Heritage \ Writings \

John Donald MacKinnon (1841-1914)
Born Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, settle in Bay City, MI, prominent businessman.

1915 biography. Added Oct., 2009.

History of Michigan, by Charles Moore, 1915.


That Bay City now has a distinctive place among Michigan centers of industry is due to the presence and activities here of a notable group of business organizers and promoters, men of exceptional capacity, skilled and thoroughly trained in the mechanical arts and with a vision and foresight that enable them to establish and build up concerns of more than ordinary local importance. Among such establishments which have existed and given prosperity to Bay City for many years the MacKinnon Boiler and Machine Company is easily one of the most important, and the industry in its formative and later development has existed and flourished in the city upwards of half a century.

Its founder and a citizen to whom Bay City owes much for its material prosperity was John Donald MacKinnon. For some years he was retired from active executive control of the business, but his career deserves a memorial as one of he strongest industrial leaders of his time in Bay City. The present and general manager of the works at this time is Hector Donald MacKinnon, and the vice-president is Arthur Custer MacKinnon, both being sons of the founder.

John Donald MacKinnon, whose death on June 4, 1914, bereaved the community of a most honorable member, was born at Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, March 17, 1841. When nineteen years of age, in 1860, he moved to New York city, and his early career was passed as a sailor. Eighteen months were spent before the mast on a vessel plying between New York City and the West Indies. In 1863 he came to Cleveland, and, giving up maritime pursuits, he learned the trade of boiler making in the shops of the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad Company, under Neil MacKinnon, an uncle, who was superintendent. On leaving that service Mr. MacKinnon worked in shops in Columbus, Ohio, Chicago, and in Dubuque, Iowa, and on July 8, 1864, took another important step in life when he married Miss Agnes Kirk. She was born in Scotland. In 1866 John Donald MacKinnnon became one of the organizers of the Variety Iron Works at Cleveland, Ohio.

Selling out his interests in the last mentioned enterprise in the spring of 1867, Mr. MacKinnon move to Bay City, Michigan. There a partnership was formed with William Bestor and they engaged in boiler making. In 1868 the firm became MacKinnon & Kirk, Joseph T. Kirk being the junior partner. That in a short time was the leading concern of its kind in Bay City, but in 1869 the firm was dissolved and Mr. MacKinnon continued along under a new title, the Bay City Steam Boiler Works. Some years later Mr. MacKinnon added a general machine shop, foundry, pattern making and blacksmith shop to the original establishment, and the new concern became known as the MacKinnon Manufacturing Company. Under his vigorous enterprise and management the manufacturing included a general line of structural steel, boilers, tankage, heavy castings and general machinery. Mr. MacKinnon had started out with little or no capital, had begun by relying on his skill as a journeyman worker, had the capacity for growing with his opportunities, and at the time of his retirement in 1902 was the esteemed employer of a force aggregating about one hundred men, and had the satisfaction of knowing that his energy had built up one of the most substantial industrial plants in Bay City.

John Donald MacKinnon served Bay City in the office of alderman of the Fourth Ward to two terms, from 1878 to 1882. For four years he was bridge commissioner for Bay City, and during that time did a great deal of public spirited work in behalf of the city, a monument to which service is now seen in the Third Street Bridge across the Saginaw river, that being considered still the best bridge in the city. Mr. MacKinnon also had much other public service to his credit, including four years as police commissioner and five years as a water commissioner. Outside of his industrial interests he built up a large property in general real estate and throughout his active career was ready to do his share of improvement and to take a hand whenever needed in public enterprise. In politics he was always a Democrat, affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and, with his family, worshipped in the Presbyterian faith. On retiring from business, John Donald MacKinnon and his wife spent two winters in travel, during which they visited the Bermudas and Porto Rico, and then took up their home at Ocean Park, in California. Of their five children, three are deceased, and two now living are Hector D. and Arthur C. MacKinnon.

Hector Donald MacKinnon was born in Cleveland, Ohio, January 19, 1867, had a public school education at Bay City, and was a student in the Orchard Lake Military Academy. When seventeen years of age he chose to enter the shops of his father and find there the opportunities for his individual career. He thus grew up in the business, and since his father's retirement has been the active head of a concern which has not by any means ceased to expand and grow under his management.

Mr. MacKinnon, in addition to other business interests, is a director of the Crystal Ice & Water Company, director in the Bay City Market Company, director of the Michigan Manufacturers' Association, vice-president of the Bay City Board of Commerce, vice-president of American Boiler Manufacturers' Association, and takes a leading part in business and social and civic affairs. Like his father, he is a Democrat in politics and is a thirty-second degree Mason, a Knight Templar, belongs to the Shrine, and also to the Bay City Club, the Bay City Boat Club, and the Country Club.

Arthur Custer MacKinnon, vice-president of the MacKinnon Boiler and Machine Company, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, Aguust 3, 1870, was educated in the local schools, then entered the Michigan Agricultural College at Lansing, and was graduated in mechanical engineering in 1895. With this equipment he returned to Bay City and entered his father's manufacturing plant, and has demonstrated his technical and business abiltiy in may ways and has earned his present place as superintendent of the works. He is also identified with a number of business and civic concerns in the city.

Arthur C. MacKinnon married Miss Charlotte Hodgkins of Bay City, in 1898. Their three daughers are: Jessie Hodgkins, Mary Kirk, and Charlotte Agnes MacKinnon. Mr. MacKinnon belongs to the Bay City Club, is a Mason and Shriner, and a Republican in politics.

Additional Notes.

    The MacKinnon Mfg. Co., was located at 218 N. Water St. and the MacKinnon Boiler & Machine Co., was located at 213-230 N. Water St.

    1880 Census, Bay City, Mich.

  • McKinnon, John D., born 1842, Canada
  • McKinnon, Agness, wife
  • Children: Hector D., John R., and Arthur.

    1883 Michigan Deaths:

  • McKinnon, John D, Feb. 3, 1883, parents John D. and Agnes McKinnon.

    1913 - The Iron Age, Vol. 91, Issues 12-18

  • Page 749. - The MacKinnon Boiler & Machine Company, Bay City, has acquired a site of five acres on Garfield avenue, adjoining the Pere Marquette Railroad, on which it is planned to erect an entire new plant. Details of the construction and equipment are not yet available.
Related Pages/Notes

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Bestor, William
Hodgkins, Charlotte
Hodgkins, Charlotte A.
Hodgkins, Jessie
Hodgkins, Mary K.
Kirk, Agne (wife)
Kirk, Joseph T.
MacKinnon, Arthur C. (son)
MacKinnon, John D. (subject)
MacKinnon, Hector D. (son)
MacKinnon, Neil (uncle)
Subjects Referenced
American Boiler Mfrs. Assoc.
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
Bay City Bd. Commerce
Bay City Market Co.
Bay City Steam Boiler Works
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
C,C,C, Railroad
Chicago, IL
Cleveland, OH
Columbus, OH
Crystal Ice & Water Co.
Dubuque, IW
Lansing, MI
MacKinnon Boiler & Mach. Co.
MacKinnon Mfg. Co.
MI Agricultural College
MI Manufacturers' Assoc.
New York, NY
Orchard Lake Military Acad.
Saginaw River, MI
Third Street Bridge
Variety Iron Works
West Indies
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.