Family Stories

William Houston McKee Family – Laurel County

About twelve years ago Ritchey and I purchased The Book of McKee by Raymond W. McKee, published in Dublin, 1959.  There were only 500 copies printed and each is numbered.  I have number 319.  One of the chapters is titled McKees of Rushville, Illinois – which are Ritchey’s McKee family.  Ritchey’s oldest brother was so interested we purchased a copy for him.  Amazing that we found two of the 500 copies!  This book is a great font of knowledge of many of the McKee family members throughout the United States.  Today we will discuss the William McKee family that is buried in the A. R. Dyche Memorial Park in London, Laurel County, Kentucky.  Whenever Ritchey and I visit a cemetery we take photographs of gravestones that bear the names of our ancestors, hoping there may be a connection – sometimes there is, sometimes not.

The oldest McKee buried here is William Houston, born September 10, 1771.  According to the McKee book William was the son of James John McKee and Esther Houston, born September 10, 1771, in Rockbridge County, Virginia.  He was the couple’s third child.  His siblings were John, Robert and Nancy.

James John McKee (1735-1808) was the son of Robert and Agnes McKee.  His wife was Nancy Esther Houston (1743-1807).  Both are buried in Oxford Presbyterian Cemetery in Collierstown, Rockbridge County.  There are no stones for the couple.

William Houston McKee married Anna Van Lear in Virginia about 1800-1810.  William waited until after the deaths of his parents to move to Laurel County, Kentucky.  He and his family are listed in the census records of that county beginning in 1830; their arrival must have been after 1820 – or perhaps they were missed during that census.  Living in the household in 1830 were two males aged 15-20, one male 50-60, one female 5-10, one 15-20 and one 40-50.  In 1840 there is one male under 5, one male 20-30, one male 60-70, one female under 5, one female 15-20, two females 20-30 and one female 50-60.  To my knowledge, from Ancestry, William and Anna had four children – John Van Lear born in 1810, Margaret Jane in 1813, Nancy in 1814 and Evalina in 1821.  However, the 1830 census shows two young males and 2 young females.  The couple could have had another son who died before the 1840 census, thus never reaching adulthood.  Margaret would have been about 17 in that year and was possibly married.  By 1840 son John was married to Louisa Pitman, and there were two children Robert and Amanda born to the couple.  I feel certain they were living with William and Anna, along with younger daughters Nancy and Evalina.

In memory of Anna McKee, born December 8th 1781, died August 18th 1843, A. L. Dyche Memorial Park, London, Laurel County, Kentucky. 

Anna Van Lear McKee died August 18, 1843.  She was buried in the family cemetery on their farm.

In the 1850 census William Houston McKee is living alone, aged 79, a farmer with real estate of $5,000, was born in Virginia.  Next door is son John Van Lear McKee and family.  John was 39, a trader with $150 of real estate, also born in Virginia.  His wife, Louisa, was 32, born in Kentucky.  Their children were Amanda, 12; Robert L, 10; Maria Louise, 8; Letitia, 5; and William Pitman, 2.  Two additional children were born in the next few years – Martha in 1850 and John Christopher in 1852.

W. H. McKee, September 10, 1771 – October 10, 1855.

William Houston McKee died October 10, 1855.

Martha McKee, September 13, 1850 – October 4, 1851.

Granddaughter Martha McKee died in 1851.  She celebrated her first birthday the month before.

Early death certificates give us information on Margaret and Nancy McKee.  Both married a Mr. Chestnut, brothers or cousins, I would say.  Nancy Chestnut, aged 38, daughter of William and Anna McKee, died March 21, 1854, no cause given.  Her daughter, Nancy H. Chestnut, aged three months, died July 7, 1854.  Evan and Nancy Chestnut were listed as parents.  Margaret Chestnut died July 10, 1861, of consumption, aged 49, married, housekeeper, parents William and Anna McKee.  Margaret married John Chestnut.

J. V. L. McKee, December 7, 1810 – August 6, 1871.

John Van Lear McKee died August 6, 1871.

Letitia McKee, August 27, 1844 – July 14, 1878.

Granddaughter Letitia McKee never married; she died July 14, 1878.

Addie E., wife of Dr. W. P. Mckee, born May 1, 1849, died December 18, 1881.

Addie E. McKee, wife of Dr. W. P. McKee, died December 18, 1881.

Robert L. McKee, born February 6, 1840, died April 11, 1882.

Grandson Robert L. McKee died August 11, 1882.

Louisa P. McKee, August 27, 1817, died August 8, 1895.

Daughter-in-law Louisa Pitman McKee died August 8, 1895.

Amanda McKee, October 9, 1837 – April 5, 1910.

Granddaughter Amanda McKee died April 5, 1910.

John Van Lear, son of W. P. and Addie H. McKee, born in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, December 7, 1881.  Killed at the battle front in France, September 29, 1918, buried in London, Kentucky, September 3, 1921.  Sgt. Co. L. 39 US Inf. 55728.

Great-grandson John Van Lear McKee, son of W. P. and Addie H. McKee, died during World War I on September 29, 1918.

Daughter Evalina H. McKee married George Pope Brown, and lived to the age of 84, dying in 1905.  She was the last of the family to pass away.

William Houston McKee and Anna Van Lear McKee were buried on their farm in the family graveyard.  The land was eventually sold and became the A. R. Dyche Memorial Cemetery.  Most of the older gravestones have been replaced – only the one for Anna McKee looks to be original.

9 replies »

  1. William Houston McKee, his son John Van Leer and son Robert were all Masons. The McKee #144 Masonic Lodge in London, Laurel Co., Kentucky is named after Wm. Houston McKee. John Van Leer McKee was the Charter Master in 1846. Wm. Houston was 1st. cousin to another famous Mason, General Sam Houston of Texas fame. Wm. McKee joined the Masonic lodge in Staunton, Va. prior to 1805. McKee Lodge in London as several Masonic documents of Wm. Houston McKee from 1805. Wm. Houston was the first surveyor for the city of London, Ky. and served as a city commissioner, his signature appears on the City of London Charter, 1826. Wm. Houston McKee had a twin brother, John McKee. John went south and became very active in politics. His portrait hangs in the State Capital of Alabama. This is just a small sample of how the McKee Family was instrumental in the founding of London and Laurel Co., Ky. I have copies of most of the documents and photos of the people I have mentioned.

    • David, what fascinating information! Are you descended from the McKee family? My husband descends from a James McKee who came to Hardin County, Kentucky, from Pennsylvania, son of Hugh, son of Thomas. His son, William McKee, was my husband Ritchey’s 3rd great-grandfather, born in 1782. William moved to Indiana, then Schuyler County, Illinois where he raised his family and passed away. His youngest daughter, Amanda, one of the twins, married Charles Ritchey in 1843. They had just four children before her death in 1851. Son Charles Henry Ritchey married Lucinda A. Jewell and moved to Fillmore County, Nebraska. My husband’s mother was a Ritchey, and she gave him her maiden name.

      • No I’m not related to the McKee Family. I have been a member of McKee Masonic Lodge in London, Ky. for 36 years. I am known as the historian of the lodge. I have studied the lodge history thru the old minutes of the meetings back to 1846. Also researched on the internet. I have traveled to Staunton, Va. and visited the Masonic Lodge where William H. McKee belonged. I’m just fascinated by Masonic History but I’m sorry the immediate family of Wm. and John Van Lear McKee are all I have studied. Also the cemetery where they are buried in London is not the original McKee family burial sites, they were moved there later on. The A.R. Dyche Cem. in London was known originally as the Parker Cem. the first burial there was in 1890’s. I’m not sure where the original McKee Family Cem. was at. There is a McKee Cemetery located in London across from A.R. Dyche Cem. It is a cemetery started for the slaves of the McKee family. Very beautiful cemetery, it is well kept.

    • Hi David — It’s so great to see your reply here. We met in 2005, when I took my mother to visit London, where her father was born. You kindly showed up around the McKee Lodge — named for my 4th great-grandfather, and of which my great-great grandfather (Lee Mahan) and great-grandfather (Dave Jackson) were past masters. You also drove me up to Livingston to show me the building where the Dave Jackson Lodge (No. 731) was.

      Here are links to a couple photos I took on that day: and

      I hope you’re doing well. Thanks so much for all the Masonic and local history research that you do.

      — Mike Ross (aka “almadenmike”)

  2. Hi David — It’s so wonderful to see your post here. We met in 2005 when I took my mother to visit London, where her father was born, and you so kindly showed us around the McKee Lodge, which is named for my 4th great-grandfather … and of which my great-great grandfather (Lee Mahan) and great-grandfather (Dave Jackson) were past masters. Here’s a link to one of the photos I took of you and my mother (holding a photo of her grandfather, with Lee Mahan’s portrait visible at the far right):

    And you also took me up to Livingston, to see the building that housed the Dave Jackson Lodge (#731)

    I hope all’s going well with you these days. Thanks for all the wonderful local and Masonic history research that you do.

  3. Although the 1850 Census indicates that W. H. McKee was living alone at age 79, the 1850 Slave Schedule shows he had 10 slaves. I’ve attached the slave schedule and this article as sources for William Houston McKee, L8WV-Z2L, in FamilySearch. I am assisting someone descended from these slaves with their family research. I believe Samuel McKee, GLV7-WNT, was the oldest of the slaves in 1850.

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