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

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Ignatius Daniel O'Donnell was born in 1860 in Norfolk, Ontario Canada to Scot-Irish parents. When Ignatius was four, the family moved to Saginaw, Mich. 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. 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 Northern Pacific 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.

From the description of I.D. O'Donnell papers, 1884-1947. (Montana State University Bozeman Library). WorldCat record id: 70922370

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Esther Gaskins Price Papers, 1931-1949 Montana State University-Bozeman Library, Merrill G Burlingame Special Collections
creatorOf Mead, Elwood, 1858-1936. Reports of Central Board of Review / Elwood Mead, W.L. Marshall, I.D. O'Donnell. Water Resources Collections and Archives, WRCA
creatorOf O'Donnell, I. D. (Ignatius Daniel), 1860-1948. I.D. O'Donnell papers, 1884-1947. Montana State University (MSU) Library, MSU Library; Renne Library; MSU Library - Bozeman
creatorOf Wilson, James, 1836-1920. Letters, 1896-1911. University of Iowa Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Billings, Frederick, 1823-1890 person
correspondedWith Cooney, Frank H. (Frank Henry), 1872-1935 person
correspondedWith Erickson, John Edward, 1863-1946 person
correspondedWith Evans, John M. (John Morgan), 1863-1946 person
correspondedWith Lane, Franklin K. person
associatedWith Mead, Elwood, 1858-1936. person
associatedWith Minnesota and Montana Land and Improvement Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Montana Irrigation and Drainage Institute. corporateBody
associatedWith Montana State College. corporateBody
correspondedWith Myers, Henry L. (Henry Lee), 1862-1943 person
associatedWith Price, Esther Gaskins, b. 1892- person
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Agriculture. corporateBody
associatedWith United States Reclamation Service. corporateBody
correspondedWith Walsh, Thomas Jones, 1859-1933 person
associatedWith Wilson, James, 1836-1920. person
correspondedWith Wilson, M. L. (Milburn Lincoln), 1885-1969 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Billings (Mont.)
United States
Irrigation farming
Reclamation of land--Government policy
Dairy cattle
Beet sugar industry--Government policy
Agriculture and state
Farm management
Sugar beet
Reclamation of land


Birth 1860

Death 1948


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