David K. and Mary Maria McConnel

early pioneer

David K. and Mary Maria McConnel

From "History of Idaho, The Gem of the Mountains," Vol. III, pg 492-493. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago, 1920.

As the tide of emigration steadily flowed westward David K. McConnel for many years identified with the pioneer development of the great region west of the Mississippi. He came to Idaho in 1862 from Iowa and had for a number of years before been connected with that state when it was a frontier region, living in Van Buren and Wayne counties of Iowa from 1849, in which year he journeyed westward in a covered wagon from Ohio (with his parents at the age of eleven). He was born in Guernsey county of the latter state on the 12th of August, 1838, and has therefore passed the eighty-first milestone on life's journey. He was one of a family of eleven sons and one daughter, being the second in order of birth. The parents were William and Nancy (Graham) McConnel, who were also natives of Ohio and in 1849 moved with their family to Iowa.

David K. McConnel was reared upon the home farm and the little temple of learning in which he pursued his education was a log schoolhouse in his native county. He also attended a country school of Iowa. While his father was a farmer, he was also a natural mechanic and handy with tools, and in his youth the son learned the carpenter's trade under the father's direction.

He (David), too, however turned his attention to farming; and cattle raising and to these occupations has devoted practically all his life, especially since coming to Idaho. A defect in one ankle rendered it impossible for him to serve during the Civil war and in 1862 he came to the northwest with a wagon train1 of seventy-two wagons, his own wagon being drawn by oxen. The entire train crossed what is now the state of Idaho and went on to Oregon, disbanding near the present site of Baker City. While enroute they passed down the Boise valley on the south side of the Boise river, but the capital city had not yet been founded and even the fort was not built until 1863. There were no town, no houses, no irrigation ditches, no vegetation but sagebrush, nothing to indicate that here would be founded and developed a beautiful metropolitan center, with its trade interests reaching out to a broad territory and supplying every advantage for educational, cultural, social and moral progress. The wagon train forded the Boise river near where the town of Eagle (Ada County) now stands. The river was high and a man by the name or Curtis was drowned.

Mr. McConnel first settled, in 1865, near the mouth of Haw creek (Gem County), where it empties into the Payette river. He took a squatter's right there but did not prove up on the property. In 1881 he took up a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres near the mouth of the Boise river (Canyon County), on an island between the two streams, and this island became known as McConnel's Island, which name it yet bears. The main irrigation on the island was was called McConnel Ditch and is still known as such. Mr. McConnel purchased adjoining lands on the island until he had over five hundred acres and upon the ranch he made his home for twenty-five years, raising there thousands of head of cattle. About fifteen years ago he he sold his property there and two years later he and his wife took up their abode in a comfortable home on the Boise Bench, near the Whitney school (Ada County). Mr McConnel is now farming ten acres of highly valuable land devoted to fruit and truck raising.

It was in 1871 that Mr McConnel was married in Iowa, to which state he returned on business. The lady when he wedded was Mary Maria Rogers, who was born in Illinois, April 21, 1846. They are now a venerable couple, aged respectively eighty-one and seventy-four years, and they have traveled life's journey happily together for forty-eight years. Their family numbers five living children, two sons and three daughters.
(1) Fred H., the eldest, born in 1875, is a civil engineer residing at Caldwell, Idaho. He is married and has one child, Roger Harmon McConnel, ten years of age.
(2) Mervin Gill, the second of the family, born in 1882 and living at Caldwell, is married (to Bessie D. Ragains) and has one child, Maurine Genevieve. Mervin G. McConnel, joining the United States army during the World War, was sent to France in April, 1918, and there served with the rank of first lieutenant.
(3) Cora J. is the wife of John L. Isenberg, of Caldwell, and the mother of two children: Mrs. Fredda Hathaway, the wife of Del Hathaway, of Caldwell; and Carl Isenberg.
(4) The second daughter of Mr. and Mrs David McConnel is Mrs. Emma J. Watkins, the wife of J. L. Watkins, of Parma, Idaho, by whom she has six children; Merle, Grace, Roscoe, Everett, Reed and Mary.
(5) The third daughter, Margaret B. McConnel, is at home.

From pioneer times to the present Mr. McConnel has been a witness of the growth and development of Idaho, having made his home within its borders for about fift-eight years. There is no phase of its development with which he is not familiar. He has seen the state when it was a wild region of mountain fastnesses, of desert lands and of uncultivated valleys. He has lived to witness remarkable changes as the years have passed and he has borne his full share in relation to its agricultural development and progress.

1Mabelle McConnel Young (1885-1978), daughter of David's younger brother Charles, wrote an unpublished family history "Laura, Pioneer Mother" in which she identifies the guide for the wagon train on which David traveled as "Tim Goodsal." This was probably Tim Goodale; see "Goodale North" Oregon Trail Variant

See "McConnel Homesteads" family history website for in-depth history.

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