George N. McKee, deceased, who was a well known and representative pioneer of central California, deserves mention among the men of the past and of the present who laid the foundation for the state or have carried forward the work of progress and improvement that has resulted in the establishment of this splendid commonwealth. Fifty-two years have come and gone since he started for California, traveling in the primitive manner of the times, and after spending the winter at Salt Lake City, Utah, continued on his way to the mining regions of the Pacific coast.
His birthplace was on the Atlantic coast, for he was a native of massachusetts, born at Billerica, near Boston, on the 5th of November, 1830. He was a son of John and Ann McKee. The father was born in the north of Ireland and was of Scotch extraction, while the mother was a native of Nova Scotia. They spent a considerable part of their married life, however, in Massachusetts, and it was in the old Bay state that George N. Mckee was reared. In early manhood, imbued with a military spirit, he served for three years in the United States army as a member of a cavalry company. He did service mostly at Fort Laramie and in that portion of the frontier, and when his term of service had expired he resolved to establish his home in the remote west, attracted by the discovery of gold on the Pacific coast. Accordingly he started across the plains to California in 1852. He spent the winter in Salt Lake City and in the succeeding spring resumed his journey. On reaching Hangtown, now Placerville, he began mining gold, and subsequently he came with his wife to Sacramento county. He engaged in mining for a short time at Live Oak and subsequently in Calaveras county, and was altogether engaged in mining gold for seven years. In 1859 he located near what is now Clay station and engaged in farming for a short time.
In 1861 Mr. McKee took up his abode upon the farm where his widow and son, George Henry Mckee, now reside, about three miles north of Clay station. He was among the early settlers of his part of the county, and the land which he urchased was in its primitive condition, not a furrow having been turned or an improvement made upon the place, but he at once began its cultivation, and it was not long before golden harvests were rewarding his labors, while substantial buildings, well kept, indicated his progressive spirit and practical methods of farming. He continued to conduct the ranch with constantly increasing success up to the time of his death, which occurred August 9, 1895.
Mr. McKee was married in California, October 4, 1852, to Miss Jane Steele, a native of Shropshire, England, born on the 11th of May, 1835. She was the daughter of John and Harriet (Yates) Steele, who were likewise natives of England, and who in 1848 came with their family to the United States. They made their way direct to Wisconsin, settling in Jefferson county, where they resided until 1851, when they started for California, reaching their destination the following year. Mrs. McKee accompanied her parents on the long journey by wagon-train across the plains, and yet remembers many incidents of that trip. Her father engaged in mining gold for several years at various diggings, and finally with his family settled near what is now Clay station, Sacramento county, where both he and his wife died. They were prominent pioneer people and worthy citizens of their community, and in their death the county lost two early settlers who had done their full share in reclaiming this region for purposes of improvement.
With her husband Mrs. McKee shared in many of the experiences of the frontie, and their life was not without its hardships, such as fall to the lot of the pioneer who makes a home in a hitherto unsettled district. As the years passed five children were added to the household, of whom four are now living: Fannie J., the wife of J. O. Taylor, of Oregon; George Henry, who is living on the ranch near Clay station; Elizabeth, the wife of C. B. Howard, also living near Clay station; and Alexander E., of Sonoma county, California. One daughter, Matilda, is deceased. Mrs. McKee has a sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes, who resides at Clay station and who has made her home in Sacramento county since 1865. She was born in England and is the widow of Hugh Hughes, a native of Wales, who for many years resided at Clay station, being one of the pioneers of Sacramento county.
Mr. Mckee usually voted with the Republican party, although he did not consider himself bound by party ties. He was independent in thought and action, and fearless in support of his honest convictions. When his support was sought for any public measure he heartily endorsed it if it met with his approval, for he was an advocate of progression and continued improvement. His business affairs were honorably conducted and he was never known to take advantage of the necessities of his fellow men in any trade transaction. Such was his life record that he left to his family an untarnished name, and his memory is enshrined in the hearts of all who knew him.
Mrs. Mckee, who is one of the esteemed pioneer women of Sacramento county--and the pioneer women deserve a full measure of credit for the development and upbuilding of the state,--is still living at Clay station, and has many friends in the locality. Her son, George Henry Mckee, resides with her and is part owner and manager of the ranch, in the control of which he displays good business ability; so that it continues to be a profitable source of income.
Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II
The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine
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