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A history of the descendants of David McKee of Anahilt : with a general sketch of the early McKees online

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Online LibraryJames Y McKeeA history of the descendants of David McKee of Anahilt : with a general sketch of the early McKees → online text (page 1 of 7)
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Wibl) a General Skebcl) of bl)e Early McKees






To the Descendants of


Scattered in

Europe, Asia, Africa, Austrai<ia and America,

This Pamphlet is Sent Forth,

With a View to






The history ()f the McKees had Ijeen for j^ears a .subject ot
stud}- by the author of this book. His manuscript was nearly
linished, and he had written to several 23ersons that he hoped soon
to have the volume published, when suddenly the Author of Life
said of his earthly labor, " It is finished."

From the time he divided the first honor of his class at Jeffer-
son College in 1856, until his death of pneumonia, December 24th,
1891, all his life was spent in teaching. His continuous connection
witli tlie Pennsylvania State College for twentj'-five years, in times
of prosperity and adversit}-, bears silent testimony to his sterling
qualities. His retiring disposition led him more than once to refuse
the offered Presidency of the Pennsylvania State College, yet again
and aoain he took the helm as Acting-President, safely steerino- the
institution through the thickest darkness of its history until day
began to break again and another pilot could be secured.

He was an accomplished scholar in literature and the dead lan-
guages, a fine mathematician, thorough in everything, always willing
and ready to help, steadfastly doing the right, and an earnest Chris-
tian worker, for several years before his death being an elder in the
Presbyterian church.


" Why ? " and " How ? " are questions tliat, in many cases, are
not readily answered. A growth begins, seemingly by cliance, and,
as days and years go by, tlic growing thing that was shapeless at
first takes definite form, and perhaps gives sufficient proof of its
right to be. About twenty-seven years ago, the eager questioning of
a once-seen but never- forgotten relative, Joseph G. McKee (622),
occasioned my making a schedule on a leaf torn from a pocket-diarv.
The attempt to make a clear statement of facts imperfectly known
showed the inadequacy of my knowledge and caused efforts to in-
crease it ; and so, ten years later, a new attempt produced a schedule
less incomplete than the former, though some important parts were
still lacking. Eepeated efforts were made to find a family record
which Joseph G. McKee had made while on his visit to Ireland a
few months after his first suo-gestion of the "tree" : but neither at
his father-in-law's nor with his brother James P. could any trace of
it be found. One and another, however, in Ireland and in America,
contributed facts and hints as to where facts might be found, till
that which seemed only a stump, a trunk with a few stubby branches,
became a well-developed tree whose every branch is spreading vig-
orously and symmetrically.

Very recently a large amount of information has come to hand
which, with that previously gathered, has made it possible to give
a short sketch of the earh^ McKees with some few points on their
common origin. Although imperfect, it is hoped tliat it will prove


of interest and will serve to stimulate others to continue to search
for, and, having found, to record all points of interest, anecdotes and
the like relating to any of the ]\[cKees.

The rest of this little volume considers onl v the descendants of
David McKee and Eebecca Irvine (or Irwin, or Erwin), who mar-
ried about 1755, and lived in the parish of Anahilt, near Hills-
borough, County Down ; and its information is more complete
respecting the American branches of the family. Nearl}' all immi-
grants came first to Pennsylvania, either to Cumberland count}' or
to Pittsburgh ; but, although three out of the four families coming-
in the first o-eneration have descendants owning the farms where
they settled, and all the nine branches have ]-epresentatives in that
State, many clansmen have passed westward, and thev are now to
be found in about twent}' States of the Union. Their Presbyterian-
ism has not sufl:ered by crossing the ocean, as nearly all are mem-
bers or adherents of some Presbyterian body ; ma^iy of the psalm-
sino'inu- U. P. Church, to which thev have furnished ministers and
ruling elders enough to make three or four Presbyteries. Indeed,
in one family, since its settlement here in 1794, three persons —
father, son, and grandson — have exercised the office of ruling elder
in the same congregation for an aggregate of 103 years, the son
Ijecoming in every case a member of the session before his father
ceased to serve, and the surviving member having yet a prospect of
many years' usefulness.

Not office-seekers, they have been law -makers in several States,
and have served on the judicial l)encli and in other positions of
honor and trust. Taking to law and to medicine less freely than to
theology, they give some to the ranks of each ; while the pedagogue's
chair is frequently, and the editor's chair occasionally, occupied by
them. Not wealthy in any instance, they are ordinarilj'^ so situated
as to have most " creature comforts " of life, including opportunities
for getting an education.

Had the persons here recorded been less diffident, and spoken
more freely of themselves and their work, this sketch would have
been much more interesting and complete ; but they all, with one
consent, avoided giving auj-thing like a personal history. Where-
ever, therefore, any detailed account is presented of a man's work,
the information has been obtained from some outside source, and, for
errors of statement, the principal is accountable to this extent only,
— he ouoht to have uiven the exact facts, and so left no chance for
mistake on the part of the editor. Undoubtedly, many of those
here named, in oihcial or unofficial position, rendered to their
several comnumities valuable services, the record of which should
not be lost. But these things are not reported, and the narrative
thus becomes a negative one, whose substance may be given
approximately in the words of a correspondent : " I have never
heard of a drunkard or a thief in the tribe. Honest in the sioht of
all men, performing duties wherever trusted, they have been
obedient to law, and useful citizens."

The purpose of this brief outline, which is neither history nor
biographv, and vet seeks to be more than a director}-, is to make
each livino- member of the tribe know somethino- more of his kin-
dred, who they are, and where they may be found, and to enable
and encourage each one, when traveling, to seek out his relatives.
He will lind them to be j^ersons of whom he need not be ashamed,
intelligent and useful citizens, with enough of old-time hospitality
and feeling of kinship to give him a hearty welcome.

For many facts and anecdotes relating to the earl v McKee history,
I am indebted to Mr. John McKee, of 30 East Thirty-ninth street.
New York City ; for the presentation of certain branches, to the care
of J. M. Pollock (232), Miss J. McCulloch (4()9), T. W. McKee
(624), W. J. Wallace (712), Mrs. E. M. Patterson (725), Mat-
thew Clarke (731), Mrs. I. J. Owens (7432), and others; for old
letters, which often corrected erroneous views and suggested right

ones, to Miss McCullocli already named, Mrs. Susan Scott (128),
and especially to George McKee (111) ; for sketches of single fam-
ilies, to those named above and others, without whose help the
])resent partial success could not have been reached. Originating
in a casual remark and followed without definite purpose, the in-
quiry has given me much pleasure through the acquaintances thus
formed, and as it has brought together information that may be in-
teresting to others of the kin, Joseph D. McKee (431) has given
new proof of his good will to all members of the clan by having it
printed for their service. To him, as publisher, all his grateful
kinsmen should send their hearty thanks ; all complaints respecting
errors, with corrections of the same, and additional information con-
cerning the tribe should be sent to the compiler, whose record
number is


I trust that my father's request will bring a response from very
many McKees and McKee descendants, bearing corrections for all
misstatements and giving dates, addresses, and other information to
fill ill all the blanks of this volume. Especially important, and
interesting too, will be all information as to the origin and history of
other branches of the McKees, leading to a fuller knowledge of our
common origin, and some day, perhaps, to a more extended work.

If full and frequent reports are sent in, I may, from time to
time, issue a circular making the new information general ; in any
case I shall be very glad to receive letters from any of the tril^e,
and to answer such questions as I am able.

Geoege C. McKee.
State College, Pa.

Sketch of the Early McKees.

nr^HERE has been inucli specuhition as to how the name McKee
■^ was originally spelled. Many have argued that McKee,
McKay, McKie, IVIacIye, Magee, McHugh, McDonald, and
others, are only different spellings of the same name. We can find
no connecting links, but it seems both possible and probable that
such is the case.

The first real knowledge mc have of the McKees dates from
over two hundred years ago, when four brothers bearing that name
left Scotland for bonnie England. There they soon joined the army
of William, Prince of Orange, and shorth- afterwards, in 1690, we
find them, with the rest of the army, in the northern part of Ireland.
We have been unable to learn the Christian names of these four
brothers. All we know of one is that he returned with William's
armv to Endand. where we lose all trace of him. Three Avere
induced to remain in Ireland b}" grants of land for services rendered.
One married and settled in Countv Antrim ; but even tradition has
no further information for us concerning either himself or his
descendants, although from actual knowledge in our possession con-
cerning the other two brothers and their descendants, it seems
almost a certainty that he and his family emigrated during the
exodus from Ulster to America, about 1735, and were the progen-
itors of the McKees in Kentucky and Virginia, whose history has



been writteu by George Wilson JMcKee, Major of Ordnance, U. S. A.
Another settled in the Ards, in Northeastern Count}" Down, where
he has had numerous descendants until this day.

The fourth settled in Lisban, near Saintfield, Count}' Down,
with a felloAV- soldier named Edgar, both of Avhoni have many
descendants in the neighliorhood still, who have inter-married for
several generations. This soldier-pioneer, whose name was probably
Hugh, had settled, built his house, married, and .possibly had some
children born to him before the year 1700. On the Lisban road,
going from Lough Eenney to Saintfield, about half a mile after
crossing the Belfast road, j^our attention will be attracted towards
the riolit bv an ivy-covered oable, which is all that remains stand-
ing of the original Edgar house. If you should go about a quarter
of a mile farther on towards Saintfield, and turn to the left where
the road from Tonaghmore to Carricknaveagh crosses the Lisban
road, you will see the remains of the old McKee house, about a
hundred feet from the crossroads, and on the left-hand side. The
front wall is still standing, and is used as a fence between the road
and the field. You are now on land once granted bv the Crown to
the pioneer for his services in the cause of the Protestant succession.
If you are a " Logstown McKee," or a descendant of David McKeo,
— the subject of this book — or of Hugh or John, his brothers, 3^ou
must feel an interest in this spot. Two centuries ago your ancestor
was hving within these walls. Two centuries ago he had beaten
his sword into a plowshare, and was laboring to put the land about
you in its present state of beauty.

The patent which accompanied the grant, Avith its crest and
motto, is now beyond our reach, having been recalled by the Mar-
quis of Downsiiire, the lord of the soil, at tlie expiration of some
stipulated period or Hfe, or after the passage of some land act increas-
ing the powers of the landlord, of which there were forty-four.
The pioneer's grandson, Hugh McKee, of Poagsburn, became a sue-










cessful linen merchant in the latter part of the eighteenth centiii-v,
and acqnired from Lord Donegal the privilege of ci'ecting a stone
in the old linen market in Donegal street, Belfast, on which to l)uy
and sell linen. This necessitated his having a stamp for marking
the linen thus purchased or sold, and so he had one made from the
original crest on the patent, using however the English translation
of the motto. This stamp was lost, but his son John, who was
killed in 1812, was one of the few men in that neighborhood to set a
watch, and with it he got a seal with the family crest ; both of which
are now in the possession of his grandnephew, Mr. David McKee,
Oughley, Saintfield, County Down, Ireland.

This is as close an approximation to the original as we can make from the
seal, which differs only in having the motto "TUEX IT NOT AGAINST ME."

As to the pioneer's wife and as to the number of his cliildren
we know nothing, although in all probability he had a large family.
There are, howevei-, only four of whom we have any definite

The oldest of these was probably James, Avho settled about a
mile from the old homestead, in Tullvwest, near whei-e the national
school-house now stands. Tradition affirms that he was the father
of twenty children, and that he lived to be one hundred and twenty
years old. This may or may not be true, but we feel reasonably
certain that the McKee pioneers of western Pennsjdvania were his


cliildren and grandchildren. Out of tlie alleged twenty we have
positive knowledge of only four. Of these the one most prominent
in local history was David, who got a grant of land from the Mar-
quis of Downshire in the townland of Carricknaveagli, on which he
built a house known as Moor Hall " on the south side of the Lis-
l:)aru road about two minutes' walk from the Temple toward Lis-
burn." He was known to fame as " Big Davie of the Temple."
He dealt in cattle, going up the country and buying a drove which
he would take to Scotland and sell.

Big Davie and his May-pole were known and respected in every
cattle market in the north of Ireland. His encounters were more
numerous than those of Con of the Hundred Battles or of Little
John and his crab-tree, and yet they all, without a single exception,
ended in a way favorable to himself. When still cj[uite a young
man his reputation was such that no one was willing to meet him in
a pugilistic encounter. Upon receiving a challenge to fight a man
with a shillalah, the Irish national weapon, he immediately began
the practice of that arm, and was soon able to overcome his chal-
lenger. Ever afterwards he carried his stick with him.

His children were James, John, Hugh, Richard, and a daughter
who married a Mr. Monroe. His great grandson David McKee is
now the proprietor of Moor Hall and has a large family of sons.
Address : Temple, County Down .

Another son of James McKee, of Tullvwest, was Huoh, who
got a farm in the townland of Crevytenant, about a mile from his
father's towards Ballvnahinch, where his great grandson Huo-h Mc-
Kee, who had married a Miss Gill, died childless about the year
1880, and the farm passed out of the family name.

Still another son of James, of TuUywest, was John, who, though
raised on the farm, hved a large part of his earlier and middle life
in Saintfield as proprietor of the " Price's Arms," a hotel which
then was, as it is even yet, tlie largest and best public house in that


section. While living here John McKee was an active Free Mason

at one time Master of Saintlield Lodge— and of convivial habits,

as his son James, late in his life, declared that certain resolutions,
including one against secret societies, dated back to his early expe-
rience of his father's condition when he returned from the lodge.
It may be mentioned as illustrative of John McKee's force of char-
acter, "^th at he gave up the hotel, resumed his farm life, and cut him-
self off entirely from all undesirable associates and habits belonging
to his hotel life, scarcely ever going down to the village though
only about a mile distant. After his return to the farm he had
stated, perhaps annual dinners for his descendants, and these reunion
dinners were part of the recollections of his grandchildren to their

latest days.

He was twice married. His first family consisted of James,
Lucretia (Mrs. Scott), Betty (Mrs. Gibson), Mary (Mrs. Thompson),
and several other daughters. Of the second family nothing is
known ; tradition says it consisted of seven daughters.

His son James married Betty Young and settled on a farm
under Mr. Price, about a mile from Saintfield, on the Belfast and
Downpatiick road, in 1790 ; engaged in the EebelHon of 1798, and
had his house searched for arms, although the Government failed to
find them. He was an active and enthusiastic worker in the organ-
ization and erection, in 1797, of the Second Saintfield Church, being
one of its first elders, and occupying a double pe^s- which he put
up in the northwest corner. His son, Thomas Walker McKee, was
the first male child baptized in the new church by the newly
ordained clergyman. Rev. Thomas Walker. When he was leaving
for America, in 1812, James gave his double pew to his second
cousin James McKee, of the Oughley, who, with his first cousin
Robert McKee, of Killynure, was a ruhng elder in that church for
over forty years, and whose descendants are active members of the
church vet. On arriving in America with his family of two boys


and live girls he settled in Beaver Count}-, Pennsjdvania, where his
descendants are known as the " Logstown McKees." He brought
with him his grandfather's silver-headed cane, on which is engraved
"James McKee, Tulljnvest, 1760," probably the date either of
presentation or of purchase. This he left to his son Thomas Walker
]\[cKee, whose grandson, Mr. James L. McKee, Richland Center,
Wis., now possesses in lineal succession this family relic, being the
ui eat o'reat great grandson of James, of Tullvwest.

Of Jane, the only daughter of James, of Tullywest, of whom we
know anything, we have a relic also — a sampler which she gave to
her grand niece Mary McKee McCiine, and which is now owned by
]\{iss Eliza McCune, of Woodlawn, Beaver Count}^, Pa. The sam-
}iler liears her name and its date thus : " Jane McKee, her sampler,
ended Aprile, 1761." From the date it is probable that Jane was
one of the youngest children. She married a Mr. Oliphant, who
was a stucco worker in Belfost, where he acquired a comfortable
fortune, but had no family. When he gave up work he left the
city and occupied a house on the farm of James McKee, his wife's
nephew. Both husband and wife seem to have been most lovable
in character and disposition, and tliej^ thus overcame the prejudice
Avhich existed against him as being a Scotchman and as only a
hand- worker, while the McKees were farmers. When James built
or repaired (?) his house, "Uncle Oliphant" offered his services as a
plasterer and, b}^ the loving exercise of his art, so beautified the
house as to make it superior in appearance to any other of its class
in that community. The Oliphant cottage also and its surroundings
were made so beautiful as to be an Eden, a "joy forever" in the
memory of the McKee children.

Another son of the pioneer, Hugh ]\IcKee, got a large tract of
land under Scpdre Price, of Saintfield, in the townland of Craigy,
running from the Lisburn road west, on both sides of the Craigy
r(3ad, where he liad several sons and dausrhters.
















He divided his farm between liis sons John, James and Hugli,
giving Jolni the western portion with its outlet on the Lisburn road,
James the southern part on both sides of the Craigy road, and Hugh
what was the northern part on both sides of the road, with what was
jirobably the old homestead.

Hugh was ensaged to be married to a uirl in the Ards. He
Avcnt on the day appointed to the tavern where, according to Scotch
fashion, the marriage was to take place. The clergyman, bridesmaid,
and all were there except the bride. After what seemed an end-
less wait, and everyone had given up hopes of the bride's appear-
ance, Hugh, deeply chagrined and disappointed, turned to the
bridesmaid with the question, "Willj^ou have me, then?" She
consented, and the ceremony was immediately performed. The
last word had scarcely been spoken, when the intended bride came
galloping up to the door on horseljack, having been delayed by
her dressmalvC]'. On learning the turn which matters had taken,
she violently upbraided lier friend and biidesmaid, and left, telling
her that some judgment would fall on her for what she had done.

The bride and groom came home to Craigy where they were
blessed Avith worldly success. Five sons and three daughters had
grown up to manhood and womanhood when the Eebellion of 1798

McKee was a loyalist, and consequenth^ unpopular with his
neiglibors, who were all " crappies." His house was attacked, and
the threat of the disappointed hnde was fearfully realize:!. Upon
liis refusal to join the insursfents thev oroanized an assault on the
house. The storming party is variously estimated at from ten to
thirty" thousand people. They attacked the house about noon ;
McKee, with his sons and dauu'hters resisted, and held them at ba v
for some time, the women loadino', the men tiring, until the enemv
succeeded in putting a torch to the store of flax on the second floor.
Then their choice was either death from the infuriated mob without.


or death from tlie fire within. And so they continued firing, paus-
ing only for a moment, now and then, to throw some milk, the only
liquid available, on their heads and clothes. The shots gradually
became more and more infrequent, and finally ceased sometime be-
fore the slated roof fell in. An hour or two later the "crappies"
carried the chan-ed remains into the field across the road, and laid
them side by side in a hole which they had dug. Over the grave
they raised a cairn of stones, which remains to this day. The same
house with a thatched roof is now occupied by Mr. Hugh Dales
and family, who have also the farm.

John, James, and perhaps other children of Hugh of Craigy
have numerous descendants in that vicinity yet. Many of them,
however, emigrated to America, where they are to be found in
New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Peterborough, Ontario.

David McKee was probably the third son of the pioneer. As
his life and that of his descendants is the subject of the following
pages, nothing will be said here except that he married Eebecca
Irvine, settled in Anahilt, and had six sons and three daughters,
who grew up, married, and have descendants living to-day.

The only other son of the old pioneer of whom we know any-
thing was John, who inherited the old farm at Lisban. It is not
known whom he married, l^ut he left a large famih- behind him.

His son James inherited the farm, where his descendants lived
until the year 1860.

His second son John settled in Killynure, about three miles
from Saintfield, toward Belfast, on the Belfast road, on ground
owned by Mr. Price, where his descendants lived until about 1865,
when the last one, Robert McKee, sold it.

A third son of John, of Lisban, was Hagh, who purchased
Poagsburn farm about 1760, where he raised a large family. He
was better known as " Linen Hughie," as he was a linen merchant
in Belfast, where he owned a stone in the old market. His oldest


son was Robert, wlio saw the stone erected ; another was John, whose
watch and seal still exist. Still another son was the celebrated
Rev. David McKee, who preached at Anuaghlone, for over sixtv
3'ears. The sons of the latter all died nnmarried, except David,
Avho was Rev. Dr. John Hall's successor in Dublin when he
left for Fifth Avenue, New York, and who went to New Zealand

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