Downtown 1958

Downtown 1958

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Captain L.B. MacKinnon

November 10, 1852 The Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
Captain Laughlin Bellingham MacKinnon was one of the early benefactors of Menasha, and, as evidenced by the news article above,  maintained a high stature to the early residents. 

"As investment opportunities in the East declined, merchants looked elsewhere. The Indian territory in Wisconsin opened to settlers after the treaties of the 1830's. New England Yankees saw the Fox River Valley as an ideal spot for industrialization and for serving a rapidly growing population. Among the investors was Captain L. B. MacKinnon of Scotland who had served in the Royal Navy. While visiting New York, he met Governor James Doty who persuaded him to visit Doty Island in 1852.   They came to Cleveland, and from there, on a Government boat, came to Green Bay, and together drove on to Menasha, where the Governor had property, on Doty's Island. The captain lived here some time, returning to England, occasionally, to look after his interests there.  He was enthusiastic about the area because of its future possibilities for industries and he was also attracted to the hunting and fishing."  

His travels in America led him to publish a book, Atlantic and Trans Atlantic Sketches, Afloat and Ashore, in 1852. 

"It is related that the first night, while stopping with Gov. Doty on the island, the captain occupied the ground floor, with an open window, against which a large wooden tray was placed, to be upset if a bear should poke in his nose; and, sure enough, a bear came and awoke the captain, who seized his gun, and they had bear steak for breakfast the next morning.  He purchased extensive amounts of land throughout the Island, to include the property at the end of Keyes Street. In addition to residing at this location, he also bred cattle and other animals there. MacKinnon's pride was his horse, "King of Cymbry" which was shipped from England in 1854 with highly bred beef cattle, a Durham bull (referred to as "Menasha Mac"), sheep, and chickens.  The land on which St. Patrick's Church was built was a gift from MacKinnon. He improved roads, constructed a crib bridge across the north channel of the Fox River, and cut a road through the dense forest on the Island. Nicolet Boulevard was originally named "MacKinnon Avenue" and extended from Lake Winnebago to Little Lake Butte des Morts."

Capt. MacKinnon died in 1877 during a return visit to Great Britain. He was 59.

His sons became noteworthy in Menasha, as well- Duncan T.H. MacKinnon, founder of the MacKinnon Excelsior Factory (wood shavings used for stuffing carriage seats), and the other, Falkland MacKinnon, became a foreman and manager of the Menasha Wooden Ware and later worked in the lumber business in Wausau.
Sources: History of Northern Wisconsin (1881); Memories of Doty Island: A Link Between Two Cities (1999); History, Winnebago County, Wisconsin: Its Cities, Towns, Resources, People (1908)

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