Thomas McKay

c. 1796 - 1850

McKay, Thomas, fur trader (c. 1796-1850). His place of birth is not recorded, but he was a quarter Cree; is father, Alexander McKay, resigned from the North West Company to join Astor, bringing Thomas along as a clerk. Thomas reached the Oregon coast aboard the Tonquin in 1811, his father perishing in the Indian attack on the ship later off Vancouver Island. Tom survived an Indian attack in January 1814, near The Dalles. When the Astoria company was sold to the North West Company, McKay transferred his allegiance. He became involved in the Red River dispute between North West and Hudson's Bay Company men, taking part in the Massacre of Seven Oaks in 1816, returning to the Columbia River probably with Peter Skene Ogden. McKay trapped western Oregon for several seasons, his services being retained when the HBC absorbed the North West Company in 1821. Initially favored by George Simpson, HBC governor, McKay fell into disfavor for unexplained reasons, and never rose much in the company, but he became a principal lieutenant of Ogden's. He tried farming in 1833 near Champoeg, Oregon, became an independent trader in 1834. He worked occasionally for HBC thereafter, had a role in the aftermath of the Whitman massacre, went to California briefly during the Gold Rush, and returned to die in Oregon.