McKAY, JOHN RICHARDS, HBC employee; b. Rupert’s Land, probably 10 Aug. 1792, eldest child of John McKay and Mary Favell; m. first Harriet Ballenden by whom he had seven sons and five daughters, second Catherine White by whom he had one son and two daughters; buried at St Clements Church, Mapleton, Man., 11 Dec. 1877.
John Richards McKay was sent to England to be educated and returned to Albany Factory in 1808 as a writer for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Later he joined his father at Brandon House and was with him at the time of his death in 1810. During the next 14 years he served at various HBC posts. After the North West Company destroyed Qu’Appelle House in 1815 McKay was sent to rebuild it, but met with such strong opposition from the Nor’Westers’ neighbouring post, under Alexander Macdonell*, that his senior officer, James Sutherland*, came to his assistance. At the time of the coalition of the HBC and the North West Company he was in charge at Brandon House.
In 1824 he retired to the Red River Settlement, but after the failure of several enterprises ending with an academy to teach “writing, arithmetic, reading, English French dancing fencing and the Graces,” McKay joined the American traders on the Missouri River in 1830. The next year found him back with the HBC. In 1833 he was placed in charge of Fort Ellice (St Lazare, Man.), where his popularity with the Indians enabled him to extend the trade of that post. After another retirement in 1844 he again served the company at various posts from 1846 until his final retirement in 1859.
McKay was “very active and much beloved by the Indians” whom he understood and liked, and who admired his unusual skills as a horseman, swordsman, and marksman. He treated them justly and generously, sometimes to the annoyance of his superiors who considered him an extravagant trader.
PAC, MG 19, E1 (Selkirk papers), 6, pp.1946–59; 62, pp.16500–51. PAM, Church of England registers, St Clements Church (Mapleton), burials, 1862–91. Somerset House, London, Heathfield 147, will of John McKay. Isaac Cowie, The company of adventurers: a narrative of seven years in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company during 1867–1874 on the great buffalo plains (Toronto, 1913), 173, 180–81, 185. Hargrave correspondence (Glazebrook), 40, 61. HBRS, III (Fleming), 54, 446–47. M. A. MacLeod and W. L. Morton, Cuthbert Grant of Grantown, warden of the plains of Red River (Toronto, 1963), 11, 19, 32, 35, 38, 79, 81. Morton, History of the Canadian west, 437, 548, 573. W. B. Cameron, “Clan McKay in the west,” Beaver, outfit 275 (Sept. 1944), 3–7.