DUNCAN MACKAY SR.
Salem Township
Carroll County IL




Duncan MacKay was of Highland Scotch parentage, and was born in Sutherland Shire, Scotland, in January 1812. His parents were James MacKay and Anna (MacDonald) MacKay, and were both descended from families famous in the annals of Scotland. His father was, however, a man of peace, and famous only for his fine cattle, horses and sheep, of which he was a very successful breeder. Duncan was reared to the same gentle occupation, and assisted his father on the Highland farm until he was fifteen years of age. His education was only such as boys in his station usually got in Scotland at that time, except a term or two at a high school. In 1833 when twenty one years of age, he came to Nova Scotia, with an elder brother and sister, but not meeting with the proper encouragement in that country, in 1835 they moved just across the line and established themselves in Milton, Maine in the business of carriage making, a business they had successfully until the panic of 1837. This was the first financial revulsion of which they had ever heard, and it was a new experience when their debtors refused to pay or return their goods. The crisis prostrated their business and they were compelled to close it up.

His brother William came West at once, while Duncan remained to settle up the affairs of the firm, and collect what he could. It took over two years to do this, but he had the satisfaction in 1840 of bringing with him West the greater part of the amount due them, aggregating about $4000.00. The elder brother originally started for the Pacific coast, intending to embark on business once more, at Vancouver's Island, or somewhere in the vicinity of Puget Sound, but passing over the matchless prairies of the West, he received a new revelation, and could get no further than Carroll County, Illinois. Thither Duncan followed, and they invested every dollar they could raise in the fine prairie soil of what is now Salem township, and stock of various kinds to grow upon it. The visions of possible soil wealth to be realized in stock raising upon Illinois prairies where the soil was inexhaustable, and hay and pasturage free, must have been dazzling in extreme to the young Scotch herdsmen; yet as the events proved fully capable of realization. The land had not yet been surveyed or come into market, and the brothers bought out the claims of seven squatters, amounting to about 1,120 acres. Of this amount Mr. MacKay owned about 600 in a body.

Mr. MacKay married his cousin, Miss Jessie MacKay, while still in Nova Scotia. His parents and the rest of his father's family had come over, and to the new home in the Far West they all came. A small three-story log house at first gave shelter for a time to the entire company, numbering twenty-four grown persons, besides children, until houses could be built, and homes provided for all. In this original home, sanctified by religion, guarded by integrity,and supported by industry, such peace, happiness and contentment reigned, as rarely falls to the lot of man. For several years the family carried on the business of farming and stock raising , and grew rich, yet no member of the prosperous and happy community being able at any time to say "this is mine and that is thine". Mr MacKay was from youth an anti-slavery man, and took a keen interest in the growing contest between the two gigantic forces of freedom and slavery. He was opposed to the doctrine of aquatter sovereignty advocated by Douglas, while a great admirer of that great man and the abilities of. Then the war cloud burst upon the country. He was an enthusiastic and very efficient supporter of the government. He was at all times ready, with his counsel passed, was among the first to aid the government. Uniting with others the First National Bank of Mt. Carroll was established with a capital of $50,000. Confederate bonds and currency at that time were bearing a higher price than those of the government, and the outlook for the National cause was very grave, yet from purely patriotic motives these gentlemen came to the assistance of the government in her darkest hour, as fortunately did thousands of others, and with a rescued nation they have their reward. James Mark was the first president of the bank. He was succeeded the year following by Mr. MacKay who remained the Cheif Officer to the time of his death.

March 23, 1882 Mr. MacKay had the misfortune to lose by fire his fine residence with the greatest part of its contents, at Oakville, where he had resided since first coming to Illinois. He then removed to Morrison, Dr. L. Smith having solicited Mr. MacKay to join him in a private bank in that city. He consented to do so, and the bank was formed, he remaining a partner therein until his withdrawal therefrom in 1887. June 6th, 1882, he joined his brother, John MacKay, and several others, in establishing a bank at Savanna, in Carroll County, with which he maintained his connection until his death. He was thus interested in three financial institutions, but with all his banking business, he never relinquished his interests in farming, and at one time owned twelve farms, all of which he either worked or rented.

Without solicitation on his part in 1873 he received from Governor Beveridge appointment as one of the United States commissioners to the Vienna Expostion. With out any expense to the government he attended to his duties there, and afterward made the tour of Europe. Subsequently, he made two successive trips to Colorado for his health which with his excessive labors and advancing years was at times somewhat precarious. Mr. MacKay, as might be supposed, was a staunch temperance man. The death of one of his workmen while in Maine from exposure while under the influence of liquor, opened his eyes while yet a young man, to the awful character of the Liquor traffic, and he solemnly took a pledge, and put it into writing, thereafter neither to use it himself nor furnish it to his men. To that pledge he has sacredly adhered through a long life, and to it ascribed much of his prosperity. The danger of freely signing his name to other mens paper, early caused him to make it a rule never to do so except in cases of necessity or charity, and although ready at all times with a helping hand for the needy or deserving, he has found other means to aid them without violating a very wise and useful pledge. In religion Mr. MacKay was Presbyterian, in politics a republican, and everywhere a gentleman. He has never sought office, but always discouraged any effort to force it upon him, yet when elected has faithfully discharged his duties.

Mr. MacKay's health had not been good for a number of years, but he attended assiduously to his various business interest until the death of a greatly loved daughter about a year ago, the loss of whom brought him great sorrow and he never fully recovered from the shock produced by her death. From that time his failing health has been noticable. He recovered from several severe attacks of the disease with which he was afflicted, and previous to the attack of heart trouble which terminated his life was more free from pain than for years, and hopes were entertained by his family and friends that his life might be prolonged for several years at least. On the day preceding his death he had been unusually cheerful, had walked about his home, and entertained visiting friends. Shortly after retiring he was noticed to be breathing heavily, and although everything possible was done to prolong life, about midnight the heart failed to perform its functions, and he peacefully sank to his final sleep.

Mr. MacKay was an upright and honorable citizen, and through his long career of usefulness won the respect and confidence of all with whom he came in contact. He was a great philanthropist and during his life gave away unostentatiously large sums of money to aid the freed men, the cause of home and foreign missions; church educational institutions, as well as dispensing with a family of nine children, all married, and with the widow with numerous relatives are left to mourn the loss of a loving father, husband and friend. The funeral services were held last Sunday afternoon, Rev. J. Frothingham of Waukegan, Illinois, holding short services at the residence, after which they repaired to the Presbyterian church where impressive ceremonies were conducted by Rev. J. W. Skinner, assisted by Rev. Frothingham. Besides prominent citizens of Mt. Carroll, Savanna and Lanark, and numerous old friends and neighbors from the vicinity of Mr. MacKay's old home in Carroll county were also present to pay the last sad tribute of respect to the departed. At the conclusion of the services of the church the body was taken to Grove Hill Cemetery, where it was interred beside his daughter. The pall bearers were composed of nephews and grandsons of the deceased. The honorary pall bearers were Hons. James Shaw, James Hunter, Samuel Preston of Mt. Carroll, D. W. Dame of Lanark, Wm. Finlison of Oakville, Hon H. C. Burchard and Judge E. P. Barton of Freeport, Chas Bent, Robt.Wallace and Wm. Frazer of Morrison.

Source: Rose Correa-Young

MACKAY, Duncan; Banker, Farmer and Stock Raiser; P.O. Mt. Carroll; born in Sutherlandshire, Scotland, in 1812; came to Nova Scotia in 1833, and to Maine in 1835; he engaged in the manufacture of fine carriages, and did an extensive business, but in 1837 his affairs suffered on account of the panic; In 1840 he removed to carroll Co. Ill; purchased several claims on arriving here, one of which is his present residence in the Township of Salem; Mr. Mackay has given especial attention to the raising and developing of horses, having some of the finest specimens to be found in the country of the Percheron stock, having taken the sweepstake premium at the State Fair at Freeport in the Fall of 1877; In 1862 he associated with seven other citizens of Carroll Co. in establishing the First National Bank at Mt. Carroll, with a paid up capital of $50,000 increasing in the second year to $100,000; Mr. M. has been President of this institution for the last 14 years; has held most of the Co. offices of trust and confidence in the gift of the people; in 1873 Gov. Beveridge appointed him Commissioner to the Vienna Exposition; after discharging the duties connected therewith he traveled extensively in Europe, where born; married Miss Jessie Mackay, of Nova Scotia, June 9, 1840; had twelve children; Anna M, Donald J, Helen B, Jennie M, Lena B, Kate and Ellen, (twins), Charles, Henrietta J, M. Jenette, Duncan and Ada.

History of Carroll Co. Directory 1878

Mackay Hall / Platte County MO
Duncan MacKay Headstone

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