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Mini Bios of People of Scots Descent
Thomas McKinnon Biography

This biography appears on pages 296-297 in "History of Dakota Territory" by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915) 

Hon. Thomas McKinnon, a contractor and builder of Sioux Falls, now representing his district in the upper house of the general assembly, is leaving the impress of his individuality upon the political history as well as the material development of his city and state. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1860, but spent only the first nine years of his life in the land of hills and heather, being brought to America by his father, John McKinnon, who, in 1869, sailed with his family for the new world. Arriving in Chicago, he there engaged in the contracting and building business until the great fire of 1871. In 1878 he became a resident of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and established the contracting business in that city, which is still conducted by his son. Later he took up a homestead in McCook county. He was successfully identified with building operations until his life's labors were terminated in death in 1909, when he had reached the age of seventy-four years. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Margaret Morton, died in the year 1905. In their family were six children, of whom Thomas McKinnon was the third in order of birth, the others being: Gean, the wife of Charles Bechtel, of Los Angeles, California; Laughlin, a prominent builder of Los Angeles, California; John, a contractor of Los Angeles, California; Donald, who is deceased; and James, a banker and contractor of Canistota, South Dakota. 

Aside from his brothers and sister, Mr. McKinnon of this review has no living relatives, his father and mother both being the last survivors of their respective lines. The family home having been established in Evanston, Illinois, he there attended the public schools until 1878, when at the age of eighteen years he came with the family to South Dakota and joined his father in the contracting and building business, with which line of work he has since been prominently identified. In Sioux Falls and in various other sections of the state are seen evidences of his skill and handiwork. Among the many fine public and private buildings which he has erected are the State Normal School at Springfield, South Dakota, the McCook county courthouse, the Salem high school, the Cherokee (Ia.) high school, the Sioux Falls high school the School for Deaf Mutes at Sioux Falls and a score of the largest business and hotel structures in the state. His business makes extensive and heavy demands upon his time and energies, for aside from his activities as a contractor he is the vice president of the Plumbing Supply Company, of Sioux Falls, president of the East Side Sewer Company of Sioux Falls and president of the Sioux Falls Contractors Association. He is also a stockholder in the State Bank & Trust Company of Sioux Falls and he has large real estate interests. 

Yet onerous and important as are the business duties and interests of Mr. McKinnon he has always found time to participate in public affairs relative to the welfare and upbuilding of city and state. He is an active republican, interested in all the important and vital questions affecting state and nation, for more than twenty-seven years has been found in some important public office and has the unusual record of never having been defeated in any election in which he was a candidate. In 1888 he was elected a member of the city council of Sioux Falls and occupied that position for seven years, exercising his official prerogatives in support of many progressive public measures. In 1894 popular suffrage sent him to the state legislature as the representative of his district in the lower house. That his public service has been of a highly commendable character is indicated in the fact that he has been again and again called to office and usually each election has meant a step forward. In 1899 he was elected county commissioner of Minnehaha county and served continuously until 1914, during which period he was for ten years chairman of the board. In the latter year he was elected to the state senate and took his seat in the upper house in 1915, proving one of the most useful, helpful and active members of the senate. He served as chairman of the committee on counties and towns and on the committees on cities under commission government; charitable and penal institutions; food and drugs; and corporations. He was the father of the "park bill," one of the most useful pieces of legislation enacted during that session. He carefully studied each question which came up for settlement and his intelligent advocacy of a measure usually drew to it further support. 

On the 16th of April, 1893, Mr. McKinnon was united in marriage to Miss Kate McFarland, daughter of John and Kate McFarland, of Washington, Illinois. Both were born in Scotland and became pioneer residents of Illinois. Our subject and his wife have three children, namely: Grace M., who is a student in the University of Wisconsin; Donald M., who attends the University of South Dakota; and Ralph A., a student in the Sioux Falls high school. 

The family attend the Presbyterian church, in which Mr. McKinnon holds membership, and his life is further guided by the beneficent principles that underlie the Masonic fraternity, to which he belongs. He finds his chief sources of recreation in hunting and motoring, and knows how to play well as well as to work well. He is interested in the good roads movement and his stand upon any question looking to the upbuilding and betterment of the city and state is a decidedly progressive one. He is one of South Dakota's most substantial and respected citizens, living up to the traditions of a sterling Scotch ancestry and exemplifying in his life the notable spirit of American progress and enterprise which has enabled this country to far outdistance many of the older European countries along various lines.



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