Henry William McKenney

Henry William McKenney (February 24, 1848 – March 11, 1921) was a politician from Alberta, Canada.

Henry William McKenney
Henry William McKenney.jpg
McKenney pictured circa 1904
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
In office
November 1905 – July 1917
ConstituencySt. Albert (1905–09)
Pembina (1909–13)
Clearwater (1913–17)
Personal details
Born(1848-02-24)February 24, 1848
Amherstburg, Essex, Ontario, Canada
DiedMarch 11, 1921(1921-03-11) (aged 73)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Political partyLiberal Party of Alberta
Spouse(s)Mary Risdale
(m. 1885–1921; his death)

McKenney was born in Ontario, the son of a merchant and sailor. After attending schooling, he moved to Manitoba, where soon after he took part in the fur trade. He would briefly move back to Ontario, briefly working in the naval industry before working in the fur trade once again, until he ended up in the Northwest Territories while on a prospecting expedition. There he settled and established a mercantile business in St. Albert, where he settled and became one of its pioneer citizens, serving as the town's postmaster. After selling his business in 1903 and embarking on a trip for the benefit of his health, McKenney settled in Edmonton, where he would own several properties, including the McKenney Building. When Alberta became a province In 1905, he successfully ran for the newly formed Legislative Assembly of Alberta. He would win election twice more to the assembly, in 1909 and 1913, all times as a Liberal. He died in Edmonton in 1921.

Early lifeEdit

He was born in Amherstburg, Essex County, Ontario, in 1848, a son of Augustus and Matilda (née Grandin) McKenney. His mother was of French ancestry from Normandy, France, and his father, of Irish ancestry, was a mariner and merchant. Augustus McKenney came to Canada as a United Empire Loyalist, originally from Detroit, Michigan. McKenney attended primary Catholic and public schooling in his birthplace, until moving to the Red River Colony around 1862.[1] Initially taking up the study of medicine, he soon found himself restless and entered the fur trade.[2] After working in the industry for a couple years, including two years in his family's business, the McKenney family would return home to Amherstburg. There McKenney would go into the marine business, gaining employment with a Detroit company, working as a navigator and eventually receiving his mariner certification in 1869.[3] Around this time, he would also embark his first trip to present-day Western Canada.[4]


The McKenney Building in Edmonton, 1913

Faced with ill health, McKenney then moved to Minnesota, where he was a sutler during the 1869 Red River Rebellion. He would soon move back to Canada, in 1870 moving to Fort Garry and Portage la Prairie before settling at Westbourne, Manitoba, where he once again engaged in the fur trade, in his uncle's business, Henry McKenney & Company,[5] and later in his father Augustus' business.[3] Three years later he would move back to Fort Garry, which was now named Winnipeg; there he would work in a relative's hardware store for two years. On an 1875 trip to the Rocky Mountains on a coal expedition for the Centennial Exposition with a local geologist on which he was serving as an interpreter, McKenney would gain employment with the Hudson's Bay Company as a clerk. On that same trip he would also pass through Fort Edmonton for the first time. In 1883, he later moved to St. Albert, Alberta, where he opened up a store, one of the first businesses of the settlement.[6] He would operate it until 1903, when he sold the business.[3] In St. Albert he also sat on the town's school board as well serving as license commissioner, postmaster (1886–93), justice of the peace, and police magistrate.[4] He also operated a grist mill and was a construction advocate, assisting in building a bridge in 1887.[7] On January 3, 1885, he and Edmonton businessman Alex Taylor would make the first phone call on the first long distance phone system in the Northwest, from McKenney's store to Taylor's office in Edmonton, 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) away.[8] He also played a part in gaining village status for St. Albert, which was incorporated in December 1899.[7]

In 1903, again due to ill health, he would travel once again, this time taking a trip of the Pacific coast, through the neighbouring province of British Columbia, then through the United States, passing through Washington, Oregon, and California. He would later return to Canada and this time settle in the city Edmonton, close to his former residence of St. Albert.[3]

In Edmonton, McKenney was a prominent property owner, owning farms and houses around the city.[9] He was also the original owner and namesake of the McKenney building, a historical 3 story brick faced office building built in Edmonton in 1912 and located at 10187 104 Street. It was originally leased out by a school supply company, a foot ware store, and a fruit market.[10]

Political careerEdit

McKenney as a Member of the Legislature

A lifelong Liberal, McKenney was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in the 1905 Alberta general election in the provincial electoral district of St. Albert.[11] In this election he won as an Independent Liberal, but joined the Liberal caucus.

After redistribution of riding boundaries in the 1909 Alberta general election McKenney was returned to the assembly by acclamation in the brand new riding of Pembina to a second term in office. He was nominated under the Liberal banner in that election.

He won his third term in office again in a new riding in the controversial Clearwater district. The district was controversial because it was created with only 74 enumerated residents. His election victory was not an easy one and he won the election by a single vote, and won only 39% of the popular vote cast.[12] He retired before the 1917 Alberta general election. During his time in office, he was well-regarded as a man of strong personality.[13]

Personal lifeEdit

McKenney was the nephew of prominent Manitoba merchant Henry McKenney. He was also later the nephew of Manitoba Lieutenant Governor John Christian Schultz,[3] whose father, William Ludwig Schultz had married into the family twice; he married McKenney's widowed grandmother Elizabeth, having with her John Christian Schultz. Upon her death, William Ludwig would then marry again, to Henry William McKenney's widowed mother, Matilda (Augustus McKenney died in 1873).[2][14]

On January 12, 1885, [4] Henry Willam McKenney married Mary Risdale, an English immigrant from Manchester.[3] With her he would have seven children: Maud, John Christian, Aloysia Agnes, Frederick, Alice, Frances, and Albert Edward. In St. Albert, he was involved with the First Agricultural Society, serving as its commissioner and secretary-treasurer. At Edmonton, he was a member of the Knights of Columbus, and a member of the Roman Catholic Church, where he was active in the Mutual Benefit Association, at one time serving as its president.[3] At one point, he was the only Roman Catholic in the Alberta Legislature. In Edmonton he was also a member of the Edmonton and Canadian Clubs, as well as the Edmonton Old Timers' Association.[4] He was an avid traveller;[1] apart from his California trip, he also engaged on a trip to Great Britain and Ireland around 1907.[3] He also enjoying reading,[13] and spoke fluent French.[9]

Death and legacyEdit

McKenney died on March 11, 1921 at a hospital in Edmonton, after a long illness. He was survived by his widow and seven children (three sons and four daughters).[13] The Edmonton Bulletin lamented his death, describing him as a "genuine scholar" and "courteous and gallant gentleman", stating that "his death removes from the rapidly disappearing group of old timers, who labored so lovingly the Edmonton ... might prosper".[13] The 1912 publication, History of the province of Alberta noted on McKenney: "The name of Henry William McKenney has been inscribed high on the roll of honored pioneers of the great Northwest and as one of the most eminent citizens of Edmonton, in the development of which he has taken such a prominent part".[3]

McKenney Street in St. Albert is named in his honour.[15]

Electoral historyEdit

1905 general electionEdit

1905 Alberta general election results[16] Turnout N/A Swing
Affiliation Candidate Votes % Party Personal
     Independent Liberal Henry W. McKenney 407 51.00% *
     Liberal Lucien Boudreau 391 49.00% *
Total 798 100%
Rejected, Spoiled and Declined Unknown
Unknown Eligible Electors
     Independent Liberal pickup new district Swing N/A

1909 general electionEdit

1909 Alberta general election results Turnout N/A Swing
Affiliation Candidate Votes % Party Personal
     Liberal Henry W. McKenney Acclaimed *
Rejected, Spoiled and Declined Unknown
Unknown Eligible Electors
     Liberal pickup new district Swing N/A

1913 general electionEdit

1913 Alberta general election: Clearwater
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Henry William McKenney 40 38.83%
Conservative A. Williamson Taylor 39 37.86%
Socialist Joseph Andrew Clarke 24 23.30%
Total 103
Rejected, spoiled and declined N/A
Eligible electors / turnout N/A N/A
Liberal pickup new district.
Source: "Clearwater Official Results 1913 Alberta general election". Alberta Heritage Community Foundation. Retrieved May 21, 2020.


  1. ^ a b Western Press Association (1916), Northern who's who: a biographical dictionary of men and women especially compiled for newspaper and library reference, New York City, Portland, Oregon, retrieved February 12, 2014
  2. ^ a b MacRae 1912, p. 1007
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i MacRae 1912, p. 1008
  4. ^ a b c d Curtis, Georgina Pell (1911), The American Catholic who's who., St. Louis, Missouri: B. Herder, retrieved February 12, 2014
  5. ^ Salesman Publishing Company 1906, p. 23
  6. ^ St. Albert Historical Society 1985, p. 133
  7. ^ a b "Community recognition recipients" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-01. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
  8. ^ Alberta Heritage Community Foundation. "Alex Taylor (1853–1916)". alhertitage.ca. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Salesman Publishing Company 1906, p. 24
  10. ^ Heritage News 23
  11. ^ Legal 1914, p. 145
  12. ^ Blue 1924, p. 132
  13. ^ a b c d "Henry Wm. McKenney is Dead; Another Old Timer of Edmonton Passes After a Long Illness". Edmonton Bulletin. Edmonton, Alberta. March 12, 1921. p. 1. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
  14. ^ Reynolds, George F. (1969), "The Man Who Created the Corner of Portage and Main", MHS Transactions, 3, Winnipeg, Manitoba: Manitoba Historical Society, no. 26, retrieved February 21, 2014
  15. ^ Some St. Albert Street Names Dave Geddes.
  16. ^ "Saint Albert Official Results 1905 Alberta general election". Alberta Heritage Community Foundation. Retrieved April 16, 2010.


External linksEdit

Legislative Assembly of Alberta
Preceded by
New District
MLA St. Albert
Succeeded by
Lucien Boudreau
Preceded by
New District
MLA Pembina
Succeeded by
Gordon MacDonald
Preceded by
New District
MLA Clearwater
Succeeded by
Joseph State