McKee, Alexander

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McKee, Alexander

McKEE, ALEXANDER. (1735?–1799). Loyalist Indian agent. Born on the western Pennsylvania frontier, Alexander McKee was the son of fur trader Thomas McKee and a Shawnee mother. He served with British forces during the French and Indian War (1754–1763), acting as a scout during General John Forbes's expedition to the forks of the Ohio River and taking part in James Grant's ill-fated attack against Fort Duquesne in September 1758.

Resigning from the military in 1759, McKee remained at Fort Pitt to act as George Croghan's assistant at the garrison's Indian trading post. In 1766, Sir William Johnson, superintendent of the British Indian Department, named McKee to the post of Indian commissary for Fort Pitt and charged him with the responsibility of regulating the fur trade with tribes throughout the Ohio Valley. In 1769, he married a Shawnee woman living in western Ohio. By the early 1770s his career had brought him land, wealth, and influence both among Native peoples and British officials.

After the beginning of the Revolution, McKee remained in Pittsburgh and discretely aided British interests within the region. Publicly, however, he disavowed his affiliation with the Crown in an attempt to protect his substantial economic assets in the Upper Ohio Valley and to provide a measure of personal protection in what was becoming an increasingly hostile environment. Threatened with arrest, assault, and death by area Patriots in March 1778, he joined Matthew Elliott, Simon Girty, and several others in fleeing Pittsburgh for British-held Detroit.

In June 1778, Henry Hamilton, the British lieutenant governor of Detroit, commissioned McKee as a captain in the British Indian Department. McKee spent the remainder of the conflict cementing the Crown's alliance with the region's Indian nations and participating in raids against Patriot settlements throughout the Ohio Valley. He accompanied Hamilton in an expedition against Vincennes in late 1778. In 1780 he led successful attacks against (Joseph) Martin's and (Isaac) Ruddell's Stations in Kentucky, and in 1781 participated in the defeat of Colonel William Crawford near Upper Sandusky. In 1782 he commanded an expedition against (William) Bryant's Station in Kentucky and defeated Kentucky irregulars at the Battle of Blue Licks. At the war's conclusion, he held a series of councils with the Ohio Country Indian nations, at which he convinced them to accept the terms of the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

Following the war, he remained active in the Indian Department. At the time of his death he held the position of deputy superintendent general and inspector for Indian affairs for Upper and Lower Canada.

SEE ALSO Indians in the Colonial Wars and the American Revolution.


Allen, Robert S. His Majesty's Indian Allies: British Indian Policy in the Defence of Canada, 1774–1815. Toronto and Oxford: Dundurn Press, 1992.

Nelson, Larry L. A Man of Distinction among Them: Alexander McKee and the Ohio Country Frontier, 1754–1799. Kent, Ohio and London: Kent State University Press, 1999.

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