HENRY JAMES MACKIN (July 13, 1885-December 22, 1958)
Records conflict about the year that Henry James Mackin was born in New York City of Irish-Catholic parents Joseph (Joe) Patrick Mackin and Catherine (Kate) Byrne Mackin. A
The Mackin Family endured and eventually prospered enough to travel across
The experience gained at Standard Box ultimately proved central to the optimistic cheerful personality that led Fraser Mills in efforts to survive two global wars, the great depression and a violent workers strike. Ironically the desperation of poverty and racial exclusion drove Mackin to establish his family’s fortune and end up in the pages of Fortune Magazine (January 1954). The lack of both adequate education as well as reasonable childhood recreation experiences became motivators for a life of philanthropy in the areas of learning and recreation.
The following description published in Fortune Magazine (January 1954) highlights the goal orientation aspect that motivated Henry Mackin until retirement. “A Manhattan-born, intensely sales-minded Canadian, Mackin was until recently president of Canadian Western.” Leading the cohesive and uniquely multi-cultural Canadian Western Lumber workforce at Fraser Mills, BC Mackin was able to deliver product and deliver on time for decades. He thrived when faced with apparent insurmountable obstacles.
Historical writer E. G. Perrault in his comprehensive volume covering the story of the timber industry in BC (Wood & Water – The Story of SEABOARD Lumber and Shipping – Douglas & McIntyre Vancouver/Toronto) created further thumbnail sketches: “Henry J. Mackin was a businessman/lumberman with the strength and tenacity of a bull terrier.” He added: “By 1939 Canadian Western Lumber was generally recognized as the largest lumber producing company in the
Having come from a marginalized immigrant background himself Henry Mackin’s insights into the unique challenges facing immigrant millworkers gave him an edge over other lumber executives. As well his lack of education and a very early start as a factory labourer aligned him rather than separated him from his labour force. Mackin’s passion for baseball extended into the mill population with the formation of teams which were comprised of both Asian as well as other ethnic groups.
Within the early mill site proper existed small ethnic populations of Greek, Hindu, Japanese and Chinese workers many of whom spoke little if any English. Toyo Takata in his book Nikkei Legacy The Story of Japanese Canadians from Settlement to Today records that, at one time, of the 1,800 persons on the Canadian Western Lumber payroll one-third were Japanese. In this company town setting each ethnic group had their own allocated accommodation spot and access to Company owned land for the growing of produce and keeping of chickens. Ethnic dietary customs as well as differing religious traditions kept the mill population separate in some aspects of daily living.
In addition to Japanese, Hindu, Chinese, Greek and other employees the mill relied as on a population of French-Canadian workers most of whom resided offsite in nearby Maillardville where Mackin and his wife Mary started their married life in a modest wooden structure expanded in the mid ’40’s to house a second generation of the Mackin Family. Maillardville was primarily a Catholic community. While millworkers owned their own land and were provided with building supplies for their cottage-style accommodations Mackin lived in a company house in the midst of the francophone natives. It was the guarantee of land and building materials that had induced a large population of Quebecoise to relocate to
Many very highly skilled mill workers came and settled in Maillardville which had started as Milltown. Others, not so skilled, took positions as cooks in many BC sites. With prohibition the Quebecoise left the kitchens in favour of the more lucrative pastime of making moonshine thereby opening up an area of labour which the Chinese were satisfied to fill. It is worth noting that the First Nations from the Fraser Mills area to date remain almost invisible in the historical tapestry. It is most likely that Henry Mackin and all those who participated in the dazzling success of Fraser Mills were misled by Government of Canada agents regarding treaty status with First Nations.
On December 22, 1958 Henry Mackin died suddenly survived by his wife Mary and two brothers Walter and William, of