Alexander Mackenzie was born on January 28, 1822 in Logieraid, Scotland and one of seven sons. He attended schools in Perth, Moulin and Dunkeld before apprenticing as a stonemason.
He emigrated to Canada in 1842, settling in Kingston, where he married his first wife, Helen Neil, who he had followed from Scotland. Of their three children, only their daughter, Mary, survived infancy.
Moving to Sarnia in 1847, he continued his occupation of stonemason and contractor. He also founded The Lambton Shield Newspaper which he edited for two years before The Sarnia Observer began publication.
Active in local affairs, he was a major with the 27th Lambton Volunteer Infantry (1866-1874). He regularly attended a Baptist Church seven miles outside the town, and the year following Helen’s death in 1852, he married the lady he met there by the name of Jane Sym.
Elected in 1871 as the Reform (later Liberal) Party representative to the Legislative Assembly of Canada, he initiated a law which forbade one representative sitting both federally and provincially. In 1872, Alexander chose to be this riding’s federal representative.
When George Brown resigned the leadership of the Liberal Party, Mackenzie was chosen the new leader. In November, 1873, the Pacific Scandal brought down John A. MacDonald’s Conservative government, and Mackenzie was called upon to form a new administration. So it was, that in1874, Alexander Mackenzie, Scottish stonemason, became the Dominion of Canada’s2nd Prime Minister, and the country’s first Liberal Leader.
MacDonald’s government was returned to power in 1878 and Mackenzie became Leader of the Opposition. Living in Toronto, he represented the riding of York East until his death on April17, 1892. It was during this time that he also became president of Isolated Risk Fire Insurance Company.
Following a funeral service in Toronto, which was attended by many of the nation’s most noted dignitaries, his body was transported by train to Sarnia, where another service was held the following day at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. A long funeral cortege accompanied his body, where it was laid to rest in the family plot at Lakeview Cemetery. Today, over 50 members of the Mackenzie family are interred in this plot which is dominated by the 19 foot monument shown on the front cover. In 1998, the Government of Canada declared this site a National Monument.