The following narrative is taken from known facts about Andrew and his families lives. Other information was taken from knowledge of what life was like during this time. Although I can attest to most of the information being true, there are suppositions made about various activities and ways of life based on that time period. I hope that this gives you a better idea of what “life” may have been like during that time, and not just “the facts.”
Andrew Logan McKee was born September 21, 1855. His parentage is unknown. Based on census records and family tradition it is believed that his mother was Isabella McKee, daughter of William D. McKee. Family tradition says that his father was a Mims from Edgefield, SC. Tradition goes on to say that when Andrew was about 12 he wrote a letter to his father asking why he never came to see him, sent him a Birthday card, or in any way acknowledged him. I have heard that this letter still exists, but no one knows who is in possession of this letter. I believe that if we could find it, it may give us a clue to his father. An exhaustive search of Abbeville, Greenwood, Laurens and Edgefield, SC census records for 1850-1880 have not yielded any clues as to anyone that could potentially be his father. Due to a fire records for Abbeville from that time were destroyed, that might be of some help. Andrew is listed on the 1860 as Andrew Mims. He lived with his Grandfather, William D. McKee and Grandmother, Nancy McKee. Their daughter, Isabella, is the only other person living in the household. Due to the fact that he wrote a letter to his father when he was 12 , his father did not perish during the Civil War. William McKee’s obituary says that he was an invalid for 40 years at the time of his death. It is not known exactly what happened to him, but he did not serve in the Civil War. He is listed as a hireling, so perhaps it was a farm accident. He rented his home. At least three of William’s sons served in the war. Two of these sons, giving their lives for the cause. Andrew was about 5 years old when the war started. I’m sure that at such a young and impressionable age he was caught up in all of the excitement of his uncles and neighbors going off to war. We can only speculate about how difficult things must have been during this time and the conditions under which Andrew grew up. I can imagine him prancing around with his soldier cap and acting like he was shooting the Yankee’s. Perhaps they came face to face with a Yankee deserter or a Unit that was marching towards Atlanta. I am sure that there was much sadness among his Grandparents and Mother, upon the death of his uncles, Cornelious and Frank. Yet, there must have been much rejoicing when his uncle, William, came home from war.
Andrew probably attended school in a one room schoolhouse, or perhaps the community church that also doubled as the schoolhouse. He would have attended school with all of the other children in the area. Perhaps during the war, times were difficult and they had no school master. Maybe he was educated by his grandparents and Mother for a few years at home. He would have been taught how to read using the Family Bible. He would have learned how to write using a feather pen and an ink well. [Ballpoint pens were not invented and become popular until the late 1880’s.] I can see as he gets older, having a crush on one of the young ladies in town. Perhaps he took her hair ribbons and stuck them in the ink well, to show her his interest. Horse and buggy was the transportation of the day. I imagine that he became quite a rider. The family most likely attended Gilgal Methodist Church with other family members and neighbors living near the Due West area.
I’m sure that the family saw many difficulties during the Reconstruction period. Everyone was having to learn to live with changes and a new lifestyle. Since his grandfather had no slaves, it was not as difficult as it may have been on many. The family was used to doing their own chores. Some chores he may have had would have been milking the cows, gathering eggs from the chickens, getting water from a nearby creek or their water hole, and tilling the land for their crops.
When Andrew was about 18 years old his Grandmother, Nancy, passed away. I’m sure having been raised in his Grandparents household, Nancy was just like a mother to him. Sometime between the 1860 and 1880 censuses Andrew changed his surname from Mims to McKee. The 1860 census is the only documentation ever to list him as Andrew Mims. Everything else lists him as Andrew McKee. This is the surname that he passed down to his descendants. Seven years later his Grandfather passed away. Andrew moved to Laurens at some point in time, most likely upon the death of his Grandfather, to deliver groceries for the mill store. He delivered these by horse and wagon. The following year on January 19, 1882, Andrew married Mary Jane Puckett. One can only imagine how they might have met. Perhaps through friends, or perhaps when Andrew was making a delivery for the mill store, he met Miss Puckett. Andrew’s first cousin, James Chandler, was dating and married Mary Jane’s sister, Tryphenia a year or two before Andrew and Mary Jane married. If James and Andrew did not meet the sisters together, than most likely James introduced his cousin to the sisters.
Andrew later worked for a saw mill and was a drayman. Sometime while working at the mill he was in an accident and lost his right arm. Imagine how difficult it was for him to learn to do everything with one hand and deal with the loss of his arm. I’m sure that he was in considerable pain for a long time after his accident. There must have been many difficult days, yet he had to continue to go about his routine, as he had a growing family to support. During this time there was great change in the area he lived, as many people went from working in their fields and surviving off of the land to working in the textile mills. Mills were springing up at every corner that you turned. All of his children would later work in the mills at least during some point in their lives, several making it their career.
The family worked very hard and I am sure that each of the children had their chores. To relax at night perhaps they sat around the fire or on the front porch and sing songs and tell stories. I’m sure that the boys would get out in the field and toss the ball. Maybe the younger children would play hide and seek.
During the day Mary Jane would take care of the house. She would teach the girls how to cook and bake probably on an old stove fueled by fire logs; as well as sew, knit and mend sock. They would have to bend over and wash clothes on the wash board and hang them up to dry. I can imagine how trying a job that was and how their backs must have really bothered them by the end of the day. The boys probably had the job of cutting fire wood and bringing it in for the winter.
Andrew and Mary Jane had 10 children. Their son, Tullie, was born only 10 months after they were married. I can image the joy they must have experienced at the birth of their first child. Yet, I am sure that they were also still learning more about each other and how to live as man and wife at the same time. After Tullie followed 4 girls, Lizzie, Lillie Mae, Hattie and Cleo. Then two more sons, Douglas and Jodie. While tending to an expanding family, Mary Jane, nursed her mother through her last three months. I am sure that this was a very tedious time on the family. A year after the death of her mother, Obedience Allen Puckett, Mary Jane gave birth to another daughter, Minnie Lee. This was my great-grandmother. Less than a month after the birth of Minnie Lee, Andrew wrote a letter to some cousins. He tells of the birth of another daughter, as well as of additional Puckett family news. Thanks to this letter we know that Andrew could actually write. Andrew states that “none of his people hardly ever comes to see them”. So apparently he had little contact with his cousins, aunts and uncles. We are unsure exactly where Isabelle lived upon the death of her father, William. Her obituary states that she lived about 20 miles over in Laurens County. This would lead us to believe that she lived with or near Andrew, yet no mention of Andrew was made in her obituary. Her father and a sister were the only two people mentioned, so perhaps she lived with her sister, Matilda, and her family. Although, Matilda continued to reside in Abbeville County. We can only speculate at this point. Isabelle died July 17, 1899. I have searched many cemeteries, but her burial place has not been found. It is possible that like her parents, she did not have a grave marker. They are most likely buried at Gilgal Church in unmarked graves.
In 1901, Mary Jane gave birth to another son, Bennie. Minnie Lee remembered sitting on the front steps with her sisters and singing. When their father came home from work their Daddy would say “sing on girls, sing on” as he went up the front stairs. Mary Jane again announced to Andrew sometime around the beginning of 1903 that she was expecting again. This time with twins. While preparing for another addition, the older children started preparing to leave home. Tullie was married on July 5, 1903 to Maggie Freeman. Then tragedy struck the family later that month. Andrew’s appendix burst. As the doctor was performing surgery on the kitchen table, Andrew died. He passed away on July 12, 1903. I can only imagine the sorrow that spread throughout the family. His obituary stated that he was “an industrious and useful citizen.” Andrew was buried at Popular Springs Baptist Church, where they used to attend church. It must have been a great burden for Mary Jane as she had a large family already, while expecting two additional children. Now her husband was gone and she had to find a way to support her large family. The majority of the children went to work in the mill. Minnie Lee was about 9 at the time of his death, and she never went past 5th grade, as she went to work in the mill to help support her family. Mary Jane rented out rooms in their house to help support her family. Four months after Andrew’s death, Mary Jane gave birth. Family tradition says that a little boy was born first and that he died before his sister was born, some 5 hours later. The child that did survive was a little girl, named in honor of her father. Her given name was Andrew Ella, yet she was always called Andrella.
Within a year or two of Andrew’s death, Lizzie and Cleo were married and starting families. I can imagine how excited Mary Jane must have been at becoming a Grandmother, when Tullie and Maggie had their first child, Paul, in May 1904. I’m sure that Andrella and Paul were probably more like brother and sister, than aunt and nephew, as they grew up together. Imagine the joy Mary Jane must have felt at watching her large brood grow up, marry and start families of their own. There were many days when she missed Andrew and longed to tell him about various things going on in their children’s lives. She lived long enough to see all of her children marry and start families of their own, as well as see a great-grandchild born. She also saw more heartache, as her daughter Cleo died in 1919 and son, Bennie, died in 1926. I’ve been told that Mary Jane was sitting on the bed, holding one of her grandchildren, when she handed the child back saying she felt weak. She had a fatal heart attack, which lasted only a few moments. Lillie Workman told me that “when Mary Jane died it was pouring down rain and a huge crowd came and had a hard time trying to keep dry”. Mary Jane’s obituary had many glowing things to say about her. “Mrs. McKee was widely known here and elsewhere, having resided here for a number of years. She was held in high esteem by those who knew her. She was of a noble Christian character, a consistent member of the Baptist church for a long number of years. She was always ready to lend a helping hand, and was especially a much devoted and faithful mother and grandmother.”
Sometime around the early 1920’s, as all of the children were leaving the house and starting families of their own, they decided to get everyone together at least once a year. This was the beginning of the McKee Family Reunion. My grandmother, Virginia, remembers going as long as she can remember. Mary Jane and Andrew had 10 children and 42 grandchildren. There are now only 3 grandchildren still living . I can imagine how big and boisterous the earlier reunions must have been when all of the children and grandchildren were still alive and attended. There are now 633 known descendants, and several lines that we have no information on.
About half of the children are buried at Rosewood Cemetery in Laurens County. I have pictures of all 10 of the children and their spouses’ graves, as well as their obituaries. Below is just a brief outline of their 10 children:
Tullie-married Maggie Freeman and had 5 children. He became an electrical engineer and eventually moved his family to Mill Spring, NC. For many years the reunion was held at his house. You could see the mountains from his yard and he raised chickens and peacocks. His granddaughter has Andrew’s 2 family Bibles, which has helped fill in many holes on the McKee family.
Lizzie-married Nathan Hill and had 6 children. Nathan was killed in a car accident in 1934. They stayed in Laurens.
Lillie-married George Stewart and had 4 children. They stayed in Laurens.
Cleo-married Ernest Driggers and had 2 daughters. Ernest was a minister. I know he had pastorates in Newberry, Greenwood and Greenville. Cleo died in 1919 and Ernest would later remarry and have ason.
Hattie-married Sammie Washington and had 4 children. He worked in the mills and they moved to Spartanburg.
Douglas-married Ruby Elam and had 8 children, 6 living to adulthood. They lived in Greenwood, SC. Douglas worked for the Farmer’s Feed and Seed Store. He passed away suddenly while attending a meeting at church. He always had a cheerful manner.
Jodie-married Blythe McQuowin and had 6 children. Only 3 surviving to adulthood. Blythe died in childbirth and Jodie married Nonie Stevens. He stayed in Laurens and was a weaving supervisor. His son, Fred, was killed during World War II while serving in Germany.
Minnie Lee-married Robert “Lee” Patton and had 5 children. He worked in the mills and they eventually settled in Greenville, SC.
Bennie-married Mamie McGee and had 1 son. He stayed in Laurens. He died in 1926.
Andrella-married Joe Thomas and had 1 daughter. They eventually moved to Danville, Va where Joe was a police officer.