The McKinney Family History

The McKinney line in our research begins with Peter McKinney.

Click herePeter_McKinney_grave.gif (132778 bytes) to see the full picture of Peter's grave.

Peter McKinney was either born in Ireland and came to America with his parents or was born in America shortly after his parents arrived. There are two differing stories in the Butler County, Pennsylvania, history books. No matter where he was born, he came from Ireland. There were several Scots that came to this country from Ireland where they had been living for 200 years). The name was Kinney until he moved to Butler County. He moved amid Scottish settlers and they decided to call him McKinney. He accepted the name and forever after went by Peter McKinney. His Revolutionary military papers list him as Peter Kinney. His pension papers list him as Peter Kinney/McKinney.

I have a theory that Peter's father was sponsored by William Turnbull and brought over as an indentured servant--meaning Turnbull paid Kinney's way over with a promise by Kinney to work for Turnbull for a certain amount of years to repay him for the passage. In 1789 William Turnbull and Peter Marmie of Philadelphia built a furnace/ forge on Jacob's Creek in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and put the equipment to blast on November 1, 1790. I also found on the 1790 census that William Turnbull had 24 males under 16, 20 males over 15 and 21 females listed in his family. It is possible that all of these people were brought over from Ireland to work for him. No one else had this many people listed on the census in his household. It is my belief that Peter's father and mother were sponsored by William Turnbull to come to America, and when they arrived in this country both died (by what means I do not know). But in later years, after Revolutionary War, Peter served out the years for his father. We do know Peter served for seven years to William Turnbull.

In my notes dated 6/6/98 on Hadley’s history of Old and New Westmoreland Counties, Vol. I, page 375, I note that Peter McKinney or Kinny was in Capt. Clarke's Company from 1776-79. If he was born in 1768, he was only 8 years old when he volunteered. He served in the army for a total of 7 years. He was a drummer and fifer. His gravestone says fifer. The drummers and fifers were children who marched out in front of the armed soldiers as they went into battle. Peter served another seven years for William Turnbull (to pay off his father's indebtedness?) and then married Mary Shorts in Braddock's Field, south of present-day Pittsburgh, in 1791.

We hunted up Braddock's Field. It is the location where the Indians defeated General Braddock of the British expeditionary army in the French and Indian War, which was fought a decade or so before the Revolutionary War. George Washington was the commander of the Virginia militia which accompanied Braddock into battle. The Indians ambushed and then slaughtered a good portion of Braddock’s army. George Washington led the army’s retreat back to Virginia. Braddock’s Field is located in a small suburban community south of Pittsburgh today, and a steel mill has been erected on it. I imagine it was a much prettier area in 1791 than it was in we saw it in 1998!

In any event, shortly after his marriage to Mary, Peter came with his wife to the Connoquenessing Valley--which is about 20 miles north of Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania (where Peter had been working out his indenture to Turnbull). In the Connoquenessing Valley, Indians were almost his only neighbors and wild game was so abundant everywhere that he seemed to be living in a veritable hunter's paradise.

McKinney built his first cabin on an area in Forward Township, where he settled a 400-acre tract. One book says Peter McKinney purchased 326 acres for $178.26. The deed for the original sale is still in the hands of the McKinney family and much of the original farm is still owned by his grandson, H. B. McKinney. We have  copies of papers showing Peter McKinney, the Fifer, was issued 100 acres of Bounty Land on November 5, 1789 (Warrant numbers 9778 and 9871). The papers were obtained from the Division of Veterans Administration, so Peter may have subsequently purchased some additional land. In any event, Peter built a cabin on the tract where his son, C.A. McKinney, still lived as late as 1883.

The town Peter created nearby was first called McKinney's Tavern, then Petersburg, and finally Petersville. The postal service later requested that the name of Petersville be changed to Connoquenessing, because the postmaster indicated the mail was constantly getting confused with Portersville, a neighboring town. The locals were upset and wrote a vituperative poem about this. In their mind it is still Petersville. Peter’s occupations in some of the contemporary documentation are listed as: farmer, shoemaker, and tavern owner. (A tavern in those days was more than just a bar.  It was a restaurant and meeting house for men and women alike.)

Peter’s wife died in 1839. During the final 21 years of his life, Peter was blind. Without the help of his beloved Mary, Peter acquired a black companion who assisted him during the final ten years and was with him until he died at age 81 years.

In an address by Andrew White McCullough at the Centennial of Mt. Nebo Church near Whitestown in Butler County, Pennsylvania, he said "I never look at the steel engraving of that famous oil painting, 'The Spirit of '76' without thinking of Peter McKinney as the youthful snare drummer marching by the side of the sinewy-armed patriot with his head tied up."

Peter McKinney was honored in the year 1976 by a group of young people in Baytown, Texas, some one hundred and eighty five years after he and Mary went to Butler County in 1791. The CAR chapter in Baytown has been named for the great pioneer and Revolutionary War soldier. Peter's 5th great grandson, Bryan Joseph Black, was the first member of the chapter and Bryan's mother, Sally Bryan Black, was the first president. (The CAR in Butler, PA named their chapter after Peter and Mary's first child, Elizabeth, in honor of her being the first white child born in Butler County.)

Click here to see Peter and Mary's Family Group Record.

Robert McKinney was Peter and Mary's first son that lived to maturity. (Their first son died as an infant.) Robert married Rachel Ash. 

Robert served in the War of 1812 for the required 60 days. He was a private and a musician, stationed in Erie, Pennsylvania, with the 138th Militia--part of Captain Martin's Company, Colonel R. Miller's Regiment and the 2nd Brigade of General Meed's 16th Division. Robert received a total of $23 for his war service. Robert was honorably discharged at Erie on March 21, 1814. He never engaged in actual battle.

On January 17, 1851, when Robert was 56 years old, he applied for a Bounty Land Claim under an act passed by the federal government on September 28, 1850, which granted bounty land to certain officers and soldiers who had engaged in military service of the US. The request was fulfilled and he was granted Warrant #41896. It is not known how much land he received or its location. The warrant was issued on February 22, 1852.

When he was 75 years old, Robert appeared before Jacob Fry, Justice of the Peace, and applied to be placed on the pension rolls under the provisions of the act approved February 14, 1871. We know he applied but do not know whether a pension was granted.

Click here to see Robert and Rachel's Family Group Record.

Our line continues through their daughter, Mary McKinney who married James B. Wilson in Butler County, PA in 1866.

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