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Dec. 6, 2002

Lumberman William Mackey Memorial

Pioneer lumber king William Mackey died on Dec. 1, 1902, 100 years ago last  Sunday.  He had a sixty-year career including his primary focus at Eau  Claire in Calvin Township on the Amable du Fond River.  At Eau Claire he  took out squared timber and ran a sawmill, shipping his lumber on the CPR  when it went through Eau Claire in the 1880s.  I wrote about him a year ago  when I noted that for such a successful man, very little is known about him.    Significant new information came to light when North Bay genealogist Tom  Carkner discovered his obituary while researching a book at the National  Archives in Ottawa.  I had asked Tom to keep an eye out for anything on  Mackey, and he found copies of material that he passed on to me.

Pioneer lumber man William Mackey (1819-1902) died one hundred  years ago on Dec. 1st.

The first brief note in the 1902 newspaper stated that Mackey began as a  lumberman on the Bonnechere River in 1842, sixty years prior to his death,  at his home at 201 Cooper Street at Elgin in Ottawa at age eighty-two.  He  was born in 1819 at Mackey, a small village in County Down Ireland.  He came  to Canada to Perth, Ontario, with his father, a sister and a brother in  1835.  His father died shortly thereafter, and William, his sister and  brother moved to Bytown (Ottawa).  He began to work for well-known lumberman  George Buchanan, and was a volunteer in the Papineau Rebellion of 1837-38.   His obituary indicated that William began to work for well-known business  man the Hon. James Skead, and soon went out on his own in the squared timber  trade on the Madawaska River, where he maintained limits until his death.   William's sister Rosena married James Skead, who besides having a successful  business career became a Member of Parliament and Senator.

William married and had seven children, and was a staunch Roman Catholic and  supporter of Ottawa's St. Patrick's Church.  He was a conservative in  politics but did not run for public office.  The first report of his death  listed his two daughters, Mrs. J. St. Denis and Mrs. D'Arcy McMahon, and an  unmarried son Walter.  Later reports listed more of his children, including  Percy who was slow and lived at Eau Claire, usually with Roderick Mackenzie,  Booth's accountant who lived in a house next door to Mackey.  Mackey's  house, which became the local store and post office, remains today just over  the second bridge going south at Eau Claire, and Mackenzie's house is just  south of Mackey's house.  Mackenzie oversaw the building of the log slide on  the Eau Claire Gorge for Mackey.  Mr. Mackenzie, Mackey's manager Andrew  Ryan, and son Percy attended the funeral in Ottawa.

Mackey's estate was estimated to be in the millions in early reports, but on  probate in May 1902 the amount was about one million two hundred thousand  dollars, a significant amount 100 years ago.  The estate was divided as  follows: Walter $100,000, William $75, 000, to the trustees of his son Percy  $70,000, to Roderick Mackenzie $34,000, to his son Henry $8,000, to his  sister-in-law Mrs. Hubeck $4,000, to his servants and some friends $1000  each, and the remainder of his estate between his two favourite Ottawa  daughters, Mrs. St Denis and Mrs. MacMahon.  William's brother was a  successful lumberman, and it is believed that the town of Mackey on the  Trans-Canada highway was named after him.  His brother and thirteen other  lumbermen died while trying to break a logjam in the spring run off.

William Mackey's lumber camp on the Amable du Fond River in the 1800s.  William's son Percy is seen on the left holding the gun.

One of Mr. Mackey's obituaries noted that he made much of his money on the  Amable du Fond and Lake Kioshkokwi.  He bought his limits there for a few  thousand dollars and sold them to J.R. Booth shortly before his death for  $665,000.  Mr. Booth apparently had the chance to pick up the property in  the 1870s for a few thousand dollars but put his money elsewhere.  Booth,  who was Canada's most successful lumberman was quite prepared to pay the  higher price at the turn of the century and his men logged there for years,  as did the Staniforth Lumber Company (1936-1973) which followed Booth.

Son Henry, who received the $8000 legacy, challenged his father's will but  apparently lost because he had previously received money from his father,  $133,000 for a business he owned in Buffalo.  Mr Mackey's son John, known as  Todd, who received nothing, ran J.R. Booth's bunkhouse at Eau Claire until  he abandoned his wife and children and disappeared.  Two of his daughters,  one now deceased, lived in North Bay and received a request to bury him  decades after he had disappeared.  They buried him.

Son Walter later married, and his three granddaughters contacted me recently  while completing a family history and we shared some information on William.    A hundred years have passed, and William Mackey is still remembered for  his contribution in the Amable du Fond area and for helping to open pioneer  Ontario.

Although my name is Mackey, I have no connection to William, but my  great-grandfather was called William (and my grandfather Henry), and he came  from Ireland about the same time as the Mackey above, and died in 1905.   

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