McKee-Highley Cemetery, Desloge, MO

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McKEE - HIGHLEY CEMETERY
State Street, Desloge, Missouri
(Note:  This cemetery is also known as the Highley-McKee Cemetery)

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This is one of the oldest and most endangered cemeteries in St. Francois County.  The businesses on both sides have been closing in over the years which has resulted in tombstones turning up missing and being moved around.    T

TOMBSTONE PHOTOGRAPHS

3 STONE BASES - MISSING TOMBSTONES - Middle base is where Ellis Highley's stone was previously mounted.
DAVIS, Nancy (nee McKee) - Wife of Luke Davis - Died in 1828 - View #2 - View #3. Nancy (McKee) Davis was daughter of John McKee and Sarah (Baker) McKee
HIGHLEY, Ellis V. (1847-1914), son of William Madison Highley and Loudisa (McKee) Highley.
View of tombstone upright.
HIGHLEY, James Napoleon, b. Oct. 23, 1841, d. Oct. 16, 1913; s/o William Madison Highley and Loudisa McKee Highley.  All that is remaining is stone with initials J.N.H. (most probably a footstone)
HIGHLEY, Loudisa (1819-1858) and William Madison Highley (1812-1899).  Loudisa was daughter of John McKee and Sarah (Baker) McKee.   William Madison Highley was son of John H. Highley and Susannah (Brown) Highley. 
McKEE, Sarah (Baker) -  Died in 1832 -  Inscription:  "Erected by John McKee In Memory of His Beloved Wife" View #2 - View #3 - View #4 - Note:  It is believed that John McKee may have been buried by his wife, but there is no marked tombstone evidencing his burial. 
UNKNOWN

Please E-MAIL ME with any corrections or additional information. 
Thank you!

 

The following letter was written to the newspaper in 1986 about the above cemetery:

YOUR VIEW

Dear Editor:

This letter is written as a plea for the recognition and preservation of a historic cemetery located in Cantwell which is now a part of Desloge.

I believe that this cemetery contains the oldest known dated graves in St. Francois County.

These are the graves of Sarah (Baker) McKee, dated 1832 and her daughter Nancy (McKee) Davis, dated 1828, the wife and daughter of John McKee.

I believe that McKee is also buried there.

My main reason for wanting to protect the cemetery is that some of the people buried there played an important role in the development of the lead mining industry in this county -- not merely the age of the headstones and their incredible legibility after 158 years.

John McKee was the son-in-law of Andrew Baker, the wealthy merchant who brought his family and reportedly 200 slaves from Pennsylvania, circa 1796.

The Baker family played a very important part in the development of the earliest settlement in this county, Big River Mills.

The two story log home built by this Baker family is the last vestige of the community of Big River Mills. It still stands on the land now owned by Valley Dolomite, but it has been vacant since the 1950's.

John McKee came to this area before 1800 and engaged in mining until his death in 1855.

He bought and sold several parcels of land, but he is remembered for only one -- the 400 acres where parts of Flat River, Leadington and Esther are located today. Although this tract changed hands several times before the Donnelly Lead Co. paid $40,000.00 for it in 1894, it was always identified as the "McKee Mines."

In view of the upcoming Desloge "centennial celebration" it is important to preserve and properly care for this small tangible part of our heritage.

Mabel Reed.

Published by THE DAILY JOURNAL, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Mon. Sept. 8, 1986.

 

SMALL PIECE OF HISTORY IS ENDANGERED.
Highley-McKee is one of oldest cemeteries in county
By T.RESSEL - Daily Journal Staff Writer

DESLOGE — Many people drive up and down State Street every day and never notice a little piece of history on the side of the road.

On the St. Francois County Genealogy Web site, the Highley-McKee Cemetery in old Cantwell near Walnut Street is listed as “one of the oldest and most endangered cemeteries in St. Francois County.” It states over the years, tombstones have gone missing and have been moved around.

Ron Highley discovered the cemetery where some of his relatives are buried three years ago. His great-great-grandfather and his great-grandfather and their wives are buried there.

There are four other small Highley family cemeteries on private land in this county where other relatives are buried, but this is the cemetery he worries about.

Mabel Reed, a local history buff, shared with him pictures that were taken of the cemetery in 1983. She said it is sad that no one has shown respect or interest in preserving this cemetery.

They said there are six stones left now, but there were more than that in 1983. She said over the years, buildings have closed in on the cemetery.

He believes the size of the cemetery is smaller than a 1925 county map once showed. He believes the tombstones are no longer over the graves.

Desloge Police Chief James Bullock said Desloge has a couple small cemeteries on private land. He said he hasn’t received any recent reports of any problems at the Highley-McKee cemetery.

In 1986, Reed voiced her concerns in a Daily Journal Letter to the Editor, which is published on the genealogy Web site.

Reed believes that cemetery contains the oldest known dated graves in the county: Sarah (Baker) McKee dated 1832 and her daughter, Nancy (McKee) Davis, dated 1828. She believes Sarah’s husband, John was also buried there.

Reed said John McKee was the son-in-law of Andrew Baker, a wealthy merchant who brought his family and several slaves from Pennsylvania around 1796. The Baker family played an important part in the development of the earliest settlement in the county, Big River Mills.

John McKee came to this area before 1800 and engaged in mining until his death in 1855. He bought and sold several parcels of land, including 400 acres in the Park Hills-Leadington area. In 1894, Donnelly Lead Company paid $40,000 for the “McKee Mines.”

The Highley family was also well known in the 1800s. Many were politicians.

Ron Highley got interested in genealogy three years ago. He said his mother and father divorced when he was 7 years old.

It was a tale of an ancestor who was a bushwhacker that got him really interested in learning more about his ancestors.

Ron Highley, 74, graduated from Desloge High School and currently lives in Arkansas. He has four children, 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He believes making sure the cemetery is preserved is his Christian duty to his family.

He’s called the mayor with his concerns and talked to the owners of the property. He hopes to put up a cemetery sign like the others he’s put up on the other family cemeteries.


Published by THE DAILY JOURNAL, Park Hills, St. Francois County, Missouri, on November 7, 2009.


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