Biography of Donald McPherson
FROM: History of Livingston County, New York
By James H. Smith
Assisted by Hume H. Cole
Published By D. Mason & Co. 1881


The subject of this sketch is the son of James and Margaret (Kennedy) McPherson, who came from Culloden, Scotland, in 1801, and first settled near Delhi, Delaware county, N. Y., where in 1803, Donald was born. In July, 1816, the family, comprising his father and mother, brother James, now at Lyons, Iowa, and Henrietta, who afterwards was married to Duncan Stuart. of York. moved up to the Genesee Valley. This was on the 3d of July, 1816, and they encountered a furious snow storm while crossing the Chenango river. The family settled upon the homestead about three miles southwest of Canawaugus, and the Indians living at that place were constant visitors at the house, and Donald spent many days in their company hunting, and often remaining nights with them at their village of Canawaugus. His educational advantages were only those of the common district schools. In 1828 he was married to Jean Calder, by whom he has had five children, as follows :- James, John, Daniel, Joseph and Jennie. Mr. McPherson has always followed the occupation of farming, has served; his town acceptably many terms as Supervisor and eight years as a commissioned officer in the State Militia. He was formerly a Whig, but of late years has affiliated with the Democratic party. In religious belief he is a Presbyterian.

Nearly five years ago he moved to Avon Springs, where with his wife and son, Col. James A. McPherson, he now resides. His father and mother died in 1828, the former aged 62 years and the latter 60 years.

Mrs. Jean (Calder) McPherson is a daughter of James and Elizabeth Calder, of Sterlingshire, Scotland, and was born at Greenfield, Conn., in 1806. Her parents came from Scotland about the year 1800, and after a residence of a few years in Massachusetts and Connecticut moved to the "Genesee country," where, in 1808 they settled on what is known as the Casey farm, near Fowlerville. The creek passing through the place is known as "Calder Creek," from the family name. All this part of the town was then Caledonia, and when the Calder's moved here there was only one white settler-Ralph Brown-between their home and the Indian settlement at "Genesee Castle" or "Big Tree." Mrs. McPherson is, we think, the oldest living pioneer of this section, and she remembers well when the first tree was cut and the first house erected in the place now known as Fowlerville.

The Indians were not at all backward in making known their wants. One time several squaws came to the house and demanded "quisquis" (pork). On being told there was "none to spare," one of them went to the pork barrel and taking out a piece held it up exclaiming "Bad Yankee!"

Mrs. McPherson is the only survivor of a large family. Her father died in 1817 aged 55 years, and her mother in 1821, aged 56 years.

Col. James A. McPherson, the eldest son of Donald, was born in 1830, and spent much of his early life in manufacturing interests in the South, until the breaking out of the Civil war in which he early enlisted. He was Second and First Lieutenant in the 26th New York Independent Battery, and accompanied it to New Orleans, taking part in the occupation of the city, acting as Assistant Quartermaster in the "Department of the Gulf" until after the occupation of Port Hudson by the United States forces. Desiring a more active service he left New Orleans, and entering the 16th New York Cavalry, shared in the brilliant achievement of that arm of the service in the valley of Virginia. during the closing scenes of the war. He now resides at Avon Springs with his aged parents. He is by profession a mechanical engineer, and in politics is a Democrat.

Hon. John R. McPherson the second son of Donald was born on the old homestead in the town of York, in May, 1832. He was graduated at Temple Hill academy in Geneseo, and on leaving school gave his attention to farming and stock raising until 1859, when he moved to Hudson city, N. J., where he engaged in dealing in live stock. He was the projector, architect, and superintendent of the construction of the stock-yard and abattoir in Jersey city, and is now president of the Central Stock-yard and Transit Co., and lessee of the National stock-yards on the Erie R. R. at Buffalo, Deposit, Oak Cliff and New York. He is also one of the principal proprietors at West Philadelphia, of the abattoir and stock yard. He was one of the originators, and the first president of the People's Gas-light company of Hudson city, and for six consecutive years was a member of the Board of Aldermen, three years acting as president of that body. In 1871 he was elected State Senator and served one term. He took a decided stand against the Camden and Amboy R. R. minopolies and it was mainly owing to his efforts that the present liberal railway law was passed and placed among the statutes of N. J. On the 24th of January, 1877, he was elected United States Senator for the long term to succeed Mr. Frelinghuysen. He is a model business man, prompt, energetic and trustworthy. In 1868 he was married to Edla J. Gregory of Buffalo, by whom he has two children, Gregory and Edla.

Daniel McPherson, the third son of Donald, was born in 1834, and until after the close of the late war had never left home, except when attending school. He was graduated at Fairfield academy, Herkimer county, and in 1865 took up his residence in the State of New Jersey, where in 1870, he married Miss Wood, of Woodville. They have one child-Anna Wood. and their present residence is in New York city. In politics Mr. McPherson is a Republican, and though a fine business man, he prefers to be known simply, as a plain unassuming farmer.

Joseph H. McPherson. was born on the homestead in 1839. Early in the civil war he joined the 8th N. Y. Cavalry, Company H, shared in all its hard fought battles, and was in sixteen engagements. On the 12th of October, while his regiment was engaged with the enemy at Stevensburgh, Va., he was severely wounded, and was removed to the hospital in Washington, where he survived but a few hours. A fine monument marks his grave in the cemetery at Avon, and that of his twin sister J ennie beside him, who died in Avon, October 3, 1877.

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