Tag Archives: Captain Thomas McKee

Will of Hugh McKee

Hugh McKee is Ritchey’s fifth great-grandfather.  He lived at McKee’s Half Falls, Pennsylvania.  He was a liasion between George Washington and the Shawnee Nation. 

Hugh was the son of Captain Thomas McKee and possibly one of the daughters of an Indian chief.  Hugh married Mary Nesbitt.  Nine children are listed in the will below.  Ritchey descends from son James McKee.

In the name of God Amen. I, Hugh McKee, of Peters Township, Franklin County, and State of Pennsylvania, Being weak in body but of sound memory, Do this Eighteenth day of November in the year one Thousand seven Hundred and ninety four, make and publish this my last Will and Testament in manner following Viz. It is my will and desire that my just debts and Funeral charges be paid out of my estate by my Executors hereafter named. And first I will and Bequeath unto my beloved wife Mary and her heirs the sum of one Hundred and Twenty pounds, and likewise a bed and Furniture and a Horse and Saddle. Also I give to my Daughter Martha and her heirs Fifty Pounds. Also I give to my Daughter Ann and her heirs Sixty pounds. Also I give to my son James and his heirs one Hundred pounds. Also I give to my son Andrew and his heirs one Hundred pounds. Also I give to my Daughter Mary and her heirs one french crown. Also I give to my Daughter Isabel and her Heirs Fifty pounds. Likewise I give unto my daughter Elizabeth and her heirs Fifty pounds and a Horse and Saddle with a bed and furniture. And I also give to Mary Wilson and her heirs five pounds or a saddle. And likewise it is my will and desire that my executor to sell and dispose of that plantation or Tract of Land on which I now live (if possible it can be done to good advantage) in the course of the first year after my decease. But if no convenient opportunity offers they may postpone the sale until the course of the second year after my decease but no longer and also it is my will and desire (if the sale be accommodated the first year) that my Executor do out of my real estate pay the Legacies above mentioned to all and every one of my heirs respectively in four equal payments the first payment to be made agreeable to the above mentioned accommodation of the sale of the Land, Viz if the land be sold the first year. The first payment is to be made one year after my decease the second two years after my decease the third three years, and the fourth and last payment four years after my decease. But and if the Land be not sold until the second year, the first payment is not to be made until two years after my decease, the second payment three years as above specified, etc. And I do will and bequeath unto my son Thomas his heirs & assigns the one half of my Real Estate with all my personal property after my just debts and the Legacies above mentioned are paid. Likewise I do will and Bequeath unto my son William and his heirs the other half of my Real Estate after my just debts and the above mentioned Legacies are paid, to be paid to him in the following manner. After the first mentioned yearly payments are made to the above mentioned Legacies Viz, the one half of the Surplus or Remaining cash accruing yearly from the sale of the Land to be paid to him (my son William or his heirs) yearly by my Executors. And lastly I do Nominate ordain and appoint my son Thomas and my son-in-law George Dickey to be the sole Executors of this my last Will and Testament

to see that the same be duly Executed according to the intent thereof. In witness whereof I the said Hugh McKee have to this my last Will and Testament set my Hand and Seal, the day and year above written.

Hugh McKee Mary (x) McKee

Signed sealed and acknowledged by the said Hugh McKee as his Last Will and testament in presence of us Alex Glendining, Walter McKinnie, Adam Rusk

On the 22nd day of May 1795 Alexander Glendining, Walter McKinnie and Adam Rusk, the witnesses to the foregoing writing appeared before me the subscriber register for the probate of wills and letters for Franklin County, and on their solemn oaths, desposeth and saith that they were personally present & saw and heard Hugh McKee, aforesaid now deceased, write his name unto and seal and publish the foregoing writing as and for his last will & Testament, and that at the time of the doing thereof he, the said Hugh McKee, was of sound mind & memory according to the best of their knowledge & belief, And that also their names signed thereto is of their own hands writing done at the same time. Alex Glendining Walter McKinnie Adam Rusk sworn and subscribed before Edward Crawford register a true copy taken from the original remaining in the register’s office at Chambersburg Edward Crawford register. Both executors sworn to file inventory on or before first July and settle in one year or when legally required 22 May 1795

Schuyler Pioneer Families – Part 2

This newspaper article, written in 1923 by Clara Ritchey Adkisson, gives us a good picture of how our forefathers lived, worked and made this country into what it is today.  The hardships they endured speak of their hardiness and fortitude.  William McKee, Sr., is Ritchey’s 3rd great-grandfather.  He and wife Cassandra Frakes were married September 27, 1804, in Hardin County, Kentucky.  A descendant of Captain Thomas McKee, a native of Antrim, Ireland, who settled in Pennsylvania about 1700, he embodies his ancestors drive and determination to make this land ‘home’.

One family fact that is not included in this article concerns Cassandra Frakes McKee.  Evidently her prowess as a nurse/doctor were legendary.  It was said she rode many miles to help the sick and afflicted – always on the back of a little white mare.

Since this is such a long article the second half will be posted today, the first half was published yesterday.  Even though this tells the story of a small group of families, it is very likely the way most pioneers lived during the first settlement of an area.

Schuyler Pioneer Families

By Clara A. Adkisson

(As published in The Schuyler Citizen, March 7, 1923)

Continued from yesterday:

Grandfather McKee resided upon his improvement until his death in 1851.  He gave the plot for Sugar Grove Cemetery and he and his daughter, Amanda Ritchey, (mother of William McKee Ritchey) were buried in a double grave.  He and she were the first burials in the cemetery.  His daughter had preceded him in death by some five or six weeks and Grandfather requested on his deathbed that her body be disinterred from Bethany Cemetery and buried with him in a double grave in Sugar Grove Cemetery.

Uncle William McKee resided on the homestead until his death, December 17, 1897.  It then passed to his daughter, Bertha (McKee) DeWitt, who sold it to Samuel Dean after its having been in the McKee name for more than ninety years.

Rushville was located as the seat of justice, March 6, 1826.  It was first known as Rushton in honor of Dr. Rush, an eminent physician of Philadelphia, but for some reason was changed to Rushville, April 24, 1826.  The commissioners appointed Dr. Blair to go to Springfield and obtain a patent for the S.W. ¼ of Section 30, Township 2N IW.  The sum of $150.00 was paid for the M. ½ of the ¼ by Jacob White, and Dr. Blair was allowed $2.50 for his work and time.  The ½ was that part lying about 80 feet east of the public square.  The first house built in Rushville was in the spring of 1826 by John Terry, just across the street south of the Webster school building.  The second house was built by Bart Fellows, where the northeast corner of the public square now stands.  Thomas McKee was authorized to employ a skilled surveyor to lay off the town.  It was directed that one tier of ten lots on the east side of the ¼ section should be divided into 2 – ½ acre lots.

Our pioneer parents were destitute of the many conveniences of life, and of some things that we at the present time consider necessities, but they patiently endured their lot and hopefully looked forward to better things.  They had an abundance of wholesome food and they sat down to a crude table to eat from pewter or wooden dishes.  But the meat they ate, the flesh of the deer, bear, duck, turkey, quail or squirrel was far superior to what we now eat.  The bread was made from corn, wheat or rye of their own raising and they did not move with the air of a beggar, but with the quick step of a self-respected freeman.  Sometimes they had knives and forks, but more often they had none.  Their table knife was the pack knife or butcher knife.  The above mentioned game was so plentiful in those days that the settler could stand in his cabin door with rifle in hand and bring down any one of them, whenever he wished.  The wolves were so numerous, we are told, that they would chase the dogs clear to the cabin door, and many times on rising in the morning they would be standing in great droves in the door yard, but they were cowardly and easily frightened away.  Again, whenever the prairie chickens were seen to fly in great flocks over the country or to huddle together on the trees, the settlers always predicted a storm.

Those were real hardships during the first years of the settlement of this now beautiful country.  Their mills were the rudest and most primitive in their make-up.  They were known as “Band Mills”.  Grandfather McKee had one of these mills.  After the grain was crushed in those mills, it was taken home and sifted through what they called a “sarch” woven of horsehair by our pioneer mothers.  These were with meshes, both coarse and fine, for sifting either corn or flour.

The women of these times correspond with the description of the virtuous in Solomon’s Proverbs, for they “sought wool and flax and worked willingly with their hands”.  They did not, it is true, make for themselves “coverings of tapestry” nor can we say their “clothing was silk and purple”.  But this they did, they “arose while it was yet night and gave meat to their household”.  They “girded their loins with strength and strengthened their arms”.  They “looked well to the ways of their household” and “ate not the bread of idleness” and “laid their hands to the spindle and to the distaff”.  Strength and honor were in their clothing.  They manufactured all the clothing worn by the family.  In cold weather gowns made of “linsey-woolsey” were worn by the ladies.  The fabric was usually plaid or striped and the different colors were blended according to the taste and fancy of the maker.  Colors were blue, copperas, turkey-red, light blue and so forth.  Every house contained a card-loom and spinning wheel, which were considered by the women as necessary for them as the rifle for the men.  Several kinds of cloth were made.  The men and boys wore “jeans” and “linsey-woolsey” hunting shirts.  The “jeans” were colored either light blue or butternut.

The men and boys also wore pantaloons made of the dressed skins of the deer, which then swarmed the prairies in great herds.  The young man who desired to look pleasing to the eye of the maiden he loved, had his “bucks” fringed, which made them very pretty.  Meal-sacks were also made of buckskin.  Caps were made of the skins of the fox, wolf, wild cat or muskrat tanned with the fur on.  The tail of the fox often hung from the top of the cap, lending it a jaunty air.  Both sexes wore moccasins and each family made its own shoes.

The deep snow of December 26, 1830, began falling on that date and continued to fall until it was four feet in depth in the timber.  Along the edges of the timber it was considerably deeper.  The fences were completely buried from view and were ignored by man and beast, who passed over them upon the hard crust.  The settlers were virtually imprisoned in their cabins, except within the limits made necessary by extreme need.  They obtained a supply of wood by felling the nearest trees and carrying them piecemeal to their snow-thatched cabins.  The stumps of those trees six or seven feet high might be seen years afterwards as grim monuments of that terrible visitation.  So deep an impression was made on the minds and memories of those who endured the privation that it became an epoch from which other occurrences and events of less importance were dated.

It is a source of interest to the young, whose blood is warm and whose curiosity renders active their imagination, to read what our pioneers related to that wonderful event.  Cattle, horses and hogs actually perished and the wild beasts of the forest, as if mindful of a common enemy and with an instinctive feeling of mutual protection, collected themselves in groups and flocks, only to perish together.  The owl hooted mournfully in his snowy retreat.  The hawk uttered a wild scream of hunger and the wolf’s sad howl died dolefully with the December wind that passed by the settlers’ cabins.  Many stories were told of those who were storm-caught on the highways.  The mill and store stood isolated and solitary like pyramids in the desert.

Grandfather McKee started with a load of provisions and left meal, corn and meat at many a cabin whose occupants would have starved had he not risked his life for them.  He never waited for their thanks.  The most seemly evidence of brotherhood of man is the unity and unanimity in a common peril.  And how joy must have filled the hearts of the settlers as their eyes caught the form of Grandfather with his precious load!  There is a feeling of pleasure excited by the conscious security from threatened danger that far outweighs the pains of its previous apprehension, and while we sympathize with their sufferings, we may yet find something to envy those who were exposed to the perils of the deep snow.

How little does the present busy active generation of this, the iron age, give thought to or heed the debt of gratitude it owes to our fearless pioneers of the then western frontier!

The germ of our beneficent system of free schools was of their handiwork, and nursed by their care.  They brought with them the tenets and principles of the Christian religion, so necessary to civilization.  So, too, were they imbued with the great ideas of personal freedom and justice and transmitted the same broad views to their children.  Young America, as this generation is sometimes called, in innocent thoughtlessness, perhaps with a broad grin, lightly speaks of the “fogyism” of the old settlers.  But we must remember that they lived in another age; that their vigor and aspirations have gone long ago.  They performed their part well and in the unknown beyond will receive a fitting reward.

Schuyler Pioneer Families – Part 1

This newspaper article, written in 1923 by Clara Ritchey Adkisson, gives us a good picture of how our forefathers lived, worked and made this country into what it is today.  The hardships they endured speak of their hardiness and fortitude.  William McKee, Sr., is Ritchey’s 3rd great-grandfather.  He and wife Cassandra Frakes were married September 27, 1804, in Hardin County, Kentucky.  A descendant of Captain Thomas McKee, a native of Antrim, Ireland, who settled in Pennsylvania about 1700, he embodies his ancestors drive and determination to make this land ‘home’.

One family fact that is not included in this article concerns Cassandra Frakes McKee.  Evidently her prowess as a nurse/doctor were legendary.  It was said she rode many miles to help the sick and afflicted – always on the back of a little white mare.

Since this is such a long article the first half will be posted today, the second half tomorrow.  Even though this tells the story of a small group of families, it is very likely the way most pioneers lived during the first settlement of an area.

Schuyler Pioneer Families

By Clara A. Adkisson

(As published in The Schuyler Citizen, March 7, 1923)

The name Schuyler was bestowed on our county in honor of General Phillip Schuyler, a gallant soldier in the Revolutionary War.  He was born in Albany, New York, in 1733.  He died in 1804.

Schuyler County was organized in 1825, and the vicinity of Rushville was the first that echoed to the sound of the white settler.  This was in 1823, two years prior to its organization as a county.  It was at that time part of Pike County.  Rushville is nearly central in location.  The first settlements were made in the first of the year 1823 by Calvin Hobart and Orris McCartney.  In the fall of 1823 Uncle Thomas McKee, a native of Kentucky, came from Crawford County, Indiana, going first to the home of the Hobarts where he and his family spent a week before locating in what is now Bainbridge township, settling on Section 20.  Willis O’Neal and his family, who came with Uncle Thomas, settled on Section 20 of the same township.

Uncle Thomas was a natural mechanic and possessed the ability to manufacture almost any article from wood or iron.  He was a good blacksmith, and began working in it.  He was the first blacksmith in Schuyler County.  He also made the first settlement in Littleton Township.

Uncle Thomas was not dilatory in getting his relatives and friends, whom he had left in Crawford County, Indiana, to come to Illinois.  On April 16, 1826, his brother, William McKee, Sr., his son William Jr., a lad of 13 years, his daughter Cassie and her husband, Joel Tullis, their little girl, Hannah, John Thompson and his family, Isaac Linder, Charles Hammond, Vincent Westfall and James Thompson came in schooners.  Grandfather William McKee and Uncle Joel Tullis each had a two-horse wagon or schooner and the rest of the immigrants depended on these two for transportation.  They crossed the Illinois River at Beard’s Ferry and pushed on to Uncle Thomas’, where they remained a few days until Grandfather McKee selected the N.E. ¼ of Section 18.

Several log cabins were soon built.  These cabins were generally 14 X 11 feet and they were never larger than 20 feet in length.  Often they were built without nails, glass, hinges or locks, and the floors were puncheon.  The furniture suited the premises admirable; though not elegant it was in perfect harmony.  The tables had four legs made from puncheon.  The chairs were stools with either three or four legs.  The beds were often constructed to permit them to be raised and fastened to the wall to afford more living room for the family.  The cabins and furniture were simple and were framed with no other tools than an axe, perhaps an adze and an auger.  All hands worked with a will.

Soon a good crop of corn, potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables was growing on the forty acres they had fenced and put under cultivation.  In planting, they simply turned the sod and between the crevices of the broken soil dropped the corn.  This was called “sod corn”.

The season was favorable and the field bountiful; the corn is said to have run twenty-five bushels to the acre.  The potatoes, the cabbage, and the various other vegetables were exceptionally fine this season.  Their watermelon patch, it is said, was so thickly covered with the enormous fruit that a man could walk carefully across the patch without placing his feet on the ground!  This almost incredible crop was a fair sample of the fertility and productivity of the soil a hundred years ago.  That fertility was quite probably the reason for many of the settlers remaining; hardy souls who would otherwise have rambled on as soon as the crops were well advanced.  Grandfather McKee, accompanied by his son-in-law, Uncle Joel Tullis, and the Thompson brothers returned to Indiana in their wagons to remove Grandmother (Cassie Frakes McKee) and the rest of the family, their goods and stock to Illinois.

John Thompson left his family with Auntie Tullis and Uncle Billy McKee (William McKee, Jr.).  Upon their arrival in Indiana, Uncle Joel (Captain Joel Tullis, who later settled in Palo Pinto County, Texas) began the construction of a pirogue.  He first selected a large straight poplar tree.  This he felled and cut from it a log sixty feet long.  Then he removed the inside of the log, until a mere shell remained.  To the upper edge, wide boards were nailed and permitted to extend out over the water like South Sea outboards.  Oarlocks and long poles for propelling, when oars could not be used, completed the pirogue.  It was finished near the middle of September.  The craft was then loaded.  The cargo consisted of household goods, leather, groceries and a carding machine for Grandfather McKee, and two families who were migrating to Morgan County, Illinois.  The working force of this method of transportation was Joel Tullis, the Captain, and his helpers, John and James Thompson, John Combs and Daniel Matheney.

The latter’s wife, Ann McKee Matheney, and their child came in the schooners.  “All aboard” was heard and the craft was soon drifting down the Ohio River.  They traveled by day; frequently they grounded on sand-bars, as the river was very low.  Then all hands had to get out and lift over.  After several lift-overs Captain Tullis discovered that the channel of the Ohio River was staked out, so by careful observation no further delays were encountered by the travelers.  They floated by day and camped on the river bank by night, with nothing for shelter but the sky and the glare of their campfire.  The solitude of the wilderness was relieved only by the splashing oars, or occasionally the echoed songs of a woodsman as he hewed the material for his home in the depths of the forest.  This brooding forest skirted the stream everywhere and in the late fall the trees were robed in many colors.  It was so primeval that it must have been both awesome and inspiring.

They reached the mouth of the Ohio River without accident and were soon poling their craft up the Mississippi River, then the Illinois River.

On their way a large deer with antlers of many prongs sprang into the water and attempted to swim across.  The young men of the party were soon in a canoe and gave chase to the noble game, which was at once overtaken.  Its head was bent by the sturdy arm of one of the number, its throat cut and the carcass secured.  Though game was plentiful, no time was wasted in pursuit as all were anxious to reach the end of the journey.

Many Indians were encountered on the banks and in the channels of the rivers.  All were peaceable and friendly.  Just at sunset on a beautiful October day in 1826, the prow of the pirogue touched the bank of the Illinois River where Frederick now stands.  The craft was made fast and Uncle Joel, John Thompson and Daniel Matheney started for the settlement twelve miles away.  James Thompson and John Combs remained to guard the pirogue and its precious cargo.  The other three were given a hearty welcome upon their arrival at the settlement.  The next day the contents of the pirogue were transferred to the cabins.

After two days rest Daniel Matheney and Charles Hammond started to meet the rest of the company, who were making the trip overland in schooners.  In the latter days of October the party arrived.  Those who came at that time were Grandfather and Grandmother McKee, daughters Agnes,who afterward became the wife of Aaron Harding; Dorcas, who became the wife of Philip Horney; Mary, who became the wife of William Price; Elizabeth, who became the wife of Zachariah Spriggs; Amanda and Clara Ann, who became the wives of Charles and Jacob Ritchey.  The last named were twins and were one year of age when they came to Schuyler County.  Sons, James, Henry and Joel McKee; Isaac Linder, wife and child; Daniel Matheney, wife and child; Joseph Lowhall, wife and two children; and Thomas Popnam, wife and three children, made up the party who came at that time and settled around the McKee’s and Tullis’.