Jefferson County Historical Society

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Eli F. Donnell, farmer and dairyman of Joachim Township, was born in
Plattin Township in 1831, and is the youngest of five sons and three
daughters of James and Jane (Staples) Donnell.  Mr. Donnell was born
in North Carolina in 1786, and moved with his parents to Middle 
Tennessee when a boy, and when still young he and two brothers, Eli and
Thomas, came on horseback to what is now Washington County, Mo., soon
after 1800.  There James was married, and there Thomas remained and 
established a Presbyterian Church at Caledonia, the first one of that 
denomination west of the Mississippi.  He was a minister and farmer.
The two other brothers removed to Jefferson County, where they have 
left many descendants who have become some of the best citizens of 
Jefferson County.  James first settled on the Joachim in Valle Township, 
afterward in Plattin Township, near Rush Tower, where he spent the 
remainder of his life, as one of the foremost farmers and influential 
citizens of Jefferson County.  He died March 5, 1845.  He was for many 
years a Methodist minister, an esteemed citizen, and was a soldier in 
the Black Hawk War.  It is supposed that his father was a soldier in 
the War of 1812, and that his grandfather was soldier in the 
Revolutionary War.  The mother of Eli F. was born in one of the Eastern 
States in 1792, and removed with her parents to Indiana and from there 
to Jefferson County, at an early day.  She died in 1839, when our subject 
was quite young, and after his father's death, Eli F. was thrown upon his 
own resources.  Having received the rudiments of an education, he worked 
at such work as he could obtain, and hauled lead from the mines in 
Washington County to points on the Mississippi River with three yoke of 
oxen.  At the age of twenty he crossed the plains to California, being 
about six months on the road.  He spent about three and a half years in 
this State, two years in the mines and one and a half years engaged as a 
general provision merchant, making considerable money, but lost it by his 
generosity to others.  In 1855 he came to Jefferson County, via New York 
and Central America.  He soon after made a trip through Iowa, Nebraska, 
Kansas and the Territories.  April 9, 1856 he married Miss Laura England, 
a native of Plattin Township, and the daughter of James and Margaret England. 
She died December 11, 1884 leaving seven children: Lelia, now Mrs. Charles 
Jarvis; William Foster, of Wichita, Kas.; James Theodore, also of Wichita, 
Kas.; Cynthia C., now Mrs. Oscar Ogle; Alta Ann, Jesse and Newman.  When 
first married Mr. Donnell settled on the Plattin, where he lived until 1868.  
He then formed a partnership with B. F. England, his brother-in-law, and 
purchased a large tract of land at Bush Tower. He then engaged in the wood 
business, also merchandising and farming, which he followed for two years, 
when Mr. Donnell withdrew and moved to Hematite, where he followed 
merchandising for two years.  He then retired to his farm, one and a half 
miles north, where he has since made his home, and is quite extensively 
engaged in the dairy business and stock raising, for many years buying and 
selling stock, horses, mules, cattle and sheep throughout Southeast Missouri 
and Northeast Arkansas, taking as much stock from that country as perhaps any 
other man.  He has 590 acres on the line of the Iron Mountain Railroad, one
of the oldest farms in the county, and has not changed hands but few times.  
He has never aspired to office, although often urged to accept the county 
judgeship, but as often refused.  He is a member of the school board, and a 
liberal supporter of all charitable and public enterprises.  In politics a 
Democrat, his first presidential vote was for Buchanan, in 1856.  He was a 
stanch Union man during the war, and several relatives on his mother's side 
were in the Union Army and several on his father's side in the Confederate 
Army during the war. Mr. Donnell has been a Master Mason for many years, is a
member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, as was his wife also, and has 
one of the finest farms in the county.