Archibald McKee

Archibald McKee was most likely born between 1708-1711 in Killyleagh Parish, County Down, Ireland.  While his parents are “not proven” other researchers believe his parents to be Archibald McKee and Jane Bell of the same area.   This would have made Archibald a Jr.  If Archibald {Sr} and Jane were his parents our Archibald {Jr} would have had at least eight brothers and sisters.

While still living in Ireland he would have married and begun a family.  However, search of Irish church records have not turned up the name of his bride.  We know that they had at least six children: Adam, Joseph, Martha, Archibald Jr, Jane and Elizabeth.  It is most likely that the oldest three were born in Ireland and the other children born in South Carolina.  Life became difficult in Ireland for many reasons from political to problems with the land producing as needed.  At some point Archibald decided to bring his family to the new land.   Archibald sailed to America  most likely between 1736-1738 where he landed in Charleston, South Carolina.  Imagine how difficult that must have been cramped in with several hundred other immigrants on a rocking ship for almost two months.  They were at the sea’s mercy.  If there was a storm they would have to run for shelter.  The quarters would have been cramped, people sleeping wherever possible and the smell was probably atrocious.  Then on good days everyone probably bundled up tightly against the cold to get some fresh air and take in the sea and maybe watch the dolphins swim by.  If a person became ill or passed on the only option was a burial at sea.

He then moved up the short distance to Williamsburg County, where he received a land grant for 300 acres in Kingstree on July 5, 1740. Although it is a short distance today, it probably took several days to reach at that time.  The only transportation was a horse or horse and buggy.  He would have had to invent some type of make shift housing while he built a house and furniture for his family.  It was not any easier on his wife trying to find supplies to keep food on the table, most which would have come from Archibald’s hunting and fishing trips.  She would also have tried to find a way to wash clothes, bend tears, and begin making a home for her family.  The children would have also worked hard helping their parents.

It would have been difficult settling the land, bringing in a crop, cutting down trees, helping new neighbors, and etching out a living in this unfamiliar territory.  There is also the possibility that they may have met Native Americans.  Those conversations would have been interesting, as neither understood the language of the other.

If Archibald did not know John Witherspoon and his family before leaving Ireland, they definitely became close friends and neighbors once they arrived in Kingstree.  Disease also ran rampant in the area and it must have felt so helpless to sit back and watch loved ones die.  We do not know for sure when Archibald’s first wife and the mother of at least six children died but it is likely she passed not long after coming to the new world.  In 1749 an epidemic that took “no less than eighty of the little township” overcame them and became known as the “Great Mortality.”  We do not know for sure if she died then but it is highly suspected that she did.

Archibald married two more times.  First to Mary Ann Witherspoon on April 25, 1757.  She was a widow of David Wilson, who also died in the “Great Mortality.” A nephew witnessed the marriage.   She died in 1765 and Archibald then married Elizabeth O’Brien.  She was a widow with at least three children according to Archibald’s will.  It is also believed that she was related to the Witherspoon’s.

Archibald died in 1776, the year the thirteen colonies that made up the United States became independent.    The cause of Archibald’s death is unknown but he would have been in his late sixties to early seventies, and have worked hard for a living.  At this time he would have been considered an “old man.”  At least two of his sons, Adam and Joseph, fought in the American Revolution and he would have been proud of them.

It is probable to say that Archibald was a man of strong faith and a founding father and pillar of the community.  He would have worked hard and scrapped out a living from scratch to make a better life for himself and his children.

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