ROBERT BOYD McKEE is of pure Scotch-Irish stock, his father, Robert McKee, having been born in Ballyclare, Antrim, Ireland, in 1800, and his mother being of an old Irish family. His father came to America about 1833. He was a cooper by trade, and after working for some time in Virginia and Maryland finally settled in Freeport about 1838.

John Jackson, Mr. McKee's great-grandfather on the maternal side, came from Ireland in 1770, settling first in Lancaster county, then moving to near Hannastown, Westmoreland county, and finally locating permanently in what is now called Kiskiminetas township, Armstrong County. He cleared the land and established the well-known Jackson farm, near Apollo, which is still held in the family. Here a daughter was born, July 1, 1776, which tradition says was the first child born to the white settlers in the territory then known as the �Backwoods,� north of the Kiskiminetas river. This daughter married William Hill, a native of County Tyrone, Ireland, April 5, 1798, and to them nine children were born. The youngest daughter, Eliza, born in the bounds of the famous �Appleby Manor� Sept. 17, 1815, was married to Robert McKee Aug. 12, 1841, at her home in South Buffalo Township. Three children came to them, the youngest, Robert Boyd, on Aug. 14, 1846. In the September following the father died, leaving the mother with two children to battle with the world.

Robert B. McKee spent his childhood in Freeport, attending school for four months of the year, and assisting his uncles on their farms, until his sixteenth year, when he hired with a farmer for six dollars a month. After six month's service he began working on the old Pennsylvania canal, helping run the ferry over the Allegheny at Freeport, working on the West Pennsylvania railroad, and doing general chores until August, 1864, when he enlisted, becoming a private in Company I, 5th Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery. He was promoted to corporal Oct. 5, 1864, and at the close of the war was honorably discharged, June 30, 1865. Returning home he attended a select school and the Freeport Academy during the balance of the summer and the following winter, was then granted a certificate, and began to teach in the Wilson school in North Buffalo township in November, 1866. Here he taught the four months' term and an additional month, for which the citizens raised the money, the following winter took a school in Laneville, and thereafter was a teacher for three years in the public schools of Freeport. This was a highly creditable record in view of the limited work he had been able to do in the matter of preparation-four months in the common schools before he was sixteen and but two sessions in a select school and the academy after his return from the army. His record for discipline and keeping the pupils interested was unexcelled.

Mr. McKee was married Dec. 22, 1870 to Mary Cecilia Bole, a member of an old and respected family of the county, and in the spring of 1871 went to housekeeping in Pittsburgh, where he was employed as foreman in an oil refinery for four years. In the spring of 1875 he returned to Freeport and bought and interest in the dry goods and grocery business with Levi Bush, the firm being Bush & McKee. In 1879 he sold out and assumed charge of the Freeport Journal, organized by him as a stock company, and purchased from the original owners, who had started it in 1876. He gradually acquired all the stock, running it alone until July, 1902, when his son Charles H. was taken into the partnership. The paper under the editorial charge of Mr. McKee has been a power for good in the community and has a large and steadfast list of subscribers. It is conclusively proved to be the paper for the people, for although others have at times been started in Freeport none has been able to attain a foothold.

Mr. McKee has four sons, all living; Burtt F., living in Oakmont, and assistant manager of the American Typefounders Company (he is married and has several children); Charles H.; Jesse C. employed on the Journal; and Robin B., purchasing agent for the West Penn Steel Works at Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.

Mr. McKee is a member of the Presbyterian Church, in which he and his wife were the leaders of the choir for over thirty years; he is also a member of the I.O.O.F. and the G.A.R. He was an employee of the State Legislature in 1879, clerk of the State Senate in 1881, and secretary for Hon. Joseph G. Beale in the 1908 session of Congress. From 1883 to 1884 he was in the revenue service under Colonel Jackson, was a member and secretary of the school board for six years, borough treasurer twenty years, helped organize and was for over twenty years, a director of the Freeport Building & Loan Association, member and secretary of the Freeport Cemetery Association for twenty-five years, justice of the peace for two terms and a notary public for twenty years.

In 1902 he went to visit the birthplace of his father in Ireland and included England and Scotland in the tour. He has been a Republican all of his life until late years and expects to return to his first love when the party is reorganized. He thinks his native land is the best place this side of Ireland and the people good as gold. He has earned a modest competence, prides himself on meeting all obligations promptly, loves his neighbors and friends, does not worry about his enemies, is always ready to help a fellow who is down and out, and would rather go fishing than attend a grand opera, although a great lover of music. He has spent very busy life and now has no higher ambition than to keep busy and helpful while he is permitted to remain on earth.

Source: Pages 369-370, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed March 2002 by Helen B. Miller for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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