The McGee Family

McGee family crest

(Crest No. 214. Plate 5.)

THE McGee family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Colla Meann, son of Eocha Dubhlien, or Doivlen, King of Ireland, A. D. 285. The ancient name was Gaid, signifying “Father.”

The title of the chief of the sept was Prince of Orgiel, and the possessions of the clan were located in the present Counties of Lietrim, Down and Antrim. In the eastern portion of the latter county the peninsula called Island Magee juts out into the ocean. In this locality the McGee family were extremely numerous. Island Magee is noted in Irish history as the scene of one of the bloodiest and most atrocious massacres ever perpetrated by the English in Ireland. On the 8th of January, 1642, Monroe, the Covenanter, Governor of Carrickfergus, sallied forth from that town with the Scotch garrison and a number of the English “Undertakers,” and massacred the entire population of Island Magee, to the number of three thousand. Many of these were persons who had taken temporary refuge on the island.

There have been many eminent members of this family within the current century. The famous Dr. William Magee, Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, was one of the ablest intellects of his day, and the late Archbishop Magee of York, England, grandson of the former, was no less distinguished for his eloquence and ability.

Two of the name, Captain James McGee and Captain Bernard McGee, served on the sea during the war of the American Revolution. The former was for many years a member of the Irish Charitable Society of Boston, and in 1810 was President of that organization. The latter was also a member of that body.

In 1812 a young man of this name who had been a Lieutenant in the United States service, resigned for the purpose of joining in the movement of revolutionizing the Spanish colonies bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Having raised the standard of independence on the Sabine and Trinity Rivers, in the present State of Texas, he crossed the Sabine with about eight hundred men, one-half of whom were American riflemen, and the rest Spanish, under the command of one Bernardo. McGee captured Nacogdoches, and afterward La Bahia, and with his four hundred Americans he withstood the siege of the Spanish forces for three months, meantime creating such havoc in their ranks by his sorties that they were finally compelled to raise the siege and withdraw to San Antonio. At the close of the siege McGee died, in the twenty-second year of his age.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee, orator, poet, historian, statesman and journalist, one of the most versatile geniuses that Ireland ever produced, is too well known to the general reader to need more than a passing mention. While yet a mere youth he was one of the most prominent of that brilliant band who led the Forty-eight movement in Ireland. Having escaped to the United States, where he remained some years, he removed to Canada. He was the original author of the Confederation of the Canadian Provinces, and was a member of the Cabinet of the new Dominion. He was assassinated by a “crank” in the forty-third year of his age. His works, in prose and poetry, are among the most valuable in modern Irish literature.

Colonel James E. McGee, brother of the former, was an officer in Meagher’s Irish Brigade, during the late Civil War, and was noted for his bravery. During one of the bloodiest engagements of the Peninsula he picked up the Irish flag, after three color-bearers had been shot down in succession, and carried it forward. He is the author of several excellent volumes, chiefly on Irish historical subjects.