WEEK 17 – 2015: Michael E. McDonald

MichaelMcDonaldFrom humble beginnings of the son of an immigrant coal miner to becoming an attorney and state senator; the story of Michael E. McDonald is certainly an excellent example of someone who prospered in life. And since “prosper” is the theme for this week’s 52 Ancestor challenge, I chose my 2nd cousin, 3xs removed to write about.

Michael was born September 26, 1858 to Thomas and Bridget (Hughes) McDonald in the small town of Hawley, Pennsylvania. His father, Thomas, had come to this country from Ireland around 1816 and settled in Hawley. He met and married Bridget Hughes and started their family. When Michael was about 4 years old, his parents moved the family to Dunmore, PA which is located close to Scranton. His father was employed by the Pennsylvania Coal Company and worked there for many years. Michael, also worked in the mines when he was old enough to do so, as an apprentice moulder.

The Scranton Tribune had credited Thomas McDonald in his obituary, as one of the pioneers of Dunmore. He was very active in the borough activities. This obviously had a positive impact on his son, Michael. In the 1880 Census, Michael, age 21, was still residing with his parents (listed as Thomas McDonnell), 4 sisters, 3 brothers and a cousin. Michael’s occupation was “life insurance agent.” However, an interesting note is that the enumerator for this census was “M.E. McDonnell.”

Michael was educated in the Dunmore and Scranton school system, before continuing his education at the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA. He became interested in law and eventually completed a course in law and was admitted to the bar while working at the law offices of Lemuel Amerman.

From there, Michael became active in the Democratic party and served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1887-1889. He was elected as a State Senator of Pennsylvania and served from 1891-1893.

On November 23, 1892, he married Martha Louise Mellen. They had 3 children: Randall, Maurice and Martha. Two other children had died at a very early age.

“Senator” McDonald continued to be involved in Scranton and Lackawanna poiltical affairs up until the time of his death. He died suddenly on November 28, 1921 at his home at 440 Madison Avenue, Scranton. He is buried in the Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton.


  1. The Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania) at Newspapers.com, 29 Nov 1921, page 2. Obituary for Michael E. McDonald.
  2. Year: 1880; Census Place: Dunmore, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1137; Family History Film: 1255137; Page: 136C; Enumeration District: 030; Image: 0665. Record for Thomas McDonnell.
  3. The Scranton Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) at Newspapers.com, 2 Feb 1901, page 8. Obituary for Thomas McDonald.

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