The Story of the Macdonalds
Summer in Estes Park, Colorado must have seemed a paradise to J. Edward Macdonald, a man who was born in Wisconsin, raised in New York, and would later go on to be one of Estes Park’s founding fathers. But in 1902, Mr. Macdonald was only paying a visit to the valley high in the mountains that would later become his home.
It was here that he met and courted another visitor to the area, Jessica Chapin. Bewitched by the visiting Scotsman, Jessica, a territorial daughter of Colorado, would temporarily leave her home to marry Ed Macdonald and to live in New Jersey. But the mountains where they had met called out to the Macdonalds and they returned in 1907 to Estes Park with their two young daughters, Louise, age two, and Marcia, age one.
In 1908, Ed Macdonald purchased a small log cabin from the forest service built just the year before. Ed opened a hardware and general store to support his family. The store sold any number of items from groceries to equipment needed by local homesteaders, and in amongst all the rest, was a small corner devoted to books.
In 1928, Ed Macdonald retired from his general store, helping his wife as they opened a book store in the parlor of their home. Early local author Mari Sandoz and publisher William Allen White visited the shop, later writing letters to Jessica and leaving pieces of their writings.
When Ed Macdonald died in 1932, at the age of seventy-one, his wife Jessica continued to run the family book store, with the help of their daughters Louise and Marcia, who returned in the summers to help.
As the years went by the book store would expand to take over what had previously been the family residence. Jessica’s daughter Louise continued to help every summer with her two children, Paula and Mark. A staple in the town of Estes Park, visitors and residents alike depended on the sight of Jessica Macdonald and her beloved store.
At the age of eighty-three, in 1957, Jessica died in her sleep, passing on the book store to her daughters. Louise would come up from Trinidad with her children every summer to run the bookstore with the help of Jessica’s niece, Rhoda Tallant. Upon Louise’s death in 1971, her daughter Paula took over the store full time with the help of her two children, Stacia and Stephen. The book store remained much the same until the 1982 Lawn Lake flood, which devastated the shop. With the help of 80 volunteers, the store was repaired and expanded to more of the original home.
From it’s humble beginnings, Macdonald Bookshop continues to fascinate and serve those who live in Estes and those who count themselves lucky enough to visit this valley, just as Edward Macdonald did over a century ago.