Creator: O'Donnell, I. D. (Ignatius Daniel), 1860-1948


Provenance Note: The Ignatius D. (I. D.) O'Donnell papers were donated to Special Collections in the spring of 1970 by Carol (O'Donnell) Getz and Helene (O'Donnell) Wallis. This collection incorporates material formerly designated as accessions 715, 726, and 845.


Historical Note: Ignatius Daniel O'Donnell was born in 1860 in Norfolk, Ontario Canada to Scot-Irish parents, Daniel and Margaret (McIntosh) O'Donnell. He was the second oldest of ten children. When Ignatius was four, the family moved to Saginaw, Michigan. In 1882 I. D. moved to the Yellowstone Valley in Montana. Five years later he married Louise Roeser of Michigan and together they had six children, Helene, Louise, Carol, Ignatius, Gustave, and Kathleen. I. D. O'Donnell became one of Montana's most well-known farm leaders. He popularized the raising of such crops as alfalfa and sugar beets and helped establish modern methods of irrigation and reclamation on a national scale. He won national acclaim in 1919 when the Country Gentlemen named him "Best Farmer in Montana" and in 1925 when the Saturday Evening Post published a feature about him entitled "Montana's Foremost Farmer." His ranch near Billings, the Hesper Farm, was a model of efficiency. O'Donnell also worked for the U. S. Reclamation Service from 1913 to 1918 as their Supervisor of Irrigation. He persuaded the Secretary of the Interior to continue reclamation projects in Montana and then provided a workable plan for services to the nation's arid regions. His basic work lead to the creation of a Supervisor of Irrigation in the Reclamation Service. He was the only man to hold the office. During his five years as national farm advisor, he traveled extensively in the Western states and make frequent trips to Washington D. C. While in this office he published his column "Hints from a Practical Farmer." In 1920 he was hired as the Agricultural Development Agent by the Great Northern Railroad. He traveled around the world to study irrigation and farming techniques, becoming one of the nation's experts on irrigation. O'Donnell also worked closely with the Agricultural Extension Service based at Montana State College in Bozeman. This contact started when he took part in the Farm Institutes conducted there by the Cooperative Extension Office. O'Donnell was also a strong supporter of the Billings community. He was a member of the Yellowstone County fair board, the Billings Chamber of Commerce, the board of trustees of Billings Polytechnic Institute (Rocky Mountain College) and the library board of the Parmly Billings library. He founded the Billings Creamery and the Billings Foundry and Machine Company, and was a director of the old Merchant's National Bank. I. D. O'Donnell died in 1948 at the age of 87.


Content Description Note: The I. D. O'Donnell papers include diaries, correspondence, business records, literary manuscripts, postcard albums, subject files, and photographs. The papers have been arranged by series according to document type. Correspondence includes letters from Montana State College, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, U. S. Reclamation Service, U. S. House and Senate Committees on Beet Sugar Industry, Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute, and the Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane. O'Donnell received letters from Montana political leaders such as Under Secretary of the Department of Agriculture M. L. Wilson, U. S. Senators Thomas J. Walsh and Henry L. Myers, U. S. Representative John M. Evans, and Governors J. E. Erickson and F. H. Cooney. Manuscripts include articles on agriculture, livestock, and farm management, and the column "Hints from the Practical Farmer" written for the Reclamation Record, as well as manuscripts O'Donnell collected for research on topics such as alfalfa, birds, irrigation, sugar beets, dairy cattle, soil, weeds, ranch management, and hogs. O'Donnell also collected material on topics such as Billings and Montana history, various irrigation projects in Montana, and agriculture. The collection also contains business records from the Minnesota and Montana Land and Improvement Company, the Frederick Billings estate, and the Hesper Farm. The collection also contains postcards and travel brochures from O'Donnell's various travels.

Series 1: I. D. O'Donnell Diaries, 1887, 1900, 1947

Series 1 contains three diaries of I. D. O'Donnell. The earliest from 1887 is a photocopy of the original. The last two are originals from 1900 and 1947. I. D. O'Donnell mainly recorded the weather and farming conditions. The 1900 diary was written on a desk calendar.

Box 1
1. I. D. O'Donnell Diary, 1887
2. I. D. O'Donnell Diary, 1900
3. I. D. O'Donnell Diary, 1947

Series 2: I. D. O'Donnell Correspondence, 1884-1947

Through his work with agriculture and business, O'Donnell corresponded with many people across the state and nation. This series contains correspondence with agriculture and business leaders. O'Donnell corresponded with a few federal agencies, especially the U. S. Department of Agriculture. He also kept in contact with several state officials like U. S. Representative John M. Evans, U. S. Senators Henry L. Myers and Thomas J. Walsh, Governors F. H. Cooney and J. E. Erickson, and the Under Secretary for the U. S. Department of Agriculture M. L. Wilson. Main topics discussed include irrigation, sugar beets, and farming business. Series 2 also includes correspondence with specific agencies such as Montana State College in Bozeman and the Reclamation Record. Correspondence relating to specific topics such as the Big Ditch Company, Big Horn Dam, Billings, Blue Mountain Coal Lands, Custer Battlefield National Cemetery, Hesper Farm, Blackfeet Winter Fair, specific irrigation projects, and the Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute are found in Series 5.

Box 1 (cont.)
4. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1884-1899
5. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1900
6. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1901-1904
7. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1905-1907
8. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1908-1910
9. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1911-1913
10. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1914-1916
11. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1920-1923
12. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1930-1939
13. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1940-1942
14. I. D. O'Donnell, General Correspondence, 1943-1947
15. I. D. O'Donnell, Correspondence with Montana State College, 1898-1907
16. I. D. O'Donnell, Correspondence with Montana State College, 1932-1942
17. I. D. O'Donnell, Correspondence about Conventions, 1900-1914
18. I. D. O'Donnell, Correspondence with Reclamation Record, 1913-1914
19. I. D. O'Donnell, Correspondence with Reclamation Record, 1915-1917
20. I. D. O'Donnell, Correspondence Federal Appointments, 1925, 1935

Series 3: Printed Materials, 1907-1930

Given I. D. O'Donnell's wide interest in agriculture he collected many printed materials on the subject. He attended several agriculture conferences such as the Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute and the Dry Farming Congress. Programs from these various conferences are included in this series. Series 3 also contains a report from the Montana Farmers' Institute, a 1926 copy of the Irrigation Review and a 1913 copy of the tariff schedules from the Committee of Ways and Means.

Box 2
1. Dry Farming Congress and International Dry Farming Exposition Program, 1909
2. Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute Program, 1920
3. Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute Program, 1928-1929
4. Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute Program, 1930
5. Montana Farmers' Institute Annual Report, 1907
6. Committee on Ways and Means, Tariff Schedules, 1913
7. The Irrigation Review, 1926

Series 4: Literary Manuscripts, 1914-1918

O'Donnell was also a writer and collector of articles on agriculture. Series 4 contains manuscripts of articles he wrote for various journals. It also contains subject files on agricultural topics of manuscript materials he collected for information for his articles and as reference on topics such as alfalfa, birds, dairy cattle, pests, practical ideas for farming, ranch management, sugar beets, and weeds.

Box 2 (cont.)
8. I. D. O'Donnell, Dates for column for Reclamation Record, 1915-1916
9. I. D. O'Donnell, Articles for Reclamation Record, 1914-1919
10. I. D. O'Donnell, Clippings from Reclamation Record, 1918
11. I. D. O'Donnell, Background Information for columns
12. I. D. O'Donnell Articles, Crops
13. I. D. O'Donnell Articles, Farm Management 1
14. I. D. O'Donnell Articles, Farm Management 2
15. I. D. O'Donnell Articles, Farm Management 3
16. I. D. O'Donnell Articles, Farm Management 4
17. I. D. O'Donnell Articles, Irrigation
18. I. D. O'Donnell Articles, Livestock
19. I. D. O'Donnell Manuscript for Agriculture in Montana
20. Agricultural Ideals and Truisms 1
21. Agricultural Ideals and Truisms 2
22. Agricultural Ideals and Truisms 3
23. Agricultural Ideals and Truisms 4
24. Agricultural Ideals and Truisms 5
25. Agricultural Ideals and Truisms 6
26. Alfalfa 1
27. Alfalfa 2
28. Ancient Agriculture
29. Beans
30. Birds 1
31. Birds 2
32. Birds 3
Box 3
1. Bloating
2. Boys on the Farm
3. Corn
4. Dairy Cattle 1
5. Dairy Cattle 2
6. Dairy Cattle 3
7. Dairy Cattle 4
8. Diversified Farming
9. Fences
10. Fertilizers
11. Gardens
12. Hay; Winter Feed
13. Hints from a Practical Farmer
14. Hogs 1
15. Hogs 2
16. Hogs 3
17. Horses 1
18. Horses 2
19. How to Make a Farm Pay
20. Irrigation; Rain; Water
21. Livestock 1
22. Livestock 2
23. Livestock 3
24. Pasture 1
25. Pasture 2
26. Pests
27. Plowing
28. Potatoes
29. Poultry
30. Practical Ideas 1
31. Practical Ideas 2
32. Practical Ideas 3
33. Ranch Management
34. Rotation
35. Seed
36. Sheep 1
37. Sheep 2
38. Sheep 3
39. Silos
40. Soil
41. Straw
42. Sugar Beets 1
43. Sugar Beets 2
44. Toads
45. Trees
46. Verse 1
47. Verse 2
48. Weeds
49. Whitewash

Series 5: General Subject Files, 1898-1947

O'Donnell was interested in a wide range of topics and issues concerning agriculture. During his life he collected materials on the various groups and agencies with which he was involved. This series contains subject headings arranged in alphabetical order of the various clippings and research O'Donnell collected on topics such as the Big Ditch Company, Billings and Montana history, John Burkman (a survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn), irrigation projects, song lyrics, sugar beets, WPA Federal Writers Project (he helped write stories about ghost towns in Montana), and the Yellowstone Basin.

Box 4
1. Anecdotes
2. Big Ditch Company, Secretary-Treasurer Reports, 1940-1941, 1945
3. Big Ditch Company, By-Laws
4. Big Ditch Company, Lawsuit, 1918
5. Big Ditch Company, Correspondence, Clippings, 1900, 1919, 1944-1945
6. Big Horn Dam, Correspondence, 1939-1940
7. Big Horn Dam, Publications and Resolutions
8. Billings, Montana, Correspondence, 1936-1945
9. Billings, Montana, Poems, Clippings, 1939, 1947; "Trading Post," 1936
10. Billings Area Biographies, Names of Settlers, 1877-1882
11. Billings Area Biographies, A-D
12. Billings Area Biographies, F-S
13. Billings Area Biographies, T-Z
14. Billings Area Clippings, 1947
15. Billings, Black Otter Trail, Clippings, 1944-1945
16. Billings Foundry and Manufacturing Company
17. Billings Rimrocks
18. Brook Nook Stock Farm, 1920 (I. D. O'Donnell and Son)
19. Blue Mountain Coal Lands, Correspondence, 1936-1945
20. John Burkman (Little Big Horn Survivor), Correspondence about; Draft of Story
21. John Burkman (Little Big Horn Survivor), I. D. O'Donnell notebook, 1903
22. John Burkman (Little Big Horn Survivor), I. D. O'Donnell notes
23. John Burkman (Little Big Horn Survivor), Clippings, 1925, 1931, 1946
24. Ben Cardwell notes
25. R. W. "Dick" Clark, Bozeman Trail, 1886
26. Cove Irrigation District, 1928-1930
27. Custer Battlefield National Cemetery, Correspondence, 1939-1946
28. Custer Battlefield National Cemetery, Clippings, 1926, 1939, 1943
29. Dogs
30. Drought Relief, August 1930
31. Hesper Farm: Bank Book, Correspondence, 1908-1910, 1944-1945
32. Hesper Farm: Reports, Clippings, 1933
33. Indian Tribes - Blackfeet: Winter Fair, Correspondence and Programs, 1923-1931
34. Indian Tribes - Blackfeet: Winter Fair, Publications and Articles
35. Indian Tribes - Blackfeet, Clippings, 1923-1936
36. Indian Tribes - Crow
37. Interview - Ruth Quigley
Box 5
1. Irrigation: Articles
2. Irrigation: Bureau of Reclamation
3. Irrigation: Correspondence and Publications
4. Irrigation: Huntley
5. Irrigation: Milk River, Correspondence, 1922-1923
6. Irrigation: Milk River, Department of the Interior Agreements, 1922-1923
7. Irrigation: Milk River, Reports and Clippings, 1911-1925
8. Irrigation: Missouri River
9. Irrigation: Sun River, Reports, 1911-1925
10. Irrigation: Sun River, Project Information
11. Irrigation: Yellowstone River (Lower), Agreement and Report, 1920, 1925
12. Irrigation: Yellowstone River (Lower), Project Information
13. Kelly Mountain and the Black Otter Trail
14. Livestock
15. Midland Empire Fair
16. Minnesota and Montana Land Improvement Company
17. Montana and Billings History, rough speaking notes
18. Montana Cowboy Association
19. Montana History
20. Montana Horticultural Society
21. Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute, Correspondence, 1921-1931
22. Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute, Constitution, Projects, and Reports
23. Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute, Program Schedules, Members, Clippings
24. L. A. Nutting, County Council, 1918
25. Place Names
26. I. D. O'Donnell, Biographical Information
27. I. D. O'Donnell, Biographies
28. I. D. O'Donnell, Clippings
29. I. D. O'Donnell, Headgate Patent, 1898
30. Billie Randall
31. Rosebud Lake Association Lease, 1915
32. Joseph L. Sherbourne, Correspondence, 1928, 1947
33. William E. Smyth Articles
34. Song Lyrics, Booklets
35. Song Lyrics, Clippings
Box 6
1. Sugar Beets, Correspondence, 1913, 1825, 1938
2. Sugar Beets, Contracts
3. Sugar Beets, Statements and Reports, 1915-1943
4. Sugar Beets, Articles
5. Sugar Beets, Pamphlets and Clippings, 1907-1941
6. Paul Van Cleve, I. D. O'Donnell's evaluation of him, 1908
7. WPA Federal Writers Project, Correspondence and Research about Montana Ghost Towns
8. Yellowstone Basin: The History of Livestock in the Crow Country, Manuscript Draft
9. Yellowstone Basin: The History of Livestock in the Crow Country, Manuscript Notes
10. Yellowstone Basin Animals, Cattle
11. Yellowstone Basin Animals, Horses, Sheep
12. Yellowstone Basin Reminiscences: Sarah E. MacKay, Ann McLean, Grace Brewster Arnold
13. Yellowstone Investment Company, 1904
14. Yellowstone National Park

Series 6: Business Records Books, 1892-1944

I. D. O'Donnell was also a businessman. Series 6 contains his various business records books from the Hesper Farm, Minnesota and Montana Land and Improvement Company, and the Frederick Billings estate. The books include account books, cash books, and a book of contracts.

Box 7
1. Ledger, 1894
2. Account Book, 1908-1909
3. Account Book, 1910-1915
4. Account Book, 1931-1939
5. Account Book, 1941-1944
Box 8
1. Contract, 1908-1909
2. Ropp's Business Calculator, Hesper Farm Notebook
3. Minnesota and Montana Land and Improvement Company, 1892-1902
4. Frederick Billings Estate, 1895-1908
5. Letterbook, 1898-1901

Series 7: Scrapbook and Scrapbook Material, circa 1930s

Through his travels, I. D. O'Donnell collected postcards and other scrapbook material. Series 7 contains three books of postcards and one file of postcards from his U. S. and foreign travel. O'Donnell also collected travel brochures from places he visited around the world such as Singapore, Victoria, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seville, and Hawaii.

Box 9
1. Postcard Book, Foreign Travel
2. Postcard Book, U. S. Travel
3. Postcard Book, U. S. Travel
4. Postcards, U. S. Travel
5. U. S. Travel Poster cards
Box 10
1. Travel Brochure, The Shakespeare Hotel
2. Travel Brochure, "Hilly Hong Kong"
3. Travel Brochure, "Sunny Singapore"
4. Travel Brochure, "Scenic Shanghai"
5. Travel Brochure, "Picturesque Victoria"
6. Travel Brochure, "Marvels of Seville"
7. Travel Brochure, "Hawaiian Islands"

Series 8: Photographs, 1882-1945

This series contains photographs collected by O'Donnell. They have been arranged in topics including pictures of O'Donnell, pictures of other people, pictures of places and pictures of things. The series contains pictures of Montana reclamation men, President Chester A. Arthur's 1884 visit to Yellowstone National Park, the first horse buggy in Montana, the towns of Browning, Junction City and Coulson, Blackfeet Indian crafts, Billie Randall, Joe Doze, Big Ditch Dam, and corn from I. D. O'Donnell's farm.

Box 10 (cont.)
8. Photographs #1-5
    #1. I. D. O'Donnell, 1932
    #2. I. D. O'Donnell, placing wreath on Luther Kelly's grave
    #3-4. I. D. O'Donnell, July 21, 1932, three weeks after operation
    #5. I. D. O'Donnell, 1945, age 85
9. Photographs #6-12
    #6. Chester A. Arthur visit to Yellowstone National Park, 1884
    #7-8. Roach Chapmin, 1882
    #9-10. Joe Doze and Ben Farr, 1883
    #11. Joe Doze and Mandell
    #12. Two unidentified men, tin type
10. Photographs #13-21
    #13-15. Reclamation Men
    #16. Billie Randall and dog
    #17. Billie Randall with grass display
    #18. Billie Randall 85th Birthday party
    #19. Two unidentified people in field (Billie Randall?)
    #20. Unidentified man on tractor (Billie Randall?)
    #21. Oliver Sanderville Ranch, Browning, 1925
11. Photographs #22-29
    #22. Bluff Opposite Josephene
    #23. Browning, January 11, 1925, street scene
    #24. Browning, January 11, 1925, aerial view
    #25. Browning, January 11, 1925
    #26. Browning, January 11, 1925, street scene
    #27. Browning, January 11, 1925, J. G. Pierce and Co. Cash Store
    #28. Browning, January 11, 1925, street scene
    #29. Browning, January 11, 1925, New England Hotel
12. Photographs #30-33
    #30. Coulson, Killen, and Company Saloon
    #31-32. Junction City street scene
    #33. Junction City, monument to stage driver
13. Photographs #34-42
    #34-39. Unidentified pasture
    #40-41. Ice jam
    #42. Summer creek jam
14. Photographs #43-50
    #43. Unidentified
    #44. Randall's Island
    #45-47 unidentified pasture
    #48. unidentified pasture, haystack and tractor
    #49. unidentified pasture, haystack
    #50. unidentified pasture
15. Photographs #51-55
    #51. Ox Team at Coulson
    #52. First Horse Buggy in Montana
    #53. Yellowstone Park Stage
    #54-55. Yellowstone River Sheep
16. Photographs #56-65
    #56. Sitting room (Billie Randall's home?)
    #57. Blackfeet Indian Crafts, 1925
    #58. Corn from I. D. O'Donnell's Farm, 1906
    #59-60. Big Ditch Dam
    #61. Beaver Dam
    #62-63. Boot Hill Cemetery, Black Otter Trail historical marker
    #64-65. Boot Hill Monument, Billings, postcards
Oversized folder
This folder contains information from series 6, records of the Caplice Commercial Company. It also contains a map out of series 5 of irrigation projects in Montana.

Updated: 5/5/09