William Macdonald

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Vivian Brinker
January 13, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume II.
pg. 181

WILLIAM MACDONALD. One of the distinguished members of the legal
profession practicing at the bar of Mineral County is William
MacDonald, of Keyser, who fully lives up to the highest ideals of
his calling in both professional and private life. He is one of
those who early found the work for which he was best fitted, and
his practice before state and federal courts of West Virginia and
her neighboring sister commonwealths has been effective in
establishing his ability to litigate in all cases with marked

William MacDonald was not born in the United States, but under a
flag representing freedom and democracy, as he came into the world
at Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 19, 1865. His father
had emigrated to Nova Scotia at the commencement of his career
from Dunbartonshire, Scotland, and there was actively engaged as
an official in extensive coal-mining operations. He was a Norman
MacDonald, and was born at Netherton, Scotland, June 15, 1836. He
was reared amid the environment of farm life, and was but sparingly
educated, yet sufficiently for his needs through life. When but a
youth he entered the mines located near his birthplace, and in them
acquired the experience which made him an expert miner and equipped
him for superintending mines in which work he was engaged in both
Canada and the United States.

It was after locating at Stellarton that Norman MacDonald made the
acquaintance of Elizabeth Wilson, who became his wife. She was also
of Scotch birth, and died at Harrisburg, Illinois, when their son
William MacDonald was nine years old, in 1874. Mr. MacDonald took
an important part in the operations in the Illinois coal field until
December, 1874, moving then to Maryland and establishing his home at
Lonaconing, where he continued his connection with mining until 1882,
when he crossed the Potomac River into West Virginia and settling
permanently in Mineral County. There he was engaged in superintending
mining operations until his retirement. His death occurred at Keyser,
May 19, 1908. Four children were born to him and his wife, namely:
William, whose name heads this review; Mrs. Isabella Grimes, who
resides in Mineral County; James Wilson, who died a few years ago; and
one who died young.

William MacDonald has lived in West Virginia since August, 1882. He
did not profit much from his attendance at the public schools, because
he went with his father into the mines before he reached his eleventh
year, and worked in and about coal diggings until in September, 1893,
when he began to carry out a long-cherished ambition to prepare himself
for the profession of the law, and during that month entered the
University of West Virginia. He had read borrowed text-books on law
for a year and a half before he entered the university, and had
accomplished considerable without a coach or guide to aid him in
mastering any of the many intricascies of the science. However, such
was his perseverance and natural ability, and as he was well-read and
grounded in the rudiments of the law when he commenced his course, he
was able to carry on his work creditably in the classroom, finishing
the prescribed course of two years in one year and graduating in
June, 1894, tenth in a class of twenty-three, amoung whom were Clark
W. May, later attorney general of West Virginia, Judge J.C. McWhorter,
Judge Warren B. Kittle, of Philippi, West Virginia, and others who
have since become attorneys of note in the several communities in
which they located.

Mr. MacDonald was admitted to practice at Keyser, September 4, 1894,
and on October 8th, following, he established himself in this city
and began the practice of a profession which has brought him
conspicuously before the public in several states as an able advocate
at the bar. His first law suit was tried on the present site of his
law office, in a justice court, and he began his practice in the
office of the late William C. Clayton, one of the most distinguished
lawyers of West Virginia. He has always practice alone, and for a
score of years has taken part as counsel on one side or the other of
of the more important, first-class litigation in Mineral County. In
addition to a large local practice Mr. MacDonald has had cases in the
state courts of Maryland and Virginia, the Federal Court at Baltimore,
Maryland, and the State and Federal Courts of West Virginia.

In politics Mr. MacDonald is a well known democrat, and commenced his
record as a voter in 1888, when he supported Grover Cleveland for the
presidency of the United States, and he has stoutly maintained his
loyalty to his party ever since. He has responded to the call of his
party to bear some of the the burden and expense of campaign work,
and was a member of the Second Congressional District Democratic
Committee, and treasurer of the campaign of Col. Thomas B. Davis when
the latter was sent to Congress from the Second District. He was
chairman of the Mineral County Prohibition Committee when the
constitutional amendment for national prohibition was submitted to the
voters, and rejoiced in the positive victory that was given the
amendment by the ballots cast by Mineral County citizens. Mr. MacDonald
was city attorney of Keyser for a number of years and served as a
member of the school board when the present high school building was

William MacDonald married at Keyser, West Virginia, November 20, 1900,
Miss Nancy J. Lauck, a daughter of Joseph B. Lauck, and aunt of Hon.
W. Jett Lauck, a leading labor statistician and a scholarly man of
Washington, D.C., appointed on important commissions by President
Wilson during the World war, and an authority on labor problems. Mrs.
MacDonald was born at Huntington, West Virginia, but grew to womanhood
at Keyser, where her father spent many years. Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald
became the parents of the following children: Kenneth, who died
May 25, 1917, on his twelfth birthday; and Janet, who is a student in
the Keyser High School.

During the late war William MacDonald served as one of the zealous
supporters of the administration policies. he took part as one of the
“Four-Minute” speakers in the campaigns in behalf of all of the drives;
assisted many of the drafted men in filling out their questionaires,
and was a member of the Interstate Young Men’s Christian Association
Committee, and as such had the approval on the expenditures of all
monies for educational purposes by that organization in West Virginia
after the close of the war, and is still a member of that committee.
While the above were the chief duties he so cheerfully performed, he
was identified with many others, and did not shirk any responsibility,
no matter what personal sacrifice might be entailed. His relation to
the church is that of his membership with the Presbyterian congregation
at Keyser, and he has had a voice in its spiritual leadership as an
elder for some years, and in its finances as treasurer for nineteen
years. For seventeen years he has been secretary of its Sabbath
school, and has been its superintendant for some years.