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Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 2
Kenneth A. MacLeod


Kenneth A. McLeod has been a witness of the development of Edmonton from an early pioneer period to the present era of progress and prosperity. He has seen it grow from a small trading post to a city of large commercial importance, with its ramifying trade interests reaching out to many sections of the Dominion, and at all times he has borne his share in the work of general improvement, and upbuilding. He is the builder and owner of the McLeod building, the finest office structure in the province and he is today one of the prosperous men of Edmonton. His life story is a most interesting one, for he arrived here a penniless young man at a day when the most farsighted could scarcely have dreamed what the future would bring to the city.

Kenneth A. McLeod was born at Port Elgin, Bruce county, Ontario, September 7, 1858. In the spring of 1870 the father, with the family, removed to Kansas, casting in his lot with the pioneer settlers of that state. There the father homesteaded land near Solomon City and the family lived on the frontier for three years, meeting with all of the hard-ships and experiences of pioneer life. At the end of that time they returned toward the Atlantic seaboard and settled on a farm in the vicinity of Lynchburg, Virginia, where they remained until the fall of 1876. At that date they returned to Ontario, and there the father operated a sawmill.

Kenneth A. McLeod was a youth of about eighteen years at the time of the family's return to his native province. He had acquired his education in the frontier schools of the districts in which the family had lived and he had been trained to business interests and activities by his father. He worked in the sawmill until the fall of 1877 and then went into the lumber camps of northern Michigan, where he spent one winter. In the spring, however, he returned to Ontario, and soon afterward he took up railroad work on the Credit Valley Railroad, which was being built from Trenton to Picton, connecting with the Grand Trunk at Trenton. In the following spring he went to Winnipeg, arriving there in March, 1879, and later he proceeded to Rat Portage, where he was with a construction gang engaged in building bridges for the Canadian Pacific. He continued in that work for two years, or until 1881, after which he followed his trade of carpentry in Winnipeg for a time.

On the 5th of August, 1881, Mr. McLeod left that city in company with a partner, James Gore, and two other young men. Mr. McLeod and Mr. Gore, however, owned the outfit, consisting of three ox carts and one cart drawn by a pony. These were heavily loaded with their camp outfit, including a barrel of sugar, a barrel of dried apples, a barrel of flour and a keg of nails. Mr. McLeod and his partner walked all the way from Winnipeg to Edmonton, camping wherever night overtook them and were ninety-three days in making the trip. Game was very plentiful and their guns supplied them with meat, which thus supplemented what might otherwise have been a very meagre meal. On the 3d of November, 1881, Mr. McLeod arrived in Edmonton, which was then a small village, with a population of about four hundred. Soon after their arrival James Gore decided to return home and so the partners divided their outfit, Mr. McLeod taking as a part of his share the oxen and carts. He had no money at the time of his arrival, having paid out his last thirty-five cents for crossing the outfit at Fort Saskatchewan ferry before reaching the village. At that time the Hudson's Bay Company had just completed the survey of the original townsite west of First street, and Mr. McLeod purchased two lots from the company, making the first payment of eighteen dollars with money received from the sale of a hundred pounds of sugar to Hon. Frank Oliver. This sugar he packed on his back from his camp in a clump of willows, which stood about where the Journal building is now standing. After securing his lots he built a shack thereon, in which to spend the winter, obtaining the lumber from the Hudson's Bay Company in exchange for his three oxen. A little later he obtained carpenter work with the Hudson's Bay Company. In the spring of 1882 there was quite a boom in Edmonton. He then sold his lots and his little cabin for seven hundred dollars and began building and contract work on his own account. He continued in that line of business here until 1888, when, because of dullness in building operations at this point, he left for what is now the state of Washington. There he continued to work at carpentry for two years, after which he returned to Edmonton, where he again took up building and contracting. Since that time he has been a prominent factor in the business circles of the city and his building operations have constituted a most important feature in the improvement of Edmonton. In 1893 he erected the first sash, door and planing mill in the city and this he operated in connection with his building and contracting business, both lines proving very successful. In 1900 he sold his mills to the W. H. Cushing Company. Since then with the passing years he has made large investments in city real estate and in farm lands. In the spring of 1913 he began the erection of the McLeod building, the finest building in the Alberta province and one that would be a credit to any city of any size. His knowledge as a contractor now stood him in good stead. He was able to select the best material and to see that the best workmanship went into the construction of the building, which, however, on account account of war conditions was not completed until the 1st of January, 1915. It is a nine-story structure, one hundred and eighteen by one hundred feet, having steel frame and tarrezo and marble floors throughout. The outside finish is white pressed brick and terra cotta. No wood has been used in the construction of the building except for doors, sash and window trim, all of white oak, and the windows are all of plate glass. The entrance and the hallway are of Italian marble of the finest quality and the corridors and staircases throughout are also of marble. The McLeod building was completed at a cost of about six hundred thousand dollars and this investment indicates that the owner had faith in Edmonton and the province where he has lived since the city was a mere trading post, and in the development of which he has taken active part. There are about three hundred offices in this building and he now gives much of his attention to the management of the property, in connection with which he has operated farms quite extensively. He also owns coal lands in the province, his holdings in this particular being quite large. His business investments have been most judiciously made, indicating his sound judgment and his unfaltering enterprise.

Not only has Mr. McLeod been closely associated with the material development and building operations of Edmonton but also with its government, for he was a member of the first city council, and several times served as a trustee of schools, and for several terms as a member of the Board of Trade council. Mr. McLeod belongs to the Masonic fraternity and is a past master of his lodge, while in his life he fully exemplifies the beneficent spirit and objects of the craft. The major part of his time and attention, however, have been concentrated upon his business affairs. in his vocabulary there is no such word as fail. He has always formulated his plans carefully and has executed them promptly and in carrying on his business interests he has never failed to reach his objective, while the methods that he has employed have ever been such as would bear the closest investigation and scrutiny. Today Edmonton honors him as one of her Pioneer and foremost citizens.

Mr. McLeod was married on March 19, 1894, to Miss Arnie Logan Lauder, and there are nine children by this marriage, namely: John F., James Kenneth, Archibald Norman, Jean Katherine, Roderick Lauder, Kenneth Nelson, Kathleen Mary, Margaret Hellen, Stuart Donald. John was overseas with the Forty-ninth Battalion, and James K. and Archibald N. were with the One Hundred and Thirty-eighth Battalion. James Kenneth was severely wounded and invalided home shortly before the armistice was signed. Roderick, at the age of seventeen, joined the navy as a cadet on the Patrol Boat Galliano and was lost when the vessel foundered, about the 30th of October, 1918, off Cape St. James, on the Pacific coast, with the entire crew—forty-seven in all.


 


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