Joseph Mee (c1745-aft1810), the emigrant

Joseph Mee Sr. is the first Mee ancestor identified for this branch of the family in America. Though there are no records naming Martha Mee King as his granddaughter by default of any other existing Mee family in that area he appears to be her ancestor. "Mee" is a rare name in early America with only one branch found among Tennessee published genealogical works and public records. Present day Mee families in Tennessee have little or no remaining oral traditions about their origins. The publications of Goodspeeds sketch of Columbus A. Mee and the publication of a family group sheet in Well's History of Roane County, Tennessee are the two most important sources of information. Census records show Martha Mee with nativity in Tennessee and with a father of English origins. Family records note that she had a brother in Ellis county, Texas who can be positively traced to Joseph Mee.

The "Penguin Dictionary of Surnames" associates Mee with the name "May", Mee being a variation found mainly in Lancastershire, England [re: page 250]. In his definitive work, "The Dictionary of English & Welsh Surnames", Charles W. Bardsley's is also baffled by the origins of the name, agreeing that it is probably some variation of May, a reference to "son of Matthew".

What little is known of the genealogy of Joseph Mee Sr. comes from two sources;, the books "Lucky Mee" and the "History of Bradley County, Tennessee". Both sources clearly identified him, as having been born in England emigrating first to Virginia, before settling in Hawkins County, Tennessee. The Bradley County history is taken from actual family interviews, while "Lucky Mee" is a compilation of 20th century research treating "Mee" as a one name study; neither accounts are documented.

No transportation records have been found that can be positively identified as Joseph Mee of Virginia; however, in Peter W. Coldham's compilation of lists for emigrants in bondage to America there is an entry for a Joseph Mee. A Joseph Mee of Leicestershire, England was transported in 1775 [ref: "The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage" (1988)]. Coldham does not name the crime or reason that lead to Mee's expulsion from England; however, Leicestershire records should show this. Leicestershire is in central England, quite a distance from Lancastershire, where most onomastists would place Mee origins. Coldham's entry for Joseph Mee is the only Mee listing found in abstracted transportation records. An arrival date of 1775 would fit for Joseph Mee's generation and explain the lack of early records. However, the estimated birth year for Joseph's eldest child pre-dates the 1775 court record and therefore suggests that either Joseph was married and had children before his conviction and that this family later joined him in the New World, or that this is not the same man. Unfortunately, Coldham's entry does not name destination beyond "America", providing additional obstacles for positively identifying this as Joseph Mee of Virginia.

Early Virginia Valley records show a Joseph Mee and later his son William in Montgomery County, Virginia. [re: Survey Book D of Montgomery County records]. From these records it is shown that Joseph Mee was a landowner with 253 acres on Crooked Creek of New River, in 1783. The Montgomery tax list for 1789, poll tax Joseph with no slaves and 5 horses. Another man William, probably his son, is polled with him, no other adult whites are polled. The tax list of 1790, list both Joseph and William Mee together on Crooked Creek. Neighboring families are: Allen, Bell, Blevens, Clorch, Cock, Cole, Cox, and Davis. Both Joseph and William's names are found on tax lists for Wythe County in 1793 and Grayson County in 1795. Their change in residency may be from the changing boundaries rather than a record of relocation. Joseph Mee is found in the 1810 Census of Tennessee in Hawkins County, where his grandson's biographical sketch in Goodspeed's History of Bradley County claims is the place that Joseph Sr. died. No grave or will is known to have survive. The name of his wife is unknown. A list of his children survives, though it's origins is unknown and I have yet to find records to substantiate it; however, the rarity of the name "Mee" indicates that this is probably one family.

Joseph Mee (1773-1851), the younger

Joseph and Nancy (Rice) Mee are found in the records of Roane and later Bradley County, Tennessee. The records of Bradley County are incomplete, making research difficult into this family. Without the use of private letters, family oral history, and tombstones for this family it would be difficult to establish may of the facts stated here. By all indications, Joseph Mee is the son of another Joseph Mee who by family tradition came from England to Virginia. Evidence is found of this elder Joseph Mee in the western counties of Virginia and later in Hawkins County, Tennessee. I have not seen a record that actually proves this connection of kinship; however, the extreme rarity of the "Mee" name along with family traditions; emigration patterns; and common naming patterns all suggest that Joseph Mee of Roane is the son of Joseph Mee of Hawkins county.

An important source of family information is from letters and published family history found among the descendants of Joseph Mee in Bradley County. A portion of the correspondence between the daughter of John and Sarah (McElwee) Mee of Bradley county, Margaret, and her cousin Andrew Jackson King, son of Martha Mee King of California, survives to establish kinship between the King and Mee family. Margaret was the daughter of wealthy planter John Mee and a biography of Margaret's brother Columbus Mee provides the basis for most Mee family history. Further records on the Mee family suggest Martha Kings relationship to Joseph Mee as a daughter. Joseph Mee (1773-1851) is mentioned in three published works and it is known to have had a daughter named Martha; however, nothing in these published records mention her fate and she is not found buried in the Mee family cemetery.

The earliest publications are probably the best and most reliable sources for Mee family history, namely the "History of Bradley County" by Goodspeeds and Wells' "History of Roane County Tennessee 1801-1870". Unfortunately, neither book document their sources. In Goodspeeds, these types of histories were generally taken directly from family members who had paid subscriptions in order to be included in the histories. Therefore the family's history in Goodspeeds came directly from family oral history and perhaps family papers such as a Bible. In this case, the informant was probably Columbus A. Mee a wealthy farmer and Joseph's grandson. According to Columbus Mee, his grandfather Joseph is a native of Virginia and died in Bradley County, Tennessee. The Census records corroborate this statement. Columbus also states that his great grandfather, another Joseph Mee, immigrated from England to Virginia and settled in Hawkins County, Tennessee [re: ibid]. This statement too can be corroborated by tax records in Montgomery County, Virginia and the Hawkins County Census of 1810.

Wells, "History of Roane County" (1927) also mention the two Joseph Mees, as father and son, but confuse the two when it note that the younger died in Hawkins County, Tennessee. It is more probable that the elder died in Hawkins County, as recalled by the Mee family in Columbus Mee's biographical sketch, unless there is an additional Joseph Mee involved. Joseph Mee, the younger was at least buried in Bradley, since his tombstone is found in Mee Cemetery near Cleveland in Bradley County. In addition to the tombstone, the 1850 Census shows Joseph Mee living with his son Jesse Mee in Bradley; and his stated age is seventy-six, making the probability of his death in that county more likely. Well's Roane county history refers to the Mee family in two sections of the book The first is in the history of Post Oak Springs, a settlement along the Tennessee River, which was originally settled by three families: Rice, Matlock, and Mee. Deeds, will, and family records show intermarriage among these three families. Tax records show that Joseph Mee, John Rice, Isaac Rice Sr. and Isaac Rice Jr. all lived in the same district along King's Creek. The Roane history also includes a family group sheet, which shows Mee's birth in 1773 and the place of nativity as being Virginia; all consistent with other sources identifying Joseph.

The History of Roane County, Virginia gives the first account found of Joseph Mee:
"Among the early settlers who came into the lands and bought of the Cherokee Indians on the West side of the Tennessee River after the treaty of Tellier [Tellico] in 1805, there was a group from Hawkins County and among these Isaac Rice appears to have been the leader. Isaac Rice, William Matlock and Joseph Mee with their families settle on "the Waters of King's Creek" Isaac Rice built a log cabin on a small hill above the spring that now supplies water to Rockwood. William Matlock a brother-in-law of Rice, and Joseph Mee, built cabins near by and these three built a log cabin church house and organized a church membership about 1816"..."In a few years the church house was burned and the preacher Isaac Rice moved to McMinn County, to a place now called Riceville..."
[re: Wells, Emma M., The History of Roane County , TN 1801-1870 (1927); page 45 "History of Post Oak Springs"]
A third publication exists on the Mee family and is a 20th century compilation of Mee family group sheets published as, "Lucky Mee: A Group of Family Histories". Neither the author of "Lucky Mee" nor most of the contributors are related to the Joseph Mee family of Tennessee; however, two members of the Tennessee Mee family donated their lineages; Phillis J. Sheets of Newark, OH and Thomas A. Mee of Brighton, MI. After an interview with Ms. Sheets it is clear that both her and Thomas Mee's information is derived from the Bradley and Roane County histories.

Joseph Mee is listed in the county histories with a wife named Nancy, who an unidentified source identifies as a member of the Rice family. To date, no record has been found to positively identify her as a Rice; however, the will of Isaac Rice strogly suggests a connection. The close relationship of the Rice and Mee families along with the use of the name "Isaac" further suggest a kinship with Isaac Rice. Mr. Edward Ryce of Oakland, California who died sometime before 1985 did some of the ground work research on this line and identifies Nancy as the daughter of Isaac and Margaret (Walden/Walling) Rice. The crucial document that suggests this relationship is the will of Isaac Rice found in the Rhea County Court Minutes from the time period of 1818 to 1823 and abstracted by Mrs. Wesley Wright. This document names Joseph Mee as a legatee to Isaac Rice Sr., but the relationship is not clear in the wording of the instrument which states, "$650.00 to ... Isaac Rice, son of my brother Moses ... Elizabeth Kane, sister to my wife ... James Rice, son of my brother Benjamin ... Isaac Rice son to my brother John ... and Joseph Mee." The reading of this record seems to suggest that Isaac was a brother-in-law of Joseph not his wife' father. However, on obtaining the a copy of the original document the will actually states,
"First I give and bequeath six hundred and fifty dollars in current money to be equally divided between Isaac Rice son of my brother Moses Rice, Mary Rice wife of said Moses Rice, Elizabeth Cain sister to my wife, Abraham Pence and John Dover Junr. I give and bequeath unto Elizabeth Thompson wife of James Thomson two cows and calves or the value thereof. I give and bequeath unto James Rice son of my brother Benjamin Rice one bead and furniture all the ballance of my estate give and bequeath unto Isaac Rice son of my brother John Rice and Joseph Mee to be divided between them -- And I do hereby appoint Isaac Rice and Joseph Mee to be executors of this my last will and testament ... "
[re: Will of Isaac Rice Sr., Rhea Co., TN Court Minutes, Tuesday, 04 November 1823, pg. 50-1]
The will of Isaac Rice Sr. indicates that he had no direct descendants and that he dispersed most of his estate to his siblings or their descendants. This indicates that Nancy is clearly not his daughter, but that she may be a sister or a close kin of some sort. Unfortunately, the relationship of Joseph Mee to Rice is never stated, but by assigning him as executor it suggests that Joseph may have been older than the rest and perhaps a brother-in-law. Isaac's will was contested by Benjamin Rice who later dismissed his suit. There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the many Isaac and John Rices in Roane, Rhea, and Hawkins county.

Researcher Randy Haley states that Nancy (Rice) Mee is the daugther of John and Susannah Rice, natives of Hanover County, Virginia. John is said to be the son of Matthew & Ann (Watson) Rice who were married in Hanover in 1730. Matthew in turn is the son of the original emigrant, Thomas Rice who married about 1680, Ann Marce Hewes. I have not been given any documentation of these connection; however, Nancy's first son being named "John R. Mee" fits in nicely with a father named John.

Joseph Mee and Nancy Rice must have married around 1797, probably in Roane or Rhea county, Tennessee. There is no existing marriage bond. Nancy died by 1850, when Joseph is found as a widower in Bradley county. Her exact date of death is found on her tombstone as the 11th of September 1838 [re: Mee Family Graveyard, Bradley Co., TN as reported by Brad Gray, Dayton, OH]. The Mee cemetery was surveyed on the 06th of April 1969 and at that time was owned by Marvin McAlister. In 1838, an epidemic hit this part of Tennessee and she may have died from that disease.

Early tax records confirm Joseph Mee's residency in Roane County. By 1814 he was taxed for 100 acres on Kings Creek and polled for one adult white male. By 1815 his is poll taxed and taxed for 80 acres. In 1816, one black slave is added to his tax. In 1820, Joseph is not taxed for any land, but taxed on his one slave, his poll tax and the poll tax of his son John Mee. Roane County deeds show that in 1821 Isaac Rice sold to Joseph Mee for $200.00, 80 acres of land on the head water of Kings creek which was originally grated to Rice on the 04th of January 1795 out of the original 5,000 acre parcel granted by the State of North Carolina to James W. Lackey and Stokesby Donelson [re: Roane DB E-1, pg. 533-4]. Columbus Mee's sketch also notes that the Mee family came to Bradley in 1836, previously living in Rhea and Roane counties. Joseph Mee may have moved out of Roane as early as 1825, when he sold to Robert K. Haley 250 acres on Turnpike creek [re: Roane DB F-1, pg. 607-8]. The land was sold for only $50.00 suggesting that it may have been undeveloped.