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Significant Scots
Mackay, James


James Mackay was born in Arichliney, Parish of Kildonan, County of Sutherland, in the far north Highlands of Scotland. He was the 18th Century’s most experienced explorer of North American Rivers.

Mackay was a Clerk in the Canadian Fur Trade, Fur Trader, Explorer and Map Maker. Using Mackay’s notes Antoine Soulard a Spanish Territory Official and good friend of Mackay made a map in 1795 showing Mackay’s trip from the Saskatchewan River in Canada weaving through the Rocky Mountains and ending at the gap in the Mountains and the area of the Yellowstone River.

James Mackay was the first person to write of the river he called “Rochejaune” meaning “Yellowstone” when he was working in the Canadian Fur Trade. It is still today known as the Yellowstone River and runs through what became America’s first national park – The Yellowstone National Park.

James Mackay was the author of the most complete Missouri River Map used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. With his map and instructions they were directed to the gap which allowed them to cross the Rocky Mountains.

Mackay was employed by the Spanish and became Captain-Commandant of the District of St. Charles which covered all the areas west of the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. His employment ended with the Territories purchase by the United States.

James Mackay was the beloved husband of Elizabeth Louise Long, known to historians as Isabella L. Mackay. They were the parents of 9 children. He was a Missouri Judge and Missouri State Legislator.

Read more about him here


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