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Mary McDonald


By: Claire

            Mary McDonald, a freed African American, was born in 1841 and was taken from her parents when she was only a child. Mary had a picture of her mother for remembrance. In 1863, she and her husband, Richard McDonald, headed west after the Civil War had ended. The McDonalds had a four ox-team wagon and with their six- month old son, Robert, the trip began. Soon after he died. They buried him along the trail. It took most of a year to arrive in Virginia City, MT. There, a second son, Eddy, was born. The family didn’t stay, but moved on to Bozeman, Montana. They arrived in the Gallatin Valley where they built a one-room cabin. In 1873, they had a daughter, Mollie, who was the first African American child to be born in Gallatin County. Then, the McDonalds built the first two-story home in Bozeman. They had children Lewis, Aurther, Belle, and Melissa. Unfortunately, both sons died as young boys.

Richard McDonald operated a freight-line between Bozeman and Virginia City. Soon, Richard began working odd jobs to spend more time with his family. One of the jobs was to lay clean straw under carpets as padding. Clothes were scarce but always clean. Sometimes, food, too, was short, but Mary always made sure that the children had enough before she ate. As you can see, this family played a huge role in Bozeman History.

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