Family Stories

General Robert B. McAfee Biography

from Mercer County, Kentucky – Biographies

General Robert B. McAfee was born in the district of Kentucky, at his present residence on Salt River, in February 1784.  His ancestors came to Kentucky, and settled at this place, in the fall of 1779.  Robert McAfee, the father of General McAfee, had to cultivate his farm gun in hand, for four or five years after he settled in Kentucky; and the subject of this sketch was born and reared amid the confusion and perils of continued Indian alarms.  He was placed at school while yet very young, and continued at various institutions of instruction until he had obtained a good education.  He lost his father when he was eleven years of age; and being thus left an orphan, (his mother having died the year previous), he was placed under the charge of the Hon. John Breckinridge and James McCoun, who had been appointed his guardians.  In the year 1796, he entered Transylvania Seminary, then under the control of the Rev. James Moore, a gentleman of learning and estimable character.  He also attended, for a brief period, a private school, in Mercer County.  When he had completed his classical education, he commenced the study of the law under the Hon. John Breckinridge, in whose office he continued three years.  When he had completed his studies, he returned to Mercer County and commenced the practice of law.  In October, 1807, he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Cardwell, a niece of Col. Anthony Crockett, a revolutionary officer, who was with General George Rogers Clark in the expedition against Kaskaskia and Vincennes.  In the year 1800 he was elected to represent Mercer County in the legislature; and, with the exception of two or three years, has been in public life ever since.  Upon the breaking out of the late war, he volunteered as a private in the company of mounted riflemen, and was among the first Kentuckians who joined the north-western army.  In this company he was appointed sergeant and was, subsequently, elected ensign, and afterwards, second lieutenant.  He was also made quarter-master of Col. R. M. Johnson’s regiment.  This regiment aided in relieving Fort Wayne, at a very critical period, when surrounded by hostile Indians.  A detachment having been sent, under Col. Wells, against the Indian town of Five Medals, sixty miles north-west of Fort Wayne, McAfee accompanied the expedition.  In 1813, he received from Governor Shelby a captain’s commission in Col. Johnson’s regiment of mounted riflemen, having, previously, raised a company of eighty men, by whom he had been elected captain.  Col. Johnson’s regiment marched on the 25th of May, 1813, and was employed in active service on the frontiers.  Captain McAfee’s company, having been increased to one hundred and fifty men, were in the battle of the Thames, on the 5th of October, 1813, and did good service.  At the close of the war, Captain McAfee returned to his farm, in Mercer County, and spent two or three years in private life.  In 1819, he was elected to the legislature; and, in 1821, was chosen a member of the State senate.  In 1824, he resigned his seat in the senate, and was elected lieutenant governor, in which capacity he served four years.  He presided over the deliberations of the senate during those bitter and exciting contests, which are known in history as the new and old court questions.  In 1829, he became a candidate for Congress, but declined before the election came on.  In 1830, he was again elected to the legislature; and again in 1831-2.  He was a member of the convention which assembled at Baltimore in 1832, and nominated General Jackson as candidate for president, and Martin Van Buren for vice-president.  In 1833, he was appointed charge d’affaires to the republic of Colombia, in South America, and proceeded to the city of Bogotá, where he remained, engaged in the discharge of his duties, until 1837, when he returned to the United States.  In this mission he was accompanied by this son James, as private secretary.  In 1841, he was again elected to the senate of Kentucky; and, in 1842, was appointed one of the visitors to West Point, and elected president of the board.  In 1845, he retired from public life, and thereafter resided on his farm, in Mercer County.  He died in the sixty-sixth year of his age.  It should not be omitted, that General McAfee was a member of the royal Antiquarian Society of Denmark, and an honorary member of the Kentucky Historical Society. 

4 replies »

  1. body{font-size:10pt;font-family:arial,sans-serif;background-color:#ffffff;color:black;}p{margin:0px;}Phyllis – What a distinguished life this gentleman had! To be a legislator at age 16 is certainly unusual…I enjoyed reading his story.Ron Klein

  2. Phyllis,

    Very interesting. I was at the Providence cemetery yesterday. My maternal grandparents and great grandparents are buried there. Some of the markers are in bad shape. I noticed one of the McAfee sites which was above ground was broken. It had a Revolutionary War marker near it. Do you know how to find out who the caretaker is? Maybe I should contact the church?? I recall my father getting a letter asking for donations towards the upkeep before he passed away. I need to follow up on that and find out who to send money to. I imagine it is mostly for mowing, etc.

    I’ve also enjoyed your mystery photographs. We’ve discovered one of our own. My sister found this among the photos my mother had and we don’t know who it is. It had Grandma and Grandpap written on the back. We’ve checked with family members and they don’t know either. We have it narrowed down to a few possibilities and think it probably belongs to my father’s side of the family. And, of course, it might not have any connection to us at all.

    Diane Long

    On Sat, Dec 15, 2012 at 6:04 AM, kentuckykindred wrote:

    > ** > Kentucky Kindred Genealogical Research posted: “from Mercer County, > Kentucky – Biographies General Robert B. McAfee was born in the district of > Kentucky, at his present residence on Salt River, in February 1784. His > ancestors came to Kentucky, and settled at this place, in the fall of > 1779. Robert”

    • Diane, it would probably be best to contact the church. Usually each church cares for their own cemeteries. If you do not get any information let me know and I’ll contact the Harrodsburg Historical Society – they might have information. I do love the old photographs, too! You should post your photo and see if anyone recognizes the face. That’s what I hope, that one day someone will say, that’s my great-great grandmother!, to one of my Lost and Found Photos!

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