- Thomas McKay
Thomas McKay [He spelt his surname "McKay" but, for unknown reasons, most things named in his honour use "MacKay", instead.] (
September 1, 1792– October 9, 1855) was a Canadian businessman who was one of the founders of the city of Ottawa, Ontario. He was born in Perth, Scotlandand became a skilled stonemason. He emigrated to the Canadas in 1817, and settled in Montreal.
He became partners with
John Redpathand their firm did the masonry work on the Lachine Canalnear Montreal, they then went on to build the locks on the lower section of the Rideau Canal, between the Rideau Riverand the Ottawa Riverat Bytown. McKay also built two stone spans for the Union Bridge, which was the first bridge across the Ottawa River between Hull, Quebecand Bytown. The Commissariat building built by McKay in 1827 during the construction of the Rideau Canal now serves as home to the Bytown Museumand is the oldest surviving stone building in the city of Ottawa.
McKay was one of the few business leaders to remain in Bytown after the canal project was finished. He bought land at the intersection of the
Rideau Riverand Ottawa Riverand laid out a town, which he named New Edinburgh. McKay built a sawmilland a gristmillon land there. He encouraged Scottish immigrants to come to the area and it became a prosperous industrial centre. He was an Elder and Trustee of St. Andrew's congregation of the Church of Scotland, and partly responsible for the acquisition of The Glebelands for St Andrew's. In 1840, he attempted to persuade the Church of ScotlandCanada Synodto erect their College in Bytown, but in 1841, Queen's College was started in Kingston, Canada West.
Thomas McKay became quite wealthy and in 1837 he bought 1100 acres (4.5 km²) east of the village. On the western edge of this new land he built for himself a mansion which he named
Rideau Hall, and which is today official residence of the Governor General of Canada. He also built Earnscliffeto house his daughter and son-in-law. The remainder of McKay's lands would later become the village of Rockcliffe Park. McKay also brought the first railroad to the Ottawa area with the Prescott and Bytown Railwaythat had its terminus at a station on Sussex Driveon the northern edge of New Edinburgh.
McKay entered politics serving on Bytown's city council, and then the
Legislative Assembly of Upper Canadafrom 1834 to 1841. From 1841 until his death in 1855, he served on the Legislative Council of the United Province of Canada.
Thomas McKay was interred in the
Beechwood Cemeteryin Ottawa. In New Edinburgh, the MacKay United Church is named in his memory.
* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=4072 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
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