McKay, Thomas
b. 1797(?)
d. 1850-04(?)
Thomas McKay was born in 1797 in Sault, Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada to Alexander McKay and Marguerite Wadin, a Métis woman. McKay's primary recognition lies in his construction and ownership of Fort Boise, near the Snake River, in 1834.1 Due to his father's connection and entrance in the Northwest Company around 1791, Mckay too joined in the business and at the age of 14 became a clerk to the HMS Tonquin.2 McKay arrived in the Columbia Region with his father in 1811; although his father perished soon thereafter in an attack on the coast of Vancouver Island. After the death of his father, McKay continued to work for the Northwest company, even fighting on the side of the Northwest Company and the Métis against the Hudson's Bay Company in 1815.3
Later, McKay would be transferred to HBC where he would continue his work as a clerk. Beyond being a clerk, McKay was described as a successful Indian trader, hunter, and guide, often he was at Fort Vancouver in which he would join fur brigade expeditions.4 And, from 1826 to 1828, McKay took part in the Snake Country Brigades under Ogden. By 1832, it seems that McKay retired from the HBC, but even after his retirement he continued to work on and off for the company for many years after.5 In 1834, for example, McKay was encouraged by his step-father Dr. John McLoughlin to build Fort Boise as a challenge to the American Fort Hall.6
McKay kept ownership of Fort Boise until the late 1840s when he was chosen as the captain to lead the militia in the Cayuse War in the aftermath of the Whitman Massacre.7 After his involvement in the war, Peter Burnett selected McKay to lead the first wagon trains from Oregon to the California gold fields which proved to be a difficult task; not only due to the passageway but as a child McKay suffered a hip dislocation which permanently lamed him, his injury remained with him until his death.8 It is unclear what McKay did after this or when his specific date of death is, it has been said he died somewhere between November 1849 and April 1850 of unknown causes.9
Mentions of this person in the documents
People in this document

McLoughlin, John

Ogden, Peter Skeene

Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Places in this document


Fort Hall

Fort Vancouver

Snake River

Vancouver Island