MACDONALD, John. - Fortunate indeed is the man who can trace his family history down through a long line of honorable ancestors, and one in Springfield who is proud of this record is John MacDonald, engineer and machinist. He was born in Perry County, Ill., December 14, 1857, a son of Hugh and Mary Ellen (Mulkey) MacDonald, both of Warren County, Ky. On the paternal side of the house, Mr. MacDonald's ancestors came from Scotland, as the name indicates, settling in Virginia. Later they removed to Kentucky. Francis MacDonald, an early ancestor, was a companion of Daniel Boone, and one of the latter's gifts to him now in the possession of John H. MacDonald, is a cane made by Mr. Boone from the horn of a deer killed by him. Francis MacDonald, great-great-grandfather of John H. MacDonald, settled in the blue grass regions of Kentucky. His son, Ward MacDonald, went to Warren County, Ky., south of Bowling Green, and there Hugh MacDonald was born.
The ancestor on the maternal side, Eric Mallaka, came to America from Sweden in 1650, settlement being first made in Pennsylvania. Later removal was made to Virginia, then to Tennessee, and finally to Kentucky. Representatives of the Mulkey family held the lessor offices in their communities, and were hardworking, industrious people. Members of this family were in the Revolutionary War. Philip Malka preached George Washington's funeral sermon. At that time he, his son and grandson were clergymen, and preached on the same day from the same pulpit. The name has been gradually changed to its present form.
Hugh MacDonald and Mary Ellen Mulkey were married in Warren County, Ky., later moved to Perry County, making the trip in 1850, and this was the date of the family settlement in Illinois. Afterwards they returned to Kentucky, where Mrs. MacDonald died, being buried in the family graveyard now the site of the county poor farm. After the death of his wife Mr. MacDonald returned to Illinois, later going to Missouri, and dying at Cape Girardeau, in 1867.
Mr. MacDonald is particularly proud of the fact that his mother's family was connected with the ministry from the seventeenth century. His maternal grandfather, Rev. John Newton Mulkey, was born near Tompkinsville, Ky., and commenced preaching at the very early age of sixteen years, continuing in the ministry until his death, in 1882, at Glasgow, Ky. He married Nancy Lough and moved to Perry County, Ill., about 1856. During his ministry of forty-five years, he preached about 10,000 sermons and baptized about that number of persons into the faith of the Methodist Church. At present his two sons, Rev. B. W. S. Mulkey, of Kansas, and Rev. E. F. Mulkey, of Texas are sustaining the family reputation for rearing preachers.
At the time of his father's death Mr. MacDonald was left alone, and being only ten years old, his struggle was a difficult one. He always had an ambition to study, and in the intervals of earning his living attended school in his district, then went to Mt. Vernon High School, and finally to Eureka College. After finishing he taught school for one term. His inclinations, however, led him to enter the employ of a railroad as fireman, becoming an engineer. Coming thus into direct contact with his fellow employees, he saw the necessity of concerted action. Leaving the railroad for the mines, in 1896, he organized the Brotherhood of Hoisting Engineers, and for three years was national chief. He has been identified with a number of labor movements, and has always had the interests of his fellow workmen at heart. In 1881 he came to Springfield, and left there to go to East St. Louis, in 1892, but returned to Springfield in 1893. In 1899 he went to Athens, Ill., thence to Taylorville, in 1908, but in 1909 returned to Springfield where he is now residing. Fraternally he belongs to the Maccabees, Modern Woodmen of America and the Knights of Pythias. The First Methodist Church, of Springfield, holds his membership. In politics he is a strong Republican.
Mr. MacDonald was married at Pinckneyville, Ill., October 3, 1878, to Sadie Farmer, daughter of James F. and Temperance (Judge) Farmer, pioneers of Illinois. The grandfather was a hero of the Mexican War. Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald have had children as follows: Ora Blanche, born November 26, 1879; Frank Roundtree born January 27, 1883; Temperance Vance, born July 8, 1889, and James Hugh, born August 16, 1897. Although occupied with his work and the cares attendant upon his exertions with reference to labor movements Mr. MacDonald has found time to make an exhaustive study in ancient history, and is frequently called upon to settle vexed matters relating to it. He is broad-gauged, keen-minded and energetic, and has the welfare of the common people at heart. Such a man, descended from heroes and ministers of earlier days, is destined to be a leader of his kind, from the dangers and oppressions which now harass them.