MacDONELL, DONALD AENEAS, soldier, politician, and public servant; b. in Charlottenburg Township, U.C., 31 July 1794, son of Isabella McDonell and Miles Macdonell*, who came to Upper Canada from Schoharie County, N.Y., after the American Revolution and who was chosen by Lord Selkirk [Douglas*] to be the first governor of Assiniboia (1811–15); m. Mary McDonell, daughter of Archibald MacDonell of Leek, by whom he had several children; d. 11 March 1879, at Brockville, Ont.
Donald Aeneas MacDonell attended John Strachan*’s school at Cornwall. He then served during the War of 1812 in the British regular forces in Upper Canada. Commissioned an ensign in the 8th Regiment in 1813, he took part in the engagements at Stoney Creek, Lundy’s Lane, Sackets Harbor, and York (Toronto). In 1815 he exchanged into the 98th Regiment as a lieutenant and served in England and in Nova Scotia. He was placed on half-pay in 1817 with the rank of lieutenant and returned to Stormont County, Upper Canada. He had also a long career in the militia, serving with the 1st Battalion of Stormont as an officer and ultimately (1846–50) as its commanding officer. During the uprising in Lower Canada in November 1838, he commanded the regiment on a special expedition to Beauharnois, where rebels had seized the manor house of the seigneury of Beauharnois and taken prisoner Edward Ellice Jr; when the force arrived, the rebels had already fled.
In 1834 MacDonell had been appointed a justice of the peace for the Eastern District (the counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry) and in the same year was elected to the House of Assembly of Upper Canada for Stormont as a Reformer. He was re-elected in Stormont in 1836 but was then defeated three times, in 1841, 1844, and 1847, in bids for a seat in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. In April 1848 he was appointed crown lands agent and sheriff of the Eastern District, but in November of the same year he became warden of the Provincial Penitentiary at Kingston, on the suspension of the then warden, Henry Smith*, as a result of the investigations of a committee of which George Brown was secretary. In 1850 his position as warden was made permanent and he held this post until 1869. More humane (and economical) than Smith, he was personally popular with the staff and inspectors until increasing infirmity brought some complaints about his effectiveness toward the end of his career.
His last years were spent in Brockville, Ontario, in somewhat straitened circumstances and much of his time was devoted to an attempt to recover arrears in salary and a larger retiring gratuity to which he believed he was entitled.
PAC, MG 26, A (Macdonald papers), 300/1, letterbooks 5–7; 276341–429; RG 5, Cl, 512, nos.818, 820; RG 9, I, B5, 6; C4, 5; RG 68, 1. G.B., WO, A list of the officers of the Army and of the Corps of Royal Marines, 1813–17. Dom. ann. reg., 1879. L. H. Irving, Officers of the British forces in Canada during the war of 1812-I5 (Welland, Ont., 1908). Cornell, Alignment of political groups.