The success of such men as Milroy A. McKey, of Mendota, is the result of the influence upon the affairs of life of all those traits of character and qualities of mind which lead to honesty, thoroughness and permanence. It is not the success which comes from fortunate speculation, but that which is the reward of long years of unwearying well-doing. He has been identified with many of the leading enterprises of the city and county, and belongs to that class of representative American citizens who promote the public good while enhancing their individual prosperity. The extent and volume of his business may be indicated somewhat by a statement of his connections with many important concerns. He is the president of the Mendota Gas Company; ex-president and now director of the LaSalle National Bank; vice-president of the Mendota National Bank; director of the First National Bank of Mendota, of the Creston National Bank, of Creston, Iowa, and the Earlville National Bank; and is extensively interested in real estate and in other first-class investments in Illinois and adjoining states.
Mr. McKey is a native of Candor, Tioga county. New York, born May 4, 1825, and is descended from families which in different generations have furnished many prominent representatives to public life and business interests, and which in all periods of our national history have been patriotic and public-spirited to a degree that has made them leaders in the communities in which they have lived. His grandfather, in the paternal line, was Alexander McKey, a native of Scotland, who came to the United States before the Revolution and located at Troy, New York, where at the time of the historic Indian massacre one of his sisters was captured by the savages and was ransomed by him for a barrel of whisky. His father, mother and other brothers and sisters were killed and their house burned. He was a weaver and farmer, and some time after the Revolution removed to Chemung county. New York, where he died when past the age of seventy years. During the greater part of his hfe he was a devout member of the Presbyterian church.
James Westbrook, Mr. McKey's maternal great-grandfather, lived in Chemung county, New York, where his death occurred when past the age of eighty years. The traditions of the family have it that he was six feet, four inches tall and massive in proportion, and that he was as brave as he was strong. He was a member of General Washington's staff and fought by his side during much of the struggle for American independence. His great-grandson has a cane which once belonged to James Westbrook, who on one occasion saved his life with it by warding off a blow aimed at him by a British soldier. Mr. Westbrook followed agricultural pursuits in times of peace, and was a large land-owner and an influential citizen. His ancestors came to this country from Holland. His son, James Westbrook, the grandfather of Mr. McKey, was born and died in Chemung county, New York. He was a slave-owner, and it is said that he emancipated his negroes but could not get rid of them because they liked him and depended upon him so much for everything that they would not leave him. His family was a numerous one, and his descendants are now widely scattered over the country.
Alexander W. McKey, father of our subject, was born in Harpersfield, Delaware county, New York, became a school-teacher, and while pursuing that profession also studied medicine. After receiving his diploma he engaged in the practice of medicine in Candor, New York, and for forty years was the leading physician of that place. In 1864 he removed to Bureau county, Illinois, and later took up his abode in LaSalle county, his death 'occurring in Troy Grove, April 5, 1876. The following day would have been the seventy-eighth anniversary of his birth. His widow died March 15, 1877, in her seventy-seventh year. He served his fellow townsmen as postmaster and as supervisor, as well as in other local offices, and took a deep interest in the cause of public education, doing all in his power to promote the welfare of the schools. He kept a small stock of schoolbooks in his house and gave them, as occasion presented, to the children of people who were too poor to buy them. His wife, Maria (Westbrook) McKey, was born in Newark, New York, and by her marriage became the mother of five children, four of whom are living: Milroy A.; Eliza Ann, wife of N. T. Moulton, of Wenona, Illinois; Laura Maria, widow of LaFayette L. Huson, of Viola, Illinois; and William J., a well known resident of Princeton, Illinois. John A. McKey, brother of Dr. McKey and uncle of Milroy A. McKey, served his country as a soldier in the war of 1812.
Mr. McKey, of this review, was reared in his native town and acquired his education in the academy at Cortland and from a private tutor. Subsequently he taught school for several terms in the vicinity of his home. In 1848, at the age of twenty-three, he came to Lamoille, Bureau county, Illinois, where he purchased two hundred and eighty acres of land. He then returned to the east, but in 1850 again came to Illinois and located at Lamoille, where he built a residence upon his land and then began the cultivation and improvement of the hitherto wild tract. In 1851 he went again to New York and this time returned with a bride to Bureau county, in the spring of 1852. There he successfully carried on farming until the fall of 1 86 1, when he removed to Lamoille, and to Mendota in the fall of 1864. He had gradually become identified with business interests of importance in Mendota, and it was not long before he was a leader in the public affairs of the little city. He also became prominent in her city life, ably serving as mayor for four years, while for a number of years he was a member of the Bureau county board of supervisors and was one year its chairman. In politics he is an independent Democrat and wields the quiet but powerful influence of a sagacious and alert man of affairs in the ranks of his party. Socially he is a Master Mason and an Odd Fellow, and takes a helpful interest in everything pertaining to the welfare of those orders.
On the 30th of March, 1852, Mr. McKey was united in marriage to Miss Mary Frost, a daughter of Horton and Electa (Coryell) Frost. She died April 25, 1891, at the age of sixty-three years and sixteen days. She was a woman of many virtues, a devoted member of the Baptist church and an efficient assistant in many good works. On the 13th of January, 1892, Mr. McKey married Mrs. Georgietta McKean, widow of Nathan Hubbard McKean and a daughter of Henry and Phoebe (Young) Fisher. Mrs. McKey is of Scotch and French lineage, and was born near the Bunker Hill monument, at Charlestown, Massachusetts. Her parents died in the east when she was very young, and she came west, being married in Brookfield, Missouri, to Nathan H. McKean, by whom she had two children, Georgia Adelaide and Frank Paine. Their daughter died at the age of thirteen years and eleven months. Frank P. McKean is now a bookkeeper in the First National Bank of Mendota.
Mr. McKey is recognized as one of the most able business men of Mendota. His sagacity and foresight enabling him to make judicious investments, while his diligence, indomitable energy and undaunted perseverance have won him a prosperity that numbers him among the most substantial citizens of the county, he has not only advanced his individual interests, but has done- much toward promoting the general welfare by encouraging trade and commerce. His career, both public and private, has been marked by the strictest integrity and faithfulness to every trust reposed in him. The record of his life is unclouded by shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil; he is known as an honorable man and a pleasant, social companion.
Extracted 26 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 2, pages 450-453.