Born in 1816, in Caledonia, New York, Donald was a boy of about seven years when his family came to live in Upper Canada. His father was Alexander McDonald, born about 1875 in Scotland and his mother Margaret McColl, also born in Scotland about 1875.
Going first to the Niagara region, they later settled near Galt, Ontario. After completing his elementary education, Donald was able to attend Upper Canada College in Toronto. He then apprenticed as a surveyor under his cousin, John Macdonald, who worked with the Canada Company.
On November 1, 1838, at Goderich, Upper Canada, Donald married Frances Mitchell. She was born about 1821, in Upper Canada. Her parents were James Mitchell and Elizabeth Ryerson. They settled in Toronto to raise a family of thirteen children. They had eight sons and five daughters: Donald Mitchell born 1840; Jane Helen Janet born 1844; Mary Caroline A., born 1847; Edith Adelaid Sophia born 1849; James Alexander John born 1851; Frederick William Charles born 1854; Arthur Ryerson born 1856; Charles Egerton born 1857; Francis Edward born 1858; William Alfred Joseph born 1860; Edwin Reginald born 1861; Frances Flora born 1863 and Blanche Emily born 1867.
Businessman and Politician
Donald worked as a surveyor until rheumatism began causing him difficulty. Then he worked as a clerk for the Canada Company. Later he was promoted to Assistant Commissioner. In 1858, he was elected to the Legislative County of the Province of Canada. In 1867, he was appointed to the first Senate of Canada upon Confederation. Donald was later to served as a director and vice-president of the Royal Canadian Bank.
His death occurred in Toronto on January 20, 1879. His wife, Frances (Mitchell) McDonald, outlived him by many years. She died in Los Angeles, California in 1913.