MACDONELL, DONALD, soldier, politician, and public servant; b. 17 Jan. 1778 at Greenfield (Inverness-shire, Scotland), son of Janet Macdonell (Aberchalder) and Alexander Macdonell* (Greenfield); d. 13 June 1861 at Quebec, Canada East.
Donald Macdonell, who came to Charlottenburgh Township, Upper Canada, in 1792 with a group of Highlanders led by his father, was a member of a Scottish Catholic family long prominent in the military and political affairs of the Eastern District. The family included his father, Colonel Alexander Macdonell, jp, his uncle John Macdonell* (Aberchalder), first speaker of the Upper Canadian House of Assembly, and his brothers Colonel Duncan Macdonell, who in 1857 was to succeed his father in the command of the 2nd Regiment of Glengarry militia, Colonel John Macdonell*, member of the assembly and aidede-camp to General Isaac Brock*, and Alexander Greenfield Macdonell*, member of the assembly and sheriff of the Ottawa District.
Donald Macdonell (and his brother Duncan) attended John Strachan’s School at Cornwall. He served during the War of 1812 as captain, rising to lieutenant-colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Glengarry militia and assistant quartermastergeneral of militia for the Midland District. He was present in October 1812 during the attack on Ogdensburg, and in February 1813 was part of the force under the leadership of Colonel George Macdonell which captured it. His own war service and that of his brother John, who died heroically with Brock at Queenston Heights, gained him an appointment as registrar of Glengarry County immediately after the war. He resigned in 1819, however, to become sheriff of the Eastern District, an office which he obtained through the influence of Chief Justice William Dummer Powell* and which he retained until 1838. He was elected to represent Glengarry in the assembly in 1834 and sat until 1841 when he did not stand for re-election. His political views were solidly conservative.
During the rebellion years Macdonell raised and led a force of Glengarry Highlanders which was on active duty on the Lower Canadian frontier in 1837–38 and which in November 1838 took part in the relief of Beauharnois, where Patriote forces had taken over the seigneury of Edward Ellice. He expected to receive the command of one of the incorporated militia corps which continued in service after 1838. Despite frequent applications he was unable to relieve his growing financial hardship by further government employment until 1845, when he served briefly as superintendent of police for the Williamsburg canals on the St Lawrence River. The following year, having secured the recommendation of 57 members of the Legislative Assembly, he was appointed deputy adjutant-general of militia for Canada West. He filled this post until his death.
This government service meant following the provincial capital in its several moves. Previously Macdonell had lived almost all of his life at Cornwall, Canada West. There he married Elizabeth Macdonell, daughter of Ranald Macdonell (Leek), a Scottish loyalist. They had five sons and two daughters.
PAC, RG 1, E3, 70; RG 5, C1, 78, 86, 148–49, 151; RG 8, I (C series), 26, 60, 169, 195, 221; RG 9, I, B5, 1–7. A. N. Bethune, Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan, D.D., LL.D., first bishop of Toronto (Toronto and London, 1870), 148. U.C., House of Assembly, Journal, 1834–40. Chadwick, Ontarian families, I, 9. W. L. Scott, “Glengarry’s representatives in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada,” CCHA Report, 1939–40, 41–42.