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Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of Kent, Ontario
John C. McKay


JOHN C. McKAY (deceased).  No one looking over the prosperous farms of Howard township, County of Kent, Ontario, and all ignorant of its history, would imagine what a wilderness it once was, and that within the memory of many of its present citizens.  One of the sturdy pioneers, now deceased, to whom so much is owed by the present generation, was John C. McKay, a farmer on Concession 3, who was born in Prince Edward Island, in February, 1839, son of John and Mary McKay natives of Scotland, who settled at Prince Edward Island.  There the father died and his widow married John Oliver; she died in Chatham township, leaving two children by her first marriage:  John C., and Robert, who lives at McKay’s Corners, in Harwich. 

John C. McKay came to Chatham when a young man, and learned the carpenter’s trade, which he followed for a number of years, building houses all over the county.  IN 1860, he married Miss Mariah McCann, of Harwich, born in 1844.  Soon after his marriage, he purchased his present homestead, all of which was wild land.  Beneath the huge trees, he built a small log cabin, in which the family made their home for some years, until it was burned down, and he replaced it with another, which served as a residence until 1892, when he built the large brick residence , in which his widow now makes her home.  Here he passed away in May, 1901.  His first wife died April 14, 1885, the mother of twelve children, eight of whom are still living:  (1)  John, the eldest, born in 1863, married Miss Rose Clark, in 1887, and they have four children, Ethel, Rhoda, Olive May and Valetta; they reside in Harwich on his farm.  (2)  James, born in 1865, is unmarried and is engaged as a carpenter at New Orleans.  (3)  George, born in 1869, is a tailor of Leamington.  He married Miss Gowey, of Ridgetown, and has two children, Harold and Georgia.  (4)  Walter, born in 1869, in Howard, is a tailor of Essex.  He has been married twice, first to Miss Robson, of Leamington, who bore him one child, John C. McKay, now deceased.  By his second marriage he has one child, Clara.  (5)  Robert, born in Howard in 1871, married Mamie Mow, of Harwich township, where he resides on a farm.  He has one daughter, Flossie.  (6)  Anna, born in 1873, in Howard, married Joseph Miller, a resident of Chatham, and has three children, Jessie, Neta and Zeta.  (7)  Bertha, born on the homestead, in 1875, married James Baker, and resides in Dresden, Ontario.  She has four children, Byron, Irvin, Eva and Grace.  (8)  Mary, born in 1877, and educated in the Howard schools, near the home built by her father, is unmarried and is a most charming young lady, and an important factor in the social life of the community.

In January, 1889, Mr. McKay married Miss Jennie McEachran, the estimable daughter of Neil and Mary (Smart) McEachran, prominent pioneers of Harwich township.  Neil McEachran was born in Argyll, Scotland, and his wife Mary (Smart) was born in England, but they were married in Canada, and were among the early settlers of Harwich, where Mr. McEachran died; his wife survives and is still residing on the homestead.  Mrs. McKay was born in October, 1865, and educated in the home schools of Harwich, where she remained until her marriage.  Mr. And Mrs. McKay settled on his farm, and he at once began making extensive improvements until it is now one of the best in County Kent.  Two children were born to this marriage, Neil, born March 12, 1890; and Jennett, born November 15, 1895.

           Mr. McKay was a member of the Presbyterian Church, as is also his wife, and that body owes much of its prosperity to both.  Politically, he was a member of the Reform party, and took an active part in local affairs.  He was a member of the Masonic Lodge at Chatham, and was buried with Masonic honours, his funeral being a large and imposing one.  At his death Mr. McKay bequeathed to his children no trivial example, no darkened ideals.  The influence of his character reaches beyond the term of his own existence.  His public life – the relation which he bore to the general community – was such as to stimulate others to high and noble deeds. 


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