Return to History Page
Governor William C. McDonald
First Statehood Governor of New Mexico
By C. W. Barnum
William Calhoun McDonald was born 25 July 1858 in Jordanville, New York. His parents were John and Lydia Marshal, nee Biggs, McDonald. William was educated in New York, and he taught school while obtaining his education. He was admitted to the bar in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1880 and in that same year ventured West to the boomtown of White Oaks, New Mexico by railroad and stagecoach. There, he was appointed United States Deputy Mineral Surveyor for the Territory of New Mexico.
In 1890, he became the Manager of the Carrizozo Cattle Ranch Company. Later, he took control of the El Capitan Live Stock Company which was probably the largest cattle concern in New Mexico at that time. His Lincoln County Ranch operated under the "Bar W" brand.
He was the Lincoln County Assessor from 1885 to 1887. He was involved in various political and government activities, such as: The New Mexico Sanitary Board, and Chairman of the Democratic Territorial Central Committee, and he was elected the first statehood Governor State of New Mexico 7 November 1911. His inauguration occurred 14 January 1912 in Santa Fe.
McDonald retired from political service in 1917. The war with Germany created a need for his administrative excellence, and he was appointed Fuel Administrator for the state of New Mexico. He served in that position until he died 11 April 1918. Glen Ellison, a Lincoln County Historian, remarked, "He watched a town be born, watched it crawl, stand up, and run. Then he graced his country with his grave." The Governor's body was taken to White Oaks, a town McDonald loved, and was put to rest in Cedarvale Cemetery.
Governor McDonald had married Mrs. Francis McCourt, daughter of George and Matilda Jane (nee Wilcox) Tarbell. Governor McDonald and his wife had one child, Frances. She married Truman A. Spencer. Mr. Spencer became manager of the Carrizozo Land and Cattle Company’s ranch and also the El Capitan Ranch or Block Ranch, as it was commonly called.
The children of Mr. and Mrs. Spencer were Jane Elizabeth, William C. McDonald Spencer, Truman Spencer and A. N. Spencer (M.D.). Governor McDonald is well remembered in Lincoln County. Historian Will Keleher remarked that McDonald was the ideal governor because of his outstanding honesty.
Glen Ellison closed a booklet he wrote about Carrizozo, Old Homes Tour, as follows, "We set out to give you a glimpse of the William C. McDonald country, a world he knew. He came here when it was a wide, empty basin. He watched the railroad come, watched the town start, helped bring the courthouse here, and then went on to lead the new State of New Mexico through the first five years of its childhood."