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James Mackay a man to cherish 1761-1822 is a Historical Narrative about a young boy who left his home in the far North of Scotland when he was about 15 or 16 years of age. The story of James Mackay's life is told by his widow, Isabella Long Mackay, to their grandson, John Barker during the summer of 1859. James was born in a long-house croft during the time Scotland was still reeling from the loss of its Sovereignty. He was a Canadian Fur Trader, Explorer and Map Maker. He was the Discoverer of the Yellowstone River. He was the Author of the Missouri River Map used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
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The Author, Helen Ogden Widener learned to love history beginning at the age of Five when she asked her grandfather, Grandpa, what kind of people are we? His answer was Black Dutch. The meaning of Black Dutch is still a mystery but the search led to a love of research and a love of American History. Helen has written three other books of a Historical Nature: Scraps of Life, Quilt top pieced 1850-1860 by Elizabeth Patton Crockett wife of Alamo Hero David Crockett, Irving Centennial Cook and Family Histories 1903-2003, Hutchins of Pine Mountain, 200 years of Migration. Helen is married to retired Irving Attorney, James Widener. They have six children and twelve grandchildren.Review:
Northern Times - Scotland May 23, 2003 Helen Widener is intent on enhancing the modern-day profile of prominent 18th century explorer, James MacKay, who was a native of Strath Halladale. He is credited with making the first maps of long stretches of the Missouri River and carrying out some of the earliest research of several native American Indian Tribes. On her visit last week, Mrs. Widener visited the deserted site of MacKay's family croft home at Arichlinie, near Achentoul. James MacKay, born on May 1, 1761 emigrated to Canada with his brother John soon after leaving school. He was in Canada for Fifteen years, mainly working for the Fur Companies. MacKay first got a taste for frontiersmanship in Canada and went on to explore the unforgiving terrain around the Red River, The Snake River and the Yellowstone River. He charted the then Spanish-owned territory along the Missouri from its source at Saint Charles across country over the Rockies and on to Yellowstone, which most historians believe he named. MacKay is credited with writing the first notes made about the native American Indians in the area. --Northern Times - Scotland May 23, 2003
Wellsville - Optic News, Wellsville, Mo. September 7, 2005 In December the Optic-News received a copy of a book, James MacKay, a man to cherish, written by Helen Ogden Widener. I finally got (took) the time to read the book and it was what I would call a good read said Gay Donaldson, editor of the Optic-News. Now I've passed the book to Sandy Canterbury to read and then I think we'll donate it to the Wellsville Public Library. It's interesting and we think many of our readers would think the same, she concluded. During a phone conversation with Mrs. Widener after I had finished the book, she told me the correct pronounciation of James MacKay's name. I had gone through the book thinking it ended in a long 'a' sound - like a girl's name Kay. Instead, the second syllable is pronounced with a long i sound, , making it rhyme with sky, Mrs. Donaldson added. The story is told as a young man (John Barker) listens to stories about his grandfather from his grandmother, Gram. Mrs. recently attended a book signing at the Tartan Day Celebration in St. Charles. The celebration included the naming of a street named James MacKay. The old James MacKay house was located at 1017 S. Main. The book, James MacKay, is a story based upon what is known of his life and the time period in which he lived. It is told in an oral-narrative form, which has long been used in Scotland to relate history form one generation to the next. The year is 1859 when MacKay's widow, Isabella, tells his story to their grandson, John Barker. It is extremely rare that one finds a man who has led such a diverse life and had such an impact on the history of America and yet remained almost unknown to historians. With the hiring of the MacKay brothers by Fur Trader, Robert Grant, the readers are dropped into the hazards of the colorful Canadian Fur Trade and the wild dances and strange customs of Native Americans in their villages situated along the rivers the MacKays explored. In 1789 James leaves behind the fur trade and joins his brother in New York where they watched, in facination, the Inauguration of George Washington and the birth of a new nation. It was here James met with Spanish Ambassador, Gardoqui. At the time of the meeting James gave Gardoqui a map of the Spanish owned upper Missouri River and information on the Yellowstone River whe had discovered and called Rochejuene. The meeting resulted in James leaving New York for the Louisiana Territories held by the Spanish. The Spanish had little knowledge of the size of the Territories they held. Laws of residence kept James and a group of Explorers from leaving on their expedition up the Missouri River until 1795. James and his Lieutenant were commissioned to learn as much as possible about the natives, makepeace with them, to set up trade, build forts and find a route to the Pacific. James built Fort Charles near the Omaha Village and the Platte River. He sent Lieutenant Evans and a crew of men further up the river to the Mandan Village. MacKay had previously visited the Mandan Indian Village from Canada and taken vegetable seeds for them to grow, including Musk and Watermelon seeds during his fur days in Canada. When MacKay continued his trip to the Mandan Village, he found that seed were carefully preserved each year for planting the next year. Problems with the Indians and the exhaustion of their trade goods kept the exploration from proceeding past the Mandan Village. However, MacKay succeeded, with their field notes, in drawing a very accurate map to the Yellowstone River and making peace with the Indians. It was this map that was the most completemap used by the 1804 Expedition of Lewis and Clark --Wellsville Optic-News September 7, 2005
James MacKay was born May 1, 1761 in the far north Highlands of Scotland in a long-house croft. At the age of 15, he and his brother emigrated to Canada to join the fur trade. he later moved to an area that would become part of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. His map-making ability led to employment with the Spanish government from whom he petitioned land grants in the Louisiana Territories as payment for his work. His explorations produced the Indian Map that charted the Missouri River to the Yellowstone River and served as the basis for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804. MacKay is credited as the first white man to record the Yellowstone River. The Missouri River Map, often called the Indian Map, is now in the Library of Congress. The purchase of the Louisiana Territory changed his life as he sought to expand his survey business and fight the denials of his right to the Land Grants from the Spanish government. Many of his claims went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States where most of them were settled in favor of the claimant. On Tartan Day 2005 in St. Charles, Missouri (where James MacKay lived with his wife and children) a street was named in his honor. They hope to soon raise a life-sized statue of him in recognition of his work which has long been forgotten. --Illinois Saint Andrew Society Chicago, Ill. The Scottish Mapmaker
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