1.1 Agnes McKee
b. 1804 Ireland
d. After 1870 Galum, Perry County, Illinois
b. 1805 Ireland
d. 1854 Dukinfield, Cheshire, England
Child 1.1.1 William Anderson
b. 1830 Ireland
Child 1.1.2 Alexander McKee Anderson
b. 1833 Ireland
d. 26 May 1881, 50 Brooks Street, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Cheshire, England
Child 1.1.3 Agnes Anderson
b. 1834 Ireland
d. 1886 Woodchurch Hospital, Cheshire, England
Child 1.1.4 Mary Jane Anderson
b. 1837 Ireland
d. 23 Jan 1881 Cutler, Perry County, Illinois
In the fall of 1867, a 61-year-old Irish widow named Agnes (MCKEE) ANDERSON boards the ship Helvetia at Liverpool, England. Traveling with her are her young widowed daughter Mary Jane (ANDERSON) ASHWORTH and two orphaned granddaughters—Mary Louise Alice and Agnes Eleanor. As Agnes sails from Liverpool bound for New York, she leaves behind her English home of many years, older children, in-laws, and many grandchildren. Her familiar world and her family simply slip away until they are no more.
Agnes is fleeing the deteriorating conditions in England. As the Civil War rages in the United States, cotton shipments from the former colonies stop, unemployment at English cotton mills mounts, and the food riots start. The English government—in an effort to ease pressures in the Cheshire area—pays for passages to anywhere outside of England. I’m guessing that Agnes, Mary Jane, and the children take advantage of the government's offer and naturally choose to join the remainder of the McKee family in Randolph County, Illinois. The fact that Agnes knows exactly where her family is hints that a thread spread across the Atlantic 30 years earlier when Agnes’ family left Ireland is still holding strong and fast.
The women arrive in New York on 30 December 1867. Agnes, Mary Jane, and the two small granddaughters must find their way through Castle Garden. Immigrants can stay at Castle Gardens if they have no other accommodations. Many immigrants do and describe parts of Castle Garden being covered with maps. They explain that agents list your options for going west and tell you the costs. Immigrants also describe the high walls that prevent the predators of New York from gaining access to unsuspecting immigrants with an eye toward stripping them of anything of value. The scene must have been dizzying for a woman of 61 with her daughter and granddaughters in tow.
The women make their way to Randolph County, and shortly after their arrival Mary Jane marries her cousin George D. MCKEE. Whatever love and security George is able to offer is short lived. George dies suddenly on 16 January 1870. The women are again adrift. The 1870 census shows them living in Galum, Perry County, Illinois—one county over from the McKee family in Randolph County. By this time, Agnes is 68 years old.
Agnes does not appear on the 1880 census. She most likely dies between 1870 and 1880 in relative poverty while living on a Perry County farm…a stranger in a strange land. I’ve found no record of Agnes’ death or burial. My best guess is that she is buried with her father Alexander on land once owned by her brother Joseph MCKEE.
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