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Canadian History
William Innes Mackenzie


Toronto, was born in the County of Ross, Scotland, in A.D. 1824. His parents were Captain James MacKenzie and Grace Innes, daughter of the late Dr. Alex Innes, of Loggie, County of Ross, Scotland. Captain James Mackenzie, of Ard-Chronie (name of farm) County Ross, Scotland was a captain and adjutant of the 78th Royal Highlanders, and retired to his farm from the army on half pay, where he resided till his death, leaving a family of six boys and six girls. Our subject was the fourth son. He was educated in the Royal Academy, in the town on Tain, Scotland, and received a thorough education. After leaving school he entered under an indenture of apprenticeship in the North of Scotland Bank, and served his full term of three years in this institution, and through his closeness and persevering attention to business, raised himself from position to position until he was appointed accountant, and was stationed at the town of Elgin, Scotland, where he remained until 1848. In the year he left Scotland and came to Canada to which country the majority of the family had already gone and settled in Hamilton. After arriving in Hamilton he entered into the employ of the famous A. & T. Kerr, wholesale dry goods, as head book-keeper. He remained with this firm for two years then left and bought out the retail dry goods business of A. & G. McKeand, in partnership with Thomas Balmer. After remaining for a short time in business, he dissolved the partnership and went to New York, United States of America. After spending some time in New York, he was appointed to a branch of the business of Messrs. Daniel, Elgin & Co., Mobile, Alabama. In 1853 he came back to Canada having entered the wholesale firm of Kerr, Mackenzie & Co., of London and Hamilton, and assisted his brother, John I. Mackenzie, in winding up the retail business in Ingersoll, of which John I. Mackenzie was proprietor. After closing up this business, in 1857, he entered the employ as financial manager of the great contractor, Samuel C. Ridley, of Hamilton, and assisted in the building of the St. Catharines viaduct, the ballasting of the Great Western Railway, the finishing of the Sarnia branch and the western, forty-eight miles of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railway, with the wharves and elevators at Detroit and Grand Haven. The eventful non-payment of the money advanced to the Great Western Railway by the Commercial Bank was the cause of the downfall of the latter institution. In the meantime Mr. Mackenzie went to England and joined Mr. Ridley, who had previously gone there and secured contracts in Hampshire, and also the main drainage in the city of London, Mr. Mackenzie being manager of the partnership of Messrs. Ridley & Webster. He remained there until 1871, when he returned to Canada; but before his return he also managed the construction of the celebrated Thames embankment, one of the most wonderful works in the world. The first division of this work cost 530,000 sterling. He also travelled through the principal parts of the Continent, and was in England at the time of the Franco-Prussian war. After his return he entered into partnership with the late John Shedden (proprietor of the Shedden Transfer & Carting Co.), and was engaged in the building of the Northern Division of the Toronto Grey & Bruce R. R. to Owen Sound, and again the division from Mount Forest to Larriston. In 1873, during the building of this road, Mr. Sheddon was killed on the ?ipissing R. R. However, the partnership still existed under the original name of Mackenzie & Co. In 1874 the Toronto, Grey & Bruce Company failed to pay the advances made by Mackenzie & Co., and they became insolvent. By the insolvency Mr. Mackenzie lost his entire fortune. He surrendered everything he owned to his late partner (Mr. Shedden's) executors, on condition that he would be released from further liability. Instead of being discouraged by the great loss, Mr. Mackenzie at once began to accumulate another fortune, and after different ventures was appointed manager of the Toronto House Building Association, afterwards changed to the name of the Land Security Co., which position he now holds, and as a proof of his push and energy, we can look upon one instance, viz. :- Mr. Mackenzie was the main mover in the purchase of the Gwynne estate and the O'Hara estate on which the town of Parkdale now stands, and his (Mr. Mackenzie's) company were the builders of the principal part of the place, and through his exertions the town has risen from a mere hamlet to one of the finest suburbs of the city of Toronto. Mr. Mackenzie, both outside and in public meetings, has been called and addressed as the Father of Parkdale. With regard to the company, Mr. Mackenzie has, through his indomitable and persistent pluck and push, raised it to the position of being the foremost in Toronto, and their suite of offices are really a credit to this city. The building in which they are belongs to the company, and is known as the Victoria Chambers, situated on Victoria St. In 1885 the residents of St. Mark's Ward, Toronto, elected him alderman to represent them in the City Council. He was married in 1855 to Euphemia Grieve, daughter of the late Geo. Grieve, coal owner, of Aberdour, Fifeshire, Scotland, and at her present age she is a tall, stately dignified lady, and of a kindly disposition, besides very affectionate and motherly. By this marriage there are seven children - three boys and four girls. Mr. George G. Mackenzie, the eldest son, being head book-keeper in the Land Security Co. He is a shrewd business man. The second son, Mr. Samuel R. Mackenzie, studied the drug business, and is now the manager of the largest drug establishment in Montreal, and one of the handsomest places in Canada, know as the Medical Hall, Windsor Hotel, Montreal. A brother of the subject of the sketch, Mr. Campbell Mackenzie, is now the managing partner of the Sheddon Co., Toronto. Mr. Mackenzie has a shrewd, keen look, and is held in high esteem by all with whom he comes in contact, and outside business he is sociable and kindly, as all those who visit his fine residence, known as Ardchronie, on Delaware ave., can testify. He belongs to the Freemasons; in religion is a Presbyterian, and in politics a Liberal.


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