Arza B. Donelson

ARZA B. DONELSON, one of the most extensive stock raisers in Michigan, has a fine farm of 214 acres in sections 25 and 26, Waterford township, Oakland County. He began raising a high grade of stock when 15 years old, and has continued to the present day, being the oldest breeder of horses in the State. He was born in section 26, Waterford township, on the farm which he now owns, October 2, 1832, and is a son if Ira and Mary (Shattuck) Donelson.

His great-grandfather, Daniel Donelson, was the first of the family to come to this country, working his way from Scotland to Massachusetts, being sold for his passage money. His son, Daniel, grandfather of our subject, was born in Massachusetts and lived there throughout life. He was a farmer by occupation and also conducted a tavern for many years.

Ira Donelson was born in Colerain, Franklin County, Massachusetts, August 5, 1790, and died at Pontiac, Michigan, August 10, 1872. In 1837 he made his way overland from Massachusetts to Buffalo, New York, there took a schooner on Lake Erie and nine days later arrived in Detroit. He took an ox team at the last named place and following the Indian trail made his way to Waterford township, Oakland County, where he lived the rest of his life and where our subject now lives. He bought a tract of 160 acres of land, 10 acres of which were partially cleared, and there built a small log cabin in which he lived with his family for 10 years. It was in this house that the first Methodist church of Oakland County was organized by a party of 12 people who met there for that purpose. The cabin was thereafter known as the "Methodist Tavern" until a church was built. Arza B. Donelson remembers carrying pork and beans to the men in the forest who were hewing timbers with which to erect the first Methodist church in Pontiac. Ira Donelson cleared about 80 acres of his farm and built a large barn, 32 by 50 feet in dimensions. He later purchased 120 acres of the government, which with that acquired from other sources made him owner of about 400 acres in the county. He began with little or no means and this accumulation was the result of untiring industry. He was a very good scholar, took an interest in public affairs and was a supporter of the Whig party until the organization of the Republican party when he became affiliated with the latter. He was also teacher in the first school District No. 1, of Waterford township. He married Mary Shattuck, a native of Colerain, Franklin County, Massachusetts, and they became the parents of the following children: Horace L., a farmer, who died at the age of 80 years; Abel S., a farmer; Ira W., who was ordained a Methodist minister by the Detroit Conference; Park S., also a minister of the Methodist church; Mary A. (Shattuck), of Pontiac; and Arza B.

Park S. Donelson, brother of our subject, began working in a drug store at the age of 14 years and continued two years. He then attended Albion College, and after graduation entered the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He subsequently took a course of study in Falley Seminary in New York, after which he served as president of Albion College for a time, and was then president of Delaware College in Ohio for 18 years. He was pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Toledo, Ohio, for a few years, and became presiding elder of Northern Ohio. He was twice sent to the General Conference of the United States, and to the Ecumenical Conference of the World held in Europe. He died at Dexter, Michigan, May 6, 1882, at the age of 57 years.

Arza B. Donelson was reared on the home farm and has lived there all his life. At the early age of 15 years he began raising horses, buying and breeding only standard stock. He has bred Hambletonians principally, consisting of Wilkes and Electioneer. Previously he had bred Volunteer and American Star horses. His principal horses in the stud were Golden Bow; Agile, by Dictator; Wilkiemont, by Bourbon Wilkes; and Diel, by Spinks, son of Electioneer. He sold a two-year old filly for $2,800, and she proved the fastest in the State in 1891, making a record of 2:29 1/4 with a high wheel sulky. He has owned as high as 500 sheep at a time, and also many head of cattle.

Mr. Donelson was united in marriage with Susan Voorheis, a native of Waterford and a daughter of Isaac Voorheis, and they are the parents of three children: Ida (Walters) of Detroit, who has three children; Willard M., who is living on the old home farm; and Mark, of Detroit, who has one son, Gilbert. Our subject cast his first vote for John C. Fremont and voted the Republican ticket until the candidacy of Bryan for the presidency, then supported him. He helped to nominate Governor Pingree. He was president of the Pioneer Society of Oakland County, also president of the Oakland County Agricultural Society, of which he is now a director. He has delivered a number of speeches before these bodies and is a very entertaining speaker. He did possibly more than any other man toward securing the State Fair Grounds here. He is a man of enterprise and public spirit, and has many warm friends.

Last Reviewed: 10/29/2020 MR