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The Glengarry 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.


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 account.

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 strength.

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 Winchester, Virginia.

Angus W. 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 26th, 1892.

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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