Sylvester McDonald is a member of one of the pioneer families of Jackson township, Muskingum county, Ohio, and is a son of George McDonald, who was born in Frederick county, VA in 1799, his father, Greenberry McDonald, having been born in Scotland. The latter came with his father to America and Greenberry and his brother Edward fought in the American Revolution under Gen. Marion, and were called the "young Scotchmen". Edward is mentioned in the life of Gen. Marion as a brave and gallant soldier. He had a famous horse which he called "Selim" and which he captured from a Tory. Greenberry married a Miss Drum of Virginia, and by her became the father of seven children, the following of whom reached mature years: Elizabeth Elsie, Mrs. Twadel, Mr[s?] Spenser, Berry (who went to New Orleans at an early day and there died) and George, the father of this sketch. In 1811, Greenberry McDonald came to Ohio, bringing his family with him and settled on Licking River near the falls in Muskingum county, where he lived to the advanced age of ninety-five years. He was a shoemaker by trade, and in early manhood was very powerful and became noted for his feats of strength. George McDonald came with his parents to Ohio, and after the death of his mother, which occurred shortly after their arrival in this state, he began working for the farmers of Muskingum county. He received no education, but learned to read and write, and having a naturally good mind, he could make mental calculations more quickly than most men could figure. He grew up in the rough school of pioneer life and gained character among the sturdy pioneers of his day. He married Nancy Lovett, born May 6, 1796, and the daughter of Daniel and Mary (James) Lovett, who came from Maryland in 1810 and settled in Jackson township of this county. The mother was of Welsh descent. Mr. Lovett and his wife became the parents of twelve children: John, Evan, Jonas, William, Daniel, Thomas, Nancy, Susan, Mary, Lydia, Hannah and Sarah. Daniel Lovett died a few years after he came to Ohio, and left a large family of children to be cared for by his widow. He died September 27, 1821, at the age of 53 years. His wife was born June 10, 1776, and died May 10, 1841. The father was a minister of the Baptist church and preached the gospel in both Maryland and Ohio. After his marriage George McDonald settled in Jefferson township, worked for some time on the Ohio canal, but in 1830 entered the farm on which Sylvester now lives, where he spent the rest of his days, dying when seventy-nine years old. His wife died January 16, 1884, in her eighty-eighth year. He was always hard working and industrious and became a substantial farmer. He was an active member of the Christian church, in which he was for many years treasurer and clerk, and he contributed liberally of his means to aid in its support. He build almost unaided Mount Zion church, and for many years assisted in sustaining its preachers. He was a democrat politically until the election of James Buchanan to the presidency, when he split on the slavery question. He died in 1878, having been a man of high character, and it may be said of him that his word was as good as his bond. He gave his children good educational advantages, and was a believer in the nobility of labor, and taught his children not to fear work. He and wife were the parents of eight children, seven boys and one girl: Labon, Evan, William, Miles, John, Sylvester, Scott, and Minerva. All lived to be grown. Sylvester McDonald was born in Cass township, this county, November 16, 1830, and when an infant of six weeks was brought by his parents to the homestead in Jackson township, where he still resides. He, like his father before him, early learned to work, and assisted in clearing off the timber from the old homestead. He received a common-school education, and on February 27, 1851, he married Emma Gist, daughter of David and Sarah (Collins) Gist, and their union resulted in the birth of thirteen children, ten of whom lived to maturity: Minerva (died February 10, 1879); Martha (died April 2, 1877); Helen; Adolphus (died October 1, 1891); Lucy (died April 30, 1884); Labon; Elsie; Scott (died may 31, 1888); Alma, and Flora. Mrs. McDonald died May 4, 1881, and Mr. McDonald afterward married Miss Rebecca J. Drake, daughter of Thomas and Jerushie (Baughman) Drake. Mr. McDonald has always been interested in the cause of education, and for twenty-one years filled the office of school director. He is a member of Mount Zion Christian church, and has been treasurer of the same since the death of his father. From an early day the old McDonald homestead has been a home for the preachers, and its doors are always open to them. The law of hospitality has always been observed, and the stranger asking food or shelter has never been turned from the door. Mr. McDonald inherited from his parents a love of justice and good conduct, and has always lived a good and correct life. He has been one of the leaders of his township in the furtherance of all good causes, and stands deservedly high as an honorable citizen. He is a republican politically. His daughter, Helen, married Jacob Ashcroft of this township, by whom she has five children: Wheeler, Mansfield, Robert, Tony, and Belle. Labon married Amanda Moran, is a teacher in the graded schools and is the father of two children: Roy and George G. Alma married Leonard Romine and has one child, Nina. Elsie married James Baird, a blacksmith, who works in the shops at Newark. Flora is at home unmarried.
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Muskingum County, Ohio: Chicago, 1892: The Goodspeed Publishing Co.