John McDannald 1889 letter Return to John McDannald page

John McDannald 1889 Letter

In 1865, when John McDannald and family left Mt. Sterling, Illinois, by wagon train for the six month trip across the plains to Oregon, they thought they would never again see the friends and relatives that were left behind. The transcontinental railroad changed that.

After farming the Walla Walla valley in Oregon from 1865 to 1887, John's wife Margaret passed away. In 1889, at the age of 72, the widower John McDannald took the long train ride from Oregon to Illinois to visit the old homestead. In November he wrote this letter home to his daughter and sons in Oregon. In December he would take the train back to Oregon, and in January, John McDannald would pass away, just two months after writing the letter.

"Hersman, Illinois November 3rd, 1889
Dear son and daughter
After my best respects and well wishes would say that I received yours of the 26th of October, yesturday and it founed me about as well as common, and I hope these few lines will reach you in due time and find you all well.
Well all of the comictions and friends is about as well as common here in this county. I have bin around a good deal since I have bin here and saw a great many oald friends and aquaintances there is a few that I have not visited yet. Amongst that number is John Alexander Linn. I saw him and family at Siloam Springs and eat diner with him and family one Sunday at a big meeting.
I promised to go and see him as I started home, but I fear I will not be able to go they live near Claton, Adams County, Illinois and is doing well I am told.
There is lotts of oald friends and aquaintences here that is a doing well. Amongst the number is J.A.Linn, Wm Briggs, A Hendrick, G Harris, Nathan and Eliza Battin, Thomas, Miles and James McNeff, John & Henry Johnson, William Bain and the Jaques families and a host of others in the county and a host of others in Mt. Sterling.

Ambrose Putman, J.J. McDonnald, County Judge, A. Hendrick, District Attorney, D.A. Shankland, Sheriff, Steve Ranney, Treasurer, Frank Orr, Circuit Clerk, and Wilson Reed, County Clerk, all of whom are first class democrats, besides others etc.

Well, as I expect to be home nearly as soon as you get this, I will close.

It is quite warm here today. I am a writing with my coat off and it is nice and clear out of doors, and the sun is shining nicely and warm.
So I will close for this time.

John McDannald Sr."


"Found me about as well as common" is a phrase often used in 19th century American letters. It would mean feeling "average," or "about as well as can be expected."

"comictions" probably means connections.

The 1880 census for Brown County, Illinois, helped with the spelling of some of the names in the letter. In 1880, there are many families in Brown County named Briggs, Battin, McNeff, Johnson, Shankland, Jaques, Johns, Ranney, Hendrick, Orr, and Putman.

After the long six month journey from Illinois to Oregon in 1865, John Alexander Linn, Phillip Edmond Linn's son, came back to live in Illinois, as did George McDannald, John's son. It is interesting that there is no mention of John McDananld's son George in the letter; it would seem that John's children in Oregon would be wondering about their brother. It is almost certain that John would have been staying with his son, George, in Hersman. All of George's children were born in Hersman.

John A. Linn was married to Nancy Briggs; that would be the Briggs connection.

"D A Shankland, Sheriff" is David Shankland. He is the brother of William Shankland who was on the 1865 Illinois to Oregon wagon train.
According to the 1865 wagon train emigrant list, William Henry Shankland was married to Phillip Linn's daughter Nancy Linn. Nancy was Mahala McDannald Linn's daughter, so she would be John McDannald's niece. William & Nancy stayed in Oregon. David Shankland was William's brother.
David Shankland had the longest term as Sheriff in Brown County History. He died in 1937 at the age of 87.

In the 1880 census, John J McDonnald is a lawyer in Mt Sterling; it is not known if there is a connection to the McDannald family.

"Claton, Illinois" would be spelled Clayton.

Thanks to Erma Stevenson and Vern McDannald with interpretation of the letter.

Some notes about the letter by Erma's friend, Virginia, who is from Mt Sterling.

Mt. Sterling is my home town and Hersman is about 3 miles from there. In fact my brother lives there. It`s just a big "S" curve now. There used to be a "Hersman Trading Post". there which was a small grocery/post office/diner all in one with a feed store on the end. When we ran low on cattle feed, we would load up corn, wheat, and oats and take to the feed store and they would add molasses then grind everything together. I always got a hershey bar or an orange crush while Daddy was getting the grinding done. When they got finished with the grinding, they would load it on our wagon, and we would head to the house. We were only about 15 minutes by tractor. We didn`t have a truck. There was also a Fry garage across from the trading post, the Hersman school, a church that was torn down the last time I went home, and a small slaughter house. The Trading Post has closed now, also the school and slaughter house. My brother used to walk across the road to the Trading Post and have coffee with a few of the locals.....Fry`s, McCoys, Snyder`s.

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