Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Stephen Roszel Donohoe

Stephen Roszel Donohoe (1 February 1850–3 January 1921), journalist, was born in Loudoun County and was the son of Stephen George Donohoe, a Prince William County farmer, and Mary A. LeGrand Donohoe. His father and several of his older brothers fought in the Confederate army, but Donohoe was too young to take part. Few details are known of his education and training except that he worked in the printing office of the Leesburg Washingtonian after the Civil War.

S. Roszel Donohoe, or S. R. Donohoe as he was generally known, married Heloise Eubank in Middlesex County on 16 December 1875. She was an aunt of both Andrew Jackson Montague, governor of Virginia from 1902 to 1906, and of the wife of Joseph Edward Willard, lieutenant governor during the same term. They had one son before she died in June 1880. In Fairfax County on 20 May 1884 Donohoe married Susan Lindsay Moore, whose brother Robert Walton Moore served in the Convention of 1901–1902 and in the House of Representatives. Before she died on 4 March 1888, they had two daughters. By 1900 Donohoe's household consisted of his three children, his sister, and a governess.

Donohoe edited King William County's weekly newspaper, the West Point Star, which he had helped found, from 1871 to about 1877 and the weekly Hampton Monitor, which he also helped found, from 1876 until 1880. After moving to Fairfax County, he founded and from the summer of 1882 through September 1916 edited and published the weekly Fairfax Herald. He also for a brief time published the Alexandria Evening Sun. Donohoe threw his editorial support to the pro-silver Democrat William Jennings Bryan, the temperance movement, and the use of bonds to fund road improvements. Because of the cost, he opposed calling a constitutional convention in 1901 to impose restrictions on African American suffrage, but he approved the restrictions that the convention included in the Constitution of 1902. Donohoe believed that the new state constitution should be submitted to the people for ratification, rather than being proclaimed in effect by the convention members. He strongly opposed failed efforts in 1909 and 1910 to retrocede neighboring Alexandria County to the District of Columbia.

Donohoe applied to the General Assembly and in 1886 received restoration of his right to hold public office after he had issued or accepted a challenge to a duel or had agreed to act as a second to a principal. Three years later he became treasurer of Fairfax County and served for about two years. During the Spanish-American War, Donohoe became captain of Company I of the 3d Virginia Volunteers, mustered into federal service. The 3d Virginia Volunteers were still in training in Virginia when the war ended, and his company was mustered out in November 1898. Donohoe continued to use his military title routinely.

The following year Donohoe won election as a Democrat to a four-year term in the Senate of Virginia representing the counties of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Prince William. Beginning in 1901 his district also included the city of Alexandria. He sat on the Committee on Finance and Banks, the Committee on Roads and Internal Navigation, the less-prestigious Committee to Examine the Second Auditor's Office, and the Committee on Printing, which he chaired during the 1901–1902 session. He did not run for reelection in 1903, but on at least one later occasion he was mentioned as a candidate for Congress. On 24 December 1910 the governor appointed Donohoe to the vacant position of auditor of public accounts. The General Assembly subsequently confirmed the interim appointment, which expired on 1 March 1912. Donohoe did not seek election to a full term. Later that year he considered running for governor in 1913 but deferred to Henry Carter Stuart, who won the Democratic nomination and the election.

In 1914 the governor named Donohoe to a ten-member commission to study inequalities in state and local tax assessments. He was one of the three-member minority opposed to creating a state tax commission. The minority recommended that the state cease taxation of real estate and personal property and reserve to cities and counties the exclusive power to tax both kinds of property. The minority persuaded the assembly, which in 1915 adopted a form of tax segregation. Through the remainder of the twentieth century, localities relied on their authority to tax real estate and personal property for most of their revenue.

Donohoe served as a director of the National Bank of Fairfax in the 1900s and 1910s. He helped compile a small promotional booklet, Industrial and Historical Sketch of Fairfax County, Virginia (1907), for the county government. Donohoe occasionally printed historical anecdotes on local subjects in the Fairfax Herald; several of his vignettes that had appeared in 1912 were collected in 1951 as an article in the first issue of the county historical society's Yearbook. The board of supervisors appointed him to the county school board in 1916.

After ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment and while his former colleague from the Senate of Virginia, Carter Glass, was serving as secretary of the treasury, in November 1919 the treasury department appointed Donohoe director of the Virginia Prohibition enforcement office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The Richmond Virginian, the daily newspaper that the Anti-Saloon League president James Cannon published, praised his work as commissioner. Stephen Roszel Donohoe died of pneumonia at a Richmond hospital on 3 January 1921 following surgery. He was buried near the remains of his first wife in the graveyard of Saint John's Episcopal Church, in Hampton.

Sources Consulted:
Biography in Philip Alexander Bruce, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, and Richard L. Morton, History of Virginia (1924), 6:465 (variant birth date of 1 Feb. 1851); United States Census Schedules, Prince William Co., 1850 (age one on 30 July), 1860 (age ten on 18 June), 1870 (age twenty-two on 11 July), Elizabeth City Co., 1880 (age twenty-nine on 22 June), Fairfax Co., 1900 (birth date of Feb. 1851), 1910 (age fifty-nine on 23 Apr.), Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, in National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C; Marriage Register, Middlesex Co. (1875) and Fairfax Co. (1884 date recorded in 1886 register), both with birthplace and both in Bureau of Vital Statistics, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; letters from a sister in Donohoe Family Papers, Fairfax County Public Library, Fairfax, Va., and a few letters in Aylett Family Papers (1776–1945), Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va.; Acts and Joint Resolutions Passed by the General Assembly of the State of Virginia during the Session of 1885–'86 (1886), 29; Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia (1912), 46, 63; Fairfax Herald, esp. 22 Feb., 19 Apr., 3 May 1901, 22 July 1904, 5 July, 4 Oct. 1907, 17 July 1908, 30 July 1909, 28 Jan., 17 June 1910, 21 June 1912, 18 Dec. 1914, 1 Jan. 1915; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 25 Dec. 1910, 20 Nov. 1919; Richmond Virginian, 17 Apr. 1920; Report of the Joint Committee on Tax Revision (1914); Statement of Hon. S. R. Donohoe Regarding Segregation (1914); Communication from Hon. S. R. Donohoe Setting Forth His Views in Reference to the Segregation of Taxes (1915); other publications include Donohoe, "Historical Sketches," Historical Society of Fairfax County, Virginia, Inc., Yearbook 1 (1951): 8–22; Death Certificate (with incorrect death date of 3 Jan. 1920 and other inconsistencies), Richmond City, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; obituaries in Alexandria Gazette and Richmond News Leader, both 3 Jan. 1921, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4 Jan. 1921 (portrait), and Fairfax Herald, 7, 14 (with variant birth date of 1 Feb. 1851) Jan. 1921.

Legislative Photograph courtesy Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Brent Tarter.

How to cite this page:
Brent Tarter,"Stephen Roszel Donohoe (1850–1921)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2015 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Donohoe_Stephen_Roszel, accessed [today's date]).

Return to the Dictionary of Virginia Biography Search page.

facebook twitter youtube instagram linkedin