MacKay, Angus (1840-1931)

Angus MacKay.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A6805

Angus MacKay was the first superintendent of the Indian Head Experimental Farm. Born January 3, 1840 in Pickering Township, Upper Canada, he received his education at a grammar school in Whitby. He married Elizabeth Gunn and they raised four children. In 1866 he was a lieutenant in the 34th Regiment of Fort Erie at the time of the Fenian raid. The son of a farmer, and a farmer himself, MacKay moved west in 1882 with three companions. Arriving at Indian Head, the four men took up homesteads which they farmed co-operatively. In December 1886 and October 1887, he accompanied Dr. William Saunders, the first director of the Experimental Farms Service, on his two western visits and assisted in choosing the land for the first Dominion experimental farm in the North-West Territories. During 1887, MacKay spent some time at the newly established Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa to become aware of the aims and expectations of the future experimental farm. His appointment as superintendent was made in late 1887.

To meet the needs of new settlers for accurate information on the best crop varieties to grow and animal breeds to raise under the harsh prairie conditions, he initiated long-term studies with field crops, animal husbandry and horticulture. In this capacity, he had a profound influence on the development of agriculture in the west. He also stressed summer fallowing as a means of raising crops successfully in drought years. A major facet of Angus MacKay’s extension work was his cherished correspondence. In 1894 he listed 1,770 letters received and 2,448 dispatched; by 1905 the respective figures had increased to 7,820 and 7,874.

Angus MacKay was a member of the advisory council in agriculture of the University of Saskatchewan and in 1922, in recognition for his work in agriculture, the university conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws. Upon his retirement in 1913, the government retained his services in an advisory capacity as Inspector of Western Farms, a position he held until his death at Indian Head on June 10, 1931.

Allan E. Smith

Further Reading

Johnson, W.E. and A.E. Smith. 1986. Indian Head Experimental Farm 1886–1986. Research Branch Agriculture Canada Historical Series No. 23; Rossie, D.E. 1984. Indian Head: History of Indian Head and District. Regina: Brigdens Photo Graphics.