M.W. McGee

Eight McGee siblings with mother Eleanor Fry McGee at the family home in Kansas City

Mobillion W. McGee was born in Shelby County, Kentucky in 1817, fourth child in the large and colorful family of James Hyatt and Eleanor Fry McGee. He moved as a 10-year-old with his pioneer family to Kansas City in 1827. He married in 1844 and settled on 60 acres known as "McGee's Summit" near Westport. In 1847, he volunteered for the Seminole War in Florida and served as a translator because of his knowledge of Indian languages. In 1854, Mobillion and his brother James established a trading post four miles south of Lawrence on the Wakarusa River and remained there through the summer. The next year Mobillion and his brother Fry opened a trading post farther west, on One and Ten Mile Creek, near the present Burlingame, Kansas. [Johnson, Our Easley Ancestors, 120]

When Governor Reeder's census taker, James McClure, went to McGee's store on One and Ten Mile Creek in February 1855, Fry McGee tried to give him a ready-made list of eligible pro-slavery voters. McClure insisted on taking his own count and was lucky to escape with his life through a snowstorm. When he arrived at Governor Reeder's office at the Shawnee Mission, Mobillion McGee had already complained. With Reeder present, McClure confronted McGee:

"... I informed him that, as far as possible, I had returned in my report all the residents that could be found in the district, and if any were omitted it was certainly not my fault, but the blame should be attached to his brother, who had refused to give me any assistance, and forbade me to take the names of those found at his place. McGee was very sullen, and expressed great indignation at the treatment of the pro-slavery men by the census-takers, indicating there was an attempt to fraudulently conceal their strength in the territory." [McClure, Taking the Census, 232ff]

On election day, March 30, 1855, Mobillion polled heavily in the One and Ten Mile district, where free-state men said armed crowds of Missourians came to vote for Mobillion McGee at the family store. They saw:

"...quite a procession...with flags flying, (come) from towards the 'Wakarusa', I think from where Mr. McGee lives; I saw two McGees in the party."Another remembered that Allen (McGee) had "brought his (Westport military) company" to the polls." [Brown, Frontier Community, 99]

During the meeting of the Bogus Legislature, McGee was said to have been instrumental in a plan to cede part of the state of Missouri to Kansas. All land west and north of the Big Blue River from the Kansas line to the mouth, about 60 square miles of Jackson County, Missouri would be taken from Missouri and added to Kansas, thus greatly increasing the pro-slavery population of the Territory. And Mobillion McGee's Westport farm would have been in Kansas, as well. The prominent newspaper editor, Colonel Robert T. Van Horn, was said to have been a co-conspirator and there were thought to be allies in the Missouri Legislature who favored the plan. [Patrick, When Kansas City, 267] There are some problems with the story. For example, Van Horn may not have yet arrived in Kansas City. In any event, the boundary remained intact. Mobillion and the best known of his 15 siblings, Milton McGee, were both active real estate developers in boom- town Kansas City. Milton laid out McGee's Addition in 1856, platting his 160 acre farm south of 12th Street, Main to Holmes, naming many of the streets for members of the family. Milton met arriving steamboats with a brass band, extolling the virtues of buying in his addition, on flat land over "hill and gullie" to the south, He laid out the principal street, Grand Avenue, wide enough to turn his horse and buggy around without having to back up.

Mobillion McGee worked with Milton to develop McGee's Addition with hotels and office buildings and their land became the core of the city. In 1883, Mobillion moved to Southern California for health reasons, buying an orange grove for his retirement. But he soon platted it for town lots in the new town of Pasadena and made a new fortune. He built an elegant mansion on his remaining Pasadena acreage and enjoyed entertaining visiting Kansas Citians there. When he died, his body was shipped back to Missouri for burial in the family plot. [Johnson, Our Easley Ancestors, 121]

Charles Clark