Family Stories

Alexander Robertson McKee, Biography

from Kentucky Genealogy and Biography Volume V

Boyle County, Kentucky

Alexander Robertson McKee, M.D., was born on the 4th of February, 1816, near Lancaster, Garrard County, Kentucky.  He was the third son of Hon. Samuel McKee, who was a prominent and successful lawyer and politician during the early history of the state.  Dr. McKee received a collegiate education at Centre College, Danville, Kentucky, and subsequently took his degree in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania with the class of 1839.  Soon thereafter he located at Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky, and formed a partnership for the practice of his profession with his cousin, the late Dr. William R. Letcher.  He at once acquired a large and lucrative practice and commanded the universal respect and confidence of the community.  During the time he resided in Madison County he was elected and served for many years as a director of the Northern Bank of Kentucky, as a member of the board of trustees of the town of Richmond, and as an elder in the Presbyterian Church.  In 1857 Dr. McKee removed to Clay County, Missouri, where he remained only two years.  Returning to Kentucky in the spring of 1859 he located at Danville, where he resumed the practice of his profession, and resided at that place until his death on the 13th of February, 1886.  Dr. McKee was engaged as an active and honorable practitioner of medicine for forty-seven years, commencing in 1839, and ending a few days before his death in 1886.  He was a diligent student of medicine, thoroughly devoted to his profession, and was recognized by the medical profession and the community at large as a thoroughly qualified and conscientious practitioner.  He acquired wide reputation as a safe and successful physician.  Few men in any profession have, for so many years, retained their practice as Dr. McKee.  Until four days before his death in the seventy-first year of his age, he was engaged in the successful practice of his profession.  He was remarkably successful as a general practitioner, but was known as especially successful as an accoucheur.  It is know that out of over 1,600 obstetrical cases that he attended during his professional career, only one case resulted in the death of the mother.  Dr. McKee was one of the organizers of the Boyle County Medical Society, also of the district society, and was frequently elected president of each.  He was also a member of the Kentucky State Medical Society.  He was a man of great physical as well as moral courage.  He never failed, or even hesitated, in the discharge of what he considered to be his duty.  No danger or personal inconvenience ever deterred him, or caused him to falter.  This feature of his character was well illustrated by his conduct during the winter of 1862, after the Battle of Perryville, where he had under his professional care as many as 1,200 sick and wounded Union and Confederate soldiers, many of whom had contagious and infectious diseases.  To these he gave as careful and as faithful attention as he did to his nearest friends and patients suffering from ordinary diseases.  He was a man of great firmness and determination.  When once he had made up his mind, or come to a conclusion about any matter, no amount of threats or persuasion could induce him to abandon his position.  No consideration of personal gain or popularity seemed to have the slightest influence with him; justice and right seemed to be the main considerations with him, let the consequences be what they would.  He was a true and steadfast friend, a wise counselor, a public-spirited citizen, a skillful physician, and an upright and honest man, beloved and respected by the entire community.  Dr. McKee’s father, Hon. Samuel McKee, was a noted man in his day.  Born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, October 13, 1774, he removed with his father, Colonel William McKee, to Garrard County, Kentucky, about the year 1800.  He was a member of Congress from 1806 to 1816, succeeding Judge John Boyle in that office.  He was a circuit judge for a number of years, and an officer in the War of 1812.  As a lawyer he commanded a very large practice, and as an orator he had few equals.  He seldom ever had any opposition for any office to which he aspired.  He was so popular in his own county that the largest number of votes ever cast against him in that county was six.  He was repeatedly elected a member of the Kentucky Legislature, was a member of the first board of trustees of Centre College, and at the time of his death in 1826 was serving by appointment of President Monroe as president of the first commission to clear the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers of obstructions.  Dr. McKee had only two brothers, Colonel William R. McKee, who graduated at the military academy at West Point in 1829 and was subsequently colonel of the Second Kentucky Regiment in the war with Mexico, and lost his life at the head of his regiment at the same time with Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Clay, Jr., at Buena Vista.  His other brother, Judge George R. McKee, one of the most distinguished and successful lawyers of the state, still resides in Covington.  Dr. McKee’s only sister, Jane Logan McKee, was married to Dr. Benjamin F. Duncan, of Garrard County.  She died at the old “McKee” homestead near Lancaster in 1873.  Dr. McKee’s grandfather, Colonel William McKee of Scotch-Irish descent, was a captain in the Revolutionary War for six years; a member of the convention that drafted the first constitution of the State of Virginia; a member of the Virginia Convention that adopted the Constitution of the United States; was high sheriff of Rockbridge County, Virginia; removed to Kentucky about the year 1800, and settled upon Gilbert’s Creek near Lancaster.  Colonel McKee’s first wife was his cousin, Mariam McKee, and his second wife was also his cousin, being at the time of their marriage the widow of Colonel Joseph Daviess, and was the mother by her first husband of Colonel Joseph Hamilton Daviess, who was killed at the battle of Tippecanoe.  Dr. McKee’s mother was Martha Robertson, daughter of Alexander Robertson, the first sheriff of Mercer County, member of the first county court for Lincoln County; delegate to the Virginia Convention called to ratify the Federal constitution; member of the Virginia Legislature until 1789; voted with all the Kentucky delegates, except Humphrey Marshall, against the adoption of the Federal constitution.  Dr. McKee’s mother was a sister of the late Chief Justice George Robertson and also of Mrs. Ex-Governor Robert P. Letcher.  Dr. McKee was married in September, 1842, to Mary Ashby, daughter of Dr. M. Q. Ashby, of Richmond, Kentucky.  They were blessed with six children:  Samuel, Ashby, George, Logan, Alexander and Margaret Logan McKee.  George R. died in infancy, and Ashby, a young man of rare promise, died in the twenty-eighth year of his age in Louisville, Kentucky.  Mrs. McKee’s family, the Ashbys, was also very prominent and bore a conspicuous part in the early history of Virginia and Kentucky.  Mrs. McKee’s father, Dr. M. Q. Ashby of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, was a prominent physician for many years at Richmond and Lexington, Kentucky, and was one of the wealthiest and most influential men of central Kentucky.  Her grandfather, Captain Nathaniel Ashby, was a captain in the Revolutionary War; also in the War of 1812; served under General Morgan throughout the war of the revolution and was at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.  Her great-grandfather, Captain John Ashby, was an aid on George Washington’s staff at Braddock’s defeat in 1754; was also an officer in the Revolutionary War with his son Nathaniel Ashby.  Ashby’s Gap, in Virginia, is named for Captain John Ashby; and General Turner Ashby, of “Black Horse” cavalry fame, is of the same family, being a second cousin of Mrs. McKee.

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