Alexander McKee

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Alexander McKee
Native name Wapameisheu
Born ca. 1735
Died 15 January 1799
Allegiance British Indian Department Agent; Indian Department, Pennsylvania;
Years of service French and Indian War, American Revolutionary War, Northwest Indian War
Rank Colonel
Relations Father: Thomas, an Irish immigrant; Mother: Mary, a North Carolina settler captured and adopted by the Shawnee; Brothers: Thomas Alexander McKee AKA Palewiechen, James McKee of McKees Rocks, PA. Son: Thomas McKee by Nonhelema AKA The Grenedier Squaw
This article is about the 18th century agent of the Indian Department. For the 20th-century discoverer of the wreck of the Mary Rose, see Alexander McKee (author).

Alexander McKee (ca. 1735 – 15 January 1799) was an agent in the British Indian Department during the French and Indian War, the American Revolutionary War, and the Northwest Indian War. He achieved the rank of colonel.


Alexander McKee was born about 1735 as the second son of Thomas McKee an Irish immigrant (probably Scots-Irish from northern Ireland), fur trader, Indian Agent, and interpreter for General Forbes at Fort Pitt. His mother, Mary, was a white captive from a North Carolina settler's family who had been adopted and assimilated into the Shawnee tribe. She died when he was young. He had an older half-brother, Thomas Alexander McKee (AKA Pelewiechen), who had immigrated with their father to the colonies from Ireland. The senior Thomas McKee married a third time to Margaret Tecumsapah Opessa, a full-blood Shawnee. She taught Alexander the customs and language of the Shawnee. He developed a lifelong relationship with the Ohio Indian tribes, and the leader Tecumseh.

As a young man, Alexander McKee began working with traders who did business with the Indians of the Ohio Country. Soon, he was able to establish his own trading business. Because of his good relations with the Ohio tribes, Indian agent George Croghan enlisted McKee in the service of the Crown's Indian Department. Around 1764, McKee settled in what is now McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and built a substantial house. George Washington visited him there in 1770, and mentions this in his diary. McKee continued in the service of Pennsylvania for some time after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.

Following mistreatment by the settlers, he left the Americans in favor of the British at Detroit. It was during this transition that he established his well-known association with Matthew Elliott and the Girty brothers: Simon, James, and George.

During the next 25 years, Alexander McKee led efforts to promote the alliance of the Indians with the British, most especially with the Shawnee, but also with the majority of the Northwest Indian tribes. He guarded the interests of the Indians and was their honest friend. The Continental Congress branded him a traitor for remaining loyal to England and organizing several tribes on the side of the British.[1]

"Alexander McKee, the British Indian Agent, who resided at the Machachac towns, on Mad River, during the incursion of General Logan from Kentucky in 1786, was obliged to flee with his effects. He had a large lot of swine, which were driven on to the borders of this stream, and when the Indians (Shawnee) came on they called the river Koshko Sepe, which in the Shawnee language signified 'The Creek of the Hogs, or Hog Stream'." [2]


McKee died in Canada in 1799. He was mourned and greatly honored by the Northwest tribes.[citation needed] His son Thomas McKee was a Canadian soldier and political figure.

The borough of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, is the site of Alexander McKee's original 1,200-acre land grant, which the agent was awarded on November 25, 1764 by Colonel Bouquet. The McKee plantation was called FairView. The 8-room log mansion was mentioned by George Washington in his journal. The home was razed by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad in 1902.


  1. ^ Wulff, Frederick. (2013) Alexander McKee: The Great White Elk, British Indian Agent on the Colonial Frontier. Denver: Outskirts Press.
  2. ^ Harrison, R. H. (1880). Atlas of Allen County, Ohio from Records and Original Surveys. Philadelphia: R.H. Harrison. p. 36. 

Nelson, Larry L. A Man of Distinction Among Them. Alexander McKee and British-Indian Affairs along the Ohio Country Frontier 1754-1799. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1999.

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