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MACAULAY (McAulay, McCauley), ROBERT, merchant; b. 1744 near Omagh (Northern Ireland), son of William Macaulay and Susan Gilliland; m. 13 Feb. 1791 Ann Kirby* at Crown Point, N.Y., and they had three sons, including John* and William*; d. 1 Sept. 1800 at Kingston, Upper Canada.

According to family tradition the Macaulays, originally from Scotland, had been living in Ireland for almost 100 years when their lease was not renewed, and in 1763 Robert’s family moved to London. The next year Robert Macaulay and his brothers went to New York to live with their uncle William Gilliland. Together they developed land holdings at Willsboro (south of Plattsburgh, N.Y.) and Robert started a farm and a lumber business. At the beginning of the revolution his farm and business were confiscated or destroyed by the rebels. In 1776 he was taken prisoner during Benedict Arnold*’s retreat from Canada and held for some time at Crown Point. Later released, he was arrested again in 1778 for giving information to the British about the garrison at Ticonderoga. He was jailed at Albany for six months. After being freed on bail he escaped to Canada.

By April 1780 Macaulay was established as a merchant at Carleton Island (near Kingston, Ont.). He handled a variety of goods, including rum, wine, blankets, cloth, tea, guns, and gunpowder, and apparently conducted some trade with the Indians. According to a claim in 1797 he was also a captain of the Associated Loyalists on the island and as such he was granted 1,200 acres of land.

In 1784, when the local garrison moved to Cataraqui (Kingston), the merchants followed. Along with his partner Thomas Markland*, Robert Macaulay was one of the merchant forwarders, including Peter Smith*, Richard Cartwright*, Robert Hamilton*, and Joseph Forsyth*, who controlled much of the trade on Lake Ontario. In April 1788 Macaulay and Markland contracted with Archibald Thomson to build a log house for Sir John Johnson*, their firm to supply all the materials. They also acted as collecting agents for subscriptions to fund the construction of the first St George’s Church (Church of England) in Kingston and were themselves benefactors of the church.

Family tradition states that Robert Macaulay had visited New York state in 1786 to see what property he could recover and that he met Ann Kirby there. He returned in 1791 to marry her. At the end of that year Macaulay dissolved his partnership with Markland and expanded the business, building a wharf and store on the water lot opposite his house. In 1796 John Kirby*, Ann’s brother, became Robert’s partner and carried on the business with Ann after Robert’s death. Macaulay’s will mentions, among other assets, six town lots, two dwellings, a blacksmith shop, and hundreds of acres of farm lots. The merchant family he established eventually became related to other prominent Upper Canadian families such as the Hamiltons, Marklands, and Kirkpatricks.

Margaret Angus

BL, Add. mss 21787, p.338; 21818. Metropolitan Toronto Library, John Ross Robertson coll., “Account of the losses of Robert Macaulay . . .” (1776). PAC, MG 23, HI, 1, ser.3, book 1, p.385; RG 1, L3 (index); RG 8, I (C series), 930, pp. 64–67. PAO, Macaulay family papers; RG 1, A-I-1, 1–2. Queen’s University Archives (Kingston, Ont.), Hon. Richard Cartwright papers, letterbook, 14 Jan. 1798; Kirby Macaulay papers, William Macaulay to John Macaulay, 10 May 1843. St George’s Anglican Cathedral (Kingston, Ont.), Vestry minute book, 1791–1800. Kingston before War of 1812 (Preston). PAO Report, 1904, 436. S. W. Eager, An outline history of Orange County . . . together with local traditions and short biographical sketches of the early settlers, etc. (Newburgh, N.Y., 1846–47). W. C. Watson, Pioneer history of the Champlain valley . . . (Albany, N.Y., 1863), 178–84. Margaret Angus, “The Macaulay family of Kingston,” Historic Kingston (Kingston, Ont.), 5 (1955–56), 3–12.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Margaret Angus, “MACAULAY, ROBERT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/macaulay_robert_4E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/macaulay_robert_4E.html
Author of Article:   Margaret Angus
Title of Article:   MACAULAY, ROBERT
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   December 4, 2023