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African American History
in South Central
Pennsylvania:
the 19th century

Midland Cemetery Community 
the McKamey Family

Midland Cemetery was recently rescued from neglect by local historian Barbara B. Barksdale, who began the Friends of Midland organization.  That organization is the best source of information on the cemetery.  They can be contacted at the following address:  Friends of Midland, P. O. Box 7442, Steelton, Pennsylvania 17113-0442.

This is the second article about the people who make up the community served by Midland Cemetery.  The first article profiled Clayton Carelock.

George McKamey at West Side Hose Company.  Click for a larger image.One of the oldest families in Steelton's African American community is the McKamey Family.  With roots in Virginia, members of the family moved north to Steelton in the nineteenth century, drawn, like so many others, by the availability of work in the steel mills.  Early records show that John S. McKamey, a laborer, lived at 148 Ridge Street in 1887.  Although this was the only McKamey listing for that year, it was not long before more members of the family established themselves in the community.  By 1894, four separate families held addresses in that neighborhood.  George and Joseph McKamey, both giving their occupations as "laborer," lived in the same house at 218 Bailey Street. Mrs. Jennie McKamey resided at 150 Ridge Street.  Women were not usually listed in city directories unless they were the head of the household, in which case they were usually widows, divorced, or single employed women. Mrs. Jennie McKamey is not listed as a widow, and in 1898 she married George W. Roebuck.  Since John S. McKamey no longer appears in the listings, she may be his widow, but it is more likely that she was at that point either separated or divorced from him.  The other family member is Lee David McKamey, a contractor living at 153 Adams Street.

The photograph above is from a McKamey family album and is of George McKamey, a fireman with West Side Hose Company, Number 3, at the reins of a fire wagon at the borough Fireman's Parade.  It is not dated.  Click the image for a full-size picture.

By 1897, Joseph McKamey was gone--he had passed away at age 73 the year before--and the address was occupied by his widow, Caroline.  No mention is made of George McKamey.  Mrs. Jennie McKamey is still listed, although she moved next door to 152 Ridge Street.  Lee McKamey is still at 153 Adams Street, but instead of being listed as a contractor, his occupation is given as "laborer."  Lee was married to Gertrude Strothers, and one of their children, John Henry, attended the local schools, most likely studying in the Hygienic School, which was newly established  for the children of the African American community.  John H. McKamey went on to study at Steelton High School, graduating in 1905.  Three other African American students graduated that year, one of whom was Numa P. G. Adams.  Adams would go on to study at Howard University, and then Columbia University, where he studied chemistry.  After studying medicine at the University of Chicago, Adams established a medical practice, then later returned to Howard where he was appointed Dean of the Medical School, a position he held until his death in 1940.  John McKamey, unfortunately, never had the chance to witness the accomplishments of his classmate, as he died suddenly about a year after his graduation from Steelton High School.

Descendants of John Henry McKamey proudly display his 1905 diploma from Steelton High School.  Click for a larger image.« John Henry McKamey's 1905 diploma from Steelton High School is proudly displayed.  John Henry, the son of Lee David and Gertrude McKamey, was the first of the family to graduate from the local high school, but sadly died less than a year after this distinction.  Others, however, would follow in his footsteps.  (click for a larger image)

Members of the McKamey family fought in Europe in both World Wars, as witnessed by their tombstone inscriptions at Midland Cemetery.  Charles Henry McKamey, a World War I veteran, was a member of the famed 368th Infantry in the 92nd Division, the first division in the AEF composed entirely of African American troops.  A generation later, Eugene McKamey would serve his country in World War II.  Another World War I veteran, Howard Leroy McKamey, is buried at William Howard Day Cemetery.

The family business at about this time seemed to be driving and chauffeuring.  All of the McKameys listed in the 1919 Steelton Directory list one of those jobs as their occupation.  The family homesteads also remained pretty much the same, with Lee and Gertrude McKamey still living at 153 Adams Street with their ten-year-old daughter Philome, an address they shared only briefly with veteran Howard Leroy McKamey.  George McKamey, age 49, with his sister Anna Goff, lived at 218 Bailey, the old address of Joseph and Caroline McKamey, both of whom had long passed on.  Also at this address was Newton McKamey, his wife Mary and their two sons George and Raymond.  Charles McKamey, freshly arrived home from the Great War, had settled at 166 Adams Street. 

Today, the McKamey family proudly remembers and celebrates the rich heritage handed down from their ancestors.  Modern descendants have contributed records, memories, photographs and names to the Midland files.  Midland Cemetery contains many tombstones inscribed with the name McKamey, as does Day Cemetery, but it does not take names etched in granite to ignite memories of the past--McKamey family descendants keep those memories alive everyday.

» A treasured photograph in the McKamey family, a handwritten note to this picture says "Essie, George, Aunt Ida McKamey Jackson, Annie on motorcycle."  (click for a larger image)

More McKamey family portraits:  At left is Essie McKamey Armstrong, and right is Annie McKamey.  Click either image for a full-sized image.  Essie was the wife of Joseph L. Armstrong, a steelworker, and they lived at 115 Adams Street.

Essie McKamey Armstrong.  Click for a larger image.Annie McKamey.  Click for a larger image.

Sources:

Boyd's Harrisburg and Steelton Directory, 1887.
Boyd's Directory of Harrisburg and Steelton, 1894.
Boyd's Directory of Harrisburg and Steelton, 1897.
Boyd's Directory of Harrisburg and Steelton, 1919.
Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, Steelton Borough, Pennsylvania.
"Tombstone inscriptions, Midland Cemetery," Friends of Midland Cemetery
"A Search for Grandparents," Beula Virginia. Roebuck-Mack, March 26, 2004.  Afrolumens Project.

Community of Midland Series:

Clayton Carelock
Trennor T. Beckwith
Roebuck Family

More Midland Photo Galleries:

The Civil War Burials at Midland
African American Burial Traditions at Midland
World War Burials at Midland
Gallery of Home Crafted Tombstones
Gallery of Plot Boundary Markings
Artifacts of a Historic Cemetery

return to Midland introduction

 

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This page was updated November 9, 2004.