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John Angus MacDonald Memoirs

Identifier: MSS-485-BC

Scope and Content

The manuscript, handwritten by John Angus MacDonald, describes five decades of his life in Colorado and New Mexico from the 1870s to the 1920s. It is not a detailed autobiography and is not in chronological order. There is a brief family history beginning on page 240.

MacDonald reminisces about his boyhood in the San Luis Valley in Colorado, describing the customs of the Indians, the different ethnic groups that settled the area and the coming of the railroad. The manuscript contains firsthand descriptions of ranch life, prospecting and mining. There are good descriptions of the Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Magdalena areas as they were in 1895. MacDonald tells of the elections of 1896 and 1916 in Magdelana and how he helped battle railroad interests in the 1917 New Mexico Legislature. There are complete descriptions of many people he knew in the Magdalena area. He also tells many stories of outlaws and law men, Jim Lowe (Butch Cassidy), Black Jack Ketchum, and Tom Horn among them.


  • 1917-1954

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

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John Angus MacDonald, ranch hand, miner and merchant, was born in Denver, Colorado in the 1870s. He grew up in a cabin on Saguache Creek in Colorado. His family moved to Alamosa in 1883, but when his mother died in 1887 he returned to Saguache to live with his maternal grandparents on their ranch. There he learned to ride and work livestock. After an argument with his grandfather he left home and worked as a ranch hand and prospector in Colorado. He first came to New Mexico around 1895 to work mining claims owned by his uncle in the Magdalena Mountains. He became the storekeeper for the Rosedale Mine and Milling Company and also served as postmaster of Rosedale.

MacDonald's expertise in mining took him to Arizona, Colorado, California and finally Mexico in the early 1920s. He also leased claims in New Mexico at Cooks Peak, Hanover and Kelly.

He founded a mercantile company, the McDonald Company, with a general store in Kelly that opened around 1907. He moved the store to Magdalena in the early 1930s when mining operations in Kelly declined. In 1916 he was elected to the New Mexico State Senate and represented Socorro County until 1928.

He died in Socorro on January 4, 1954.


2 boxes (.7 cu. ft.)

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • "Kelly--And Our Lady of Magdalena," Thomas Ewing Dabney, New Mexico Magazine, Vol.24, no.11.
Finding aid of the John Angus MacDonald Memoirs, 1917-1954
Edited Full Draft
Processed by CSWR Staff
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 485 BC::John Angus MacDonald Memoirs)//EN" "nmu1mss485bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131