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Memorable Manitobans: John Richards McKay (c1791-c1876)

Fur trader.

The youngest son of John McKay he was sent to London in 1800 to be educated and returned in 1808 on the Company’s ship Prince of Wales as a writer, bound for Albany. On 21 January 1821, at Brandon House, he married Harriet, a daughter of John Ballenden, and they had eleven children. His grandson was judge James McKay.

He was at Brandon House from 1809 to 1811 when he went to Pembina River. He returned to the Brandon House area in 1812-13, and was stationed at Rivière Qu’Appelle during 1814-16. For the season 1816­17 he was engaged as a writer and trader at Fort Hibernia in the Swan River district, and in the autumn of 1817 he built a post at Beaver Creek, where he remained until 1820. He was stationed at Brandon House from 1820 to1824, and then retired to the Red River Settlement. After an unsuccessful attempt to open a teaching academy where he planned to teach “writing, arithmetic, reading, English, French, dancing, fencing, and the Graces,” he joined the American traders in 1830. He rejoined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1831 and served in the Upper Red River district. From 1832 until his discharge in 1844 he served as postmaster at Portage la Prairie.

In 1846 he was again in the Company’s service being posted to Partridge Crop until 1848 and from 1848 to 1854 at Shoal River. In 1855 he was appointed to the management of the Touchwood Hills post and Cree Camps in the Swan River district. McKay was extremely popular with the Indians, who admired his abilities with horse, sword, and gun.

McKay retired in 1859 and was later granted a pension.

More information:

John Richards McKay, Dictionary of Canadian Biography X, 475.

Sources:

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Page revised: 31 January 2011

Memorable Manitobans

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