Select Page


RG4547.AM:  Charles W. McDonald, 1826-1919

Papers:  1862-1914

North Platte, Lincoln County, Nebraska:  Businessman

Size:  0.5 cu.ft.; 1 box


Charles McDonald was born October 25, 1826, near Morristown, Tennessee. He was the son of Alexander and Mary McLister McDonald. He worked on his father’s farm during the summer months and attended district schools during the winter, where he received his only education. At twenty-three, McDonald began farming on his own. In 1855 McDonald migrated to Nebraska Territory, where he homesteaded on Turkey Creek in Pawnee County. On part of this land, the town of Pawnee City was later constructed. McDonald also lived in Richardson County during his early life in Nebraska, residing in Salem. He served in the Territorial Legislature during the second, third, and fourth sessions, 1855 to 1857.

On October 14, 1858, McDonald was married to Orra B. Henry of Hamilton, New York. From this union were born seven children, five sons: William H., Frank, Charles, George W., and James B.; and two daughters: Nettie V. (Mrs. William C. Reynolds) and Callie E. (Mrs. Frank L. Mooney). In 1860 McDonald moved to Cottonwood Springs, where he operated a ranch and general store. During the Indian wars from 1864 to 1869, McDonald supplied Fort McPherson with hay and other necessities. He helped to organize Cottonwood Springs as the county seat of Lincoln County in 1860, forming this county out of the old Shorter County. McDonald served as the first County Judge of Lincoln County from 1860-1866, and later served as the first Superintendent of Schools. He was County Clerk in 1866 and again in 1867. He also served as County Commissioner. The county seat was moved from Cottonwood Springs to North Platte in 1867.  McDonald moved to North Platte in 1872, and in 1873, he purchased the general store from Andrew J. Miller.  William S. Peniston and Andrew J. Miller had first established the store in 1866.  McDonald ran this general merchandise store until 1899. He opened the Bank of Charles McDonald in 1878. The bank was incorporated into the McDonald State Bank, with McDonald serving as president. He also served in the city government of North Platte.

In the field of civic affairs, McDonald was also very active. He helped to organize the Platte Valley Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. He was a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, and served six years as Worshipful Master and 13 years as Treasurer of his lodge. McDonald received the Jordan Jewel from the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. He was a member of Royal Arc Masons, Knights Templar, and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. McDonald died of pneumonia at his home in North Platte on April 22, 1919.


This collection consists of one manuscript box of material arranged in five series: 1) Correspondence, 1863-1870; 2) Certificates; 3) Vouchers; 4) Ledgers, 1862-1876; and 5) Miscellaneous Materials. The materials in this collection relate to Charles McDonald and his son William H. McDonald. William’s material consists entirely of certificates, the majority of these certifying him as a Notary Public. The ledgers relate to the accounts of Charles McDonald’s Cottonwood Springs store during the period from 1862-1867. There is further material relating to his store in North Platte during the year 1876. Some of the accounts show the provisions for Fort Cottonwood as it was originally called, and the later Fort McPherson. In the miscellaneous material there is a newspaper, Freedom, relating to events during the Spanish-American War. Included among the correspondents is Alexander Majors of Nebraska City.

Note:  See the Nebraska History index for citations relating to Charles and William McDonald.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1863-1870

Box 1


  1. Correspondence, 1863-1870 (includes a letter from Alexander Majors)

Series 2 – Certificates

  1. Includes the certificates of Notary Public for William H. McDonald

Series 3 – Vouchers

  1. Vouchers

Series 4 – Ledgers, 1862-1876

  1. January 1862-August 1864

  2. January 1864-August 1866

  3. May 1864-December 1867

  4. June 1865-March 1867 and April 1876-July 1876

Series 5 – Miscellaneous Material

  1. Miscellany (includes a copy of Freedom, a newspaper printed during the Spanish-American War)


Subject headings:

Cottonwood Springs (Nebraska) — Businesses

Fort Cottonwood (Nebraska) — History

Fort McPherson (Nebraska) — History

Lincoln County (Nebraska) — History

Majors, Alexander, 1814-1900

McDonald, Charles W., 1826-1919

McDonald, William H., 1861-1961

North Platte (Nebraska) — Businesses


DJT/TT/ab            02-16-1968

Revised TMM       05-26-2020