Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


FRANCIS MARION DONNELL. Francis Marion Donnell, born in Polk county, just over the line of Greene, December 22, 1846, has lived the greater part of his life in southwest Missouri, and is one of the best known men in Greene county. His father, John M. Donnell, came to Missouri in 1832, stopping first at a place near the old Hodge, later known as the Union grave yard, on the road between Springfield and Buffalo, two years later removing to Upshaw Prairie in Greene county. He was of Irish descent, his grandfather being an Irish emigrant named O'Donnell, who changed his name after coming to Tennessee. His father, James M. Donnell, accompanied him to Missouri. He married, near Nashville, Tennessee, in 1811, Miss Jane McClain, who was of Scotch lineage. He was a farmer and stock raiser, dealing extensively in mules after he came to Missouri, making many drives through to New Orleans, which was customary in those days. He had eleven children by his first wife, the youngest of whom was Francis Marion. After her death he married Miss Jane Wills, one child being born to them. The children by the first marriage were: Sons, James M., G. W., William M., Robert, C. W., Francis Marion; daughters, Mary Ann, Margaret, Jane, Caroline and Sarah. He had one child by his second marriage, Winfield S. Donnell. Most of their lives were spent in this county. C. W. Donnell is still living near Grand, Oklahoma. Sarah, who married James M. Armstrong, a farmer, is also living in Polk county. The father died in 1860, at the age of fifty-two years.

Francis Marion grew up on the Donnell farm near Fair Grove, working during the busy season and attending the district school in winter until he reached the, age of sixteen, when he enlisted, in 1863, in Company E, Sixteenth Missouri Cavalry, under Capt. S. W. Headley and Lieut. A. J. Potter. He was in the battle of the Big Blue, in which the enemy were under command of General Marmaduke, and a number of minor engagements. After the war he returned to Greene county and farmed a number of years near Fair Grove and also in Saline and Taney counties, in this state, and in California. Returning to Springfield in 1880, be became a member of the police force under Marshal Nat Turner, and afterward a deputy under Sheriff Jack Potter. He then served as a policeman under Marshall Hollet Snow, after which he was elected constable of Campbell township in 1882. He was elected sheriff of Greene county in 1883, serving two years, after which he spent six years more in farming, on a place two miles east of Springfield, after which he removed to the city and engaged in the livery business until he was again elected sheriff, to fill the unexpired term of Dan Stewart, who had died after serving a few months. Since then he has engaged by turns in different kinds of commercial business. He is now living comfortably at the corner of Main and Atlantic streets in this city in the elegantly finished mansion built by G. A. Ramsey, a number of years ago. The interior wood work is of walnut and poplar. There are four fine stone mantels, one of them being of marble inlaid with onyx. It is one of the most substantial frame structures in the city and may shelter generations of Donnells for many years to come.

One of the tragedies of Greene county history occurred during Sheriff Donnell's first term of office. This was the lynching of George Graham, for the alleged murder of his wife at the Molloy farm. Much time was spent in preliminary examinations and various motions until rumors of intended mob violence were heard. Sheriff Donnell kept close watch until, worn out with long vigils, he was surprised by vigilantes who gained admittance to the jail on the night of April 22, 1886, by telling an assistant that they had a prisoner to deliver to him, pretending to be a posse from some out-lying district. The man opened the door to find himself surrounded by the night riders, who shoved revolvers into his face and made him keep silence while they crowded into the bedroom of the sheriff, who was sound asleep. When he arose half awake and started to dress there were weapons jabbing him from all sides and loud demands for the keys of the jail. These he had deposited in a drawer, the key of which he had managed to throw unobserved behind a log in the fireplace. But his wife had another bunch, which she was compelled to drop. They were picked up by a member of the mob, the drawer opened, the jail keys procured, and then the jail door was opened and the prisoner taken out while the sheriff and his assistant and everybody else in sight were guarded. Strangers were halted and made to hold up their hands as the wagon conveying the prisoner moved away from the jail and out Boonville street to the place of execution in the northwest part of the city. Sheriff Donnell went out and cut the body down as soon as he got a chance.

Mr. Donnell married Miss Mary Ann Hall at Fair Grove in 1865. They have four children, all born in Missouri: George Sylvester, near Fair Grove on December 10, 1866; Charles C., near Forsyth, June 6, 1869; Rose Isabel and James Milton, at Marshall, Saline county, the former, February 26, 1871, the latter February 5, 1873. Of these three there are two living, Rosa, now Mrs. De Camp, at Long Angeles, California; and James Milton, at Stockton, California.

After the death of his first wife, Mr. Donnell married Miss Mattie J. Williams in Springfield, September 7, 1882. They have six children: Francis M., Jr., born in Springfield, July 11, 1883; Cordy, in Springfield, October 1, 1884; Carrie I., in Springfield, October 13, 1887; Lee A., in Springfield, April 12, 1890; Roy E., in Springfield, August 2, 1892; Helen L., Springfield, August 30, 1899. Frank is a druggist in this city; Cordy is the wife of Lee F. Johnson, Carrie the wife of William Wallace, both of Springfield; Lee is in the water service of the Frisco; Roy is working for the Heer Dry Goods Company; Helen, the youngest, is living at home.

Mr. Donnell is a member of the Woodland Heights Presbyterian church. He was chairman of the Democratic city and county committees twenty-five years, having always been a zealous worker in the interest of the party. His son, Frank, is chairman of the Democratic city committee.

[1894-1896]


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