Boys don’t hesitate. Alexander scampers up the gangplank, the vanguard of his family boarding the Republic, which is bound for the New World. While the grownups fret over a dangerous sea passage, Alexander steps onto the deck, deeply breathing the sea air while contemplating the adventure unfolding before him.
Boys don’t obsess. Whatever apprehensions the grownups might be feeling about leaving everyone and everything they know behind for a new reality, 10-year-old boys like Alexander live in the here and now. For Alexander, the reality of this moment bursts with new possibilities.
Boys don’t wait. Alexander takes advantage of the time he has when distracted grownups ignore him. He surveys the busy deck, and dodging seamen, luggage, and cargo, Alexander makes his way to the seaside railing and looks west. His first voyage—from Northern Ireland to England—had been short. This voyage would take many weeks. In that time, a boy could come to know many things about sailing, sailors, and life at sea.
Boys don’t obey. As seamen go about getting the vessel under way, billowing and cracking sails snap in Alexander’s inexperienced ears along with the orders to get below. Dragging his hand along the rail, Alexander prolongs his time on deck as the Republic bobs into the Irish Sea. He nips behind some rigging on deck and watches as the Irish Sea turns into the Atlantic, a vast expanse of nothing but cold blue water.
Many weeks later, when the Republic lands at New York and Alexander first sets foot on American soil, he takes his first steady step toward becoming an American. As the boy and his family navigate New York City and work their way west to Illinois, Alexander moves farther and farther away from his Northern Irish home and his Northern Irish roots.
By the 1840 census, thirteen-year-old Alexander McKee is living with his father and his older brother Joseph’s family in Randolph County, Illinois. During the time Alexander is growing up, he most likely does so in a log cabin. Frame housing comes to the prairies later.
The world Alexander grows up in must be similar to that described by his contemporary Dr. J. B. Gordon in his book Early History of the Flack School District Randolph County Illinois. Based on descriptions in that book, Alexander grows up working on the family farm just like any other pioneer boy. He most likely hunts and fishes out of necessity and for entertainment. Alexander is uneducated. Subsequent census entries note that Alexander cannot read or write. He attends Presbyterian services with his staunchly religious family.
Boys Become Men
The purchase of land is the first concrete evidence of Alexander’s presence in Randolph County, Illinois. On 27 December 1848, twenty-one-year-old Alexander purchases 40 acres in Randolph County. The description is the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 13 in township 5 south range 5 west in Randolph County. The land is located just on the border with Perry County, Illinois.
As the 1850’s begin, Alexander does another very grownup thing. On 12 December 1850, he marries Miss Susan Bowerman.
Susan is born in Steelville, Randolph County, Illinois on 28 August 1829, the third child of Jesse and Margaret Bowerman. Jesse along with his parents and siblings migrated from Tennessee, arriving in Randolph County, Illinois in 1808. The Bowerman homestead near Steel’s Mill is a well-documented Randolph County landmark. Susan is born on the family farm and grows up in the area—not far from the McKee family farms.
Susan and Alexander share their teenage years living in proximity to each other. When you add the probability that they attended church services together, one can speculate that religion plus proximity equals marriage.
Alexander and Susan settle into the typical farm life of the 1850’s and begin having children. Robert John McKee is born in 1852. Two years later Mary Margaret McKee arrives 1 December 1854 but dies a short 8 months and 20 days later (21 August 1855). Mary is buried in Cutler Cemetery in Perry County, Illinois. Jesse Alexander McKee arrives 25 July 1858 followed by Lemuel M. McKee on 15 April 1859.
In addition, Alexander’s success as a farmer necessitates the purchase of an additional 40 acres of land.
With the start of the 1860’s, the Civil War becomes a factor in the McKee family. However, like the majority of his extended family, Alexander does not serve. He registers for the draft in 1863 when he is 36 years old. The Civil War is well underway; however, I can find no evidence that Alexander was ever called upon to serve. In addition, his children are minors who are too young for service.
Two additional daughters arrive in the 1860’s: Margaret Mary is born 7 June 1861 and Jennie Elizabeth is born 4 March 1866. All through this time, Alexander and his family’s lives follow the rhythm of the seasons and farm life.
For the Alexander McKee family, the 1870’s brings losses. A new child—Cora Bratten McKee—is born in June of 1873 but dies quickly on 2 August 1873. Cora is placed in the family grave site in Cutler Cemetery. In November, twelve year old Margaret Mary joins Cora when she dies 2 November 1873. With Cora’s death, the McKee family has only one daughter—Jennie Elizabeth—along with their three sons, Robert John, Jesse Alexander, and Lemuel.
As happens with all families, the McKee children grow up, marry, and set about making lives for themselves. Two happy events occur early in the 1880’s:
On 2 November 1882, Robert John McKee marries Mary Ann Livingston.
(The family lives in Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois.)
On 14 May 1884 Lemuel M. McKee marries Mary Elizabeth Blair.
The family lives in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois and later in Maplewood, St. Louis County, Missouri.)
The family lives in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois and later in Maplewood, St. Louis County, Missouri.)
The mid 1880’s brings another unexpected death in the family when Alexander McKee dies 10 Jan 1886. At the time of his death, Alexander is being cared for in the home of his nephew‑in‑law, Joseph Thompson, husband of Mary Jane McKee Thompson. Mary Jane precedes Alexander in death, dying 1 January 1886. Perhaps the McKee family was trying to gather sick members of the family in one place to make caring for them easier. The Thompson family has a few unmarried children in their late teens and early twenties. Perhaps the Thompson family makeup made caring for sick family members easier. The local newspaper, The Plaindealer, includes the following obituary for Alexander in their Friday, 15 January 1886, issue.
After Alexander’s Death
Life goes on after death as surely as the sun rises. As the end of the 1880’s approaches, the Alexander McKee household is much reduced.
Mrs. Alexander McKee (Susan Bowerman)
Mr. Jesse Alexander McKee
Miss Jennie Elizabeth McKee
In 1887, Jennie’s presence on the farm is confirmed by a piece the Sparta newspaper, The Plaindealer, in their Friday, 25 Nov 1887, issue:
One Shot, Two Turkeys
In 1889, Jesse’s absence is confirmed when he marries in Southern Missouri.
28 February 1889 to Rosa Ann Noble in Carter County, Missouri
(Rosa dies 3 March 1890 in Williamsville, Wayne County, Missouri.)
4 December 1890 Celia Adeline Skief in Butler County, Missouri
In the search for land, Jesse Alexander McKee looks in Southern Missouri and eventually settles in Williamsville, Wayne County, Missouri where he lives out his life.
By 1901, Jennie is married and living in St. Louis, Missouri. She is Mrs. John William Knierim. She lives out her life in the St. Louis area, dying 25 January 1942 in Kirkwood, St. Louis County, Missouri.
On 27 August 1907, Susan Bowerman McKee is living on her own when she dies at age 77. The death certificate lists her home as Coulterville, Randolph County, Illinois and states that she died from the heat.
The McKee Name
Alexander is the youngest of four male McKee siblings. Of the siblings, Alexander is the most responsible for carrying on the McKee name. He has three male children who survive, marry and have children of their own—many of whom are sons.
Additional Family Information
For more information on all lines of the McKee family visit this weblog: http://alexandermckee.blogspot.com/
At the weblog, you can download a free printable PDF book, which is a 200 plus page index to the McKee family and their descendants (five generations, including vital statistics for each person listed in the index).
Ship Arrival (Republic 12 July 1837 Liverpool to New York, New York)
Year: 1837; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 034; Line: 45; List Number: 566.
Dodd, Jordan. Illinois Marriages to 1850 [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1997. Original data: Electronic transcription of marriage records held by the individual counties in Illinois.
Census EntriesUnited States Census, 1840," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XHBD-KZ9 : accessed 26 Aug 2014), Joseph G Mckee, Not Stated, Randolph, Illinois; citing "1840 United States Federal Census," Ancestry.com; p. 234, NARA microfilm publication M704, roll 68, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 0007645.
United States Census, 1850," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M8P1-DVM : accessed 26 Aug 2014), Alexander Mckee, Randolph county, part of, Randolph, Illinois, United States; citing family 71, NARA microfilm publication M432.
Census Year: 1850; Census Place: Township 5 Range 5, Randolph, Illinois; Archive Collection Number: T1133; Roll: 3; Page: 459; Line: 39; Schedule Type: Agriculture.
Illinois State Census, 1855," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/612B-1N2 : accessed 26 Aug 2014), Alex Mc Kee, Township 4S Range 5W-Township 8S Range 5W, Randolph, Illinois; citing p. , State Archives, Springville; FHL microfilm.
llinois State Census, 1865," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCKZ-SH6 : accessed 26 Aug 2014), Alex Mckee, , Sparta, Randolph, Illinois; citing p. , State Library, Springville; FHL microfilm.
United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M6HB-DC1 : accessed 26 Aug 2014), Alexander Mckee, Illinois, United States; citing p. 16, family 123, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 000545771.
United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MXKC-QP3: accessed 26 Aug 2014), Alex Mc Kee, Sparta, Randolph, Illinois, United States; citing sheet 578C, NARA microfilm publication T9.
Civil War (Alexander “Alex” McKee)National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General's Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); ARC Identifier: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 4 of 6.
Find A Grave MemorialsMemorial 45409478 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=mckee&GSfn=alexander&GSbyrel=all&GSdy=1886&GSdyrel=in&GSob=n&GRid=45409478: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Alexander McKee
Memorial 45409613 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=45409613: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Susan Bowerman McKee
Memorial 7907331 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7907331: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Robert John McKee
Memorial 65600643 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=65600643: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Mary Margaret McKee
Memorial 44807500 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=44807500: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Jesse Alexander McKee
Memorial 52718172 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52718172: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Lemuel M. McKee
Memorial 65601028 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=65601028: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Margaret Mary McKee
Memorial 67267620 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=67267620: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Jennie Elizabeth (McKee) Knierim
Memorial 65600801 (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=65600801: accessed 26 Aug 2014) Cora Bratten McKee
United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=IL1560__.104&docClass=STA&sid=aqu5wtob.h15: accessed 26 August 2014)
 Alexander McKee entry: SS Republic Passenger Manifest, 12 July 1837, page 3A, line 45; in Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 034; Line: 45; List Number: 566.