The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee and His Family and Connections.

Written by Himself.

Commenced April 23rd, 1845.


It is very often a matter of amusement as well as instruction to future generations to hear an authentic account of the origin and progress of any family or individual who has at any period filled a portion of our country's history.

With this view I have been induced to give my own biography as well as that of my family. That our posterity may know from whence they came and how they got along in this changeable world of outs, in which we have enjoyed much pleasure, many blessings from an All-wise Providence as well as some pain and adversity.

I have also been further led to write these sketches because the McAfee family were among the first settlers in Kentucky as well as the earliest pioneers of the West, who crossed the Alleghany Mountains from the State of Virginia to occupy the banks of that after celebrated stream called "Salt River."

When and how they accomplished this will be the object of this history as well as to trace the mysterious workings of Providence which led the family first from Scotland to Ireland and thence to America which has become their present home.

It is impossible to give more than a general outline of my family ancestors previous to their remove to North America, as all I know about them has been derived from traditions which must in some measure be inaccurate as to dates.

According to my father's family register I was born on the 18th day of February 1784 on the banks of Salt River, near where my mill now stands, about fifty yards above a large cave spring and about four miles northwest of the town of Harrodsburg in an humble log cabin, and was rocked in a cradel made out of peeled hickory bark. I do not know that anything extraordinary took place at my birth except there was a deep snow on the ground and my mother's sister, Mrs. M. Magee (1), presided over my advent.

I was the eighth child of my mother and a second son by the name of Robert, a brother of the same name having died only twelve days previous, viz., on the 6th day of February 1784, and my father despaired of having any more sons was anxious for a man, it was immediately bestowed on me with the addition of the letter "B" for his friend, John Breckinridge, afterward a celebrated lawyer in Kentucky and at his death in 1806 attorney General of the United States under President Jefferson.

My father's name was Robert McAfee, my mother's name was Anne McCoun before she married.

(2) My father's name was Robert McAfee
My grandfather's name James McAfee
My great grandfather -- John McAfee
My great great grandfather -- John McAfee
My mother's name was Anne McCoun
My grandmother's name Jane McMichael
My great grandmother -- Elizabeth Montgomery

My mother's name was Anne McCoun
My grandmother -- Margaret Walker
My great Grandmother -- Molly Campble
My father's name was Robert McAfee
My grandfather -- James McCoun
My great grandfather -- James McCoun

My father's name was Robert McAfee
My mother's name was Anne McCoun
Maternal -- My grandfather's name was James McAfee and grandmother Jane McMichael (paternal) grandmother Margaret Walker (maternal)
Great Grandfather -- John McAfee
Great Grandfather -- James McCoun (maternal)
Great Grandmother -- Mary Rogers (paternal)
Great Grandmother -- Molly Campble (maternal

My great Grandfather married Elizabeth Montgomery near Glasgow, Scotland. The father of my grandmother, Jane McMichael, was Malcolm McMichael. Their families originally lived in Scotland between Edenboro [sic] and Glasgow, and shortly after the restoration of Charles II, my great (great) grandfather, John McAfee, removed to the North of Ireland, settled in the county of Armah [sic], where he became the owner of a small farm upon which his son, John, my great grandfather, afterwards built a stone house, which was occupied by the family for many years, some of their descendants living in that county to this day.

The McAfee family can only certainly be traced back to Scotland where they resided during the time of Cromwell, but after the restoration of Charles II part of them availing themselves of the liberal grants of land in the North of Ireland, emigrated to that country about the year 1672 and the persecutions of James II against the Presbyterian covenanters soon after drove many others after them including the Campbles, Montgomerys, McMichael and McCouns, who were more or less connected by marriages. This was in the year 1676.

When the revolution in England took place under King William and Mary 1688, John McAfee, the Patriarch of the family, and my great grandfather then a mere boy took part with King William and were soldiers in the battle of the Boyne in 1690 which was often the boast of my grandfather who was born in Armah County, Ireland on the 17th of October 1707. He was one of the ten children, viz. four sons, John, James, Malcolm and William, and six daughters, whose names I have not been able to procure.(3) The family name (reasoning from Analogy) is part Scotch and part Spanish, and originated in Scotland. The remote ancestors probably came from Normandy as the old stock were very large athletic men and women; many of them with the Spanish black eyes and hair, but this is all conjecture and is only drawn from the appearance of the different races of men connected with their family name.

My great grandfather James McCoun was of Danish extraction. The whole family feature the clear blue eyes and fair or auburn hair both men and women. He emigrated to Ireland, settled in Antrim County, adjoining Armah when quite young. He did not marry until he was pretty much of a Bachelor - had a son, James, my grandfather, who was born in the year 1717. His father kept a small store and occasionally acted as an itinerant pedlar.

About the year 1735 my grandfather James McAfee, married Jane McMichael, and his father dying soon after, in 1739 leaving a large family who had married off, the division of the patrimony being insufficient to satisfy all he turned his attention to N. America as opening to him better prospects for himself and family. In accordance with this determination he with his wife and three children, viz. John, James and Malcolm, then an infant, together with his aged mother who was willing to accompany his fortunes embarked at Belfast, Ireland in the Spring of 1839 [sic - 1739], and after a tedious passage landed at New Castle on the Delaware River on the 10th of June in that year, his son [Malcolm] having died a few days before landing which was a severe blow to his mother so soon after entering into a new and strange land. His resources being limited his wife and himself were compelled to follow weaving for their support reserving his small stock of money to purchase land which he accomplished that fall in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on Octorara creek where he purchased one hundred acres of land, and went to work to clear and cultivate it, here by industry and close economy he maintained his family in equal standing with his neighbors, who were very kind to them. Here his other children were born, viz., George, Margaret, Robert, Mary, William and Samuel, also one daughter who died young. Robert, my father, was born on the 10th of July 1745. My grandfather James McAfee was a large square-built man, raw boned Scotch Irishman, strong passions and great decision of character, dark hazel eyes, six feet in height. When aroused he was ready for any danger or enterprise. My grandmother, Jane McMichael, was a woman about middle size, tall, mild and dignified, with a remarkably fine face and open prominent forehead, indicative of great goodness of heart sensitive feelens, with dark grey eyes and black hair. Her mild, decided and conciliatory looks could always silence the old man when in a passion.

Malcolm McMichael, the father of my grandmother, Jane, came to N. America some years after, in 1746, with four other daughters, viz., Anne, who afterward married James Campble, Mary, who married Alexander Ferguson, Margaret, who married Samuel Ewing, and Elizabeth, who married first, a Mr. Keath and after his death, a Mr. Robers. All which marriages took place after he came to Pennsylvania, where he settled near my grandfather and lived until he died leaving one son, Daniel McMichael after he settled in Lancaster County. Another daughter, Sarah, married John Montgomery.

My grandfather, James McCoun, came to Virginia from Ireland when a young man, and landed at Norfolk in company with another young man by the name of William Adams in 1742. They engaged for some time working at the loom and farming until he procured enough to buy himself a small package of goods. Then he went to peddling in the back and frontier counties which at that time did not extend farther than the lower counties on the Roanoke, but as the settlements extended, James McCoun and William Adams married and some years afterward settled on the Cataba in Bedford County. These marriages took place in 1744, about two years after they arrived in Virginia, having met with Margaret and Mary Walker, who came to N. America about the same time with their brother Samuel Walker and landed at Charleston, South Caroline, with an uncle by the name of Thomas Clark, who had married their mother's sister, their family moved to Virginia and settled on Roanoke, where James McCoun married Margaret, the eldest sister who was said to be a remarkably handsome neat Irish girl who proved to [be] one of the most tidy housekeepers in their neighborhood and I have now in my possession a plain common rocking chair which she used to sit in previous to her death in March 1784. James McCoun on his trading rambles occasionally visited Philadelphia to get his goods. Thomas Clark returned to Ireland and again came back to Charleston where he took sick and died before he reached his family. Samuel Walker hearing of his death went to see after his affairs and was never heard of afterward. It was supposed that he was murdered or that he had taken sick and died at or near Charleston.

My grandfather, James McCoun, was married April 1744 and had the following children: James, born March 11th 1745, who married Nancy Tilford; Ann, (my mother, born August 1st, 1746, married Robert McAfee Dec. 10th, 1766); Samuel, born October 20th, 1748, died young and unmarried; Mary, born August 13th, 1750, married John Magee moved to Monroe County Missouri and died in 1837. Susan born April 7th, 1752, married James McCoun (no relation, from South Carolina); John, born March 28th, 1754, married Elizabeth Tilford (sister to James' wife); Jane, born May 1st, 1756, married James Woods and afterward Samuel Adams; Margaret, born April 15th, 1758, married to ___ Kerr (4); Elizabeth, born February 7th, 1761, married James Ledgerwood; Joseph, born February 19th, 1763, taken prisoner by the Indians 1780 and burnt to a stake on head of Mad River in Ohio.

My grandfather, James McCoun, was a person of ordinary size, about five feet, nine or ten high, heavy made, and became fleshy before he died in 1800; grey eyes, heavy eyebrows and finely rounded forehead, a man of extraordinary strong mind with a great fund of cheerfulness and good humor, in which the Irish character predominated. He was an excellent farmer and great economist, fond of his friends and much attached to his sons, especially the eldest. He could never get clear of his idea of primogeniture and was a Presbyterian of the Seceder denomination.

My grandmother was a remarkable woman neat and spare made of the ordinary height, lively temperament, and beloved by all her children and friends.

My paternal grandfather's family and history may be summed in a short summary, his mother, whose maiden name was Mary Rogers, came with her son to N. America and lived with him on Octorara Creek in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania to the advanced age of 84 years, when she died, and of her children John was killed at the ford of Rudy Creek near New River in Virginia about the year 1768.

James married Nancy Clark, the daughter of Thomas Clark who is mentioned above as the uncle to my grandmother, and had children as follows: Mary, who married David Woods and had three children. Woods died and she again married Samuel Woods, his nephew, and had four more children, viz., Harry, Anne, Sally and Woodford.

John, who married Margaret Ewing, the daughter of Samuel Ewing, and granddaughter of Samuel Ewing who married Margaret McMichael as already stated.

James who died in his bed suddenly one night, a young man, after they had removed to Kentucky in 1783.

Elizabeth who married William Davenport. Nancy married to Alexander Buchanan. George (who died unmarried in 1804). Margaret married John McKamey.

Thomas Clark McAfee married Nancy Greathouse of Shelby County, Kentucky. My uncle, George McAfee married Susan Curry, daughter of William Curry, and had children - viz., John, who lived to be an old bachelor, and died in South Carolina; James, who married Nancy McKamey, moved to Missouri in 1826; Margaret, who married Abraham Irvine, now of Boyle County, head of Salt River, George, who married Anne Hamilton, Susan, who married Robert McKamey, brother of John above mentioned.

My aunt Margaret McAfee married George Buchanan a cousin to the father of the present Secretary of State of the U. States, James Buchanan; had issue as follows: John, who married his cousin Margaret Guant and lived in Green County, Kentucky; James, who married Rebecka Armstrong, lived near Salt River west of Salvisa and afterward moved to Clark County, Indiana.

Mary, who married Mr. Purviance and moved to Indiana; Alexander, who married his cousin Nancy McAfee and settled on Salt River at his mill.

Margaret, who married William Ewing and moved to Indiana; Jane, who married Wm. McCampble and moved to Indiana; Nancy, who married Thomas Gilkerson, moved to Indiana; Anne, who married Joseph Woods, cousin of the above named Woods, moved to Fleming County and lived on Licking River.

Robert McAfee, my father, married Anne McCoun, December 10th 1766 and had issue as follows: Margaret, who married Nathan Neeld; Jane, who married Matthew Forsythe of South Carolina, descended from the same paternal stock of John Forsythe, former Secretary of State of the U.S.; Sally, who married James Curran; Samuel, who married Mary Cardwell, daughter of John Cardwell; Mary, who married Joseph Adams; Robert, who died at six years of age, February 6th, 1784; Anne, who married John R. Cardwell, brother of Mary Cardwell named above; Robert B., who married Mary Cardwell, daughter of James Cardwell (cousin of the above); John, who died unmarried at 20 years of age.

The foregoing are my father's family and marriages from whom they may know their ancestors in future, all of whom settled in Mercer County, Kentucky. My Aunt Mary McAfee married John Poulson and had issue - one daughter, Margaret, who married William Ewing, one of the grandsons of Samuel Ewing the elder. Mr. Poulson having died, my aunt again married Thomas Guant, and had issue - Margaret, Jane, John and Mary, the first of whom married her cousin John Buchanan, John married ___ Darland (5), and Mary married Henry Eccles.

My uncle William McAfee married Rebecca Curry, sister of George McAfee's wife, and had issue - (he was a captain and killed by the indians on Clark's Campaign in 1780) as follows: Anne, who married Elijah Craig, who lived at the mouth of the Kentucky River; Margaret, who married Thompson Jones. She died in Indiana, opposite Yellow Banks. Mary married Willis A. Lee, clerk of the Senate of Kentucky and general court. After Mr. Lee's death she lived in Frankfort until 1843 when she moved back to Mercer County in Salvisa and now lives there with her Sister Anne, both widows (since dead June 4th 1847).

My uncle Samuel McAfee married Hannah McCormick and had issue as follows: John, who married Margaret McKamey; Anne, who married Thomas King of Shelby county, Kentucky, and died there; Robert, who married Pricilla Armstrong (he was sometimes deranged); Jane, who married Beriah Magoffin, a merchant of Harrodsburg; Hannah, who married Capt. Samuel Daviess, attorney and senator of Mercer County; William yet unmarried and a merchant in Harrodsburg (afterward married a widow Lowery February 1849); Samuel died a young man and unmarried in Harrodsburg; Mary, who married Thomas P. Moore, a member of Congress and Minister to Columbia [sic] in South America from 1829 to 1833.

I have thus given the name and marriages of my father's and mother's family as far back as I get from traditions given to me by my uncle, James, the eldest branch of our family, and from Anne Hillis, who was a daughter of Samuel Ewing the elder and who was in the 84th year of her age in 1831 when I conversed with her.

Go to Part 2 - 1750 - May, 1773.

Transcriber's Notes:

1: "Mrs. M. Magee" - Mary "Mollie" McCoun, wife of John McGee (see my McAfee Register)

2: Robert B. McAfee's attempt to record his pedigree has confused many McAfee researchers. Here is what we can confirm by written records: James McAfee and Jane McMichael were the parents of Robert McAfee. John McAfee Jr. and Mary Rogers were the parents of James McAfee. John McAfee's father was John McAfee Sr. His wife's name is not known. James McCoun IV and Margaret Walker were the parents of Anne McCoun. James McCoun III and Mary "Molly" Campbell were the parents of James McCoun IV. James McCoun II was the father of James McCoun III. It is thought that Elizabeth Montgomery was the wife of James McCoun II, but some (including Robert B. McAfee) thought she was the wife of John McAfee Sr. If anyone can produce evidence for either scenario, please let me know!

3: We know that two of the daughters were Mary and Margaret. Nothing else is known of Margaret, except that she possibly remained in Ulster throughout her life. Mary married William Curry, and immigrated with William and her children to Virginia. Two of her daughters - Susan and Rebecca - married two of Robert B. McAfee's uncles - George (m. Susan) and William (m. Rebecca).

4: William Kerr, also spelled Carr. They had one son, Samuel Walker Carr, who was orphaned when both parents died before 1779.

5: Jane Darland, daughter of Garret Darland and Jane Ward. Jane Darland and John Guant (also spelled Gant or Gaunt) married in Mercer Co. on October 11, 1804.

Updated April 22, 2000. This transcription is copyrighted by . It may be freely used for non-commercial purposes and family research, but must not be used for any other purpose without written permission from the transcriber.