McKee Cemetery Preservation




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.