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  • Nadeya Patel

Mayor, Veteran, and Leader Preston F. McKee

The McKee Family: Preston F. McKee, a Young Civic at Heart

Little has been written about Sergeant Preston McKee, a former Arlington Mayor and soldier who risked, and lost, his life at Camp Travis in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. He was born into one of Arlington’s first families, yet that family is rarely the subject of research. This paper provides a glimpse into the story of Preston Furman McKee.

Preston Furman “P.F” McKee, the fifth of six children born to Henry S. McKee and Eliza Jane Johnson McKee, lived a short yet eventful life. He was born on January 18, 1887, in Tarrant County, Texas.[1]Very little is actually known about him or his early life until 1900, when he was depicted as a young teen, roughly around the age of fourteen living in Tarrant County with his parents and four siblings.[2]In 1900, his sixty-eight-year-old father, Henry, was a farmer while his forty-seven-year-old mother, Eliza, remained unemployed. McKee’s older brother John Knox “J. Knox” was a single nineteen-year-old farm laborer. McKee’s older sister Sallie, seventeen years old and single, lacked a recorded occupation--similar to her mother. The youngest McKee, Winnie, age seven is not well known but will have more light shed on her as this story progresses. The eldest McKee sibling, Anna Hopkins McKee Tillery, lived with her husband Robert L. Tillery, whom she married five years prior in Tarrant County.[3]

McKee’s father passed away from heart failure after suffering head trauma on March 26, 1906.[4]Henry McKee passed away at the age of seventy-eight, leaving behind his wife Eliza and six children. Fifty-seven-year-old Eliza acted as head of household following Henry’s death in 1910. That same year, she owned the home that she resided in with four of her children and had her own income. J. Knox McKee, age twenty-nine and single, worked as a self-employed blacksmith. Sallie McKee, age twenty-six and single, worked as a public-school teacher. Ms. McKee was one of two graduates to emerge from the Carlisle Military Academy’s first graduating class in 1902.[5]Ms. McKee, as part of her professional career, taught History and Latin in San Antonio and at Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth, Texas.[6]Preston McKee worked as a real estate agent at the age of twenty-four years old and lastly, seventeen-year-old Winnie resided with them and lacked employment of any sort.

Preston McKee sought a position in local city government. He ran for Arlington Mayor against Howard Bannister in April of 1914 and received ninety-three votes while Bannister only received twenty-six.[7]Retiring Mayor R.H. Greer chose not to run again, thus resulting in the lack of an incumbent candidate in the election. McKee served as the mayor of Arlington, Texas from April 11, 1914 to April 9, 1915.[8]His time as Arlington Mayor generated very little information detailing his actions. McKee appointed Mrs. C.C. Rogers as City Marshal of Arlington on July 3, 1914. She was the first female City Marshal of Arlington but was relieved of her position on September 10 of the same year. In 1915, the City Marshal title changed to Police Chief following the appointment of a man named Pearl Rudd.[9]



Figure 1: Legal document from the City of Arlington signed by McKee depicting the appointment of Mrs. C.C. Rogers as City Marshal in 1914. The document details that Mrs. Rogers will receive a payment of five dollars monthly for her services to the city. Image courtesy of The Portal to Texas History.[10]

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. The United States Congress signed the Selective Service Act a month later in May 1917. McKee registered for the draft the following month at the age of thirty. His World War I Draft Registration Card indicated that he had brown hair, blue eyes, a stocky build, and was of medium height. McKee was single and worked as a farmer and insurance agent at the time of registration. His older brother, J. Knox also registered for the World War I Draft at the age of thirty-seven; at the time he was a self-employed farmer working near Burleson in nearby Johnson County.[11]Similar to his brother, J. Knox had the same physical description noted on his draft registration card being of medium build and height with brown hair and blue eyes.[12]



Figure 2: A 1917 photograph of nine World War I soldiers. Preston McKee is front row left. Image courtesy of The Portal to Texas History.[13]

McKee and his older brother J. Knox were stationed at Camp Travis, an army training camp located in the northeastern part of San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The United States Department of War established Camp Travis on July 18, 1917, and later combined it with Fort Sam Houston in 1922.[14]At training camp, soldiers dealt with strenuous training routines, overcrowding, supply shortages, and improper sanitation. Camp Travis was rather dirty, cramped and not well maintained, and soldiers functioned on little sleep and often lacked food or clean water. They also lacked basic hygiene which, led to the spread of diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia, influenza, measles, and others which were all very common in Texas training camps. The presence and outbreak of disease struck Camp Travis rather hard. The camp had some of the “highest percentages of soldiers diagnosed with mumps, measles, meningitis, smallpox, typhoid fever, and scarlet fever among training camps in the entire nation”.[15]



Figure 3: A hospital ward located at Camp Travis in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas where McKee and his older brother J. Knox were stationed. The hospital was organized on August 22, 1917 but did not open until three months later. Additionally, this is where Sergeant McKee died from bronchopneumonia. Image courtesy of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.[16]

The Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic, began in January 1918 and lasted until December 1920. The United States found the H1N1 virus that spread during the 1918 pandemic to be present in those active in the military in the Spring of 1918. World War I contributed to the spread of the flu with the overcrowding and global troop movements that helped it spread.[17]This pandemic was unique in that it dealt with the high mortality rates in healthy individuals who were approximately twenty-forty years old. The United States experienced a shortage of “professional nurses” in August 1918, due to so many of them being deployed to be used in U.S. military camps and abroad. African American nurses had been trained at this time, but were not used in the time of the shortage. The 1918 pandemic came in three waves that each hit harder than the last. More individuals died from the Spanish Flu than the total casualties that resulted from World War I.



Figure 4: Three different graphs showing causes, deaths, and fatality rates in 1918. More specifically, it documents the cases of influenza and pneumonia, the highest killer of soldiers in World War I due to the Spanish Flu pandemic. Preston McKee was thirty-one years old in 1918 when he died from complications of influenza and pneumonia. Figure courtesy of W.H. Frost.[18]

Preston F. McKee died at the same time that the Spanish Flu killed much of the world population during the second wave of the pandemic. Some individuals consider October 1918 as being “America’s deadliest month ever.”[19]The life expectancy in the United States in 1917 and 1918 was fifty-four years of age for women and forty-eight years of age for men. McKee died younger due to his contact with the Spanish Flu. He met his demise at the age of thirty-one, after a six-day stint with flu induced pneumonia at Camp Travis on October 20, 1918, at 4:15pm.[20]His death certificate indicated he was a soldier and single at the time of his death. He is buried at the Old Arlington Cemetery Complex in Arlington, Texas.[21]

McKee’s family lived on, nonetheless. His mother, Eliza, lived a very long life. In 1920 after the death of her husband, Henry, and her son, Preston, Eliza, age sixty-six, resided with her son J. Knox and daughter Winnie. J. Knox worked as a general farmer while his sister Winnie and mother Eliza lacked an occupation. That same year, J. Knox met Jimmie J. Jordan and they married within months.[22]At the time, Anna Hopkins McKee Tillery resided at 803 Fairmount Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband.[23]Four years later, in 1928, she died at the age of fifty-six from unknown causes.

At the age of seventy-seven in 1930, Eliza owned a home valued at $3,500.00 and located at 301 Oak Street in Arlington, Texas.[24]Her daughter, Winnie, resided in the home while thirty-four-years-old and single. J. Knox died from pulmonary tuberculosis on May 11, 1931 following a two-year battle with the condition. He was a married farmer and stockman when he died.[25]

Twelve years later, McKee’s mother died July 7, 1943, at the age of ninety from two fractured hips which resulted from an accidental fall. She lived with her daughter Winnie at 301 North Oak Street in Arlington, Texas, until the time of her death. Sallie McKee Lanier, Winnie’s last living sibling, died twenty-eight years later on November 29, 1971 of cardiopulmonary arrest as a result of an infection and preexisting cardiovascular disease. At the time, she resided at 610 West Main Street in Arlington. Winnie acted as the informant of her sister's death.

The last of Preston McKee’s siblings, Winnie, lived for forty-nine more years without her parents, and any of her siblings. She never married. At the time of her death at the age of seventy-eight she resided on 400 North Oak Street in Arlington and was a housekeeper. She died from congestive heart failure due to the preexisting condition of Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease in 1972.

Buried alongside Preston “P.F.” McKee at the Old Arlington Cemetery Complex in Arlington are his parents, Henry S. and Eliza McKee, as well as his brother J. Knox and sister Winnie. McKee’s two older sisters, Anna Hopkins McKee Tillery and Sally McKee Lanier are also in the same cemetery but are buried next to their respective spouses.

Oral tradition attributes McKee’s loss of life as a tragic one.[26]Many would say Preston F. McKee was a civic and patriot at heart.[27]



Figure 5: Sergeant Preston F. McKee’s grave located at the Old Arlington Cemetery Complex in Arlington. This cemetery is one that is not found easily, it is located at 801 South Mary Street in Central Arlington. The inscription at the bottom of the stone reads “We miss you Oh! We miss you.” His grave lacks a marker for World War I service. Photo courtesy of Nadeya Patel (2020).

Bibliography

Primary Sources


“City of Arlington Police Photographs.” The Portal to Texas History. University of North Texas Libraries. Accessed March 22, 2020. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth176399/.


“Texas, Tarrant County Marriage Records, 1837-2015.” Ancestry. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/9168/45605_b22055600536/925957402?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/167206224/person/142171099469/facts/citation/582246587728/edit/record.


“Untitled.” University of Texas at Arlington Libraries Digital Gallery. University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery/items/show/1335.


U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995.” Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/5062441/409119692?backurl=https://www.an cestry.com/familytree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/58223 9366025/edit//record.

“U.S., Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982.”Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2272/33154_B061843- 00728/30114835?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/167206224/p erson/142170341758/facts/citation/582238215026/edit/record.

“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.”Ancestry.com. Ancestry.comOperations, Inc., 2005. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6482/005153643_03778/16993193?backurl=https:/ /www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citati on/582238215415/edit/record.

Census Records

Twelfth Census of the United States (1900), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Thirteenth Census of the United States (1910), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Fourteenth Census of the United States (1920), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.

Fifteenth Census of the United States (1930), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1.


Newspapers

“Arlington Elects Mayor and Aldermen.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. April 8, 1914. https://www.newspapers.com/image/634370810.

“Mrs. Lanier, 87, Former Teacher, Dies at Arlington.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. November 30, 1971. https://www.newspapers.com/image/643579168/?terms=Lanier.

Secondary Sources


“1918 Pandemic (H1N1 Virus).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 20, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html.

“Camp Travis, TX.” U.S. Army Center of Military History. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/resmat/wwi/pt02/ch10/pt02-ch10-sec02.html.

“Hall of Mayors.” City of Arlington. City of Arlington. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/aboutarlington/historyofarlington//hallofmayors.

“John Knox McKee.” Find A Grave. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29590607/john-knox-mckee.

Klein, Christopher.“Why October 1918 Was America's Deadliest Month Ever.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, October 5, 2018.https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu- deaths-october-1918.

Rencurrel, Dorothy (Texas Historical Commission Board Member and relative of past Arlington Mayor W.C. Weeks) in discussion with the author, March 2020.

Rumans, Kristina (Chair of Arlington Landmark Preservation Commission) in discussion with the author, March 2020.

“Sgt Preston Furman McKee.” FindaGrave. Accessed April 19, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33725992/preston-furman-mckee.

“The Pandemic of Influenza in 1918-1919.” Naval History and Heritage Command. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/i/influenza/the-pandemic-of-influenza-in-1918-1919.html.

“Texans Take to the Trenches the Lone Star State and the Great War.” The Texas Soldier’s Experience. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lobbyexhibits/ww1-txexperience.

“Traditions and History.” The University of Texas at Arlington.” University of Texas at Arlington Alumni Association. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://alumni.uta.edu/alumni/traditions-and-history.

White, Lonnie. “Camp Travis.” Texas State Historical Association. TSHA Handbook. Accessed March 24, 2020. www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbc28.

[1]“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918,”Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6482/005153643_03778/16993193?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/582238215415/edit/record. [2]Twelfth Census of the United States (1900), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1. [3]“Texas, Tarrant County Marriage Records, 1837-2015,” Ancestry, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/9168/45605_b22055600536/925957402?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/167206224/person/142171099469/facts/citation/582246587728/edit/record. [4]U.S., Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2013, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2272/33154_B06184300728/30114835?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/582238215026/edit/record. [5]“Traditions and History,” The University of Texas at Arlington,” University of Texas at Arlington Alumni Association, Accessed March 24, 2020, https://alumni.uta.edu/alumni/traditions-and-history. [6]“Mrs. Lanier, 87, Former Teacher, Dies at Arlington,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, November 30, 1971, https://www.newspapers.com/image/643579168/?terms=Lanier. [7]Arlington Elects Mayor and Aldermen,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 8, 1914, https://www.newspapers.com/image/634370810. [8]“Hall of Mayors,” City of Arlington, City of Arlington, Accessed March 24, 2020, https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/history_of_arlington/hall_of_mayors. [9]“City of Arlington Police Photographs,” The Portal to Texas History, University of North Texas Libraries, Accessed March 22, 2020, https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth176399/. [10]“City of Arlington Police Photographs,” The Portal to Texas History, University of North Texas Libraries, Accessed March 22, 2020, https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth176399/. [11]“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918,”Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6482/005153643_03778/16993193?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/582238215415/edit/record. [12]“U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918,”Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6482/005153643_03778/16993193?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/582238215415/edit/record. [13]“Untitled,” University of Texas at Arlington Libraries Digital Gallery, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Accessed March 23, 2020, https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery/items/show/1335. Image credits the Arlington Public Library and can also be found in the J.W. Dunlop Photograph Collection. [14]“Camp Travis, TX,” U.S. Army Center of Military History, Accessed March 24, 2020, https://history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/resmat/wwi/pt02/ch10/pt02-ch10-sec02.html. The namesake of Camp Travis was Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis, an Alamo hero. [15]“Texans Take to the Trenches the Lone Star State and the Great War,” The Texas Soldier’s Experience, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Accessed March 24, 2020, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lobbyexhibits/ww1-txexperience. The quotation comes from the last paragraph on the Texas Soldier’s Experience page. [16]“Texans Take to the Trenches the Lone Star State and the Great War,” The Texas Soldier’s Experience, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Accessed March 24, 2020, https://www.tsl.texas.gov/lobbyexhibits/ww1-txexperience. [17]“1918 Pandemic (H1N1 Virus),” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 20, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html. [18]“The Pandemic of Influenza in 1918-1919,” Naval History and Heritage Command, Accessed March 24, 2020, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/i/influenza/the-pandemic-of-influenza-in-1918-1919.html. [19]Christopher Klein, “Why October 1918 Was America's Deadliest Month Ever,” History.com, A&E Television Networks, October 5, 2018, https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-deaths-october-1918 [20]“Texas Deaths, 1890-1976,” FamilySearch, Accessed March 22, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GY1Z-Q3G?i=788&cc=1983324&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AK3ZR-YWX. [21]“Sgt Preston Furman McKee,” FindaGrave. Accessed April 19, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33725992/preston-furman-mckee. [22]“John Knox McKee,” FindaGrave, Accessed March 24, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29590607/john-knox-mckee. [23]U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/5062441/409119692?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/582239366025/edit//record. [24]Fifteenth Census of the United States (1930), Arlington, Tarrant, Texas, Schedule 1. [25]“U.S., Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982,” Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2272/33154_B061843-00728/30114835?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/familytree/person/tree/167206224/person/142170341758/facts/citation/582238215026/edit/record. [26]Dorothy Rencurrel (Texas Historical Commission Board Member and relative of past Arlington Mayor W.C. Weeks) in discussion with the author, March 2020. [27]Kristina Rumans (Chair of Arlington Landmark Preservation Commission) in discussion with the author, March 2020.



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