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Mini Bios of People of Scots Descent
Biography of John McKENZIE

Submitted by Valerie Crook, <>

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 359

JOHN McKENZIE is a Scotch Canadian, and the background of his early life and experience was a thrifty farm on the north shore of Lake Erie. With the characteristic enterprise of his race he fitted himself for complete exercise of all the talents he possessed. He became a teacher and then qualified himself for the ministry. He has several degrees from colleges and universities, marking stages in his training for usefulness. For the past thirteen years West Virginia has been the scene of his activities. He has found time to do regular church work as a pastor, but the community at Philippi at least particularly appreciates the work he has done in building up a thoroughly modern and efficient school system for that city.

Mr McKenzie was born at Chatham, Ontario, July 20, 1874, son of Murdoch and Ann (Wilkinson) McKenzie, Loth of Scotch ancestry. His grandfather, Murdoch McKenzie, was born in the Scotch Highlands, representing one of the historic clans of the country, and on coming to America settled near Chatham, Ontario, and devoted the rest of his life to the farm. His son Murdoch was also a farmer, and died in August, 1920, at the age of eighty-two. Of his eight children six are still living: John;
Kenneth, a farmer at the old home; Alexander and Roland, also farmers near Chatham; Etta, wife of Robert Henderson; and Miss Mary Belle.

While a boy on the Ontario farm John McKenzie attended public school in a country district where the average term was ten and a half months. After completing his work in the Dover public school he entered the Chatham Collegiate Institute, finished the course there, and then trained for teaching in a model school at Chatham. For several years he taught in public school work, and followed that with a year in the Hamilton Normal School at Hamilton as a student of his chosen profession. He attended Toronto University one year, and after an intermission of two years, during which he did high school work, he returned to the University and graduated A. B. in 1903, being one of the honor men of his class. In preparation for the ministry Mr. McKenzie pursued his theological studies in Knox College of Toronto tor three years, graduating in 1906. In that year he was ordained minister of a church at Hornby, Ontario, and preached there two years. In the fall of 1908, continuing his higher education, he entered Yale University at New Haven, and in 1909 received his Master of Arts degree and the Bachelor of Divinity degree from the divinity school.

With this preparation Mr. McKenzie came to West Virginia to take up the substantial work of his life. In September, 1909, he began his duties as a member of the faculty of Davis and Elkins College of Elkins. For six years he held the chair of English in that school and for two years was dean. He left the college to become principal and superintendent of the public schools of Belington. During the next four years he proved his ability as an administrator and as a progressive factor .in educational work by adding to the curriculum of the school's agriculture and commercial courses.

In September, 1919, Mr. McKenzie answered the call to a new field of labor at Philippi, as superintendent of the public schools. Philippi high school at that time was rated in the "second class," the high school work being done by two teachers and a three-year course. The school building was without any modern facilities, and had been constructed a number of years before at a cost of about $20.000. In the two school years since Mr. McKenzie took charge, Philippi has been given "first class rating" among the schools of the state. There are now five teachers in charge of the high school program, which is a four-year course. Additions to the course under Mr. McKenzie have been science, chemistry and commercial subjects, while plans are now under way for the establishment of a domestic science course and then manual training. On the site of the old building stands a modern school structure which cost the community $125,000. It contains a gymnasium 43 by 85 feet, an auditorium seating 700 people, and about $800 have been expended in addition to laboratory equipment and for 1922 $400 were appropriated for books and periodicals for the school library. It is the policy of the school to give the students some vocational guidance for their future work, and many of the graduates since Mr. McKenzie took charge have continued their education in higher institutions.

In the ministry Mr. McKenzie did his first work in West Virginia as a supply in Randolph County, and his first regular pastorate was at Beverly in the same county. He has served as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Philippi, and has been pastor at Belington for seven years.

At Hesper, Ontario, in July, 1910, Mr. McKenzie married Mary Christina Gilchrist, a daughter of Peter Gilchrist, also of Scotch ancestry. Her parents were born in Scotland and were Canadian farmers. Mr. and Mrs. McKenzie have three children, Margaret, John and William.

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