Talon News - Good Local News

By Patricia Tharp

MacDonald Family in San Juan County


April 20, 2018

Eugene MacDonald - Standing in his mature Orchards, early 1960's

Laban MacDonald arrived in Farmington from North Carolina with the hope that the dry desert air close to the Rocky Mountains would return him to the health he enjoyed before tuberculosis moved into his life. Laban was known as a successful business man in Charlotte, North Carolina. With the same hope of recovering health from the dry air in the American Southwest as hundreds of other tuberculous infected persons, Laban, too, made the arduous trip out West, drawn to Aztec, New Mexico by a neighbor from Charlotte who previously had moved to Aztec. Not long after Laban arrived in San Juan County, his wife, Lucile, and their three children made the journey west. Charles was twelve, Eugene was nine and Josephine was six years old. The family struggled making a home without household staff and other luxuries of the genteel life lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. After surviving the summer and early autumn, Laban died in a small cottage behind their home on the corner of West Apache and North Auburn Street on November 13, 1918, two days after the signing of the First World War Armistice. He is buried at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington, NM.

Lucile MacDonald made the decision to remain in Farmington after Laban's death. The following Spring, Lucile bought a piece of property west of Farmington and had the sandstone MacDonald home built. Their first winter in the new home was an especially cold one. Lucile had her sons sleep outdoors in the hopes it would strengthen their lungs against tuberculosis. Perhaps this method worked, as the boys never suffered from tuberculosis. Josephine, however, did contract TB when she was in the last years of high school from which she recovered.

The children lined up on the back of a burro to bring coal from Fruitland to heat their home and to get to school. All three children worked for a Mr. Sweeney tending his dairy cows and they hunted small animals for pelts for pin money. Setting traps necessitated learning the countryside and this meant the pleasure of roaming and a sense of freedom which they had not known in Charlotte, NC.

The MacDonald's lived in the new house on the hill only two years when Lucile decided to move to Los Angeles for a short time, then they moved to Phoenix. It was in Phoenix that Eleanor Davenport and Eugene MacDonald met in 8th grade. They eventually married and in the early 1930's, Gene returned to Farmington to reclaim the family property and start the MacDonald Orchards.

After making a successful life as an Engineer in Arizona, Charles returned to Farmington nearly every year to visit his brother and sister and their families. He purchased many tracts of land in San Juan County. Josephine spent most of her adult life in Farmington as a photographer with her own studio. She was also the Society Editor for the Daily Times.

Lucile MacDonald was inordinately proud of the family background in the traditions of the defeated South. It can be said that she had considerable grit through the many trying times of her life to have held tightly together a family with loyalty and love. There are now many descendants of Laban and Lucile MacDonald that are living in San Juan County. This presentation follows the lives of a family and their descendants who have and still contribute much to the promotion of local business, archaeology, public service, history and agriculture to San Juan County.

Descendants of Laban & Lucile MacDonald made an impact on the growth of early Farmington beginning in 1918.


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