"A Man of Distinction among Them
ALEXANDER McKEE and the Ohio Country Frontier 1754-1799"
by Larry L. Nelson
The Kent State University Press
Kent, Ohio, and London
(Sorry I forgot to get the copyright date.)
Book found Carnegie Library of Munhall (right next to Homestead), Pa. Reference book R977.01 Nel
From the Susquehanna to the Ohio, 1735-176
"Less is known of ALEXANDER'S mother. It is certain that THOMAS married a woman who lived with a mixed band of Shawnees, Delawares, and Iroquois on the Susquehanna River, near present-day Lock Haven. In January 1743, McKEE attended a council at the village, located opposite his storehouse on Big Island. He had traded with this band for some time and considered the village headman, Johnny Skikellamy, a personal friend. Although when he arrived, McKEE greeted the Indians with the customary courtesies, their reception of him was noticeably cool. As the council began, the leader of a returning Iroquois war party related that while he and his band traveled through Virginia they had been ambushed by a group of whites. Four of the Indians had died in the attack. The action greatly disturbed the Shawnees and several at the meeting suggested the deaths might be avenged by striking at whites living along the Pennsylvania frontier. McKEE, who was fluent in several Indian languages and who understood the proceedings, became justifiably alarmed. Acting through "an Old Shawna, with whom he was best acquainted," he managed to discourage the band from taking part in any retaliatory raids, but several of the Shawnees remained noticeably upset. Later that evening, a white woman who had been captured as an infant in North Carolina and later adopted by the tribe approached McKEE with a warning. Some of the warriors, she claimed, planned to kill the trader as he left the village the following day. Leaving his goods behind, McKEE and the woman escaped that evening, traveling three days and three nights to avoid capture. Later, this woman became his wife. One source incorrectly identifies the woman as the sister of Tanacharison, the Iroquois Half King. A second tradition passed down by the McKEE family during the last quarter of the nineteenth century claims that the woman was Tecumapease, an older sister of Tecumseh's. An affidavit filed with the deputy of Lancaster County after THOMAS' death lists her simply as MARY McKEE.
MARY McKEE had become completely assimulated into the Shawnee culture during her capture. Five years after she and THOMAS escaped, the Moravian missionary J.C.F. Cammerhoff, who traveled along the Pennsylvania frontier stopped at McKEE'S home on January 13, 1748. Cammerhoff noted that the McKEES "received us with much kindness and hospitality." "McKEE is an extensive Indian trader," wrote the evangalist, observing that he "bears a good name among them, and drives a brisk trade with the Allegheny County. His wife, who was brought up among the Indians, speaks but little English." Even as late as 1756, Canaghquiesa, an Oneida chief, referred to MARY as McKEE'S "Shawanese squaw."
MARY McKEE is the woman who raised ALEXANDER as her son, beginning when he was an adolescent. It is less certain whether MARY McKEE was ALEXANDER'S biological mother. After THOMAS'S death in 1769, ALEXANDER filed petitions in December 1769 and August 1773 with the Lancaster County Orphans Court in which he declared that he was the eldest of his father's six children and that THOMAS had died without a will. As a consequence, ALEXANDER became the executor of THOMAS' estate. In 1778, ALEXANDER openly alligned himself with the British cause during the American Revolution and escaped from Pittsburgh to British-controlled Detroit. After his defection, Patriot authorities charged him with treason, and the state government eventually confiscated his property throughout Pennsylvania. In May 1779, ALEXANDER'S younger brother, JAMES, informed the authorities in Lancaster that at least some of ALEXANDER'S lands had been seized improperly. JAMES claimed his mother and father were not married at the time of ALEXANDER'S birth. As a result, JAMES argued that he, and not ALEXANDER, should have the property in question, and therefore it should not have been taken by the state. In December 1780, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided the case in JAMES' favor and awarded his possession of THOMAS' plantation in Paxton Township, Lancaster County. Because JAMES' claim to the family property based on ALEXANDER'S illegitimately was not only asserted, but also successfully argued before the state's Supreme Court, it seems likely that the allegation was a truthful, albeit convenient, method of circumventing the forfeiture based on the charge of treason. JAMES' testimony, while admitting in his own self-interest, suggests that either ALEXANDER was born to THOMAS and MARY before their marriage was formalized, or he was the offspring of a passing relationship between THOMAS and an unnamed Indian woman..."
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