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A Donlin Family History by Dan Jensen
Joseph and Frank Donlin

Joseph Donlin

As already stated, Joseph Donlin was on his own by age 17. Perhaps he left home to work near Marcus, nearby in Cherokee County.


Sad Death at Merrill, Iowa.

… Joseph Donlin was born in Grant County, Wis., July 13, 1867, coming to Marcus, Ia., with his parents in the early eighties. He continued to live there, excepting two years spent at Brownsville, Minn., until coming here two years ago and settling on a farm southwest of Adaville. He was married March 4, 1890, to Miss Martha Woodall of Marcus, Ia., who with the following children, survive him: Nellie, Ina, Mae, Jay, Will, Myra and Selina, the latter a little over two years of age. There also survive his father and stepfather[53], Mr. and Mrs. Mike Donlin of Orient, S. D.; his brothers William, of Le Mars, Ia., and Frank of Merrill, Ia.; his half sisters, Mrs. A. C. Dugan of Canada and Mrs. Dill of Orient, S. D.; also five half brothers, Eugene, George, Mike, Arthur and Leo Donlin, of the same place… [54]

Joseph's wife Martha was about seven months pregnant when he died. The baby to be born, Albert H. Donlin, would not live beyond 18 months.

The obituaries of Joseph and his wife indicate that they resided in Brownsville, MN for two years some time before January 1909. Their son William is reported to have been born in Barnesville, MN in 1903. Joseph’s older brother Jim, who is said to have died at Stillwater, MN, was still alive at the time. Did Joseph ever meet Jim in Minnesota? Joseph left no indication whether Jim had anything to do with Joseph's residence in Minnesota[55]. Brownsville is on the Mississippi River, about a hundred miles downstream from Stillwater. Barnesville is near Fargo.

It is said that Mike Donlin received a message that James had died in 1906 or 1907. Who sent the message? Could it possibly have been Joseph?

It is interesting that in contrast to Eugene, who allegedly[56] shunned the Methodist Church enough to change his name, Joseph married a Methodist. This is reported to have created some tension in the Donlin family. Joseph was not a church-going Catholic, though he was given a Catholic funeral service. His children, who were young when Joseph died, lived as Methodists[57].

Frank Donlin
Frank was known to visit the Donlins in Hand County, South Dakota occasionally. He is remembered fondly by them.

In 1885, Frank was just a 11 year-old boy and living in Union Township with his father and stepmother. By 1900, Mike and Delia were in Garfield Township outside Kingsley, and Frank was in Elkhorn Township, just to the west. By 1911, Frank had settled in Merrill, which is where he remained for the rest of his life.

Obituary - Nov 9, 1950:

Frank Donlin, 77, Longtime Resident of Merrill Expires.
Merrill, Ia. - Special: Funeral services for Frank Donlin, 77, longtime resident who died Thursday at his home after a two-year illness, will be held at 9 a. m. Monday at the Church of the Assumption here. Rev. Lloyd Carel will officiate. The Wiltgen funeral home of LeMars will direct burial in St. Joseph’s cemetery.

Mr. Donlin was born September 24, 1873, in Lancaster county, Wis. He moved to Merrill when a boy[58]. He farmed in the Merrill vicinity for many years before retiring and coming to Merrill. Mr. Donlin married Mary Sitzman September 27, 1901. Survivors are the widow; two sons, Lester of Merrill and Joseph of LeMars; five brothers, George and Leo, both of Mildred, Mont., E.M. of Miller, S.D., Michael of Portage, Wis., and Arthur of Detroit; three sisters, Mrs. Rose Dill of Dunkirk, N. Y., Mrs. Helen Bailey of Detroit and Mrs. Marie Week[59] of Mount Angel, Ore., and four grandchildren.

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Delia Powers and Mike Donlin
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South Dakota