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Julia McDonald (ca. 1859 - 1938)

Arctic & Northern Biographies

Northern Lights, August 1938

    By the death of Mrs. Julia McDonald, which occured in St. Mary's Hospital, Dawson, on Saturday July 2, at 11:30 p.m., the Yukon loses one who devoted the greater part of a long life to the interests of Christianity among the Indians of the Territory.

    The date of her birth is unknown, for she was born in the Peel River country before the days of government statistics in the Yukon and indeed before her own people had acquired any form of writing. As a young girl she, with her parents, was converted to Christianity and was baptised by the late Venerable Archdeacon Robert McDonald, one of the pioneer missionaries of the Church Missionary Society in this northland. In the year 1876 she became the bride of Archdeacon McDonald and for the remaining years of his life was his faithful and devoted helpmeet.

    Archdeacon McDonald was one of the greatest of missionaries and will always be remembered as the man who gave to the Takudh Indians the Bible in their own language. He also translated for them the whole of the Church of England Book of Common Prayer, as well as many hymns. In addition, he prepared a small grammar and dictionary of the Takudh language, a short history of the Bible, a book of family prayers and a number of short commentaries on various books of the Bible. The magnitude of this task can better be understood when it is recalled that when Archdeacon McDonald began his work of translation the Takudh Indians had no written language, and his first task was to commit to writing a language that had hitherto been only spoken. It was in this work of translation that Mrs. McDonald was able to render the greatest assistance to her husband. Not only her knowledge of the Indian language, but also her knowledge of the people, their customs, and tho country in which they lived, as well as being possessed of more than the average intelligence of her race, made her a most valuable helpmeet. She was the constant companion of her husband on the frequent journeys he made, and almost times without number they crossed the divide from Fort McPherson to Lapierre's House, the divide that separates the watersheds of the great Mackenzie river and the mighty Yukon. When her husband retired from active work in the church she went with him to live in Winnipeg, but after his death she returned to her native Yukon, dividing her time as the years rolled by between Fort McPherson, the Porcupine River Country, Dawson and Moosehide, the familiar scenes where she had laboured with her husband for Christ and His Church.

    She is survived by two sons, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Of these her son Neil with his three daughters and the two great grandchildren, (children of Neil's eldest daughter Effie) live at Old Crow, while Kenneth, Neil's son, is at present a pupil of St. Paul's Hostel in Dawson. A son Kenneth and a grandson James Robert are now living in Manitoba. One of her sons, Lieut. Hugh John McDonald, was killed in the Great World War while serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

    The funeral, which took place on Tuesday, July 5, at 4 p. m. was conducted by Rt. Rev. W. A. Goddies, Bishop of Yukon, and Rev. L. G. Chappell. Interment wag in the cemetery at the Indian village of Moosehide.