Title: History of Pittsburgh and environs, from prehistoric days to the beginning of the American revolution Vol. 1 / By George Thornton Fleming.
Author: Fleming, George Thornton, 1855-1928.
“...Of the early traders on the Allegheny, and that meant to the Ohio region also, there must be mentioned THOMAS McKEE, whose family name has been preserved in McKees Rocks. THOMAS McKEE was the father of ALEXANDER McKEE, a notorious Tory leader at Fort Pitt during the Revolution, who fled to the British in 1778 in company with Matthew Elliott and Simon Girty and some others. THOMAS McKEE was a licensed trader on the Susquehanna as early as 1742, and “at Allegheny” in 1753. He served as a captain in the French and Indian War. He has frequent mention in Pennsylvania Colonial Records and Archives and other Pennsylvania histories and in Dr. Egle’s “Notes and Queries.” In 1764 ALEXANDER McKEE received the grant of 1,400 acres at the mouth of Chartiers Creek. On the lower side of the creek is the famous rock that has given name to a great industrial town, the “Petit Rocher” of De Lery’s and the “Written Rock” of Celoron’s mention.
THOMAS McKEE adventures and perils would more than fill a chapter. He was one of the best known traders on the Susquehanna, having had a trading post on Big Island, now Haldeman’s Island, at the mouth of the Juaniata, and was also of the class of traders (pg. 169) called in history the Shamokin traders, and one of the most noted; others, John Fisher, John Hart, James Le Tort, Antony Sadowsky, and John (or Jack) Armstrong, who was murdered by a revengeful Delaware in 1744 at the gorge in the Juniata, since known as Jack’s Narrows. Darlington calls THOMAS McKEE the chief Indian trader on the Susquehanna for many years, and states that he built Fort McKEE, a border outpost on the Susquehanna, in 1756. Some accounts make McKEE’S wife a Shawanese woman; others a white woman captured by that nation on one of their raids in the Carolinas and adopted and reared among them. Hanna draws the deduction that this explains why the son ALEXANDER should have inherited a half savage nature, which he thinks was developed by the long residence of his father among the savages as a trader, and ALEXANDER’S own lifelong association with savages. This latter fact would be more striking if his mother had been a Shawanese. The Rev. David Jones found ALEXANDER in 1773 living near Chilicothe, Ohio, and added a line in is “Journal:” “Here the captain’s Indian relatives live.” THOMAS McKEE had another son, JAMES, who remained on the McKee’s Rocks tract, and he became the ancestor of the many descendants in and about Pittsburgh. JAMES’ name is found on the “List of Persons well disposed to His Majesty’s Government,” which was furnished that government by Lord Dunmore in 1775, and thought to have been prepared by the notorious Dr. Connolly, Dunmore’s tool at Fort Pitt. However, there was nothing prima facie particularly obnoxious in that, for this list contains the names of Colonel William Crawford, his brother Valentine, his half-brother, John Stephenson, and his nephew, William Harrison, Thomas Gist and others, subsequently proven patriots. These were, however, Virginia adherents prior to the Revolution, in opposition to the Pennsylvania party headed by Arthur St. Clair, Devereaux Smith, Aeneas Mackay and Andrew McFarlane.
ALEXANDER McKEE was the Tory leader at Pittsburgh. He was a man of some education and wide influence on the border. He, too, was a trader among the Indians, and for twelve years prior to the Revolution had been the King’s deputy agent for Indian affairs at Fort Pitt. For a short time he had served as a justice of the peace in Westmoreland county. He was intimately acquainted with most of the Indians chiefs of the Ohio Valley, and spoke their tongues. As the Rev. Jones attests, he had an Indian family among the Shawanese. He divided his time between his Pittsburgh cabin and his farm at McKees Rocks. Both THOMAS and ALEXANDER took part in many conferences with the Western Indians at Fort Pitt, the first, July 4, 1759, where there were present, according to the minutes, “George Croghan, Deputy Agent to the Hon. Sir William Johnson, Baronet: Col. Hugh Mercer, Commandant at Pittsburgh; a number of officers of the Garrison; Capt. (pg. 170) William Trent and CAPT. THOMAS McKEE, assistants to G. Croghan, Esq., and Capt. Henry Montour, Interpreter.” Most likely THOMAS McKEE was also at the conference at the same place, October 25, 1759, as the records read: “Present His Excellency, Brigadier Gen. Stanwix, with sundry other gentlemen of the army; George Croghan, Esq., and sundry assistants.
ALEXANDER McKEE’S name first appears in the minutes of a conference held with the chiefs of the Senecas living on the Ohio, the Delawares and Shawanese, October 17, 1764; present, “Col. Henry Bouquet, Commanding His Majesty’s forces in the Southern District, etc.” ALEXANDER McKEE is set down as assistant agent for Indian affairs, and doubtless at all of Bouquet’s conferences at that time though not always recorded as present. He is recorded as present at Dunmore’s council with the Delawares and Mingoes in the fall of 1774, and still “Deputy Agent, etc.” WASHINGTON dined with ALEXANDER McKEE on his journey down the Ohio to the Kanawha region, as he records in his Journal, October 20, 1770; however, he spells the name “MAGEE.” McKEE, Croghan and Lieutenant Hamilton of the garrison at Fort Pitt, had set out from Pittsburgh with Washington’s party, and continued with them to Logstown. ALEXANDER McKEE was during the Revolution a British agent among the Shawanese on the Miami river. More concerning him will be noted in the chapter detailing events at Pittsburgh during the Revolution.
JAMES McKEE died in 1836 at his home in McKees Rocks, leaving two sons, THOMAS and ALEXANDER McKEE. He also left three grand-daughters, MARGARET, ELIZABETH, and SARAH, wife of DAVID McGUNNEGLE. The descendants of these and those of THOMAS McKEE’S daughters were the owners by right of inheritance of most of the original grant to CAPTAIN ALEXANDER McKEE in 1764. On this land today there stands the large borough of McKees Rocks, with its adjoining great manufacturing plants, and the shops, yards and tracks of the Pittsburgh & Lake railroad. Within the borough are the historic Rocks, now mostly quarried away, and on them was the celebrated Indian mound which was owned jointly by the McGUNNEGLE heirs and MRS. NETTIE McKEE GRAHAM, nee NETTIE ADELIA McKEE, daughter of THOMAS McKEE.”
“History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania”
Cushing, Thomas, 1821.
Chicago: A. Warner Co., 1889.
“DAVID KENNEDY McGUNNEGLE was born July 3, 1849, at McKee’s Rocks, a grandson of the late ALEXANDER McKEE, and a son of JAMES McGUNNEGLE. He was reared on a farm, educated in the public schools and at the Western University. He became an assistant clerk of the courts in Allegheny county in 1869, and was elected clerk of the courts, first in 1884, and again in 1887.”
“History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania”
Cushing, Thomas, 1821.
Chicago: A. Warner Co., 1889.
“Chapter XXXVIII. McKeesport
...The name is worthy of being perpetuated. Among the advance-guard of the army of adventurers that pushed across the frontier before the final issue of the seven years’ war, there were few in whom courage, constancy and prudence were so happily blended as in DAVID McKEE. If the traditions of the family may be credited, he removed from Scotland to County Donegal, in the north of Ireland, in the early part of the eighteenth century. Persecution followed him thither, and about the middle of the century, with several brothers, he migrated to American, where they settled near Philadelphia. One of the brothers removed to Rockbridge county, Va., and from him the southern contingent of the family is descended; another settled in the valley of the Susquehanna; and DAVID McKEE removed to the distant frontier, where, by the courtesy of Queen Aliquippa, he established himself at the mouth of the Youghiogheny. The date of this second emigration is disputed. It is said to have been in 1755, the year of Braddock’s defeat; but the exposed condition of the frontier at that time renders this exceedingly improbable.
Western Pennsylvania was not considered a desirable place of residence until after Gen. Forbes’ occupation of Fort Pitt in 1758, nor was it tolerably secure from Indian ravages until after Col. Bouquet’s victory at Bushy Run in 1763. It is a well-established fact that McKEE appeared on the Monongahela before the cessation of hostilities; that he was well received by Queen Aliquippa, and settled at the mouth of the Youghiogheny by her permission, and that in 1769 the colonial government confirmed to him the exclusive right of ferriage over the (pg. 724) two rivers at their confluence. April 3, 1769, the colonial land office was opened for the sale of lands acquired by the Indian treaties at the close of Pontiac’s war, and warrant inclosed by the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, Huey street of the borough of McKeesport, and its original southern boundary, the area of which, as returned in the survey of November 30, 1782, was three hundred and six acres three roods and twenty perches. April 5, 1769, warrants were issued to ROBERT and THOMAS McKEE, respectively, the former thus securing two hundred and eighty-five acres adjoining the Monongahela river, between Huey and Riverton streets, and the latter, two hundred and fifty-three acres on the Youghiogheny, adjoining the tract of ROBERT McKEE on the south. The elder McKEE lived to an advanced age, and died October 11, 1795.”
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