of date Jan. 14th, he says: "Your letter reminded me of what I
said in mine to you and recalled emotions which prompted the confession,
which to my shame be it said, cease to trouble me now. Do not attribute
it to a hasty dismissal by the lady herself, but rather to conclusions
which your suggestions have brought about. * * * * Tell Mother I will
answer her letter in a few days."
In June of 1857, he received the degree of Master of Arts from the
University of Virginia and in the same summer was called to the
Professorship of Belles Lettres in the University of Public Schools in
Louisville, Kentucky, which position he filled with such satisfaction to
his patrons that the following year he was promoted to the Presidency of
A leaf in his diary, which he
still keeps in a desultory way, dated Louisville, says: "My friends
think my promise is fair—for what? To make a living! Oh, would that I
could be satisfied with that. Unfortunately, though, I am constituted
with the lofty aspirations of the eagle, * * * * But, so help me, God !
I will never let my honor be sullied to attain all this world can give,
* * * * and greatness, after all, consists more in moral elevation than
in intellectual achievements. * * * * Whenever I consult policy I am in
a quandry, so I will try to follow what seems to be duty and patiently
await the result like a philospher."
He entertained very original ideas on the
subject of '`discipline," though the methods he practiced were usually
An old pupil relates the
following incident which occurred very soon after Prof. McDonald had
taken charge of the school:
dominated at that time by a clique of boys who were simply terrors. At
the head was a big red headed fellow named Williams, who had great
influence over the other boys, and upon first sight of the new
Principal, who was rather youthful looking, they decided to make it warm
for him. Very soon an opportunity occurred to show insubordination,
which the clique promptly availed itself of, but the Professor took
little notice of it beyond a mild rebuke which confirmed them in their
opinion as expressed by their leader that `he was a soft proposition.'
"Shortly afterwards, just after school had
been called one morning, Professor McDonald found it necessary to
reprimand two of the boys for a small misdemeanor, which reprimand was
received with an insulting sneer by one of them. In response Professor
McDonald struck the offender a stinging blow, whereupon he turned on the
Principal and assumed a fighting attitude. Williams, who was next him in
line, yelled out, `Stand up to him, Johnny—I won't let him hurt you.'
Professor made one step towards him, and although the boy was nearly as
big as he was, he felled him with a single blow. Williams, who was a
powerful fellow, now rushed in, but the Professor was on him like a
tiger. For a moment Williams kept his feet, then the Professor hurled
him to the floor and knelt on him.
"All semblance of order was lost now and the boys crowded round, while
one of the teachers ran to Professor's assistance, but he waved him
back: `Never mind, I can attend to him.' And he did. They grappled for
several minutes and every time Williams tried to rise he was sent back
to the floor again. At last the Professor seemed to get the grip he was
"'Look out,' he
exclaimed, and began dragging the struggling boy towards the rear of the
hall. The way opened as by magic—the boys pressing close behind. The
Professor stopped in front of a closet door: `Here, open that door,' he
ordered one of the boys, as Williams kicked madly. The boys gazed in
anxious silence as he bellowed for his allies.
"The order to open the closet door was
promptly obeyed, as well as the next one: `Reach me that rope.' A long
piece of brand new clothes line was handed to him.
"Now, lend a hand here,' said the Principal.
`Grab his legs.'
"Three or four
boys at once volunteered to assist. One seized his feet, another roosted
on his stomach, while a third assisted the Professor to bind the
recreant securely with a rope. `Now, look out!' he exclaimed, as he half
carried, half dragged Williams down the steps leading to the ceIIar,
where he deposited him on some straw, and where he was kept the rest of
"I never saw a boy so
changed as Williams was in a little while. He actually became a model
student, and it was not long before the entire school became devoted to
in Louisville for two years, he resigned his position to carry out a
Ion, cherished plan, which was to fit himself for the legal profession,
and he returned to Winchester, where his family were then living and
engaged in the study of law. His health was very poor at this time,
having contracted malaria during his residence in Louisville. He was
very much exercised, too, on the subject of a permanent location.
An entry in his diary of date, April 7th,
1860, says: "It was mainly my love for Virginia which made me leave
Louisville. In all the ardor of enthusiastic youth, I laid my
aspirations upon her altar and would hate now to leave my native State.
I sometimes turn my eyes South, and sometimes East, and now and then
Vest again; but never North."
18th, 1860. "I am now preparing to stand my examination in law. * * * *
I drank a good deal of beer to-clay, which I am sure made me sick.
Whenever I resolve to drink no more of it, the Devil comes to me in the
form of a medical prescription of `a little every day.' But as it is
impossible for me to confine myself to a little I think I had better do
April 19th. "I
received a letter from Dan Lucas to-clay, informing me that I would
receive the appointment of Historian of The John Brown Foray, from the
Virginia Historical Society. I have already collected a good deal of
material for it in recent visits to Harper's Ferry and Charlestown."
Apr. 24th. "To-day I witnessed the parade of
a little troop calling themselves "The Selma Guards,' to which Harry,
Allen and Kenneth belong. Harry holding the office of Corporal."
April 26th. "I have been sick again. My
heart seems affected. I couldn't sleep the other night for feeling so
badly and Flora came and slept at the foot of my bed."
It was not long after he obtained his
license to practice law that his father was sent by the State of
Virginia on a mission to England in the interest of the long-disputed
boundary line between the States of Maryland and Virginia, William
accompanied his father as Secretary, besides hoping that the sea voyage
would materially benefit his health. On June 5th, 1860, they left
Winchester for New York and on the 13th they sailed for London on the
Steamer Arabia. A note in William's Diary, says : "This morning I heard
the Captain scolding the Steward for some trifling offense and he was
more tyrannical and overbearing in his conduct, than any slave-owner I
ever saw, While the Steward was twenty times as apologetic and
obsequious as any negro I ever saw. We have on board a nice old
gentleman from the South, named Howell Cobb, who is sent by the big
cotton kings to Brussels to try and arrange there for a direct trade.''
June 24th. "Liverpool. After seeing some of
the sights of this place, I dressed myself to call on Miss Maggie
Tucker, when I realized that I had only yellow kid gloves about me, and
not knowing whether they were `the style' for afternoon calls in
Liverpool, I was quite troubled in my mind and watched with much
interest every well-dressed man I saw to discover what they wore. And to
my dismay, I saw nothing but black. blue and gray gloves. Then I argued
with myself quite a while as to whether I should appear in gloves at all
and finally concluded to wear what I had on. With fear and trepidation I
approached the mansion, only to learn from the servant, who answered my
ring, that the family had just left town for Switzerland. I was both
sorry and glad."
Speaking of the
observance of the Fourth of July in London his diary has the following:
"July 4th, 1860. This memorable day in our calendar was celebrated by
the Americans in this city with a great banquet at the London Tavern. We
reached there pretty early and had opportunity to observe the others as
they came in, and it was gratifying to see so many intelligent faces
that reminded you of home. I asked if all the Americans in the city were
there and was told that a large number were absent because they desired
to recommend themselves to the aristocracy by affecting a contempt for
such promiscuous gatherings. Even Mr. Peabody was absent. Formerly he
had given these dinners himself, but he attends them no more, since the
Americans prefer to do it by general contribution.
"After a most bountiful and well-served
repast came the toasts. Mr. Dallas responded to `The day we celebrate,'
in a very dignified and pleasant little speech, eliciting great applause
when he alluded to Garibaldi. When my father rose to give a toast, I
heard a voice near me say, `Now for the F. F.s.'
"General Campbell presided most
satisfactorily, and when it was over, he and my father and I came home
together in a cab."
An entry on
.July 18th, says: "The Americans are all very much wrought up now about
the way Lord Brougham treated Mr. Dallas during the meeting of the
Statistical Congress. Judge Longstreet, the only American delegate
present, besides Dr. Jarvis, withdrew and endeavored to persuade Jarvis
to do likewise, but without avail. The Judge is out in a letter
defending slavery and justifying his action."
August 17th. "I went with a very pleasant
party to-day to the Bridgewater Gallery of paintings where I was greatly
interested, but not so much entertained as I was with a conversation I
heard in a barber shop before going.
"The barber's boy said he would wait on me
in a few minutes. He was then engaged in the intricate operation of
curling the hair of a prosperous china merchant, the nature of whose
avocation I gathered from the tenor of the conversation between them.
And as it seemed likely to be fifty rather than five minutes before my
turn I got up and left to find another shop, but though there were many
hairdressing shops I had great difficulty in finding one where I could