MCKAY, GEORGE PERRY (13 Jan. 1838-5 Aug. 1918), a pioneer Great Lakes captain credited with playing a significant role in the development of the Great Lakes merchant marine and shipping trade, had a career that spanned the era of the small schooners to that of the great ore freighters.
McKay, born aboard the steamer "Commodore Perry" in Toledo, was the son of John McKay. The senior McKay captained some of the first vessels operating on Lake Superior after the batteaux of the early explorers; trade at that time inlcuded carrying supplies to trading posts and returning with such goods as furs, wild rice, maple sugar, and salt fish, as well as prospecting for copper and iron ore. John McKay settled his family in Cleveland about 1857.
George McKay began sailing as a boy on his father's ships. He himself commanded, from 1861 to 1882, some of the finest steamers on the Great Lakes. McKay came ashore in 1883 to become general manager of the Cleveland Transportation Company's fleet. He served as secretary and treasurer of the Cleveland Vesselowners Association, and later as treasurer of the Lake Carrier's Association. He also served as chairman of the Lake Carrier's Committee on Aids to Navigation, and is credited with inventing the lighted buoy.
George McKay married Mary Ann Swaffield in 1858. Both were Roman Catholic. They had one child, Georgana Florence McKay (Mrs. Samuel Hiram Crowl, Jr.). McKay died in LAKEWOOD and is buried in St. John's Cemetery.