Robert Macaulay (1744-1800) and his two brothers came to New York in 1764 from the vicinity of Omagh, Ireland. They developed land holdings, and Robert started a farm which was confiscated by the rebels during the American Revolution. He was imprisoned twice before escaping to Canada where he established a trading business on Carleton Island and became a captain of the Associated Loyalists. In 1784, when the garrison was moved to Cataraqui (Kingston), he relocated his business interests and became a well-to-do merchant, and supporter of St. George's Church (Anglican) in Kingston. After Robert's death in 1800, his wife Ann (Kirby) and her brother John, who had become Robert's partner, carried on the business, and raised Robert's three sons, John, William and Robert.
John Macaulay (1792-1853), eldest son of Robert Macaulay, was born in Kingston and attended John Strachan's grammar school in Cornwall. John Beverley Robinson was a classmate, and he and Strachan were lifelong friends and supporters of John Macaulay, who, by 1812, was established as a general merchant in Kingston. In 1818, he and Alexander Pringle purchased the Kingston Gazette and renamed it the Kingston Chronicle on 1 January 1819.
Macaulay's views of politics and society were typical of those held by the Upper Canadian elite of his time, and his newspaper reflected those principles of order based upon a hierarchical social structure. He was keenly interested in provincial economic development, and to promote this ideal, he supported the construction of canals and the improvement of waterways. In 1822 he became president of the commission on internal navigation and the work of the commission and its reports had a considerable impact on provincial policy, eventually leading to government support for the construction of the Welland Canal and other canal projects. Throughout his career he held many public offices, some locally and others at the provincial level, all in addition to his business interests. He was a trustee of the Midland District Grammar School, an officer of the local militia, chairman of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, warden of St. George's Church, agent for the Bank of Upper Canada in Kingston, deputy postmaster in Kingston, president of the Mechanics' Institute, legislative councilor, surveyor-general, civil secretary, inspector-general, and president of the Commercial Bank of the Midland District in the 1840s, as well as other positions.
Rev. William Macaulay (1794-1874) was a brother of John Macaulay and a son of the Loyalist, Robert Macaulay. He was born at Kingston and, like his brother John, was educated at Bishop Strachan's school in Cornwall. He attended Oxford University and was ordained in 1818 before taking up his pastoral duties at Cobourg and later at Picton, Ontario, from 1823-1870.
The Macaulay Family Papers are comprised, largely, of business and personal correspondence, but also contain appointments, military records, grants, wills, indentures, and other legal documents. The material relates to Robert Macaulay and to his sons, principally, his son John, and includes the following:
Robert Macaulay: Correspondence and papers relating, in particular, to military affairs including: a certificate for intelligence service rendered at Ticonderoga, a commission to Robert Macaulay as captain in the militia of Kingston and Ernestown, a roll of Capt. Macaulay's Company of Militia, a circular letter from Thomas Gray, Adjutant General, Niagara, to Capt. John Howard, a list of men above 60 years of age and those exempted from militia duty at Kingston and Ernestown, 10 September 1788; and family correspondence and legal documents such as an indenture, a power of attorney, a land grant to Hannah Brass (Davy), and the probate of Robert's will. Robert Macaulay, Jr. (son): Commissions as ensign,1816, and captain, 1821, in the 1st Regiment of Frontenac Militia, Midland District. William Macaulay (son): Family correspondence. John Macaulay (son): Much of John Macaulay's correspondence deals with the important political issues of the day: union of the provinces, Bank Bill, Naturalization Bill, Post Office Act as well as Lord Durham's Report, fear of a United States invasion, the clergy reserves, Upper and Lower Canada Rebellions, Kingston Penitentiary, and Mohawk land. Particularly engaging are Robert Stanton's (1794-1866) ongoing comments on the activities of the House of Assembly, and John Strachan's (1778-1867) correspondence. Also included are correspondence and documents relating to family, business and military matters. Family names of interest are Kirby, Nixon, Herchimer and MacPherson. John Macaulay's correspondence with his mother, Ann, provides a considerable amount of insight into his views on many issues. The military records contain correspondence dealing with the 2nd Frontenac Light Dragoons, a List of Officers, and a Return of Recommendations for Promotions and Appointments for the 2nd Regiment of Frontenac Militia, 1838. An inventory of effects belonging to the late John Macaulay is included, 1857. John Kirby Macaulay (John's son): Family correspondence; commissions as ensign,1863, and captain, 1873, in the 5th Company of the 14th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles, and major in the 47th Frontenac Battalion of Infantry of Active Militia, 1873; report on the Great Cataraqui Peat Bog near Kingston; and certificates installing John Kirby as a Knight Companion of the Order of Masonic Knights Templar, and Knight of Malta. Miscellaneous documents: Papers in connection with the Female Benevolent Society, 1821; a poem by Ann C. Macaulay; documents regarding St. George's Church, Kingston; and correspondence relating to the Church of St. James, Stuartville. Documents relating to business: Promissory notes, 1783-1827; and Accounts, 1773-1857.