Who Was Rachel McKay?

  • Jul. 10, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Pipestone Flyer

The City of Leduc has a program where individuals who have made major contributions to the development of the community are honored with having a neighbourhood or community park named after them. To date four women have received that honour. One of them is Rachel McKay.

Rachel McKay was born in August of 1873 in Breechburg, Ontario of Irish Catholic decent. On April 23rd, 1896 23 year old Rachel married a 28-year-old young man from Pembroke in our nation’s capital. Owen McKay was a likeable young man working for the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR). Unknown to them, at the time, the two were destined to make a major impact on the development of Leduc.

In 1898, the CPR wanted to add a station manager to the Leduc Station. Up to that time George A. Liggins was both the section foreman and station manager for Leduc and as the volume of business increased the CPR decided that they needed a separation of duties and offered the station manager position to McKay. Owen was working in Northern Ontario in the Muskoka District and had just become a father with the birth of his daughter, May, in 1897, but was able to convince Rachel that their future laid to the west.

Owen was a skilled telegraphy operator and very likeable with his enthusiastic approach to his work. He would often say that CPR stood for Courtesy, Patience, and Reliability.

He realized that homesteaders needed service when they needed it and often that was not during business hours, so he made himself available day or night. Over the years this would take a toll on his body, especially when you consider the many responsibilities he added to serve Leduc’s municipal needs, and then establish a sideline farm just west of Leduc. Early in 1906 he joined with newcomer Charles R. Carroll to establish a land sale and insurance business, which would evolve into today’s Gaetz Insurance.

Owen would die suddenly in 1907 and never get to see the birth of his fifth child, a girl named Cathleen. Rachel had become a widow at the age of 34 with five young children and only a small farm to make a living. The citizens of Leduc rallied around the young family, and in 1908, when Leduc’s postmistress Jo Clough married and moved to Edmonton, they convinced the government to award the position to Rachel. Rachel would become Leduc’s third postmaster and would continue in that position until 1948.

Rachel’s personality was similar to her husband’s, and it wasn’t long before the post office became the center of not only picking up your mail but also for exchanging the news of the day. For the next forty years Rachel was Leduc’s postmistress and was able to raise her five children in the place she and her husband had come to love. May, her oldest, became a schoolteacher and her son, Kenneth, would succeed her as postmaster by the end of 1948. Her daughter Glennie moved to Los Angles with her husband Jack Haggerty, while Gertrude and Kathy both married and settled in Edmonton to raise their families.

By 1947 Leduc’ population had out grown the capabilities of the post office and when the mail for the Christmas season inundated the Post Office and one could barely see the top of Rachel’s head, the community knew it was time for a bigger Post Office. With the support of the Board of Trade, Leduc was able to convince the federal government to purchase the recently closed Maple Leaf Café and convert it into a post office. It would take most of the year to convert the Café and when it opened in November of 1948 Rachel’s son had become Leduc’s Postmaster.

Rachel was 76 and ready for retirement after being an integral part of Leduc’s progress during its earliest years. Rachel would live long enough to watch the construction of the Federal Building and the new Post Office in 1950 before passing away at 79 in 1951. Her son would remain as postmaster until 1965 bringing an end to the McKay’s involvement in delivering the mail to Leduc citizens after fifty-seven years.

In recognition of the contribution Rachel McKay made to the development of Leduc, a neighbourhood park was named after her along Black Gold Drive across the street from the Gateway Family Church, not far from where her husband and she had established their small farm. Who was Rachel McKay? She was an example of that pioneer spirit that made Leduc the city it has become and a woman that did what she had to do to survive and make a lasting home for her children.

Pictured: Rachel McKay Park alongside Black Gold Drive in Leduc, AB. Photo by Tom Dirsa

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read