Military Wiki
Marshall McDonald
File:File:Hon. Marshall McDonald.jpg
Portrait of Marshall McDonald
United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries

In office
President Grover Cleveland
Benjamin Harrison
Preceded by George Brown Goode
Succeeded by John J. Brice
Chief Assistant Commissioner of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries

In office
Personal details
Born Marshall McDonald
(1835-10-18)October 18, 1835
Romney, Virginia (now West Virginia), United States
Died September 1, 1895(1895-09-01) (aged 59)
Washington, D.C., United States
Resting place Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown, Washington, D.C., United States
Spouse(s) Mary Eliza McCormick
Relations Angus McDonald (great-grandfather)
Angus McDonald (grandfather)
Angus William McDonald (father)
Edward Allen Hitchcock McDonald (brother)
Children Mary McDonald
Rose Mortimer Ellzey McDonald
Angus McDonald
Nannie Frank McDonald
Parents Angus William McDonald
Leacy Anne Naylor
Alma mater University of Virginia
Virginia Military Institute
Occupation Engineer, professor, geologist, mineralogist, pisciculturist, and fisheries scientist
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Allegiance United States United States of America
Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861–1865 (CSA)
Rank CSAMajor.png Major (CSA)
Battles/wars American Civil War

Marshall McDonald (October 18, 1835 – September 1, 1895) was an American engineer, geologist, mineralogist, pisciculturist, and fisheries scientist.[1] McDonald served as the commissioner of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries from 1888 until his death in 1895.[1] He is best known for his inventions of a number of fish hatching apparatuses and a fish ladder that enabled salmon and other migrating fish species to ascend the rapids of watercourses resulting in an increased spawning ground.[1][2] McDonald's administration of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries was notably free of scandal and furthered the "protection and culture" of fish species throughout the United States.[1][2]

Early life

McDonald was born on October 18, 1835 to Angus William McDonald and his wife, Leacy Anne Naylor, in Romney, Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia).[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] McDonald was the sixth child and fourth son of Angus and Leacy Anne McDonald.[7] He was named for the Marshall family, many members of which were friends of his father.[7] The McDonalds raised their nine children, consisting of five sons and four daughters, in a log dwelling in Romney owned by Leacy Anne's father, William Naylor.[8] The structure, currently known as the Davis History House, remains standing at its original site at the corner of Main and Bolton Streets and serves as a museum mainted by the Hampshire County Public Library.[8] McDonald's father was a prominent community leader in Romney and served on the board of trustees of Romney Academy,[9][10] an academy that McDonald likely attended[6][11] as well as its successor institution, the Romney Classical Institute. Following the death of his mother, McDonald's father sold the Naylor family's log dwelling in 1849 and moved to Hannibal, Missouri in the 1850s only to return to Virginia a few years later upon marrying his second wife, Cornelia Peake.[8] McDonald and his family were still residing in Romney at the time of the 1850 United States Census.[12] It is unknown whether McDonald and his siblings accompanied their father on his move to Missouri.[8]

Education and early academic career

From 1854 to 1855, McDonald studied natural history under Spencer Fullerton Baird at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.[4][13] McDonald entered the third class of the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia in 1855,[6][11][14] where Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was one of his professors.[1][2] During the 1858–1859 academic year, McDonald attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.[6][11] McDonald resumed his studies at the Virginia Military Institute and graduated from that institution in July 1860.[2][5][6][11][13][15] McDonald served as an assistant professor in chemistry under Jackson at the Virginia Military Institute from Fall 1860 until the outbreak of the American Civil War in April 1861[6][11][16] and taught intermittently throughout the course of the war.[1][17][18]

Military career in the American Civil War

McDonald enlisted in the Confederate States Army on April 27, 1861 and served initially as a Lieutenant Engineer Officer[1] and inspector general of the staff of his former professor, Lieutenant General Stonewall Jackson.[6][16] McDonald later served as a staff officer for Major General Martin Luther Smith and as an engineer officer for Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton after being transferred to New Orleans.[15][16][18]

McDonald was raised (and likely born) in this log dwelling in Romney, Virginia (now West Virginia). Known as the Davis History House, McDonald's childhood home serves as an American Civil War museum maintained by the Hampshire County Public Library.

While serving as chief engineer under Pemberton, McDonald was taken as a prisoner of war by the Union Army at Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863.[15][16] During the war, McDonald and other former cadets returned to the Virginia Military Institute to instruct pupils while on parole or recuperating from injuries.[16][17] In 1864 while McDonald was on parole,[15] one of his students, John Sergeant Wise, recounted of having McDonald as a professor: 'Marshall McDonald hobbles in to point with his crutch at the problems on the black-board, until he can once more point with his sword towards "the looming bastion fringed with fire."'[17] Of the professors at the institute during the war, Wise remarked, "they taught with a zest and freshness as we seldom see."[17] McDonald was further promoted to the rank of Major in command of engineers on the staff of General Braxton Bragg and was to be promoted to the ranks of Colonel and Brigadier General when the war ended.[6][13][15][18] While serving as an officer in an engineer corps, McDonald saw "much active service."[11] McDonald and his four brothers served with distinction in the Confederate States Army, but only three of his brothers survived the war.[8] McDonald's father was one of the first Hampshire County residents to volunteer to fight for the Confederacy in 1861 and was commissioned as a Colonel in command of cavalry.[8][18] McDonald's father died in battle in Richmond, Virginia in 1864.[8][18]

Return to Virginia Military Institute

Following the war in 1865, McDonald returned to the Virginia Military Institute where he was appointed a professor with the rank of Colonel instructing and serving as chair of the subjects of chemistry, geology, mineralogy, and metallurgy.[2][6][11][18][19] McDonald was appointed by the Board of Directors to replace Colonel Gilham as chair of the subjects of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology, who had in turn been appointed to replace George Washington Custis Lee the previous year.[6][20][21] Upon his return to the Virginia Military Institute, McDonald established the institution's first museum.[21] During the 1867–1868 academic year, McDonald's chair was further subdivided as new lecture halls were being completed within the restored barracks with McDonald retaining the subjects of mineralogy, geology, and metallurgy.[20] McDonald's colleagues among the faculty included Superintendent Francis Henney Smith and professors Matthew Fontaine Maury, Scott Shipp, John Mercer Brooke, and George Washington Custis Lee.[20] Toward the end of his tenure at the Virginia Military Institute, McDonald occupied the chair of geology and mining engineering.[11]

An illustration of General Francis Henney Smith addressing the faculty of the Virginia Military Institute, including McDonald, in regard to the institution's restoration following the American Civil War.

In 1875, McDonald developed an interest in fish farming and became administrator of the Virginia state fish hatchery at Wytheville.[13] He was appointed as the sole Fish Commissioner of Virginia shortly thereafter.[4][6][13] It was during his tenure as the Fish Commissioner of Virginia that McDonald invented the fish ladder that was named for him.[4] In 1877, McDonald was commissioned by Virginia to conduct a survey of mineral resources within the James River basin, the findings of which he reported to the Virginia General Assembly in 1879.[13] McDonald continued to instruct at the Virginia Military Institute until 1879, when he was invited by his former professor Spencer Fullerton Baird to a position at the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries.[1][4][6][18] McDonald accepted the position with the Fish Commission and submitted his resignation from the Virginia Fish Commission to Governor of Virginia, Fitzhugh Lee.[6]

United States Fish Commission

McDonald was appointed to an assistant position within the United States Fish Commission where he was a special agent under Baird and responsible for compiling and publishing fishery statistics related to the 1880 United States Census.[11][18] Following the census, he then served as superintendent of the shad hatcheries of the Potomac River.[11] During his subsequent years at the Fish Commission, McDonald was responsible for the distribution of "young fishes" and of "food-fishes" and later served as Chief of the Division of Fish Culture.[4][11] In 1885, McDonald was appointed Chief Assistant Commissioner of the Fish Commission.[1] He continued in that capacity until he was appointed by United States President Grover Cleveland in January 1888 to replace Dr. George Brown Goode as the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries.[1][2][4][11][18][22] Brown had been temporarily filling the position of Fish Commissioner following Baird's death.[11] McDonald took his oath of office on February 18, 1888.[18] His appointment was widely recognized as an "excellent" choice due to the breadth of his experience, organizational and leadership abilities, and sense of duty and responsibility to the American people.[4] McDonald was also viewed as one of the "most accomplished" fish culturists in the United States at the time of his appointment.[4] As Fish Commissioner, McDonald was initially paid US$5,000 per annum[13] and had at his disposal three yachts and 22 fishing stations to conduct research and carry out the commission's efforts.[2]

McDonald was awarded medals (pictured) from international fishery exhibitions at Berlin and London and from the Société d’Acclimation in Paris for his inventions and improvements in the field of fish farming.

As Fish Commissioner, one of McDonald's most important works was his plan to undertake a biological and physical survey of American fisheries and fish culture more thorough than any previously undertaken.[23] McDonald believed the first step toward building "a comprehensive knowledge of the conditions of greatest productiveness" of American fisheries was to understand the primary food supply of fish, which McDonald termed "aquatic pastorage."[23] McDonald also initiated controversial changes in the Fish Commission imposing a bureaucratic structure inspired by his previous military career and solidifying the commission's emphasis on fish culture.[22]

In 1893, McDonald warned Oregon governor Sylvester Pennoyer of "the disastrous outlook for the future of the salmon fisheries of the Columbia."[24]

Fish hatching innovations

Throughout his tenure at the Fish Commission, McDonald invented and designed a number of innovative fish hatching apparatuses and appliances.[25] McDonald's most prominent apparatus was a fish ladder that enabled salmon and other migrating fish species to ascend the rapids of watercourses, thus increasing the extent of their spawning grounds.[1][2][18][26] In 1871, McDonald devised "automatic hatching jars" which revolutionized the field of fish farming and were widely-utilized by the United States Fish Commission, several state commissions, and commissions in Europe and Japan.[4][13][18] The hatching jar apparatus enabled the "vast extension" of the propagation of shad accomplished in the 1880s and 1890s and rendered the work of the Fish Commission practicable commercially.[4] In 1880, he designed a cod box that produced the tidal motion necessary for the hatching of floating eggs.[25] McDonald further perfected his design of the cod box in 1888.[25] In the winter of 1883, McDonald developed a tidal apparatus for the hatching of floating halibut eggs and those of other marine species.[4] The vast production and distribution of fish eggs by the Fish Commission was possible through the utilization of this tidal apparatus.[4] Through the usage of this apparatus, the process of hatching eggs was made cheaper and increased the fish farming output capacity of the commission.[4]

Awards and honors

Prior to his appointment as Fish Commissioner, McDonald was awarded gold medals and diplomas from international fishery exhibitions at Berlin and London and a silver medal from the Société d’Acclimation in Paris for his inventions and improvements in the field of fish farming.[4][13][18] In addition, he received a "special medal" from the Société d’Acclimation for a fish ladder he devised for the River Vienne in southwestern France.[4][13]

Later life and death

McDonald's row house at 1514 R Street, Northwest in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. where he resided until his death in 1895.

At the time of his application submission to the Sons of the American Revolution in 1890, McDonald was residing at 1514 R Street, Northwest in what is now known as the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.[3] After suffering from tuberculosis for several months,[4][26] McDonald traveled to the Adirondack Mountains with his wife in the early summer of 1895 seeking to benefit from the region's "health-giving air."[26] McDonald's condition began to deteriorate and he returned to his residence in Washington, D.C. where he died the following week on Sunday morning, September 1, 1895.[2][4][26] McDonald was interred on September 3 next to his daughter Nannie in Lot 432 East at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood.[27]

McDonald was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church and served as a vestryman at Lee Chapel, which he was partly instrumental in building.[28]


In his Forest and Stream magazine following McDonald's death in 1895, Charles Hallock recounted "the record of [McDonald's] administration is an honorable one. By the death of Commissioner McDonald the country loses a public officer who has served faithfully honestly and well."[4] "The closing of his life is a loss to fish culture and to the public interests."[4] Marcus Benjamin, in his remembrance of McDonald for the District of Columbia Sons of the American Revolution, remarked: "His articles and reports on the fishing industries of the world are of great interest and his efforts in behalf of the oyster have resulted in much good."[18] Benjamin further stated, "McDonald's bearing was always kind and generous to a fault, and his tread and manner carried for him a remembrance of his long line of military ancestry."[18]


McDonald married Mary Eliza McCormick (October 18, 1840 – February 8, 1934[29][30]), daughter of Colonel Francis McCormick and his wife Rose Mortimer Ellzey, on December 17, 1867 at her family's estate "Frankford" near Berryville in Clarke County, Virginia.[29][31] Mary was born on October 18, 1840 at "Weehaw" in Clarke County and was educated at Richmond Seminary.[29] McDonald and his wife had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood:[29]

  • Mary McDonald (born and died March 1869, Lexington, Virginia)[29]
  • Rose Mortimer Ellzey McDonald Skoggs (November 23, 1871, Lexington, Virginia – 1953, Berryville, Virginia)[29]
  • Angus McDonald (May 28, 1873, Lexington, Virginia – January 17, 1905, Milner, Idaho)[29][32]
  • Nannie Frank McDonald (January 17, 1883, Washington, D.C. – April 10, 1886, Washington, D.C.)[29]


In 1890, McDonald applied for and acquired membership in National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution through the organization's District of Columbia branch.[3][5] He qualified for membership through his direct male-line great-grandfather, Colonel Angus McDonald, who served in the French and Indian War, Dunmore's War, and the American Revolutionary War after immigrating to the Thirteen Colonies from Inverness, Scotland following his banishment after the Battle of Culloden.[3][5] Colonel Angus McDonald was appointed by General George Washington to serve as a Lieutenant Colonel in command of Virginia revolutionary forces.[5] He also served on various revolutionary committees throughout the war.[5] McDonald also qualified for membership through his descent from his great-grandfather, William Sanford of Hampshire County, Virginia, and through his great-great-grandfather, William McGuire of Frederick County, Virginia, both of whom served as commissioned officers in Virginia revolutionary forces.[3][5] McDonald was formally elected to the society on January 27, 1890.[5]



  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Blume 2011, p. 315.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle 1896, p. 99.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (1890). "Sons of the American Revolution Membership Application: Marshall McDonald". Louisville, Kentucky: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 Bruette 1895, p. 200.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Benjamin 1897, p. 35.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 Leslie 1888, p. 419.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Williams 1911, p. 218.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Munske & Kerns 2004, p. 183.
  9. Virginia General Assembly 1839, p. 131.
  10. Morrison 1917, p. 152.
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 Moore 1895, p. 1043.
  12. National Archives and Records Administration (1850). "1850 United States Federal Census, Year: 1850; Census Place: District 24, Hampshire, Virginia; Roll: M432_948; Page: 176A; File: 355.". 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 13.9 "Col. Marshall McDonald; Newly Appointed Fish Commissioner.". January 28, 1888.,1465405. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  14. Williams 1911, p. 219.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Davis 1992, p. 323.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Williams 1911, p. 222.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Wise 1882, p. 19.
  18. 18.00 18.01 18.02 18.03 18.04 18.05 18.06 18.07 18.08 18.09 18.10 18.11 18.12 18.13 18.14 Benjamin 1897, p. 36.
  19. Virginia Military Institute 1869, p. 13.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Smith 1890
  21. 21.0 21.1 Williams 1911, p. 227.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Taylor 2001, p. 83.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Moore 1895, p. 1042.
  24. Taylor 2001, p. 3.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Bowers 1902, p. 317.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 "Death of Marshall McDonald; The United States Fish Commissioner Dies After Long Suffering from Pulmonary Disease.". September 2, 1895. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  27. "Oak Hill Cemetery: Burials in Lot 432 East". Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: Oak Hill Cemetery. Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  28. Williams 1911, p. 235.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 29.5 29.6 29.7 McIlhany 1903, pp. 153–154.
  30. Couper 1952, p. 13.
  31. Williams 1911, p. 229.
  32. Williams 1911, p. 238.


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
George Brown Goode
United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries
1888 – 1895
Succeeded by
John J. Brice

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).