Biography of Donald MacLeay

MacLeay, Donald, was born at Leckmelm, Ross Shire, Scotland, in August, 1834, and comes from an honorable ancestry. He was educated under a private tutor and at the academy in his native town. At the age of sixteen he accompanied his parents to Canada, settling on a farm near the village of Melbourne in the province of Quebec.

At the age of twenty Mr. Macleay began his business career in partnership with George K. Foster, a merchant at Richmond. Mr. Foster was a man of large means and of excellent business capacity and had much to do in moulding the character and forming the business methods of his young partner.

In 1866 Mr. Macleay became a partner with William Corbitt in the wholesale grocery, shipping and commission business in Portland, establishing the now widely known firm of Corbitt & Macleay. Their efforts were rewarded by almost immediate success and so rapid was the growth of their business that by the year 1870 they had acquired a high place among the leading merchants of the Northwest. With one exception they were the first to send wheat from Oregon to England, sending the vessel Adeline Elwood in 1870. In the following year several vessels were consigned to them from Europe loaded with railroad iron and returned with cargoes of wheat. They were also among the first to perceive the future of the salmon trade and early engaged in canning salmon on the Columbia, exporting the first goods of this kind success awarded their efforts in this direction as had been their fortune in other business enterprises. A certain amount of their profits the partners agreed to invest in real estate. Mr. Macleay accordingly purchased real estate in Portland which during recent years has increased enormously in value, which with his prosperous business ventures in other directions has made him one of the wealthiest men of the city.

Mr. Macleay has always been a progressive, public spirited citizen and if great success has come to him he has also been generous with his time and means in aiding all enterprises which promised to add to the prosperity of his adopted city and State. Through his exertions a large amount of foreign capital has been invested in Oregon. For many years he was local president of the Oregon and Washington Mortgage Savings Bank, of Dundee, Scotland. During late years he has been a director and chairman of the local board of the Dundee Mortgage and Trust Investment Company, of Scotland, through which corporation loans amounting to millions of dollars have been poured into the Northwest.

The work incident to the development and continuance of the business which the firm of Corbitt & Macleay represent comprises but a part of the interests which Mr. Macleay’s activity and business management have largely created and placed upon a permanent and prosperous basis. He is a director in the Oregon and California Railway Company; in the Portland and Coast Steamship Company; in the Portland Telephone and Electric Light Company; in the Anglo-American Packing Company; in the Portland Cordage Company; in the North Pacific Industrial Association; the Portland Mariner’s Home, and the Salem Flouring Mills Company. He has also been a director in the Portland Flouring Mills Company, the Oregon City Flouring Mills Company, the Ocean Ship Company, the Oregon Southern Improvement Company and vice-president of the Oregon and California Railroad Company. In all of these corporations Mr. Macleay has been a stockholder and all of them have received the benefit of his business acumen, and practical experience.

The City of Portland has been enriched in many ways by his exertions in its behalf. Whatever has tended to the unbuilding of its commercial affairs has always found in him ready support and encouragement. The business community readily concedes the great value of his services and as a mark of approval he was elected, in 1881, president of the Board of Trade, a position which he has ever since held, having thus been the recognized head of the mercantile community during the most prosperous years in the city’s history. In all the measures the board has advocated, which have been acknowledged to have been wise and beneficial to the city, he has been fore-most, never begrudging his time or means, if they promoted the general good.

The career of this practical, progressive business man has in every way been most commendable. He is naturally a man of positive, well grounded convictions, and is open and candid in his avowal of them. His position on any questions of public policy is never one of doubt or hesitancy. His business career, his private and public life, are above reproach, and his honesty is of the character that needs no profession but makes itself felt upon all with whom he comes in contact. While absorbed in business, he has a social side, which leads him to seek and take delight in human association. For several years he was president of the British Benevolent and St. Andrew’s Societies of Portland, and is still a liberal member of both organizations. He was one of the charter members, and at one time president of the Arlington Club, the leading social organization of Portland. He has traveled extensively in Europe and America, and in 1878-9, made a tour of the world, the trip being of thirteen months duration; but in most of his travels business is combined with pleasure, for his extensive business interests in several European cities often require his presence.

In personal appearance Mr. Macleay is spare in figure and of medium stature, while in features he unmistakably shows the true Scottish characteristics. He is a quiet, thoughtful, determined man, whom no success would unduly elate or no difficulties discourage. All his life he has made haste slowly, but his mental processes are quick and he readily grasps and comprehends everything to which his attention is directed. He is thorough master of himself and always plans wisely and executes promptly. He is still in the full vigor of manhood, and his elastic constitution gives promise of many years of active usefulness.

Mr. Macleay was married in March, 1869, to Miss Martha Macculloch, daughter of Mr. John Macculloch, of Compton, Canada. Although a native of the Dominion she was of Scotch descent. She died on the 22d day of November, 1876. She was a devout Christian, a woman of cultivated mind, and her kindness of heart and many acts of charity and benevolence endeared her to all who knew her.

Of their four children, the two eldest daughters, Barbara Martha and Edith Macculloch are completing their education in England and the remaining daughter, Mabel Isabel, and the only son, Roderick Lachlan, are attending school in Portland.


Biography, History,

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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