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Below is a family biography included in The History of Jefferson County, Missouri published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1888.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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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 a 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 about 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 Rail road—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.

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This family biography is one of 224 biographies included in The History of Jefferson County, Missouri published in 1888.  For the complete description, click here: Jefferson County, Missouri History, Genealogy, and Maps

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