Biographical entry: McDonald (also MacDonald), John C. (1838 - 1886)



The McDonald family left Scotland in the mid-eighteenth century and moved to Canada and to the United States, where John C. McDonald was born in 1838, in Maine. He went to Australia in the early 1860s for the Victorian gold rush, where his brother William (q.v.) joined him, then travelled on to the New Zealand gold rush, and eventually moved into the Pacific. He married at Emerald Hill, Victoria, on 29 April 1862. The family settled in New Caledonia and then became one of the first settler families in Fiji, where John was involved in the labour trade in the 1870s. By 1877, he seems to have taken up residence at Star Harbour, Santa Ana. His wife Melinda and their six children joined him in 1879, becoming the first European family to reside in the Solomon Islands. His son John A. Champion shot the son of a Santa Ana chief in 1884, and even though they paid compensation in the form of trade goods and a slave (whose life was probably forfeited), the family continued to receive threats of violence. In about 1885 they moved to Aola on Guadalcanal, and then to Fauro in the Shortland Islands. In 1886, the Shortlands became part of German New Guinea. John C. McDonald died in 1886 after an accident while dynamiting fish, and his wife died in 1892. Rights over the vast McDonald estate at Star Harbour, which was later owned by Lever Brothers, were rejected by a Lands Commission which operated between 1919 and 1924, although the rights over land at Three Sisters Island were upheld. (Allan 1990, pt. 2, 126)

John and Melinda's daughter Minnie Thursa Louise (born in 1863 in Invercargill) married the trader Edward Austin on 3 September 1882 at Santa Ana, probably officiated by a passing naval captain or a Melanesian Mission clergyman. This was probably the first European marriage in the Solomons. After Austin died, Minnie married Nicholas Tindale. Another daughter, Edith Mabel (born in 1865 in Invercargill) married Sam Atkinson, another Shortlands planter, and lived at Balalai. A third daughter, Clara Melinda, was born at Brighton on 14 June 1867. A fourth, Ethel (born about 1868), married an Englishman and moved to England. Their only son, John A. Champion (q.v.), was born in South Spit, New Zealand on 22 January 1869. Their last daughter, Laura Henrietta, was born in Nelson on 25 September 1869. After Sam Atkinson died in 1931, Clara went to live with her sister Edith, and both were evacuated to Sydney in 1942 when the Japanese invaded. Both died in Sydney, Edith in 1954 and Clara in 1956. (Golden 1993, 355-358; Bennett 1987, 60, 67)

Published resources


  • Allan, Colin H., Solomons Safari, 1953-58 (Part II), Nag's Head Press, Christchurch, 1990. Details
  • Bennett, Judith A., Wealth of the Solomons: A History of a Pacific Archipelago, 1800-1978, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1987. Details
  • Golden, Graeme A., The Early European Settlers of the Solomon Islands, Graeme A. Golden, Melbourne, 1993. Details