Title: Annals of southwestern Pennsylvania, by Lewis Clark Walkinshaw ... Vol. 2
Author: Walkinshaw, Lewis Clark.
“The present great city of McKeesport got a later start, but its founders maintained an important plantation there until they founded the town on February 5, 1795, as shown by their public annoucement in the Pittsburgh “Gazette.” The family of DAVID McKEE is credited with being the pioneer here, and for whom the town was (pg. 260) named when it was laid out, more than twenty-five years after the McKEE family settled there. The date of their coming is best given in a case reported in the Supreme Court reports of Pennsylvania, wherein a dispute arose over the right of occupancy of land adjacent to McKeesport (1 Yeates 286, Richard Smith, et al. v. George Crawford, et al.). The plaintiff in that case claimed the land through conveyances from James Byers, Jr., to Ephraim Blaine, on an application entered for one Alexander Ross, for three hundred acres of land “up the bend of Monongahela, on the west side, near or adjoining General Braddock’s road.” The defendants held under one JAMES McKEE, who claimed the premises under a permission granted by Captain Charles Edmonstone, commanding officer at Fort Pitt, dated 29th September, 1768, to the said Alexander Ross, to settle and improve a tract of land at Braddock’s crossing, fourteen miles from Fort Pitt, and a survey returned thereon, the attainder of the said Ross of high treason in consequence of the Act of Assembly of 6th March, 1778, a sale by public vendue by the agents of forfeited estates of Westmoreland County, before the county of Allegheny had been divided off therefrom, to the said JAMES McKEE, on the 12th March, 1784, and a patent thereon to him, reciting the above particulars, dated 29th December, 1785.
It was proved by several witnesses, that the said JAMES McKEE first seated himself on the land, and began to build a cabin about Christmas, 1768, which was finished in 1769, after the office opened, and originally held it by what he falsely called an improvement, which he had continued by himself or his tenants up to the present period, and that at the time of commencing the ejectment he had a good business house, barn, stables, some meadow ground, and above sixty acres of land cleared on the farm, that his father had sent to Philadelphia applications for several tracts of land for his sons, and amongst others, one for the tract in question, to be entered in the office, which had miscarried, but that under an impression that the locations had been sent by mistake to a wrong surveyor, the survey had been actually made for the said JAMES McKEE, his son, and JOHN McKEE his brother had paid for the surveying fees.
It was also proved by Michael Huffnagle, Esq., one of the agents of forfeited estates, that the premises had been advertised for sale by order of the Supreme Executive Council, and were publicly sold at Pittsburgh by outcry, on the 12th of March, 1784, no one setting up (pg. 261) or pretending any adverse claim or title, to the said JAMES McKEE, who paid him the consideration money at that time, that he had made return thereof within five or six months afterwards to the Council, and that in December, 1785, he paid the money into the treasury, and the lessor of the plaintiff meeting him in Philadelphia, first acquainted him of his having a title and patent for the lands, and desired him not to proceed on the sale, to which he answered, that having sold and paid the money into the treasury, he was bound to go on in the discharge of his duty, that he had informed the Council of what had passed between himself and Blaine, but on consideration they had awarded a patent to issue to McKEE.
It was likewise shown that the location of Ross was more precisely descriptive of the lands in question than that of Byers, the former being better adapted to the swell of the bottom land in the bend of the river Monongahela. To obviate the objection, that Blaine did not give notice of his title to the lands at the sale made by the agents, it was proved that he had proceeded from Pittsburgh to Kentucky on the twenty-first of November, 1783, and did not return from thence until the month of June following.
The case was argued for the plaintiffs by James Ross and Hugh Henry Brackenridge, and for the defendants by John Woods and Robert Galbraith. Mr. Galbraith had been an attorney in Bedford and practiced in Hannastown as early as 1773. The other three were admitted in Allegheny on the first day of court held there. The Supreme Court decided the case largely on the question that, by the attainder of Alexander Ross for high treason, his whole estate, real and personal, became vested in the commonwealth, under the fifth section of the Act of Assembly of 6th March, 1778, and that under this law, and the supplement thereto, passed 29th March, 1779, the agents of forfeited estates are directed to sell the estates of traitors in a certain mode prescribed.
DAVID McKEE and his wife MARGARET, and his five sons, ROBERT, JAMES, THOMAS, DAVID and JOHN, and their daughters, MARY and MARGARET, must have arrived during the year 1768. DAVID McKEE’S activities at the future McKeesport are also recorded in part on the court records. The Virginia court records for Augusta County show the appointment of viewers on February 21, 1775, for a road beginning at the mouth of the Youghiogheny River at McKEE’S Ferry. Samuel Sinclair was a neighbor of DAVID McKEE, across in the fork of (pg. 262) the Youghiogheny, and the Augusta court took this action on February 24, 1775: “On motion of Samuel Sinclair, who lives at the forks of the rivers Monongahela and Youghagano, leave is granted him to keep a ferry over each of the rivers, and that he keep boats.” The court minutes show this action on May 16, 1775: “On the motion of DAVID McKEE for leave to keep a ferry over the Monongahela and Youghagano, which motion being opposed, on hearing the parties it is considered that the ferry is unnecessary; it is therefore ordered that the said motion be rejected.”
One of the sons of DAVID McKEE, THOMAS, died early; SAMUEL SINCLAIR, JR., married ELIZABETH McKEE, daughter of ROBERT McKEE; JAMES PEEBLES married MARY, daughter of THOMAS McKEE, deceased, and purchased the interests of his family, and later secured a title to the land. With JAMES McKEE living at the site of the present city of Duquesne, and ROBERT, DAVID and JOHN McKEE, on the lowlands in central McKeesport, this family was destined to lay the foundations of this outstanding municipality. JOHN McKEE, as indicated by the history of his real estate operations, was the active founder of McKeesport...”
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