Woodside National Historic Site of Canada

The King Family

John King

Photo of John King
John King
© National Archives of Canada/S. J. Dixon/68-A-1-1

John King was raised by his mother and uncle in Berlin, Ontario (previous name for Kitchener, Ontario). An excellent student, John King graduated from the University of Toronto in 1865 with a master's degree and finished his law degree three years later.

John King had an easy-going personality that was reflected in his management of family finances. The King family left Berlin in 1893 for Toronto and John King became a lecturer at Osgoode Hall Law School. His legal practice did not prosper. As a result, the King family continually lived beyond their means, a situation that was not remedied until Mackenzie King was well-established in politics and helped support the family.

John King died in 1916.

Photo of Isabel Grace Mackenzie King
Isabel Grace Mackenzie King
© National Archives of Canada/C-7353

Isabel Grace Mackenzie

William Lyon Mackenzie and Isabel Grace Mackenzie had 13 children, the youngest of whom, Isabel Grace, was born in New York City during the family's exile from Canada.

Isabel Grace Mackenzie was engaged to John King while he was still a law student in Toronto. Five years later in 1872, when John King had established himself in a law practice in Berlin, Ontario, they were married. Both were 30 years old.

A vivacious, humorous, and affectionate woman, Isabel Grace Mackenzie had high expectations for her eldest son. The adversity of her childhood and the image of her father as a national hero who suffered for a just cause were vividly impressed upon her children.

Mrs. King died in 1917. Her death was a severe blow to Mackenzie King and an important step in his growing belief in spiritualism.

High school graduation photo of William Lyon Mackenzie King
High school graduation photo
of William Lyon Mackenzie King (16 years)

© National Archives of Canada/C-7315

William (Willie) Lyon Mackenzie King

"Willie" was the eldest son of John and Isabel. A vigorous child, he raced his pony through town and worked his mother's vegetable patch for profit. With his siblings, he learned to play piano and dance, enjoyed sports and camped in the wooded grounds of Woodside. He worked diligently at school, encouraged by his parents who also introduced him to the excitement of politics and public affairs. Willie took to heart the King's devout Presbyterianism, for a while considering a career as a church minister. The moral attitudes and social conscience he formed while living at Woodside were to influence him for the rest of his life. While he went on to great academic and political successes, Willie always remembered his time at Woodside - surrounded by his loving family and free from financial and professional burdens - as amongst the happiest of his life.

Photo of Isabel (Bella) Christina Grace King
(Bella) Christina Grace King
© National Archives of Canada/C-63266

Isabel (Bella) Christina Grace King

"Bella" was the eldest of the King children. Her unselfish, serious nature was combined with the King sense of humour. In 1898 Bella began to train as a nurse in Boston, against her parent's wishes. She never completed her training and never married. Her life revolved around church work, social activities, and the care of her aging parents. Bella died in 1915 at the age of 42.

Photo of Janet (Jennie) Lindsey King
Janet (Jennie) Lindsey King
© National Archives of Canada/C-46515, 1886

Janet (Jennie) Lindsey King

"Jennie" King was more mischievous, fun loving, and lively than either Bella or Willie. Her letters to her older brother at university were a happy mixture of mock seriousness and genuine pride in his accomplishments. Jennie married to Harry Morrison Lay in 1906. They had five children.

When Woodside was opened in the 1950s, Jennie was the only surviving member of the King family. She provided photographs and objects that the family had used at Woodside in the later 1880s.

Photo of Dougall McDougall (Max) King
Dougall McDougall (Max) King
© National Archives of Canada/J. T. Aitken/C-46515, C-63269, 1894

Dougall McDougall (Max) King

"Max" was the youngest member of the King family. Max financed the cost of medical school himself, spending time in a medical corps in South Africa in 1902. In 1911 Max married Mae Ingleson Wookey, the daughter of a Congregationalist minister from England whose family had lived in Jamaica before moving to Toronto. Twin sons were born to Max and Mae King in 1913 in Ottawa. In the same year, Max contracted tuberculosis and moved to Denver, Colorado. The result of his personal experience with the disease and his knowledge as a physician lead him to write a book entitled The Battle with Tuberculosis and How to Win It, which was published in 1917 when Max had regained his health. Within two years, however, he was ill again with a muscular disease that left him paralyzed. Before his death in 1922 he dictated a second book, Nerves and Personal Power. When Max died, Prime Minister King lost not only a brother, but a friend and frank critic. One of Max's sons, who carried the name of his famous uncle, was killed in the Second World War.