Note by Phyllis Brown: William McKee, Jr., is a brother to Ritchey’s ancestor Amanda McKee who married Charles Ritchey. All, including their parents, are buried in the McKee Cemetery/Sugar Grove North Cemetery in Schuyler County, Illinois, just north of Rushville. Brother William lived a much longer life, his sister dying at the early age of 26.
William headed west on the Oregon Trail two different times, once in 1839 and again in 1847 when his brother, Joel McKee, and Joel Tullis, accompanied him. For Mr. Tullis it was a long, hard trip filled with sorrow – six of his children died on the way and their bodies were buried along the Indian trails, wherever the party happened to be camped when death came to them. William McKee also fought in the Black Hawk War. From Oregon he went to California in 1849, where he joined the throng of gold miners. There he remained until 1852 when he returned to Schuyler County, after the death of his father. He decided it was time to settle down and married Sarah Wilmot and lived his remaining days on the old farmstead.
In the Schuyler County Historical Jail Museum and Genealogy Center in Rushville, there are some of William’s artifacts including items he took with him on his trips west. This is pioneer history at it’s best, and the small town of Rushville should be justly proud of having such a fantastic history center.
The Rushville Times, Rushville, Illinois
December 23, 1897
William McKee, one of the early pioneer residents of Schuyler County, died suddenly at his farm two miles north of Rushville, last Friday evening. Though an aged man, he was not afflicted with the ills age usually brings, and he continued to go about his farm and drive to town whenever the weather permitted. The evening he died he started to do his chores as usual, and with a woman in his employ went to the cattle barn a short distance from the house. He there remarked that he would let the cow go dry and his companion turned to go to the house. She had taken but a few steps when she heard a sound behind her and retracing her steps found Mr. McKee had fallen and was then unconscious. She gave the alarm and the family came to lend assistance, but he was dead. Mr. McKee was born in Crawford County, Indiana, January 22, 1813. He came to Schuyler County in 1826 with his father, and since 1852 has resided on the old homestead, which was purchased by William McKee, Sr., and at his death willed to his son. Mr. McKee was married in 1853 to Sarah C. Wilmot. Five daughters were born to them – Mrs. Henry Hite, Mrs. Samuel D. Wheelhouse, Mary C. ad Meta McKee and Mrs. Cyrus L. Dewitt. Mrs. McKee and her daughter, Mrs. Dewitt, are the only ones living of this family to mourn the death of their beloved husband and father.
Mr. McKee has three surviving sisters and a brother. His sister, Mrs. Bettie Sprigg of Augusta, was here on a visit when he died. Another sister, Mrs. Jacob Ritchey, lives on a farm nearby. The remaining sister, Mrs. Dorcas Horney, and her daughter Mary, of Warren County, came to attend the funeral. His only brother, Joel McKee, resides in Texas. E. E. McKensie and wife, of Beardstown, were also in attendance at the funeral.
On Sunday morning at 11 o’clock, Rev. John Knowles, who had been intimately acquainted with this grand old pioneer farmer for fifty years, conducted the funeral services at the family residence in the presence of a large number of sympathizing friends and neighbors.
Mr. McKee lived a long and eventful life. In his early years it was a stirring, busy life. A life such as led by the more hardy pioneer of his time and generation. With advancing age he returned to the home of his father, married and reared a family, and in a quiet, unostentatious way lived the life of a farmer until death removed him from his earthly labors.
In this short article we have not attempted to give a full history of the life of Mr. McKee. The prominent part he took in the affairs of his country in the early days, when the Indians roamed over our now thickly populated prairies, is worthy of a detailed description, and next week we will bestow upon our old friend the honor he so well merits.