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Collett-McKay Stories

Collett-McKay Stories
Howard Doster, b.howard4@gte.net
A Family Recorder
First Edition, August 2002

For as long as I can remember my family has gone to the Collett-McKay Picnic on the second Saturday in August. My grandmother, Mary McCune Doster, who at age 4 attended the first picnic, always brought home-raised fried chicken in a skillet I now have.

My mother, Esther Underwood Doster, at age 99, the oldest person attending the 137th annual picnic in 2002 explains our attendance commitment simply, "Some families attend, some don't. Ours does." Mom's missed only once or twice since she first came with my dad, William, the year before they married. I've attended all but three times, once because there was so much polio, and twice because I was in the navy. I think all four of my kids and all eight of their kids are attending the 2002 picnic. I like to see them eating and visiting just east of the south end of the Collett table.

Does anyone know why each family places their food at their particular spot on the tables? When is it OK to sample food on another table?

What's the recipe for frying home-raised chicken? It was so good. I wonder if my grandkids would like it.?

I wonder if anyone will bring home-raised cream corn. My mom had the best recipe. My daughters once helped her scrape ears she got from Steven Pidgeon. They thought the corn was tasty but it took a lot of work. Daughter Anne, the namesake of Ann Collett McCune, the first Collett-McKay child, now brings a good, but different, corn dish.

McKay Collett brings a great nut cake and Ellen Gilbert serves homemade ice cream sometimes. Those are my favorites on the south end of the Collett table. What dishes do you look for?

I wonder who will be the next person to bring a major food item to the picnic. Philip Bogan brought a whole hog once and another person has brought a delicious whole salmon several times.

White John Simpson, a black teacher at the Harveysburg Black School, and his relative, Hiram Poore, before him, always brought a water wagon or truck and heated coffee over an open fire. Started in 1831, this was the first school for blacks in the Northwest Territory, an area free of slavery. Both the Colletts and the McKays have long befriended blacks, having come from northern Virginia to Ohio to raise their families in a slave-free state.

Someone once brought a picture of either Art Haines, or me, age about 8, with our feet dangling as we leaned into the water barrel on the truck.

What family stories will you share? We're just starting to write som stories and we'd like to hear some of your Collett and McKay stories. Please contact us:

Barbara and Howard Doster
9363 New Burlington Road
Waynesville, Ohio 45068
Together, maybe we can collect enough to make a good CD. Now that we're both retired from Purdue University and living here in the house our ancestor Moses McKay built, we want to do this.

Who were our ancestors? Why did they come here? What were their values? How have they affected us?

Joshua, the eldest son of Daniel and Mary Haines Collett came to Lebanon about 1799, after first visiting his aunt and uncles in Kentucky. He was the first attorney there and soon served on the Ohio Supreme Court. His brother, Moses and wife, Rebecca Haines, came to north of Waynesville about 1805. She transferred her Quaker membership from Hopewell Meeting in northern Virginia that year. Daniel and Mary -- she transferred her Quaker membership from Hopewell to Miami Meeting in Waynesville in 1812 -- came to Lebanon with their son Johnathan. Daniel and Johnathan bought 2656 acres in Clinton County in 1815. Daniel soon bought another 1300 acres.

John Haines, a Virginia relative of the above women, built a mill in Waynesville in 1805. How many other Haines persons have married Colletts and McKays? The Haines family had a reunion at Caesar's Creek Quaker Meeting House from 1850 into the 1970s. Descendants of Zimri Haines, which includes some McKays, will have their 53rd Annual Reunion the 3rd Saturday in August at New Hope schoolhouse just north of the Clinton-Greene County line. I enjoy attending even though our common Haines relative was Richard Haines, an English Quaker, who died in 1682, while bringing his family to America on the ship Amity. His oldest son was already living in a cave near present Burlington, New Jersey. Haines, Haynes, and Hains families who came to Clinton, Warren, and Greene Counties are Richard's descendants.

Jane Ridgeway McKay, a 75 year-old widow, transferred her Quaker membership from Crooked Run in northern Virginia to Miami Meeting in May 1805. She came with her daughter, Patience Whitaker. In October 1806, Jane married Joseph Cloud, a Quaker preacher. She died in December, 1806, and is thought to be buried in the old Waynesville Quaker Cemetery.

My grandsons, Nathaniel and Eric Glaze, who live two miles from our house, are the ninth generation of McKays and the eighth generation of Colletts to have a Waynesville address.

Also, in May, 1805, Jane McKay's son, Moses, bought 1000 acres, including the Collett-McKay Picnic site, in present Clinton County from Nathaniel Massie, the first surveyor in the Northwest Territory. This may be the only time the title to the picnic site was ever transferred by a purchase.

Since they all came from northern Virginia and all had Quaker ties, they likely knew each other there. Likely, they also knew that several families of Carolina Quakers had moved to Waynesville about 1803. Likely, they wanted to live where there was no slavery. Finally, all three families purchased land originally given to Virginia soldiers on the east side of the Little Miami River.

Moses McKay moved his family to a spot one mile north of Harveysburg before 1814, the date of his son Levi Duffy McKay's birth. Last winter, I saw an 1865 Warren County map. A J. Collett is shown as the owner of a farm in the Caesar's Creek bottoms one mile north of Harveysburg. I need to confirm this site and owner, but I think the owner is Johnathan Collett, husband of Sarah. Sarah must have inherited this site when her parents died.

At a picnic about 1980, my dad told how his red-haired McKay cousins used to visit his parents at his birthplace in the Caesar's Creek bottoms one mile north of Harveysburg. He said they always looked in the woodhouse, a log cabin, to view the McKay stretcher, a piece of wooden furniture used to hold dead persons at funerals.

In 1818, Moses brought 22 just-freed slaves to make bricks and build the house now owned by us at 9363 New Burlington Road, some four miles NE of Waynesville and a mile SW of Caesar's Creek Quaker Meeting where Daniel Collett is buried. This house is also located about 100 yards from Collett Road, and about two miles from the location of Moses and Rebecca Collett's home.

During the 1820's, four of Moses McKay's children -- Sarah, Francis, Virginia, and Maria -- married four Colletts, two of Moses Collett's siblings and two of his children. In 1866, the offspring had a picnic, partly to see who returned from the Civil War. The picnic continues annually on the second Saturday in August.

Perhaps after the east wing was added to the house in 1836, it was a station on the Underground Railroad. After the Corps of Engineers purchased the house as part of the land for the Caesar's Creek State Park, Howard Hackney and John Bascomb persuaded the Corps to get the house placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its use on the Underground Railroad. The house was then sold at auction, and we later bought it in 1996.

Moses was removed from Quaker membership twice. In 1786, at age 13, he was charged with marching on the Front Royal, Virginia, town square with a broom. Later, he was kicked out for non-attendance at meeting or according to one story, for operating stills.

In 1819, Abigail and eight of her children joined Caesar's Creek Friends Meeting, located a mile NE of their brick home. However, in 1821, she was dismissed from membership because she became a Hicksite, a splinter sect of Quakers. In 1828, the Richmond Friends Yearly Meeting chose to become Hicksite, but it was too late for Abigail. She and Moses had just died.

She and Moses apparently became Methodists in the 1820's. They and their daughter, Virginia, are buried just across the Little Miami River from their home in the Methodist Cemetery near Mt. Holly.

Several McKay children became active Methodists. Some were buried at Mt. Pisgah, the site of the first 1866 picnic, 300 yards NW of the present picnic grounds. Sarah, my great-great grandmother was buried with her husband, Johnathan, an 1838 charter member of Jonah's Run Baptist Church, located on the NW corner of Daniel Collett's first land purchase.

My great-great grandparents, Johnathan Collett and Sarah McKay were married in 1823. I have a pink china dish which was a wedding present. Mom thinks it's pink luster. She says it was brought to the wedding in saddlebags. Charles Denny also has one. He says there were four.

I'm curious about other possible wedding presents. Two unusual old curly maple trees about the same age stand over our Moses McKay house, and the Johnathan Collet Hole-in-the-Woods house (where McKay and Diane Collett now live) which Johnathan built in 1820 and where Johnathan and Sarah lived.

Moses McKay owned several thousand acres in Greene, Clinton, and Warren Counties by the time he built our house in 1818. After visiting his grandfather's house between Winchester and Front Royal, Virginia, I can understand why Moses selected the site for our house.

Robert McCoy (McKay), Moses' grandfather, built the still occupied Virginia house in 1734 on the side of a hill above springs sufficient to power his mills. Moses built our house on the side of a hill above springs - over 100 gallons per minute flows year-round from our lake.

I have another connection to Robert McCoy and his father, Robert. They joined the first group of 16 families, mostly Germans, to enter the Shenandoah Valley in 1731. One of the German families was Thomas Doster, my immigrant ancestor. Six generations later, in Ohio, a McKay married a Doster. They were my grandparents, Mary McCune and Edward Doster.

Present-day Virginia McKays celebrate their reunion the 4th Sunday in June. Michael McKay, their chronicler, sometimes attends our picnic. He has a family website for the Robert Mackay Clan at: http://www.robertmackayclan.com/ Barbara and I attended their picnic several years ago.

Kathryn Hackney Luby, our genealogist, agrees with most, though not all, of the information on Michael McKay's website. I enjoy reading both of their records.

At the Virginia picnic, I spoke, invited them to our picnic, and explained that ours started partly to see who returned from the Civil War. When I sat down, and old gentleman said to his wife, "Why he was talking about the War of Northern Aggression!" Embarrassed, the young man across the table explained why the nearby 1734 Robert McKay house, now the oldest home in the Shenandoah Valley, was still standing. Many battles were fought there and the house changed sides frequently. In the first battle, one side used the house for a hospital. In the next battle, the other side used it as a hospital, etc.

McKay cousins fought on both sides during that war. Although most McKays were Quakers, some fought in the Revolution and lost their Quaker membership. By the Civil War, both Colletts and McKays served. A Collett and a McKay, killed in that war, are buried at Jonah's Run Baptist Church.

Picnic talk always turned to basketball in my younger days. Dad's 1916 Kingman Team won the first Clinton County tournament. Howard Shambaugh, likely the second-oldest 2002 picnic-goer, told me two years ago that, as a boy, he attended all three Kingman games, all played the same day in the Wilmington College gym.

Dad's team also beat an always-good Waynesville team. My cousin, Clifford Doster's Harveysburg team, beat Waynesville in 1938 and 1939. I also played at Harveysburg. Our 1950 team was the next Harveysburg team to beat Waynesville. We won 44-42. I scored 16 points, including the last four, after our three outstanding black players fouled out.

At different times, two of the black players' mothers helped my mom with housework perhaps twice a month. We became friends and I often visited one of them, Ann Mason, in her old age. She showed me a book, full of old newspaper clippings describing my family's events, including Collett-McKay picnic stories.

I once took my daughter, Anne, to see Ann Mason, unannounced. When I introduced her, without taking a breath, Ann bowed, and said, "Hello, I am Ann Romohr Hahn Underwood (my mother's family surnames) Collett McKay McCune Doster (my father's family surnames) Woodson Mason (her family's surnames) and you and I are named after the same person." Ann then invited us into her home and explained the relationship.

Ann said, "When my mother was pregnant, she was helping your great-grandmother do housework in the Caesar's Creek bottoms house one mile north of Harveysburg. Your great-aunt Ann was eight years old. She asked my mother, 'If you have a girl, will you name her after me?' She did, and she did."

We used to play picnic softball. Home plate was in the low area NW of the table area, just south of the old rail fence. The entry gate was in center field, but only one or two hits ever went that far. There were fewer cars then. The game was discontinued after my dad, and my sons Dave and Dan, planted the row of young maples.

It's time to plant more maples. I have some young trees from seeds I took from the two curly maple trees at the Moses McKay and Johnathan Collett houses. However, they are still small and we need to transplant bigger trees.

Mom and Howard Shambaugh were an undefeated Kingman Debate Team. At her 70th alumni, Mom said, "We just knew there would be no more wars when women got the vote. We just knew there would be no more crime when prohibition was voted in. We just knew the world would be better when the League of Nations became a reality." Two years ago, Howard recited Mom's negative "League" speech to my daughter, Anne.

Mom said she was shy and cried a lot when she attended Haines Country School on Brimstone Road. Then, at Kingman, each student gave a speech monthly before the whole school. A teacher criticized each presentation.

After Mom's first speech, Harley Smith said "And, of course, Esther Underwood was just perfect." Then, after her second speech, Lila Inwood said, "And, of course, Esther Underwood was just perfect." At that point, Mom said she really worked hard to maintain her reputation. Her future Collett-McKay in-laws were a tremendous influence on her future performances.

As they drove by on Brimstone Road in their school wagon, the older Doster boys picked up the Underwood girls. My Aunt Sara used to wrap her crochet thread around my Uncle Charles' ear as he drove the wagon to Kingman. The day before her first alumni, Mom told me one of the Doster boys called on the party line and offered to take her. Mom said she wondered if it was a date. It was. It was their first date.

My parents were finally married in 1930, after Mom taught several years. At that time, married women didn't get to teach. Men got the teaching jobs to spread the scarce money around.

Shortly before she died two years ago, Helen Fieke gave me her Ashby Genealogy. In it, I learned that John, Aaron and perhaps Isaac Collett, Daniel's brothers and Sarah, Daniel's youngest sister, went from Virginia to Daniel Boone's Station in Kentucky about 1780.

Shawnee Indians from Old Chillicothe, where Tecumseh was then a boy, on the east bank of the Little Miami River about 15 miles north of our house, and just north of Xenia, frequently raided Kentucky forts. They traveled the Bullskin Trail from Old Chillicothe to a salt lick below Maysville, Kentucky where they once captured Daniel Boone.

Woods buffalo made the trail. It went through Xenia, down the present Clinton-Warren County line through New Burlington, down Mound Road, through my birthplace on Brimstone Road, south by Clinton-Massie School and near Clarksville. Pioneers coming to Waynesville used the Bullskin Trail from the Ohio River to present SR 73. Slaves also came up the Trail, a route of the Underground Railroad.

The British in Detroit paid $50 for a Kentucky scalp. They wanted the colonists to stay in the area east of the Allegheny Mountains. On August 16, 1785, the Shawnees took Aaron Collett's scalp.

In 1789, Sarah Collett married Silas Ashby, one of three brothers who served with George Rogers Clark in capturing Vincennes and saving the West for America during the Revolution. After her husband died, her brother Daniel brought her and her five youngest children to his Clinton County farm. Her son, David, and his wife, Ruth Ann Gaddis, were charter members of Jonah's Run Baptist Church. Her son, Daniel, who married Nancy Gaddis, was killed in the Civil War. Her granddaughter, Mary Frances, the daughter of Martha Nickerson, married Robert McKay and created another Collett-McKay connection. Their daughter, Sarah McKay Smith, had a strong opinion about the next story.

I've always known what Howard Collett wrote on the Collett blueprint that there were three Collett brothers who were Hugenots driven from France, etc. That is one of two stories in the Ashby Genealogy describing where the Colletts came from. The information about Daniel and Sarah Collett and their siblings is similar in both stories. However, the alternate story starts with a John Collett, a merchant in London and Little Gidding, England, who was born in 1578.

Sarah McKay Smith wrote vehemently all over the Ashby book page objecting to the tie between the London Colletts and our line.

About three years ago, the last time I saw Wallace Collett, son of Howard, the blueprint author, I asked him about the two stories. Wallace gave me his conclusion. Perhaps he'll write it down and send it to me after I send him this paper.

Two years ago, Betty McGee placed a conservation easement on eighty acres of her land, including the woods across Gurneyville Road from the Picnic Grounds and the adjacent site of Mt. Pisgah. No houses can ever be built on this land. Although the tops of the gravestones were moved to New Burlington cemetery, I think three base stones and the bodies of McKays are still buried in the little grove. Maybe we should somehow identify the site.

I would like to know the burial sites of all of Moses McKay's children and also the site of Mary Haines Collett, Daniel's wife and my great-great-great grandmother who died in 1826. Is it on the former Gaddis and later Underwood Farm where I was born? There is a cemetery in the SW corner of the farm adjacent to the site of an 1820 public meetinghouse next to where the Bullskin Trail likely crossed present SR 73. Soon after the chimney fell on this building, the Colletts started the nearby Jonah's Run Church on their land.

Several years ago, my dad started a picnic tradition when he built a tabletop where we could sign the register. When the tree died, Wilbur McKay and Dan Collett moved the table frame to another tree. We still use Dad's tabletop.

This year, I started what may become a tradition. I got an address - 5353 Gurneyville Road - for the picnic grounds. For two hours each year, I plan to put up a post with the green and white numbers on it to invite first-time picnic-goers to come in. Invite your relatives and tell them to look for the sign.

This year, my wife Barbara is bringing name labels for everyone. We want to look at the labels as we gather items for the newspaper story I get to write now that McKay Collett has passed that job to me.

This is a draft. We need to reorganize the material, add some pictures including maybe a picnic painting by our daughter Susan, correct some of the details and add many more stories. Help us.

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