The Three Tories

By the year 1778, conditions on the frontier border of Pennsylvania had deteriorated to the point where in some taverns in Westmoreland County and near Fort Pitt toasts to the King’s health could be heard. Spies and agents of the British out of Fort Detroit had infiltrated the area and were building clusters of Tories in readiness to strike the frontier in the name of the King.  One of the most prominent of these was Alexander McKee, a wealthy landowner near the village of Pittsburg.  His home had become a gathering place for Loyalists (Tories).  Having knowledge of this, General Hand sent a detachment from Fort Pitt to arrest McKee.  They arrived too late, and having been forewarned of his imminent arrest, McKee, along with Simon Girty and Matthew Elliott all made their escape.  They took McKee’s African slaves and a few other Tories with them.  They were welcomed by the commandant at Detroit and all three were given commissions as captains in the British service, primarily as agents among the Native tribes.  For the next sixteen years these three Tories instigated hostile Native American raids against the American frontier.   They were an effective force during the American Revolutionary War, and later played a major role in inspiring the tribes of the lake region in what became the Northwest Indian Wars.  These three men did not just make speeches to agitate the tribes, but participated first hand in the combat itself.


Alexander McKee was an agent in the British Indian Department and participated with them in the French and Indian War, the American Revolutionary War, and the Northwest Indian War. He achieved the rank of Colonel.

He was born @1735, the son of a famous fur trader Thomas McKee and of a a white woman who had been a captive of the Shawnee.  His mother had been assimilated into the Shawnee tribe, and Alexander, although well educated and with a head for business, was raised among the Shawnee where he was called Wapameishu.  Alexander McKee became famous for his exploits among the tribes in the Ohio country and was a staunch supporter of the British cause.  He died in Canada in 1799 and was mourned by all of the Northwestern Native Tribes.


Matthew Elliott was a young trader who worked from the Americans carrying messages to the Ohio tribes, primarily the Shawnee, whose language he spoke fluently. He was born @1739 in County Donegal, Ireland.  During one of his trips to the Ohio tribes he was taken prisoner and sent to Detroit.  Impressed with the British, he joined their cause. He was married to a Shawnee woman initially, and was sympathetic to their cause.  Elliott remained in the service of the British Indian Department until his death in Canada in 1814.  He fought in the Northwest Indian Wars after the American revolutionary war, and lead raids against Niagara out of Canada right up until he died.  He also remained a business partner in trading posts with Alexander McKee and William Caldwell, a captain in Butler’s Rangers.


Born in 1741, Simon Girty was a Pennsylvanian who had been captured by Seneca at the age of eleven.  He was raised by the Seneca and given the name Katepacomen. His brother George was raised by the Lenape (Delaware), and brother James by the Shawnee.  All became hunters, frontiersman, and Indian agents for the British.  Girty was mentored by the famous Seneca chief Guyasuta and he became a warrior known throughout as “the White Renegade” or the “White Savage.””  He was said to have outdone any Native warrior in acts of cruelty.  Many historians challenge some of the stories of Girty as being exaggerated.   Girty was once allied with the Americans as an interpreter and was a close friend of William Crawford in whose execution Girty later participated.   He was a Captain in the British Indian department and lead numerous raids against the American border.  He also participated actively in the Northwest Indian Wars.  He died totally blind on his farm in Canada in 1818. Of the three Tories, because of his alleged brutality, Simon Girty was the most notorious of all.

2019-03-02T18:29:40+00:00March 2nd, 2019|Uncategorized|