Joseph William Mackay

Joseph Mackay

"Joseph William Mackay, or as he was ordinarily called Joe Mackay, was a man of great personality and force of character. He arrived from the Red River country in 1844 and joined the Hudson's Bay Company's service at Fort Vancouver in that year, serving in that part of the country, California and in various other places in the North West.

He was transferred to Fort Victoria shortly after its establishment and remained there until the discovery of coal at Nanaimo, or as the name was and is pronounced by the natives Snanimooh. This was about 1849 and Mackay, who was amongst his other attainments, an amateur geologist, was instrumental in the discovery and was sent there to superintend operations.

He was one of the few who spoke the native language* fluently, and he was therefore a great service to the Company for it must be remembered that the Chinook jargon was generally unknown to the natives in those days, in spite of the oft repeated pretended Chinook expressions made use of by various writers of recent times. He was looked up to by the natives generally as one who could best understand them and redress their grievances. I saw an old Indian in 1858 being dragged off to jail, calling out most piteously for "Maqui".

...He died in 1901. The late Mrs Mackay who survived her husband many years died in 1914. As Miss Holmes she arrived in 1859, accompanied by her mother, Mrs Porter, whose husband had preceded her some months and had acted as Clerk of the House of Assembly.
*By the expression "native language" I mean the language which is spoken with certain dialects all along the East Coast from Sooke to Comox and possibly beyond those limits."

Anderson, James Robert. "Notes and Comments on Early Days and Events in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon" ch.12-14, page 204(8). ADD.MSS.1912. BOX 8/18, B.C. Archives.

Finlayson had built the fort. J.W. McKay was his second - a very active young fellow - full of vigour and intelligence, whose parents resided at Red River or someway there about - Fort Garry probably.

Helmcken, John. "Reminiscences" ADD.MSS. 505 (vol. 12), B.C. Archives.

Legislative Assembly, 1856


Joseph MacKay was elected to the first Legislative Assembly, and is on the top left corner in the photograph. The man standing next to him is Joseph Pemberton, and John Sebastian Helmcken is in the middle of the bottom row.


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