Elizabeth was Andrew McKee’s wife, but who was she? What do we know about her?
I can tell you one thing after researching the details of her life and fleshing out as much as possible – that woman was made of absolute grit! I would love to sit down for a few days and talk to her about her life and what was going on around her. I know, I just know that there’s an untold story here. I can smell it, but I can’t find it.
Amazingly, we didn’t even know Elizabeth’s name until her husband died.
Everything we know about Elizabeth’s early life, we know through Andrew and her children.
Given that Elizabeth’s youngest child was born in either 1810 or shortly thereafter, and if we estimate that she was 43 years old at the time, we can reasonably establish her birth about 1767. Of course, she could have been anyplace from 40-45, so born between 1765-1770.
Based on this, it makes sense that Elizabeth would have been marrying about 1788. She would have been about 21 years old.
Andrew McKee, her husband, had land surveyed on October 5, 1789. Now this could mean a couple of things.
Andrew could have already been living on this property, leasing, and decided that, indeed, he did want to purchase the patent option, have it surveyed, and settle here permanently.
He did, in fact, settle there permanently. The home he brought his bride home to is the only home they ever had. The only one either of them lived in.
In fact, it still stands – as amazing as that sounds. How cool is this?!!
The home is listed as having been built in 1765, so, it’s possible that Andrew didn’t just obtain a hill with a forest that had to be cleared, but land with a home. Yes, the surrounding land was probably mostly uncleared. I’m not convinced that this house was built in 1765, but it’s certainly the home where Andrew and Elizabeth lived. There’s no question about that.
It’s unlikely that Andrew, as a single man, purchased this land. It’s possible of course.
Marriage records for Washington County do exist, but they seem to be only partially complete, and there is nothing for this timeframe for Andrew and Elizabeth.
Where Was Andrew Before 1789?
That’s a good question.
The early Washington County records, including the tax lists beginning in 1782 don’t show any McKee men, except for one Elias Mackey in 1784. He lives 9 houses from John Kelly, who became Andrew McKee’s neighbor in 1789 when his land was surveyed. John Kelly is in the county as early as 1782 and possibly earlier, along with the Robinsons and lots of Edmistons (Edmondson) – families that would be Andrew’s neighbors his entire adult life.
In 1785 and 1786, there are no McKee or Mackey men in the county.
Andrew McKee apparently wasn’t in Washington County prior to 1787 when he first appears on the tax list. Either that or he was too young to be taxed, or on someone else’s list. On the 1787 tax list, he’s 21 or over, but he has no property at all, not even a horse. His birth year was 1766 or earlier.
If he was living with someone else in 1787, he was taxed on his own and not on their list.
Unfortunately, the 1787 tax list is recorded in letter order, not tax or house order. Andrew McKee is listed as the person chargeable and the white male above 21 – no blacks, no horses, no cattle, no stud horses – nothing else.
Andrew had to come from someplace. Did he come with other McKee men?
The 1788 property and land tax list is, unfortunately, in alpha order, but shows several people of interest.
- May 21 – John Mackey 1 – – – 3
- July 26 – Samuel Mackey 1
- Sept 10 – Alexander Mecke (I believe this is Meek or Meeks from later lists) 1 – 1 2
- Sept 19 – Andrew McKee 1
- October 5 – Thomas McKee 1
Those last two are definitely McKee, but apparently, Thomas moved on. They were not visited on the same day, or even close, so they may be entirely disconnected.
All these men have one tithable, which means they are living in their own households and only have one white male, age 21 or over, no horses (except John) and no blacks.
Thomas’s name was definitely McKee, but he is never found again.
Andrew may have arrived by himself on the frontier. If those other men in 1788 were family, they moved on. Elias did serve in the Revolutionary War from Washington and Montgomery Counties, but he moved on too. Andrew named none of his boys any of these names except Alexander, and that’s the name I’m fairly certain is actually Meek or Meeks.
In 1787 and 1788, Andrew was probably calling on Elizabeth, maybe picking wildflowers along the way, Queen Anne’s Lace and Daisies perhaps, and tying them into a bouquet, trying to win her heart.
Maybe Elizabeth is the reason why Andrew didn’t move on with those other McKee men.
Given that he didn’t have a horse on the 1787 tax list, we know Andrew was walking or, if lucky, maybe riding a mule. Maybe 1787 is when they married, which is why he’s on the tax list.
Maybe Andrew proposed as soon as he could afford a horse. Or maybe his father-in-law-to-be took pity on young Andrew and sold him an old nag real cheap!
Ahhh, young love.
If Andrew and Elizabeth were married in 1788, or thereabouts, then they would have been married in the Ebbing Springs Church that no longer exists. It wasn’t located too far away. In fact, people in a Facebook group for Washington County, VA say they can remember walking from the land that John Kelly owned, across Price’s Bridge spanning the Holston River to the cemetery where the old church used to be. Of course, back when Andrew lived there, no bridges existed, and the river would have either been waded, forded on horseback, or in a wagon when (if) the water was low enough.
Of course, it’s also possible that Andrew married Elizabeth elsewhere, and they came with her family.
Andrew’s not on the land or personal tax list in 1789, but then his district could be missing.
On August 18, 1790, Andrew McKee had 1 tax levy, himself, and one horse/mare, no blacks or any stud horses or anything else.
At least he’s been able to save up enough for a horse.
Given that Elizabeth probably would have been too young to marry before 1787, it’s likely that Andrew married a local gal and settled down near her parents. Maybe even beside her parents.
Hmmm, who are the neighbors?
Andrew’s immediate neighbors, whose land borders his, are:
- John Kelley (Kelly)’s land was surveyed in 1782
- Samuel Kithcart had his land surveyed in 1782
- Jacob Halfacre whose land was surveyed in 1783 and acquired the Dozer survey
- James Thompson’s 2600 aces was surveyed in 1746 and some also in 1794
Near neighbors include
- John Starnes who settled in 1774
- Aaron Lewis whose land was surveyed in 1785
- John Kirk who settled in 1772, but whose land wasn’t surveyed until 1783
- David Craig whose land wasn’t surveyed until 1801
- Nathaniel McClure settled in 1770 and his land was surveyed in 1785
- Henry Oakwood settled in 1773 and his land was surveyed in 1784
- Jonathan Cunningham settled in 1775 by George Hice and had lis land surveyed in 1782
- Abraham Lefever settled in 1774 and had his land surveyed in 1785, also another trace surveyed in 1784
- Adam Morrow settled n 773 and had his land surveyed in 1784
- Joseph Cole settled in 1771 and had his land surveyed in 1782
- Philip Grever settled in 1773 and had his land surveyed in 1782
- John Bowles settled in 1773 and had his land surveyed in 1784
- Thomas Edmundson had two tracts of land surveyed in 1783
- Jonathan Cortney has his land surveyed in 1798
- Patrick Watson’s land was surveyed in 1783
- James Robinson’s land was surveyed in 1783
- David and Samuel Robinson had land surveyed in 1785 and David in 1796
Jeffrey La Favre mapped these early land grants, here, and discovered that there’s n marker in the David Robinson 1796 survey that refers to a corner with Andrew McKee. I’ve drawn that with a green arrow. (It’s also worth noting that point is very close to the old McKee cemetery.)
The problem is that Andrew McKee’s land is shown in yellow, at the top. What gives?
We know from Andrew’s 1805 will that he had “two plantations,” adjoined.
Jeffrey also discovered that Samuel Kithcart sold 192 acres to Andrew McKee in 1791.
Samuel Killhart [Kithcart] sells to Andrew W. Kee [McKee] 192 acres on the Middle and South Forks of the Holston River. Washington Co., VA Record of Deeds 1, p. 226. David Robinson’s 100-acre tract surveyed 27 June 1796, lists Andrew McKee as owner of adjoining land, which on the map below is Samuel Kithcart’s 191 acre tract. Actually, due to problems in fitting the tracts on the map, Robinson’s tract does not adjoin Kithcart’s tract, although the survey descriptions indicate that they do adjoin.
Now we know that Andrew McKee bought Kithcart’s land. Was that an arm’s length transaction, or had Andrew married Kithcart’s daughter?
The land transaction was for 105 pounds and lay between the middle and south fork of the Holston. The original survey referenced James Dozer and Zachariah Wolsey, whose land Andrew McKee patented originally. It mentions John Kelley’s line along with Thomas Edmondson and Adam Morrow.
The deed was proven in court on August 16, 1791, where Elizabeth Kincart, his wife, relinquished her right of dower. Unfortunately, the name Elizabeth is very common, so we can’t really draw any inferences from that.
The following deed registered in the deed book was another sale transaction from Samuel Kithcart to Samuel Eakin, also for 110 pounds of Virginia money, so indeed it does sound like Kithcart was selling out and leaving.
I was so hoping that Kithcart had sold his land to Andrew at a low price, a lower price than normal, which might have suggested that Andrew was his son-in-law, but no such luck.
Or maybe, Elizabeth was John Kelly’s daughter?
Of course, maybe neither, but you have to be close enough to court a gal before you can ask her father for her hand in marriage and then propose to her.
Did Samuel Kithcart, who had been settled there since at least 1782, sell out and move on a decade later? Where did he go, and more importantly, perhaps, did he leave a will?
The Beginning of the Family
We know that Andrew and Elizabeth’s children started arriving not long after their presumed marriage about 1788.
For example, we know that son James McKee was born on January 12 of 1791, but he may not have been their first child. In fact, I’m fairly certain that he wasn’t.
How I wish the 1790 census existed. Although, James McKee, on his War of 1812 bounty land requisition, says he was drafted and that on April 23rd, 1852, he was 59 years old, which places his birth in 1793, not 1791.
His tombstone provides his birth, by subtraction, as December 22, 1790, as does the Washington County, VA death register. The book, High on a Windy Hill provides the location of James’s grave as the McKee Cemetery. This would have been on the land he owned, originally owned by his father, and may very well be where Andrew, Elizabeth, and his siblings are buried as well.
I wrote about the McKee Cemetery, here, including the location.
Daughter Sally McKee was probably their firstborn child, maybe in 1788 or 1789. She married Robert Larimer in December of 1810.
Now would probably be a good time to mention that I compiled a large spreadsheet involving every record for Andrew’s children that I could find that would even hint at their age. I’ve used the various columns to hone in on the most likely birth years I’ll be publishing the information about their children in birth order. The spreadsheet includes:
- Andrew’s 1805 will – list of his children
- 1810 census
- Marriage date
- Andrew’s 1814 estate sale purchasers
- Tax list appearance date
- Guardianship date
- 1820 census
- 1830 census
- Elizabeth’s estate purchasers
- Margaret’s estate purchasers
- Spouse’s estates
- 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870 census
- Death information
- Their children’s birth information
- Military records
- Other resources
James was probably the oldest son based on the order of children listed in Andrew’s will and also based on the fact that he served as the guardian for his minor siblings after his father’s death.
Based on this, we can presume that Elizabeth probably had Sally 18 months to 2 years earlier than James, so July of 1789, just before Andrew’s land was surveyed. Since we didn’t find Andrew on the tax list that year, was he on his father-in-law’s tax list, or did I miss the listing or was his page missing? If their child was born in July of 1789, then we might say they were married in the summer of 1788.
That makes sense, especially since we first find Andrew on the 1787 tax list.
Children Sally and James would have been baptized in the old Ebbing Springs church just a few miles away from home.
We don’t have all the tax lists, but by 1790, according to that year’s tax list, Andrew had obtained a horse. Thank goodness!
On May 21 of 1791, Andrew had 5 horses, and 4 in 1792.
Their family kept growing, year by year.
I suspect their son William McKee was born about 1792 or 1793, especially if James actually was born in January of 1791, which I suspect is accurate. That date comes from his War of 1812 pension application.
William McKee, Merchant of Abingdon
I’m going to take a minute here to dispel some misinformation. We know, based on Andrew McKee’s will that William was born before March 24, 1805, but we don’t know when, exactly. We also know that William is listed as the second son in the will, which means that William could NOT have been born before 1791. If Elizabeth and Andrew were married about 1788, William would not have been older than 16, at the oldest, when his father wrote his will in 1805.
There is a William McKee and Company who is granted a merchant’s license in Abingdon, 8 or 9 miles away, in 1803, two years before Andrew wrote his will.
It’s almost impossible that this William, who would have been at least 21 AND had the money for inventory, is Andrew’s son, William.
Because of the same name, but without thorough evaluation, it has been assumed (there’s that word) over the years that William of Abingdon is William, Andrew’s son. Plus, William of Abingdon has a grave marker, so he’s easy to find. However, notice that one of his children, Julia Ann, died in New York in 1826 at age 13. New York???
As it turns out, William McKee of Abingdon married one Phebe Ogden of New York.
He has ties to New York and a home in Richmond. William is a wealthy merchant with a store that carries silks and upscale items. He also owns a tanyard, and in all of his business dealings, not one person is a familiar person or surname associated with Andrew McKee’s group in the northern part of the county. I can’t help but wonder, though, if Y DNA were involved if those two lines descend from the same line back overseas. William McKee is also a Presbyterian based on the location of his grave marker, in the Sinking Spring Cemetery.
William McKee’s will was probated on May 27, 1833, and dated October 29, 1832. William estimated that his estate was worth a quarter million dollars, back then, and mentioned his nephew, Thomas Wallace.
He lists several underage children, including son William Carlton McKee who he suggests be placed in a dry goods store in NY after his education. Also, children Mary Elizabeth McKee, Adeline Taylor McKee, Sarah Ann Helms McKee, and Henry Ogden McKee. Elias Ogden is the executor. The children’s guardian is William Fulton out of Lynchburg, and William mentions Richmond, VA. His long estate settlement can be seen here.
The New York Evening Post reported his death and referred to him as “of this city.”
Furthermore, the 1803 merchant date means that if William was 21 at that time, he would have been born in 1782 or before, which means that Elizabeth, if she were his mother, would have to have been born in 1764 to have a child as late as 1810. This isn’t impossible, but we have an entire group of improbable things that would all have had to occur in series.
The William McKee, merchant, in Abingdon, is NOT the son of Andrew and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s Son, William
I don’t know what happened to Andrew and Elizabeth’s son William, but perhaps tax lists and other records can help us sort through what might have happened to William, and when. As it stands, we only know that he was alive in 1805 and seems to be in 1810.
Ebbing Springs Church
Something else happened in 1792 that would have reverberated through the community. I’m guessing that opinions were split about this rather dramatic change.
Andrew and Elizabeth would have been attending church at the Ebbing Springs Presbyterian Church. That alone tells us that Andrew and Elizabeth were probably Scots-Irish. We know that Andrew was, but we don’t know about Elizabeth. Given that these were the only churches in the region, and the majority of the settlers were Scots-Irish, I’d say it’s a good bet.
For some reason, in 1792, the congregation abandoned the Ebbing Springs site and moved to Glade Springs, about three miles away. Without knowing why the move was made, it’s hard to gauge how church members might have felt. If Elizabeth was a local gal, which I suspect she was, then she likely had family members buried in the graveyard beside the Ebbing Springs church.
This 1950 aerial view of the remnants of the buildings where the original Ebbing Springs Church and cemetery were located, circled in red, showing the proximity to what I believe is the Ebbing Spring, itself, at the red arrows. The Holston River is the dark meandering line.
Here’s the same location on Google Maps today.
Andrew and Elizabeth lived at the star in the upper right. Andrew owned about 250 acres to the west of Friendship Road, between the Holston and the road, and John Kelly owned most of the rest south to Kelly Chapel Road.
Ebbing Springs Church was about two miles as the crow flies, and maybe five as the wagon traveled.
The original Ebbing Springs Church was established on Capt. James Thompson’s land back when Fort Kilmachronan existed, before Washington County was even established in 1776 from Fincastle County.
You can view photos of some of the original gravestones, here.
Charlie Barnette posted an entire public album of Ebbing Springs photos in the Historical Society of Washington County, VA Facebook group, here. The original James Thompson survey can be seen, here with the Ebbing Springs land in the very lower left corner, where you can see dotted lines showing the old wagon road that ran alongside the river to the church.
Ebbing Spring itself, which would have provided water for Elizabeth and the other churchgoers, as well as the baptismal font, can be seen, here.
These stones mark all that is left of the chimney of those log cabins that were still standing in the 1950s and 1960s, with a remembrance stone placed by Glade Springs marking the cemetery, in the distance near the river on the right.
Of course, a new cemetery was begun at Glade Springs Church, about 3 miles further away. It’s unclear what happened to the old Ebbing Springs Church, but the gravestones were pushed into the river sometime in the 1900s, except for one. The current owner has fenced the cemetery area to prevent further desecration, and the Glade Springs Church erected a monument in the field, seen in the distance at right in the above photo.
One local person says they grew up on the old John Kelly land, and they remember walking from Price’s Bridge up to the old cemetery when they were a kid.
We do know that John Kelly, who died in 1834, stipulated in his will that he was to be buried by his wife in the Ebbing Springs cemetery, so it was still in use at least occasionally then.
The new church, Glade Springs, was another 3-ish miles distant.
Did Andrew and Elizabeth make that 7-mile trip, one way, every Sunday? Somehow, I doubt this. Especially not with young or newborn children, and Elizabeth was either pregnant or had a young baby for more than two decades of her life.
Was another child born, and lost, about 1793 or 1794, or maybe both? Were those babies buried here?
The McKee Homestead
Andrew McKee was a farmer, and a distiller based on the still sold in his estate sale. While no one was wealthy in the country, he also wasn’t poor. Their home was not a small 8×10 or 10×12 one-room log cabin, and Andrew owned more than one horse.
On April 16th, Andrew had four horses on the 1793 tax list, enough for a team to pull a wagon or even two. In 1794 and 1796, he had 7 horses and probably 3 were colts. The 1795 list was illegible.
A third son, Edward McKee, was born about 1795. He married Mary Hand in 1818.
Elizabeth spent her days cooking in this fireplace where the family gathered ’round the hearth on cold winter days.
Soup or beans would have been simmered in the kettle on the pothook almost all the time in the days before refrigeration.
Elizabeth would have stirred these embers thousands of times in her life. Andrew would have chopped and split wood to be brought inside to keep the fire burning, and carried ashes out in the ash bucket.
Elizabeth had to be careful to keep the children away from the fire, of course.
The next child, Andrew McKee, named after her husband, arrived about 1797, making me wonder if James and William were named after his and her fathers, respectively.
That made four boys and one girl.
Life was humming along quite nicely in the McKee homestead within sight of the Middle Fork of the Holston River.
Andrew and Elizabeth were back to their 4 horses in 1797 and 1798, which suggests they might have been breeding horses and selling the colts.
A new baby joined the household every 18 months or so. It would have been a relief when the oldest child could begin to help watch the younger ones.
The 1799 tax list showed Andrew’s land split into two entries, one for 150 acres which is the original plat where the three horses were listed, and a second entry for 192 acres for the second “plantation,” as he called it. Plantation did not mean what it meant further south. Neither Andrew nor his children enslaved others.
Mary McKee joined the family in 1799, according to her death record on December 17, 1855, when she died of consumption at age 56. She married John Larimer in January of 1820 and lived the longest of the children who stayed in Washington County, and the second longest of all of Elizabeth’s children.
Ann McKee, my ancestor, was probably born between 1799 and 1801, but no later than 1804, based on multiple census records. Considering the dates on all of them, the most likely birth year was 1800. She married Charles Speak in February of 1823. For some reason, when her sisters were being assigned guardians in 1822, she was not, which lends credibility to the 1800 birth date.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the 1800 census either, but the tax list shows Andrew with 4 horses in 1800, 6 in 1801, and 7 again in 1802.
By 1800, his oldest sons, James and William, would have been maybe 8 and 10, old enough to ride horses and certainly to help at the barn and in the fields.
Daughter Charity McKee was born sometime between 1801 and March of 1805. Charity was a minor in June of 1818 when a guardian was appointed. She married William Griever in May of 1823.
Daughter Jane McKee was born after 1801 and probably in 1802 or 1803 based on the fact that she was a minor in January of 1822 and married about 1823.
Elizabeth McKee, named in her father’s will, also called Eliza in other records, was born probably in 1803 or 1804, but before March 1805 when Andrew wrote his will. She was a minor in January of 1822 and married Eleazer Rouse in January of 1823
In the spring of 1803 and 1804, Andrew had 8 horses.
Something Happened in March of 1805
Something bad happened in March of 1805 – so severe that whatever it was caused Andrew McKee to write his will at about 40 years of age. We don’t know what, but he was obviously either very ill or badly injured. Elizabeth must have been terrified. She was either pregnant, or had a babe in arms, and probably both.
Story of her life. Her oldest child, Sally, was probably 15 or 16, so at least able to help reliably in the house and with food preparation. Her next four older children were boys and could help in the barn and at least tend the stock.
It’s thanks to Andrew’s will that we discover Elizabeth’s name, and he refers to their children and names them, first the boys, then the girls, in what appears to be birth order.
Andrew pulled through, survived, and was well enough to father at least three additional children.
On April 5, 1805, Andrew had 10 horses on the tax list, so during his illness, someone had to look after the horses and his other livestock. Not to mention, March and April are plowing time, getting ready to plant. Who helped him?
Given that I was already reading more than 3000 unindexed tax record pages, one by one, spanning nearly 60 years (yes, you read that right), I was also keeping an eye on William McKee in Abingdon, just in case there would be something to tie him to Andrew. Sometimes you find amazing and unexpected tidbits.
Normally, William in Abingdon had one horse, or none, but paid a hefty tax for one and sometimes two stores, plus eventually, a tanyard.
In 1806, Andrew had 8 horses, then 7 in 1807. 1808 is missing.
Tithables Tell Tales
In 1809, Andrew is taxed with two tithables for the first time, plus 9 horses. This complicates things a bit. To begin with, we don’t know if white male tithables are taxed at age 16 or 21 that year. Based on what I know of other years in Virginia records, and Washington County later, white males 16 and over are taxed because they could work productively. This additional tithe would be James which would put his birth year at 1793. However, remember that 1808 was missing. If he were on that tax list, that puts his birth year at 1792, which is at least more in line with other records.
The next year, in 1810, Andrew had two tithables and 5 horses.
Finally, a Census – 1810
Between 1805 and the first extant census, in 1810, Elizabeth had two more girls and a boy not listed in Andrew’s will.
Based on the fact that they had 10 children in 1805, and 13 in 1810, we can infer that Elizabeth had a child every 19 months or so from 1788 through 1804. That’s just about exactly how often one would expect if every child lived, which would have been very unusual.
If a child died at birth, the mother had another baby about a year later, so we have no way of knowing if Elizabeth lost a child or two – but we do know that the majority of her children lived.
Daughter Rebecca McKee was born sometime between 1805 and 1809, probably about 1808, based on what little we know about her children.
Another daughter, Margaret McKee, only discovered this past week, was born after March of 1805 and before the 1810 census. More on her rather amazing story in a few minutes!
A male child was born after Andrew’s 1805 will and the 1810 census. That could be Alexander McKee, but I’m not convinced. I think he was born later, and the child in the 1810 census died.
But before we discuss that, let’s look at what else happened in 1810.
Sally McKee and Robert Larimer
On December 6th, just a few weeks before Christmas in 1810, Elizabeth’s first child, Sally, married Robert Larimer. Sally’s first child and Elizabeth’s last child were the same age. In fact, it’s possible that Elizabeth’s last child was younger than Sally’s first child. They would not be the first mother-daughter pair giving birth at the same time.
Sally McKee and Robert Larimer had many children before Sally’s death sometime after 1840. Robert married Rachel Debusk in July of 1847. Rachel was 18 years younger than his oldest child with Sally.
- Rebecca Larimer 1811-1841
- Andrew J. Larimer 1812-1849
- William Larimer 1814-1879
- John Larimer 1815/1818-1859
- Mary Jane Larimer c 1817-1855
- Female born 1810-1820 (1840 census)
- James Larimer 1819-1890
- Robert Eakins Larimer 1822-1882
- Andrew Edmondson Larimer c 1824-1908
- Isaac Larimer 1828-1856 (was living with James McKee, his uncle, in 1850)
- Samuel M. Larimer 1831-1875
- Emmett B. Larimer 1832-1877
It appears that Sally and Robert lost at least three children, the daughter born between 1810 and 1820, one in 1826 and another in 1830.
In 1811, Andrew McKee has three tithables, plus 4 horses which means the second son has turned 16. Based on this, second son William’s birth year would be 1795. However, this does not add up for William’s birth year – but is almost exactly Edward’s birth year of 1795.
Given this, I think that William probably died in either 1810 after the census, or early 1811 before the tax list.
Is that 1810 Male Child Alexander?
The last child was Alexander, probably after the 1810 census. He never married, and thanks to him mentioning his sisters and their children in his 1839 will, we know that Rebecca existed.
However, there’s something interesting about Alexander. We know that Elizabeth and Andrew have a boy in the 1810 census, and also a boy under 10 in the 1820 census. It’s probable that these are two different boys. To be Alexander, the boy on the census would have to have been born in 1810 before the census, because in 1820, he’s in the under-10 category, and in 1830, in the 15-19 group, which would mean he was born 1811-1815. Of course, we know that census ages can be fluid. So, I’d say Alexander was born about 1811, but this also means that Elizabeth lost another child – the boy on the 1810 census.
If Elizabeth was 21 when she married in 1788, she would have been 43 in 1810. Of course, she could have been a couple of years younger when she married.
All I can think of is how bone-tired that woman would have been.
Maybe after Alexander’s birth, Elizabeth thought perhaps she would have a few years of relative peace and quiet, meaning no new babies arriving. Well, she was wrong about the peace and quiet part. She had no idea what was up ahead.
In 1812 and 1813, Andrew still has three tithables, meaning himself, James, and Edward, with 6 and 5 horses, respectively.
The tax list shows that there is one carriage, not to be confused with a wagon, in the entire county, plus two “riding chairs.”
Return From the War of 1812
In 1813, James McKee, Elizabeth’s eldest son, then about 21 years old, would march away to war.
He enlisted to serve in the War of 1812 in August of 1813, served at Fort Norfolk, Virginia, and was discharged on March 10, 1814.
He was allowed 24 days for travel home, 480 miles to Washington County, VA from Fort Norfolk, which means about 20 miles a day, hopefully on a horse and not on foot. However, I’d bet he was walking, because horses were expensive commodities and my ancestors who served in that war all walked, including Nicholas Speaks who also served from Washington County. In fact, that connection may be how James McKee’s sister, Ann, met her future husband, Nicholas Speak’s son, Charles, but I digress.
James, according to his enlistment, had dark hair and blue eyes.
James would have arrived home in the first week of April. He might, just might, have been in time.
Andrew McKee’s will was probated on June 21, 1814. Andrew would have died sometime in the 90 days prior.
Andrew’s death was probably sudden, and probably a shock, given that he never updated his will.
If Elizabeth turned 43 or so when her last child was born in 1810, in 1814, she would have been roughly 47. Perhaps as young as 45 or as old as 50. Andrew was about the same age, maybe slightly older.
Regardless, she had a three or four-year-old child and stair-step children, with at least 11 children still at home.
Andrew’s will was probated in court on June 21, 1814, with both Samuel Kelly and John Kelly Jr. serving as executors, just as they had been instructed back in 1805. The men who had signed as witnesses to Andrew’s 1805 will were Andrew Edmiston, John Todd, and Andrew E. Kelly. The Kelly men were all sons of John Kelly Sr., Andrew’s original neighbor.
Three Kelly men are involved, two as executors with no bond required. That’s exactly what one would expect to see of close family members or very close friends. I suspect the answer to who was helping Andrew McKee back in 1805 was John Kelly and probably his sons, who were somewhat older than Andrew’s children.
The 1814 tax list confirms an approximate birth year for Andrew Jr.
Unfortunately, the 1814 tax list is not dated. Dates range from February through late April. Andrew McKee is still listed with 2 tithes. He would be gone, although the farm would still be in his name. James wouldn’t be listed either because he was in the military, so these two tithes would be Edward and Andrew, which places Andrew’s birth year about 1798, which is about right.
Like with every widow in that time, the terms of Andrew’s will dictated the rest of Elizabeth’s life, unless she chose to remarry, of course.
Andrew left his two plantations to the four boys who were living in 1805.
Elizabeth can stay in the “dwelling house” so long as she doesn’t remarry. She has the right to one-third of the money from the sale of Andrew’s personal property. Of course, everything is Andrew’s personal property except for Elizabeth’s clothes.
Elizabeth can keep as many children with her as she wants, but the executors are to bind out the rest of them to learn a trade. Generally, that only means males unless the children are literally starving.
The executors are to rent out the plantations to provide income and support for Elizabeth and the children.
The balance of his money, except for Elizabeth’s third, is to go to his six daughters, plus the sons are to pay the daughters $200.
Of course, by the time Andrew died, one of his original sons had died, and he had a new one – at least one. He also had eight daughters instead of six.
Life is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans
Elizabeth’s life came unraveled at that point. Thank God her son James was back home, because she really, really needed his help on the two plantations.
I’m actually very surprised that Elizabeth didn’t remarry. That was certainly the custom of the time, especially for widows with young children. Of her 13 children, 11 were still at home, and Alexander was 3 or 4.
Elizabeth’s older sons were adults. In 1814, James was 23, William was gone of course, Edward was about 19, and Edward was about 17.
My guess, and that’s what it is at this point, but it’s logical, is that everyone stayed put in the homeplace, and James simply took over the daily chores and running the farm.
In fact, that’s what the 1815 tax list tells us.
Elizabeth has 2 tithes (Edward and Andrew), 3 horses, 5 cows, and 1 chest of drawers. More personal property is being taxed that year.
James McKee also has 1 tithable, 3 horses, and 5 cows.
By comparison, William McKee, the merchant in Abingdon has 12 rush bottom chairs, 1 side board, 2 looking glasses, 4 plates, 5 cut goblets, 3 tumblers, 1 bowl and several other things. Yes, he’s doing VERY well. He has a new business partner and is paying for 2 stores.
Andrew’s Estate Sale
The difficult part for Elizabeth was going to be the estate sale. Everything had to be sold. How was James, or any of the sons, supposed to farm without Andrew’s farm tools?
Yet the estate sale had to take place.
Other than Elizabeth, James bought the most, including a saddle and bridle, a bull, a heifer, 2 steers, a black mare, and a grindstone.
Andrew, who was 18 or so by the time the sale took place, bought a saddle and bridle too, along with some farming equipment, a black horse, and a sorrel colt. He was obviously planning to farm.
That left Elizabeth. Poor Elizabeth.
She would have had the right to one-third of the proceeds of the sale, including the money she spent, herself.
I’m hoping they allowed her to just run a “credit,” and subtracted the money for what she wanted from the total. I can’t even imagine having to purchase my own items from my “husband’s” estate.
To care for herself and all of her children, she purchased:
- 1 bedstead, bed and furniture
- 1 small and 1 large bedstead and bed
- 1 bed
- 1 chest of drawers
- 2 spinning wheels
- 1 table
- 6 old chairs
- cupboard and furniture
- 1 counting reel
- 3 old keggs
- 1 bag
- 2 baskets
- 2 lines
- 1 loom
- 1 hackle
- 2 pair cards
- Flat iron
- 1 large kettle
- 2 churns
- 1 small pot
- 1 pot
- 1 oven
- 1 pail and washtub
- 2 pot racks
- 4 cows
- 1 grey mare
- 6 sheep
It’s evident that the cows were for milk, as evidenced by the churns to make butter. The sheep would have been for wool, as evidenced by the spinning wheel to spin the wool into strands which can be carded and woven on the loom.
I was curious about the hackle which is a type of comb used to clean wool and flax before spinning.
The counting reel is used to wrap yarn before producing shanks of yarn.
The cards were to card and comb the wool.
Elizabeth was very clearly a weaver. You can watch a video of a woman reenact weaving from this timeframe, here and here. Notice the basket hung on the loom. Women used baskets and bags for everything from gathering produce from the garden and eggs from the chickens to holding wool.
Today, the bedroom in the McKee home retains the spinning wheel, probably where Elizabeth’s sat all those years ago. The only difference would have been a candle instead of a lamp, and no fan, of course. I wonder if the loom was here too, or maybe in front of the second hearth.
Elizabeth spent a total $85.56 buying her property back. Everything else was sold, including pots, ovens, skillets, and kettles. Some went to her children, James and Andrew McKee. Her son-in-law, Robert Larimer, spelled Larrymore, bought 17 geese and 4 sheep. I bet her daughter, Sally, was a weaver too.
John Larimer, who was not yet her son-in-law, bought Andrew’s still, the single most expensive item at the sale. I guess the still left the family, then eventually married back in a few years later!
The total sale brought $671.69, which means Elizabeth was entitled to $223.90. She bought $85.56 worth of goods, so she would have been due $138.34.
The final sale document was filed with the court on February 20, 1816. The sale had taken place the previous August.
James McKee and Sally Roe
According to James McKee’s widow, Sarah (Sally) Roe’s pension application, she states that they were married by the Baptist preacher on January 4, 1816. James was clearly buying equipment at his father’s estate sale with the intention of marrying and starting a family.
James and Sarah would have:
- Nancy McKee 1817-1875
- Mary Ann McKee 1820-1897
- Andrew J. McKee 1822-1862
- John R. McKee 1826-1863
- Eliza J. McKee 1827-1911
- Rebecca McKee 1830-1907
- Madison McKee 1831-1855
- William B. McKee 1832-1902 who died in Smyth Co., VA
- Margaret L. McKee 1835-1875
- Sarah J. McKee 1838-1915, who died in California
- Joanna McKee 1841-1898, who died in Exeter, California
- James A. McKee 1842-1918, who died in Parsons, Kansas
It looks like they may have lost children born in 1819, presumably the boy in the 1820 census, 1824, maybe 1829, maybe 1834, 1837, and maybe 1839. Elizabeth would have been alive for all of these deaths except the last one.
Elizabeth lived beside James until her death, so she would have been close to these children.
Andrew McKee and Nancy Roe
Just two months later, on March 17, 1816, Andrew McKee married Nancy Roe, possibly Sally’s sister. They had two children, in 1817 and 1819, before Nancy died between 1820 and 1822.
Fortunately, Elizabeth’s children had begun to marry – but unfortunately, of course, it was the eldest who were the ablest to help.
1816 seems to be the year that several children spread their wings and set out on their own. Of course, the boys had their father’s property and the money from the sale. They settled on the same land as Elizabeth, or nearby. James likely took the neighboring plantation. Maybe the other boys built houses on some of the land, creating their own little “McKee Village.”
The 1816 tax list shows:
- James McKee 1 – 3 – 54 cents
- Edward McKee 1 – 1 – 16 or 18 cents
- Elizabeth McKee 0 – 2 horses – 30 or 36 cents
- Andrew McKee 1 – 2 – 36 cents
It’s interesting to compare the amount of taxes with the amount various items brought at Andrew’s sale. A wheel was 30 cents, which I’m presuming is a spinning wheel. An oven was 50 cents. A pot rack was 30 cents, and a small pot was 25 cents.
For William of Abingdon, the cost of one merchant license for his mercantile store in Abingdon was $20.
In 1817, Elizabeth has no tithes, so no males 16 and over, 2 horses, and paid 30 cents tax. James, Edward, and Andrew McKee had one tithe each and 4, 1, and 2 horses, respectively.
What Happened in 1818?
Something is going on in 1818. I wonder if Elizabeth, by then 51 or so with 8 children at home, became ill. She’s missing on the tax list. She would only be listed for her personal property, at least until Alexander reached age 16, but she’s absent entirely, meaning she had no horses either. All 3 of her adult sons are listed with 8 horses between them.
On June 16, 1818 — John Clark was named guardian of Charity McKee, orphan of Andrew McKee, deceased.
Charity was probably the oldest child at home who was not of age, but she wasn’t the oldest at home. Ann and Mary were both still living at home. Furthermore, her 5 younger siblings did not have a guardian appointed.
This is strange.
Edward McKee and Mary Hand
On December 20, 1818, Edward McKee married Mary Hand. They had a child in 1819 who died before 1830, then a child in 1820 and 1822.
- Andrew G. McKee was born in 1824 and died in 1883 in Texas.
- Another child was born in 1826
- William McKee was born in 1828. In 1847, Andrew McKee was named guardian of William McKee, orphan of Edward. James McKee was the surety.
- Another child was born in 1829.
Sadly, Edward McKee’s inventory was dated October 27, 1831. His wife was pregnant at his death. He was only 35 or 36 years old
- Alexander B. McKee was born in 1832 and died in 1833.
In 1819, James, Edward, Andrew, and Elizabeth are still listed on the tax list. Elizabeth has no tithes, of course. James has 4 horses and is taxed 72 cents, and everyone else has one horse each and is taxed 18 cents. I wonder if Elizabeth’s horse is for riding or for plowing, or both.
Everything is the same in 1820 except Edward and Elizabeth now have 2 horses each
Interestingly, the neighbor, John Kelly is on a list of people to whom licenses were issued for merchants, hawkers and peddlers, ordinary keepers, and keepers of houses of private entertainment. I can’t help but wonder what John was up to. My guess, based on an account book a generation or so later, is that he started a country store that catered to farm families.
Mary McKee and John Larimer
On January 20, 1820, Mary McKee married John Larimer. Yes, the same John Larimer who purchased several items a few years earlier at her father’s estate sale, including his still. His first wife had died, and Mary became a stepmother to two children only slightly younger than her.
Mary and John had:
- Jessee Larimer born in 1821
- Andrew Larimer 1822-1895
- William G. Larimer 1823-1896
- Alexander W. Larimer 1827
- Eliza Larimer 1829
- Ann Larimer 1831
- Nancy Larimer 1833
- Edward F. Larimer 1835
- Jeremiah Fulton Larimer 1836-1919
- Catherine Larimer 1837
Looks like they lost one baby in 1825. Elizabeth would have helped her daughter with that grief.
The 1820 census is interesting. Unfortunately, it’s in alphabetical order, not in house order.
- Andrew and Edward McKee, both with young families. Both are ages 16-25, both with a wife the same age, 1 son and 1 daughter, each, under 10. Both are engaged in manufacturing of some sort.
- James McKee with a family of 5, including 1 male 26-44, 2 females under 10, 2 females 16-25, one of whom may have been his sister.
- Elizabeth McKee with a family of 6, 1 female over 45, 2 females 16-25, 2 females 10-15, 1 male under 10.
Also, in 1820 Andrew McKee sold his share of his father’s estate to his brother, James.
Sometime between the census in 1820 and December of 1822, Andrew McKee’s wife, Nancy Roe, died. Of course, we’ll never know why. After her death, I expect her mother and Elizabeth would both have been trying to help Andrew with two babies.
I wonder if this is what caused Andrew to sell his land to James.
Nov. 11, 1820 – Andrew McKee to James McKee 8-289 – Andrews McKee Jr. of Washington Co. for $75 to James McKee “my right and title of all claims in my father’s estate.”
I don’t know where Andrew was living, or maybe he was still living in the same place, but working for his brother. Maybe he left for a while. He certainly couldn’t nurse or raise a baby and a toddler and farm by himself.
On the 1821 tax list, we find Elizabeth with 2 horses and colts, James with the same, and Edward with 1 horse, but no Andrew.
In 1822 we find Edward McKee with 1 horse, James with 5 horses, and again, no Andrew. Elizabeth is missing this year too.
The events in January 1822 might provide a clue about Elizabeth.
On January 15, 1822, James McKee was named guardian of Jane and Eliza McKee, orphans of Andrew McKee, deceased, Bond: $250. Surety: John Clark.
Is this Andrew who died in 1814, or his son, Andrew? Did son Andrew die too? As it turns out, no, he didn’t. These are Elizabeth’s daughters, but it’s certainly unclear from this record.
In 1822, Elizabeth would have been about 55. Was she ill or unable to provide for her children? If so, then why were guardians appointed for just the older minor children left at home? Yet, there were three other minor children at home, the youngest three, with no guardian appointed.
I sure would like to know what was going on, and why.
Andrew McKee and Rachel Fisher
On December 19, 1822, Andrew McKee married Rachel Fisher. They had children in 1823, 1824, 1825, 1826, 1828, and 1830. In 1847, Andrew was appointed guardian for his brother Edward’s son. I can’t find Andrew or Rachel after that.
The 1823 tax list shows that Andrew is back again with 1 tithe and no horse, but the tax list must be incomplete because neither James nor Elizabeth are listed.
I’m so glad Andrew seems to be doing better and starting over again. Elizabeth must have heaved a huge sigh of relief.
1822 and 1823 were clearly a time of joy and weddings!
Eliza McKee and Eleazer Rouse
Eliza McKee, Elizabeth’s namesake, married Eleazer Rouse on January 23, 1823. She reportedly died after 1870 in Columbus, Bartholomew County, Indiana, but I cannot find her on the census. She and Eleazer migrated after his father, John Rouse, died in 1831. In 1835, Eleazer obtained a land grant in Indiana.
They had children:
- Frank Rouse 1823-1823
- Male Rouse 1824-1940
- Eunice Rouse 1825-1825
- Andrew J. Rouse 1826-1826
- Mary Ann Rouse 1829-1860 died in Bartholomew County, Indiana
- Female Rouse 1830-1840
- John Rouse 1830-1883 was an invalid by 1877 according to his Civil War pension index card and died in Bartholomew County, Indiana. I can’t help but wonder if his eye condition is congenital or a result of an injury, and if he was allowed to serve with the condition.
- William Rouse 1833-1886, born and died in Bartholomew County, Indiana
- Sarah Rouse 1834-1861, born and died in Bartholomew County, Indiana
Eliza buried at least three children in Washington County before leaving for Indiana.
Eliza would have been Elizabeth’s second child to leave, taking with her 3 or 4 of Elizabeth’s grandchildren that she would never see again.
Elizabeth’s tears must have watered their hair as she hugged and kissed them goodbye one last time – committing their faces to memory forever. Would they remember her?
Ann McKee and Charles Speak
On February 27, 1823, Ann McKee married Charles Speak, son of Nicholas Speak who would found the Speaks Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia. Ann and Charles joined him there shortly after their wedding. So far, none of Elizabeth’s children had left, except for James who went to war. But he returned.
It must have been crushing for Elizabeth to watch the wagon pull away with her daughter, headed for Lee County. I wonder how she felt about her daughter marrying a Methodist who converted from being a Presbyterian.
Of course, 114 miles today would have been a week in a wagon then, one way, or perhaps more, depending on the weather and terrain.
Elizabeth knew she would never see her daughter again, or any of Ann’s children. How her heart must have ached.
Anne’s father-in-law, Nicholas Speaks, the Methodist minister, built this tiny cabin where he raised his family. Charles and Ann probably lived in a very similar cabin on the same land. It makes the McKee house look huge by comparison.
Ann had six known children, but there must have been more, specifically in 1830, 1834, 1836, 1838, and 1840.
- Sarah Jane Speak 1824-1888, married Andrew Callahan
- Nicholas Speak 1825-1869, married Rachel Callahan
- Andrew McKee Speak 1826-1900, died in Grant County, Kentucky
- Rebecca M. Speak was born in 1827, married James Painter and died after 1867 in Kentucky
- Charity Speak 1829-after 1880, married Adam Harvey Johnson
- Elizabeth Ann Speaks 1832-1907, married Samuel Claxton and died in Hancock County, Tennessee
Ann’s last known child, Elizabeth Speaks, named for her grandmother, was born in 1832, in Lawrence County, Indiana, of all places. This family didn’t stay in Indiana, but returned to Lee County, Virginia before 1840. I can’t help but wonder why they reverse-migrated.
We are fortunate that pictures exist of two of Elizabeth’s grandchildren who were living in the time of the Civil War when cameras began to be used, but only for very special occasions. This is Elizabeth Ann Speaks who married Samuel Claxton, a Union soldier from Tennessee who died as the result of that War.
Both Ann McKee and Charles Speaks died sometime between 1840 and 1850. At least Elizabeth never had to receive THAT letter, but she probably did receive letters telling her that at least three of Ann’s children, in a row, had perished prior to 1840. Or maybe Ann spared her mother those messages and simply said nothing.
Not only did Elizabeth never see her daughter again, but Ann didn’t see her mother either. That must have been incredibly difficult.
Charity McKee and William Griever
The third 1823 marriage (and 4th McKee wedding in 6 months) took place on May 22, 1823, when Charity McKee married William Griever.
They had at least five children.
- Mary Ann Griever born in 1824
- Male child born about 1825
- John Griever born about 1826
- Charles Griever born about 1827
- Female child born about 1830
Charity had died sometime before February 1837 when William remarried to Mary Wisely. Between 1838 and 1840, this family relocated to Lee County, Virginia.
In 1824 Elizabeth is on the tax list with 2 horses. Andrew has 1 tithe and no horses. How is he living without a horse? James has 2 horses, and Edward has 1.
In 1825, Elizabeth still has 2 horses, James has 3, and Edward has 2. Un oh – Andrew is missing again.
Jane McKee and Richard Jones
Jane McKee married Richard Jones sometime after 1822 when she was assigned a guardian and before 1825, based on the 1830 census. She died before her brother, Alexander, whose will mentioned her children. She and Richard had five children.
Richard Jones was dead by October 28, 1837, when his property was sold, and he was noted as deceased. Jane was gone before March of 1839.
- Andrew McKee Jones 1824/26-1911
- John Jones 1826/28-1864
- Elizabeth M. Jones 1830-1905
- Sarah Ann Jones 1836
- Fanny R. Jones c 1838-1861
Jane lost at least three children, in 1828, 1832, and 1834. I wonder if all these McKee children are buried in the McKee Cemetery.
On March 13, 1826, Elizabeth has three horses, Edward has 1, and James has 3.
On March 1, 1827, Elizabeth has 2 horses, James has 4, Edward has 1, and Andrew has none.
Alexander McKee Turns 16
In 1828, one male tithe appears on Elizabeth’s tax list. That would be Alexander. If he is 16, that puts his birth in 1812. These years seem to be a year odd, so maybe this is the tax for the prior year. That would put his birth in 1811, which makes perfect sense. That does, however, suggest that the male under 10 in 1810 is not Alexander and subsequently died before 1820.
Rebecca McKee and William Jamison
Rebecca McKee married William Jamison sometime around 1829 or 1830 following his wife’s death. He had four children from his first marriage. Rebecca and William had two known children:
- William Hardy Jamison 1833-1887
- Sarah (Sallie) Jamison 1835-1837/1842
William Jamison’s estate was probated November 27, 1837. Rebecca attended her mother’s estate sale in 1838, but was gone by the time that Alexander wrote his will in March of 1839
The 1829 tax list shows tithes and horses
- Andrew McKee 1 – – –
- James McKee 1 – – 5
- Elizabeth McKee 1 – – 3
- Edward McKee 2 – – 2
The 1830 Census
The 1830 census shows us that Elizabeth is 50-59, so born between 1771 and 1780. I suspect she is older than that.
She has three children living with her. I have connected the names with the ages of the people they must be.
- Rebecca is 20-29, so born 1801-1810
- Margaret is 20-29, so born 1801-1810. It’s this record that confirms that the Margaret we discover a few years later fits into this family in this location.
- Alexander is 15-19, so born 1811-1815.
In 1830, the tax man made his rounds on March 25th:
- James McKee 1 – – 5 40 cents
- Elizabeth McKee 1 – – 3 24 cents
- Edward McKee 2 – – 2 16 cents
- Andrew McKee 1 – – – no tax
Andrew never seems to do as well as Elizabeth’s other children.
Edward McKee Dies
1831 was a grief-filled year for Elizabeth. While losing a young child is difficult, losing an adult child is devastating. When a young child passes, the parent loses the possibilities and hope. Loses their sweetness and the vision of their life. But when an adult child passes, a parent loses the entirety of their life.
In this case, Elizabeth also had to watch Edward’s pregnant wife, Polly, and children suffer. Polly had given birth to 4 children, as recorded in the 1830 census, but only two of those children lived to adulthood. Polly’s grieving wasn’t over.
Edward clearly didn’t expect to die. He was only 35 or 36 years old and had 4 children under the age of 7. Things seemed to be going well. Polly was pregnant for baby number 5 who would be arriving sometime the next year.
There was no will, not even a deathbed nuncupative, or oral, will. He didn’t even have time for that. Just Edward McKee’s estate inventory, dated October 27, 1831, submitted by Polly. That tells us that Edward died in the 90 days prior, probably in the summer of 1831. Perhaps Elizabeth helped Polly make the list of their household goods to submit to the court.
Based on Edward’s inventory, he had been a shoemaker and also owned carpentry tools.
He probably lived on the land where Elizabeth lived, or the property next door. There were two farms, and Andrew had left the farms to the boys. Andrew (Jr.) had already sold his portion to his brother James. Someone had to be working the farm where Elizabeth lived.
Polly gave birth to the child sometime in 1832, and that baby died the following year, joining Edward on the other side.
Edward is present on the 1831 tax list.
- Andrew McKee 1 – – – – –
- Edward McKee 2 – 3
- Elizabeth McKee 1 – 3
- James McKee 1 – 5
The 1832 tax list reflects Edward’s death.
- February 8 – Mrs. Polly McKee – – 1
- March 12 – Mrs. Elizabeth McKee 1 – 2
- James McKee 1 – 4
- April 14 – Andrew McKee 1 – – –
Alexander Comes of Age
The 1833 tax list shows some changes.
- James McKee 1 – 3
- Alexander McKee 1 – 1
- Mary McKee – – 2
Polly is still there under the name of Mary, synonymous with Polly, and she has two horses.
However, Elizabeth is absent, and now Alexander has taken her place on the tax list. This tells me that he has come of age, 21 years, so born about 1812 or maybe as early as 1811, and he is taking over the farm where Elizabeth lives. He’s no longer a tithe on his mother’s tax list, but in charge as an adult. The farm will be his, and so is the accompanying tax bill!
Elizabeth is now 67 years old and is likely very grateful for this shift.
She probably has her hands full trying to help Edward’s wife, Polly, with her babies and trying to manage that farm. I suspect that James is helping too, as is Alexander and Polly’s family, although her parents are elderly and pass away within a year or so. I can’t help but wonder if another wave of dysentery or flux is being passed among family, friends, and neighbors there on the Middle Fork of the Holston River. Death records from a few years later show this pattern.
On November 12 of 1833, Mary “Polly” Hand McKee remarried to Robert Sherwood, which was probably a relief for everyone.
They were living in Washington County in 1840, but I don’t find either of them in 1850. In 1847, Andrew McKee was named guardian of William McKee, orphan of Edward. James McKee was the surety. This might be a sad clue as to what happened to Polly and Robert.
Elizabeth’s oldest grandchild, Andrew J. Larimer, married Isabella McClure on October 26, 1833, in Smyth County, Virginia. The next generation is beginning. This must have been a joyful day!
I wonder if Elizabeth sat down at her loom and wove her first grandchild to marry a special wool comforter. I bet she did!
In 1834 Alexander had one horse, and James had 4. They had the same number as 1835, and the tax man visited one day apart, February 24 and 25.
In 1836, both were visited on February 17th, and by this time, Alexander had 2 horses.
Of course, the tax list is only a very broad brushstroke of what was actually happening within the family. Elizabeth had many grandchildren. Several were born each year, and sadly, several probably died as well. We will never know all of their names. Perhaps Elizabeth spent a lot of time helping her daughters and daughters-in-law.
The changes that happened in 1837 aren’t shown by the tax list. On March 1st, 1837, James and Alexander had the same number of horses as the year before.
That was before all Hell broke loose in the McKee family.
The 1830s Were Brutal
Something was happening in the middle and late 1830s. Or maybe it was just the grim reaper carrying his staff of Dysentery, Consumption, and Bloody Flux, raging across the countryside again.
Elizabeth’s daughter, Charity had died sometime after 1830 and before March of 1837 when William Griever remarried. My best bet would be that they lost all the children born in the 1830s, then finally Charity herself in 1835 or 1836.
James McKee lost a child in 1837.
Jane McKee’s husband, Richard Jones, died, with his estate being sold on October 28, 1837. Jane was pregnant at the time and had a baby in 1838, but Jane herself was gone before May of 1839, and the baby too, soon thereafter.
The estate of Rebecca McKee’s husband, William Jamison, was probated on November 27, 1837.
Elizabeth McKee and Margaret McKee both died in the 90 days before their estates were filed on February 26, 1838, so sometime during the winter.
Rebecca McKee Jamison died sometime between her mother’s estate sale in March of 1838 and her brother’s death in May of 1839.
Alexander McKee, a young man about 27 or 28, wrote his will on May 20, 1839 and probably died shortly thereafter. It was probated on July 22, 1839.
However, there was someone else who died in late 1837 or early 1838 that we didn’t know about before.
Another Child for Elizabeth
The fact that Elizabeth McKee never remarried served us in good stead, because it meant she owned her own personal property, and her estate was registered with the court. Maybe she swore she’d never have to purchase her own property back again.
I can only wish she had a will, but she didn’t.
Cousin Carol found and sent me the link to Elizabeth’s estate administration, but that’s not the only thing I found. Of course, to find Elizabeth’s entry, I had to read the entire page, beginning at the top.
February 26, 1838
On motion of James McKee who took the oath of an administrator…bond $500 with Robert Larrimor his security as the law directs. Granted to administer the estate of Margaret McKee decd, in due form.
Of course, James McKee is Elizabeth’s son, and Robert Larimore is her son-in-law.
Ordered that Andrew E. Kelly, Samuel Kelly, Alexander M. Robinson, and James Allen or any 3 of them sworn before a justice…to view and appraise all the personal estate of Margaret Mckee decd.
Who’s Margaret McKee?
No, no, I’m searching for Elizabeth.
There’s Elizabeth, following Margaret.
For a minute, I thought that either they had incorrectly written Elizabeth as Margaret, or Elizabeth’s name was actually Margaret, but then I realized that there were actually two nearly identical entries, scribed the same day, by the clerk, one after the other.
Who was Margaret McKee? I had to know. This question sent me into an insane rabbit hole – literally for days. Ok, maybe a couple of weeks. But when I emerged into the light of day, I knew who Margaret was, AND, far, far more about this family. That’s the information I’ve compiled, here, to write Elizabeth’s story.
What else can we discover about Margaret?
And why would her estate have been entered just ahead of Elizabeth’s?
What the heck was going on?
March 3, 1838 – Margaret’s property was inventoried, appraised, and filed on April 28th in court.
Also, on March 3rd, her estate was sold.
The proceeds were filed on April 23rd in court.
|Granville C. Parks||1 dun cow||11.00|
|William Allen||1 black cow||10.675|
|James C. Kelly||1 brindle heifer||5.00|
|Nickerson Snead||1 dun calf||4.00|
|Samuel Snodgrass||2 sows 4 pigs||4.60|
|James McKee||1 bed and furniture||20.25|
|Adams Helnick||1 saddle||12.00|
|Samuel Parmer||1 bridle||1.00|
|James McKee||1 set plates||.77|
|Lucy Franklin||1 set plates||.60|
|Lewis Smith||Set cups and saucers||.40|
|Lewis Smith||Set cheny cups and saucers||1.00|
|Rachel Grieves||3 glasses and 1 pitcher||.60|
|Lewis Smith||1 sugar bowl||.40|
|Rachel Grieves||1 lot of ware||1.17|
|Andrew Kelly||4 bowls||.40|
|John Ensly||Pitcher 70 cents, looking glass 1.55||2.25|
|Rachel Grieves||1 baker and lid||1.20|
|Susan Calihan||1 tin bucket||.57|
|James McKee||1 table||.35|
|Andrew Edmondson||1 iron shovel||.55|
|Thomas Lilley||1 wooden bowl||.50|
|Nelly Winn||1 lot crocks||.47|
|John Kelly||2 chairs||.40|
|James Lilly||1 rone mare||35.00|
|William Griever||7 geese||1.75|
|Lewis Smith||1 sheet||.55|
|Andrew Larimore||1 set knives and forks||1.25|
Elizabeth’s son and son-in-law both purchased items. I’ve bolded family members making purchases, along with items in Margaret’s and Elizabeth’s estates that match items purchased by Elizabeth at Andrew’s estate, back in 1814, all those years ago.
I notice that Margaret has eating utensils, but no cooking items, like pots and kettles. I’d wager that those were all Elizabeth’s.
People apparently paid Margaret’s estate during 1838, 1839 and 1840.
Just a month earlier, Elizabeth’s own estate had been appraised and sold. You’ll notice many of the same purchasers.
On the motion of Robert Larriser (Larimer) who took the oath as administrator…bond of $500 with James McKee granted him to administer the estate of Elizabeth Mckee decd.
The same two family members as administrator and bond, just the roles are reversed.
Ordered that Andrew E. Kelly, Samuel Kelly, Alexander M. Robinson and James Allen or any 3 of them sworn before a justice…to view and appraise all the personal estate of Elizabeth McKee decd.
|Item||Appraised $||Purchaser||Purchase $|
|Lot of chairs (5)||1.25||James Houston||1.50|
|Oven and griddle||.25||Arthur Speer (oven)||.45|
|1 dresser||1.00||James Lilley||.55|
|2 pales||.375||Andrew Larrimer||.69|
|lot of old lumber||1.00||John Robinson||.40|
|1 case (chest?) of drawers||6.00||Robert Larimer||6.90|
|2 bags||.25||Thomas Palmer||1.05|
|1 loom||4.00||Robert Larimer||3.30|
|1 reel||.50||William Griever||1.00|
|1 lot of books||.25||Sinder||.50|
|Vinegar bag||.50||Claiborne? Kelly||.70|
|2 cans or canes||.30|
|2 cards and wool shears||N Snead||.125|
|Smoothing iron||Andrew Edmondson||.50|
|1 pot trammeble or trammelle?||.50||Claiborne Kelly||.50|
|1 pewter dish||Miss Griever||.375|
|1 lot of old ware||James Robinson||.31|
|1 lot of old ware||Miss Winn||.12|
|2 small wheels||1.25||Andrew Edmondson||.5625|
|1 large wheel||.25||Leven Quillen||.55|
|1 lot of hogs||6.00|
|1 lot of sheep||2.50||Susan Callihan 5 heard sheep||3.75|
|1 bed and furniture||12.00||Miss Farnsworth||15.25|
|Lot of corn||20 cents per bushel||Thomas McGee 45 cents bushel||16.615|
|Lot of oats||20 cents per bushel||Moses Robinson 21.5 per bushel||5.3675|
|Lot of wheat||62.5 cents per bushel||Robert Larrimer 93…5 per bushel||4.625|
|1 black cow||9.00||N Snead||8.50|
|1 lot of crocks||.875||Sincler or Linder||1.45|
|1 lot of flax||.50|
|1 crock of fat||.30||William Griever||.75|
|1 lot of bacon||6.25 cents per bound||Daniel Troxel – 8 cents per pound||7.38|
|1 sifter||.375||Claiborne Kelly||.695|
|1 set plates||.375||Lewis Smith||.32|
|4 plates||Lewis Smith||.24|
|1 bed and furniture||7.00||Miss Franklin||10.125|
|1 bed and furniture||3.00||Mitchell Robinson||3.125|
|1 lot of old lumber||12.5||Robert Sherwood||1.00|
|2 fat hogs||10.00||Samuel Snodgrass (lot of hogs)||10.55|
|1 fat hot||N. Sneed||5.60|
|1 fat hog||John Tucker?||5.05|
|1 lot teacups and saucers||Arthur Speer||.1625|
|1 lot knives and spoons||James Surber||.3|
|1 lot cupboard ware||Arthur Speer||.35|
|1 pot||James Kelly||.60|
|1 baker||Robert Larimer||Can’t read|
|2 pot hooks||Miss Franklin||.21|
|1 pot||William Griever||.135|
|1 kettle||James Kelly||.70|
|1 kettle||James McKee||1.86|
|1 sheet||Miss Griever||.50|
|1 sheet||Seavis? Smith||.40|
|1 lot wheat||Alfred Surber||10.57|
|2 reeds or reels||William Griever||.125|
|1 coffee mill||Robert Larimer||.0675|
Robert Larrimer admin.
Signed by Andrew C. Kelly, Alexander Robinson and Samuel Kelly
Inventory and appraisement of estate of Elizabeth McKee decd returned to court and ordered to be recorded on March 27, 1838.
Several of Elizabeth’s children and their spouses purchased items. Of course, two of her daughters, Ann and Eliza had moved on. Ann was in Lee County, Virginia, and Eliza was living in Indiana.
William Griever purchased. Elizabeth’s daughter, Charity, had already died, but William was clearly still on good terms with the family. Did he bring his daughter, Mary Ann, born in 1824, so would have been 14 years old? Is that the Miss Griever who purchased a sheet and a pewter dish of her grandmothers? Be still my heart.
Elizabeth must have been beaming! From the other side, of course.
I noticed that Elizabeth had purchased six chairs from Andrew’s estate, which were now five. Or maybe one of those chairs was in Margaret’s estate.
Many of the items from Andrew’s estate were purchased by family members, probably in part for sentimental reasons.
Rebecca McKee Jamison had recently been widowed, but was still living and purchased a hackle which tells me she, like her mother, was a weaver. She, too, would be gone before March of 1839.
A settlement of the estate of Elizabeth McKee deceased was returned to court by the commissioner and ordered to be recorded on May 27, 1839.
October 28, 1839
In Elizabeth’s settlement, bills were paid to several people including one to a “girl for nursing the decd when in her last illness – $1.25.” I surely hope that girl didn’t catch whatever it was that was killing McKee family members.
Alexander McKee’s Death
The McKee family’s hell wasn’t over yet.
The tax collector gave me the first hint. Apparently, Alexander wasn’t farming anymore, and I’d wager that James had taken over.
In 1839, on March the second, James McKee has 5 horses, but Alexander isn’t listed.
Elizabeth’s administrators filed on May 27, 1839 with the court that they were ready to settle her estate, but her son, Alexander, had made his will a week earlier signaling that something was very wrong.
Did the family wonder when this string of death was ever going to end? Whatever was claiming this family was brutal.
Alexander McKee’s will was written May 20, 1839, and probated on July 22, 1839 at the next court session.
He stipulated that:
- Perishable part of estate to be sold immediately
- Land to James McKee which fell to me by heirship to him and his heirs forever and $30
- Sister Ann Speaks and her children $30
- Sister Jinny Jones children $10
- Sister Rebecca Jamison children $10
- James McKee executor
Witness Andrew Patterson, Robert Sherwood, James Allen
Probated July 22, 1839, James McKee exec with John Clark Sr. his security
This signifies that both sisters Rebecca and Jinny have passed away. Robert Sherwood is Edward McKee’s widow, Mary Hand McKee’s second husband.
Alexander’s inventory was taken on September 14, 1839 and submitted to court January 27, 1840. It’s worth noting that he has no furniture or kitchen items.
Given that he lived with his mother, between his inventory, that of Elizabeth and Margaret, I’d wager we are seeing the entire contents of that home.
I surely wonder about those three books. Books give us so much insight into the reader.
Given the proximity of their deaths, that they lived together, and that two of the three were relatively young, I can’t help but wonder about consumption. We also know that Elizabeth didn’t die quickly because someone was paid to care for her during her last illness. Consumption is also what took James McKee and his sister, Mary, in 1855.
Widow For 24 Years
Elizabeth was almost widowed in 1805 but was actually widowed nine years later, in 1814, leaving her to care for a passel of stair-step children.
She probably buried Andrew beside or near to their children who had already died, and those who would soon, perhaps in the McKee Cemetery.
For a woman whose name we almost didn’t know, she led an incredibly eventful life. For starters, she lived on the frontier – and survived – for 70 years, plus or minus a year or two.
She was born near the end of the French and Indian War and before the Revolutionary War. She would have been about ten years old, or so, at the outset of the Revolutionary War, and probably lived in either Pennsylvania or Virginia. Her father and brothers may have been soldiers.
I have no idea who her parents were, but I’ve eliminated a number of possibilities. She and Andrew seem to be particularly close to the John Kelly family, their near neighbors, but John Kelly had a will and Elizabeth is not there.
What I can tell you is that Elizabeth was European, based on her base mitochondrial DNA haplogroup J. I’d love to have a direct descendant through all females who is willing to take a mitochondrial DNA test. The tester can be male in the current generation but must descend from Elizabeth through all females to carry her mitochondrial DNA. If this is you, I’m offering a no-cost scholarship, so please reach out.
Elizabeth would have moved westward with her family into the newly formed Washington County, Virginia, still uncut, uncleared woodland, probably after the final battle of the Revolutionary War. Cheap land called opportunity beckoned.
Elizabeth married Andrew McKee, a Scots-Irishman, sometime around 1788. It’s likely that one or both of them had blue eyes, because their son, James, did, along with dark hair.
They settled within sight of the Middle Fork of the Holston River, where they stayed until, literally, the wagon took them to the graveyard. Them and their children too. Elizabeth staked her ground, and she was NOT giving up. That woman’s tenacity is utterly amazing.
The community graveyard was at the Ebbing Springs Church in the beginning, but the family probably established the now lost McKee Cemetery at the southernmost tip of their property during her lifetime. We know son James is buried there, so it stands to reason that she is too. This family alone would have filled the church cemetery!
Elizabeth cooked and cleaned and bore children, like the other pioneer wives. First with Andrew, then alone. But that wasn’t all.
Elizabeth repurchased her own kitchen utensils, along with her spinning wheel, loom, beds, furniture, and livestock at Andrew’s estate sale in 1814.
She would have farmed and butchered and put vegetables up in this root cellar, beside the house, for the winter.
The house was raised and designed defensively.
The family lived in the upper level, probably for safety in terms of possible Indian attack as well as the notorious Holston River floods. The attacks seemed to be mostly in the past after the Revolutionary War, but the floods were everpresent.
Elizabeth likely stored items in the lower level, like these crocks where vegetables and possibly meats would have been brined and pickled. Those three “old keggs” she purchased at Andrew’s estate sale were probably stored here too. She opened this old door thousands of times, bringing vegetables, wool, and other things into the lower level from outside.
We know that Elizabeth churned butter because she bought cows and her own churn at Andrew’s estate sale. She would have milked cows at dawn every morning.
Her extra workspace, even though it did flood from time to time, was probably the envy of every woman in the neighborhood. Of course, when it flooded, the family had to move quickly to keep things dry. They would have had to move their animals to high ground too. Did they get stranded on the second floor by floodwaters from time to time? Those Holston flood waters rise rapidly, and the current is swift and dangerous.
After Andrew’s death, this would all have fallen to Elizabeth to manage.
The house was divided into two sections, with two fireplaces, one at each end with its own chimney. The second fireplace would probably have been the area where her adult son, Alexander, and possibly her daughter Margaret would have lived too. I an only imagine how difficult it was to cut and hew those beams, and lift them into place.
Margaret and Alexander both died about the same time as Elizabeth – Margaret within days, and it’s evident from both of their estate inventories, plus Elizabeth’s, that her children owned no cooking utensils. The good news is that they had each other. The bad news is that they likely all died of Consumption, today’s Tuberculosis, or some other equally-as-awful malady that they shared within the same household – their lives winking out one after the other.
The actual size of this home was probably a luxury, although the stairs weren’t, especially as Elizabeth aged.
Elizabeth packed all 13 of her children into 2 or 3 beds that she purchased at Andrew’s estate sale, as was the custom of the day.
That woman would have worked from sunup to sundown, and past, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Church, where maybe she could fall asleep unnoticed for a few minutes, might have been her only respite.
Or maybe spinning and weaving on her loom provided that as well – along with much-needed fabric for bedding and clothing.
Based on the tax lists, and guardians being appointed for Elizabeth’s children at different times, it appears that perhaps Elizabeth became ill, or something happened.
Once in 1818, when Elizabeth would have been about 51, and again in 1822.
It baffles me why guardians were only appointed for some of her children, but not all of her minor children.
But, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Elizabeth rallied every time. She beat the odds more than once, and, it appears, more than several times. Somehow she managed not to succumb.
Yet, death surrounded her. I simply cannot imagine what this woman endured, or how she managed not to be broken when she had to bury so many people she loved – and that’s not counting her parents and siblings.
Keep in mind that the relatives listed here are only the closest people we know about. Every single one was a person she loved dearly. Someone she missed every day for the rest of her life.
Elizabeth’s son William died in 1810 or 1811 at 17 or 18, which probably broke her heart.
She lost another, younger son, about the same time, who we see in the 1810 census but whose name we don’t know. I wonder if he died of the same thing, at the same time as William – likely Dysentery or Flux.
Then came her husband Andrew’s death in 1814, of course.
Elizabeth also buried her son Andrew’s wife, Nancy Roe about 1820. Andrew didn’t seem to do well after that, at least for a couple of years.
Then, Elizabeth’s son Edward passed away in the fall of 1831, leaving a pregnant wife and small children.
Elizabeth’s daughter, Charity, died sometime after 1830 and before March of 1837 when William Griever remarried. My best bet would be that they lost all the children born in the 1830s, then finally Charity herself in 1835 or 1836.
Elizabeth’s son James McKee lost a child in 1837.
Jane McKee’s husband, Richard Jones, died, with his estate being sold on October 28, 1837. Jane was pregnant at the time and had a baby in 1838, but Jane herself was gone before May of 1839, and the baby too soon thereafter.
The estate of Rebecca McKee’s husband, William Jamison, was probated on November 27, 1837.
This string of very close family members who died must have devastated Elizabeth, and I can’t help but wonder if the entire group was infecting each other with Consumption. Given that Elizabeth’s estate was probated in February of 1838, she was likely already sick by the late fall of 1837 when her two sons-in-law died.
Of course, her daughter Margaret died within days of Elizabeth’s own death. That could have been the final straw. It’s unclear who died first, but it’s very clear that they died within days of each other based on their estate filing.
What Elizabeth didn’t know was that two of her daughters died not long after she did. Jane/Jenny Jones was apparently living when her husband died in late 1837, but gone before May of 1839.
Rebecca McKee Jamison died sometime between her mother’s estate sale in March of 1838 and her brother, Alexander’s death in May of 1839.
Alexander McKee wrote his will on May 20, 1839, and probably died shortly thereafter. It was probated on July 22, 1839.
Wow, I just need to stop and take a deep breath. I can’t even imagine so much illness and grief, so close together.
Elizabeth had a plethora of grandchildren, despite the fact that she buried children and that two of her adult children never married. The people bolded died before Elizabeth, except for Margaret, who died at almost exactly the same time. The last column indicated grandchildren that we know perished in Elizabeth’s lifetime.
|Child||Birth-Death||Spouse||Total Children||Died Before Elizabeth|
|Andrew||c1797-after 1847||Nancy Roe died c 1820, Rachel Fisher||6?||?|
|Ann||c1800- died VA 1840/1850||Charles Speak||11||5|
|Charity||1801/1805-before 1837||William Griever||5||3|
|Jane/Jenny||c1802/1803-1838/1839||Richard Jones estate Nov 1837||8||3|
|Elizabeth/Eliza||Before Mar 1805-died Indiana aft 1870||Eleazer Rouse||10+?||3|
|Rebecca||c1808-1838/1839||William Jamison estate Oct 1837||2||1|
Elizabeth welcomed at least 84 grandchildren into the world, although the final arrivals were likely celebrated from the other side.
A few, those that were born in distant locations, she never got to meet and didn’t get to enjoy watching them grow and flourish.
Sadly, she buried 26 of those children, or about one each year, many as babies, except for the children of Ann who moved to Virginia when she married, and Eliza who moved to Indiana after burying some children in Virginia.
Thirty percent, or almost one in three children died, which means that they were actually luckier than some families, where half of their children perished. Of course, these are only the children we know about.
Elizabeth lived long enough for her grandchildren to begin to marry as well, a blessing not afforded to many in that time and place.
Elizabeth and Andrew were married for about 26 years. That’s a long marriage. When he slipped away, all of Elizabeth’s children were still at home except for Sally who married in 1810, and James who had been away at war. At least Andrew was able to welcome his first grandchild, or maybe even two, before he passed over.
Amazingly, Elizabeth did not remarry. She raised all of those 11 or 12 children remaining at home by herself. The youngest, Alexander, may not even have remembered his father. He seems to have been born in 1811 or 1812, so at best, vague, fuzzy memories.
Elizabeth functioned from that point on in the stead of a male farmer. She did what needed to be done – sewed crops and tended to livestock in addition to handling the traditional women’s chores. The reason most people remarried was because raising a family on the frontier was literally a full-time job for two able-bodied people. I wonder how she did it. Her older children must have helped a lot.
Elizabeth was apparently ill, or injured, twice, and recovered. Something happened in 1818 and 1822. She lived for another 24 years after Andrew’s death – nearly a quarter century. She was widowed almost as long as she was married.
For the duration of Elizabeth’s life, she never lived alone. Her last child “at home,” Alexander, died a little over a year after she did, in the spring of 1839.
Margaret, who died when Elizabeth did, would have been her mother’s companion, probably weaving and spinning and working together, side by side. Regardless of who died first, Elizabeth clearly knew that Margaret was very ill and unlikely to survive. She knew the signs of death well.
This door would have shut for the last time behind Elizabeth’s children living in her household when Alexander left on his final journey.
The McKee home descended to James, who died in 1855, the last of the McKee boys, and then passed to generations of his descendants. Stewards of the McKee homestead and Elizabeth’s incredible legacy of enduring strength.
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