Kremlin Homesteader John Donoven, 1910

This history of Kremlin Homesteader John Donoven was written by his Great-Granddaughter, Cheryl Knutson McClure, daughter of his Granddaughter Donna Donoven Knutson (Mrs. Arlen Knutson), who is the daughter of his son Donald Ryall Donoven.

Kremlin Homesteader John Donoven was among the earliest arriving
Kremlin homesteaders in 1910.

John "Jack" Donoven was born on December 7, 1873, in Ishpening, Michigan, the son of Irish immigrants, Patrick Donoven and Johanna Desmond. He was raised in Minnesota but was working in North Dakota when he married Lida Ruth Ryall.

Lida was born on March 14, 1880 in Illinois to Joseph and Naomi Ryall and was raised near Petersburg, North Dakota.

  John & Lida Donoven, Dec. 22, 1902
  (Photo Courtesy of Donna & Arlen Knutson)
John & Lida Donoven Wedding, Dec 22, 1902
John and Lida were married on December 22, 1902 and the first three of their children were born in Niagra, North Dakota: Donald Ryall born February 5, 1904; Charles Loyd born January 19, 1907; and Amy Christine born April 16, 1910. Ada Louise was born in Havre, Montana on May 3, 1912.

In 1910 the family came to Kremlin by train to homestead 10 miles north, next to the Milk River. I've been told the reason they homesteaded where they did was because of the closeness of water and because by homesteading that far out from town they could get more land. The original homestead place is just east from the Don Donoven farm. A barn is all that exists there today. [Written around 1980]

Because there weren't any high school facilities in Kremlin, in 1928 Amy and Louise boarded in Havre to attend high school there. On October 3rd of that year there was a carbon monoxide leak from a hot water heater and both girls died from asphyxiation. They were 18 and 16 years old.

After the deaths of the sisters John and Lida adopted a little daughter, Lola Lillian Marie, born on April 11, 1928.

  John & Kate Donoven
  (Photo Courtesy of Donna & Arlen Knutson)
John & Lida Donoven Wedding, Dec 22, 1902
During the winter of 1932 Lida passed away at the age of 52. After her death John married Catherine (Kate) Antonia Van Heesch. During their later years John and Kate lived in Kremlin. John passed away on May 3, 1959 at the age of 86. Kate passed away on January 27, 1975 at the age of 85.

Friends and relatives of John and Lida have told me what a lively place it was out at the Donoven farm with singing, dancing and a good time for all. They have talked about picnics and rodeos held down next to the river and ice cream being made with the ice hauled out of the Milk River.

The original family name is spelled Donovan. Sometime after their marriage, John and Lida homesteaded in Canada, but they must have seen or heard about the fertile ground in Kremlin because they decided to homestead there instead. They thought you were only allowed to homestead once so they changed their name to Donoven.


Amy and Louise Donoven Asphyxiated in their Sleeping Room
at Havre Wednesday Morning.

  Amy and Louise Donoven
  (Photo Courtesy of Donna & Arlen Knutson)
Amy and Louise DonovenThe community was shocked and saddened beyond description Wednesday morning when a telephone message carried word from Havre of the tragic death of Amy Donoven and the critical condition of her sister, Louise, the only daughters of Mr. and Mrs. John Donoven, who were attending high school at Havre.

Death was believed to have been caused from carbon monoxide gas which escaped in the sleeping room from a gas heater in the basement.

When found, the body of Amy was lifeless and Louise was unconscious. The latter was taken to the hospital and hopes were entertained all day Wednesday for her recovery. A blood transfusion was to be given by her brother, Loyd, but Louise passed away about 10:30 that night after a hard struggle for her life.

The entire community mourns the sad and sudden passing of these popular and pleasant school girls and the sympathy of everyone goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Donoven, Donald and Loyd in their hours of bereavement over the great loss to their happy family.

A double funeral service will be held from the Presbyterian church in Havre Friday at 2 p.m. and interment will be made at Highland cemetery.

Following is the account in detail as taken in part from
the Havre Daily News Promoter:

The Donoven girls have been in Havre this fall to attend high school where Amy is a senior and Louise a sophomore. They had taken an apartment at the home of Mrs. Martha Bare at 725 3rd Street.

Mrs. Bare discovered the tragedy Wednesday morning when the girls failed to arise to go to school. Amy was dead in bed and by her side was the unconscious form of Louise.

Mrs. Bare had heard the girls up during the night on several occasions, notably around midnight and as late as 4:30 in the morning. Sounds from their room indicated that they were sick and vomiting and at least once they went to the bathroom. She called to them after she heard them groaning about 4:30, but as there was no response she thought they had gone to sleep.

Coroner James Holland was notified of the accident immediately and make a thorough examination. An inquest was called for Thursday afternoon at 3 o'clock.

Investigation showed death probably was due to carbon Monoxide created by improper ventilation. There was a gas water heater in the basement of the building just below the girl's room. The vent from this heater went into a flu that was clogged with soot, thereby preventing the poisonous gas from escaping through the chimney.

From investigation it appears that someone turned on the gas water heater much higher than had been the custom to heat the water tank and then forgot to turn it down.

Fumes from the heater being unable to escape through the chimney went through an opening into the room of the girls, and then apparently went out through an opening in the chimney above their bed. The window in the room was not open.

Physicians called were of the opinion that the elder girl had been dead about an hour when Mrs. Bare found the bodies at 9 a.m.

(Click on Photos)

Jack and Irene Donoven, Circa 1937-1942
Jack and Irene Donoven
Circa 1937-1942

Donoven Families: Don, Clara, Loyd, Irene, Lola, Kate, Jack, Lowell, Wayne, Lyle, Gene, Keiter, Donna, Circa 1937
The Donoven Families

Donald Donoven and Clara Gehlen Donoven<br>Wedding photo, October 16, 1928
Don and Clara Donoven
October 16, 1928

Don Donoven Family, 1941<br>Clara, Lowell, Gene, Donna, Wayne, Don
Don Donoven Family, 1941

Loyd Donoven and Irene Knutson Donoven<br>Wedding photo, November 7, 1928
Loyd and Irene Donoven
November 7, 1928

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