Sarah Ferguson McDonald and her sons John, William, and Joseph Smith McDonald gave us scant accounts of the family’s arrival in Nauvoo on April 13th, 1844. They mention the shelter (later accounts state a log cabin on the outskirts of Nauvoo) obtained from Hyrum Smith that had no door or windows. The accounts mention James finding work and then the account of their being driven from their home by a mob 2 1/2 years later. There are few details and occasionally the siblings’ accounts are contradictory. Ila Maughan collected these accounts and included them in different chapters of her book “James McDonald, Sarah Ferguson, Their Progenitors and Their Posterity”
It is understandable that the accounts from Sarah and her children are not identical. The accounts were recorded more than thirty years after their Nauvoo experience (the 1908 reunion was more than 60 years!) Sarah’s account was compiled by her granddaughter. William wrote his autobiography shortly before he passed away. John spoke at the 1908 McDonald/Clyde Family Reunion. Having all the accounts helps piece together a more complete picture from different perspectives. For example Sarah’s account from “Our Pioneer Heritage” of their arrival in Nauvoo said Hyrum Smith offered them a place without doors or windows. John, who was 10 when they arrived, only reported Hyrum Smith told them “he had a home, but it was a poor one, but he didn’t want a better one until the Saints who came on the ‘Maid of Iowa’ got places to live.” John then stated, “We got into a little house and lived in that for quite a while.” What stood out in John’s memory was Hyrum’s character, but what was prominent in his Sarah’s memory was a mother’s concern for her family. How difficult it must have been for James & Sarah, who sold their spacious home in Ireland (large enough to hold Church meetings attended by twenty members) to join the Saints in Nauvoo only to end up in an abandoned house without doors or windows.
None of the accounts give a location for this house or the date they were driven out. The Nauvoo Lands and Records Office maintains Old Nauvoo land ownership records. There is no record of James McDonald owning land in Nauvoo itself. There is a record of another James McDonald who purchased land in Yelrome (Lima) on January 31, 1846, but he sold it in 1848 (long after our James and his family were in Bonaparte Iowa) and listed his wife as Rebecca. I obtained copies of the deeds and they were witnessed and signed by both the other James & his wife Rebecca. I have documented to the Nauvoo Land Records Office the need to separate the Yelrome land record from our James. So the questions remain:
1.) Where did our James & Sarah live in Nauvoo? The best information we have is that they lived in a home in the area Hyrum Smith managed which was between Robinson & Brattle St. and Wells & Barnett St. as shown in green on the top of the Historical Nauvoo map. The Nauvoo temple is also on Wells Street on the bluff overlooking “the flats” to the west. The temple was on the hill one mile equidistant from the Mississippi river on the North, West, & South. Our ancestors lived about a half mile north of the temple on the same bluff. This was actually the area used as the set for many scenes in the film “Legacy”. The map below was the master plan for Nauvoo. In 1844 the area north of Brattle was the northern boundary or “outskirts” of Nauvoo. These photos taken in 2016 show it is still cattle land today.
2.) Both John & William mention their father finding work at a mill on Queen’s Hill 22 miles away. While serving a mission in Nauvoo I found there was a mill called “McQueen’s Mill” that employed Mormon immigrants from 1843 – 1846. There is reference to it in the Joseph Smith Papers and a map showing it was 22 miles from Nauvoo.
3.) What date did they leave Nauvoo? At the 1908 Family reunion Joseph Smith McDonald stated it was almost his 4th birthday (October 16, 1846) when they were driven out of their Nauvoo home. The Battle of Nauvoo began September 11, 1846. There were only about 600 Saints left in Nauvoo when mobs set fire to homes and forced them across the Mississippi. Another ancestor, Hugh Haggerty Cole witnessed the Battle of Nauvoo. Only after the Battle of Nauvoo did mobs enter Nauvoo, seize the temple, and burn the Nauvoo Saints out of their homes. John stated his father was assigned to guard the temple. All of these sources combined lead to a logical conclusion that James & Sarah Ferguson McDonald’s family were forced from their home the second week of September 1846.
4.) Both John & William mentioned a neighbor helping them after the mob forced them across the Mississippi. Both remembered the neighbor’s oxen were so old they weren’t sure they would make it the 30 miles to Bonepart. Almost 60 years after the event John identified the neighbor as George Holmes, but William said it was a George Hicks. I researched both names and determined there was one George Homes in Nauvoo, but he passed away before 1846. There was a George Hicks who owed two parcels of property (29 & 35) just South of the area managed by Hyrum Smith. Both George Hicks & George Holmes had sons the same age as William. All of this combined gives convincing evidence James & Sarah lived in North Nauvoo in a rented home. The teenage George Hicks told of returning to his old neighborhood 3 days after the Saints had been driven from their homes. He described the entire neighborhood as burned down log cabins with only their brick chimneys remaining like skeletons of the neighborhood he had left only days before. He approached one of the few brick homes (White home) still standing in the neighborhood and found a German family had moved in. He then quietly returned to the safety of Iowa.
5.) After researching every reference to James McDonald at the Nauvoo Land and Records Office we had a tremendous discovery! A document in LDS Archives with James McDonald’s signature along with 60 of his neighbors confirming they lived in the northern outskirts of Nauvoo in the area of Green Street north of Young Street (see above map). A digital copy has been requested from archives and will be provided on this web site when permission is obtained.
Correction: The Nauvoo Land and Records Office files were compiled (cataloged or extracted) by Rowena Miller and more recently by Susan Easton Black, but it appears the same errors were repeated by both with respect to our James McDonald. The Hancock County records list a James McDonald purchasing the Yelrome property from John J. Wilson on January 31, 1846 and selling it to a Oliver P. Baker on February 29, 1848. This could not have been our James McDonald. They welcome corrections to their records when errors are verified with primary sources. There is no record of any other James McDonald owning property in Nauvoo other than the Yelrome land sales that were after our ancestors were driven out of Nauvoo.
Map of Crawfordsburn
1892 survey map of Crawfordsburn County Down. The original is so detailed it shows houses and William “Sharman” Crawford’s mansion. The compressed version can be saved by right mouse clicking and saving the compressed jpg image to your computer. It can be magnified, but won’t be as clear an image when magnified. My source for the original copy is listed under Source Documents links to online sources. Rex & Mary Ann McDonald provided this copy of a painting of Crawfordsburn, Down, Ireland by Jean Hadden.
Maps of County Down
Our ancestors are known to have lived in North County Down including Balleylesson, by Belfast, Bangor, Crawfordsburn, Drumbo, & Newtownards. Maps are from www.ulsterancestry.com/ua-free-pages.php a great Internet source for Ulster genealogy.
Civil Parish map of County Down with green circles around parishes in which our ancestors resided.
The parishes in green denote where our ancestors lived.
Old Maps of Belfast
Carnmoney & Rosemary St. Presbyterian Churches were in Belfast
Maps of County Antrim
Belfast lies in both South County Antrim & North County Down. Our ancestors lived in both Antrim & Down within a 10 mile radius.