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McKee founded law-enforcement force, but couldn’t protect his son

W.W. Graves was the artist behind this illustration, which was published in the Marion County Herald at Palmyra, Mo., on July 14, 1909. Graves was the founder of the AHTA Weekly News, a newspaper with the purpose of recruiting new members to the Anti Horse Thief Association. The illustration represents how far the AHTA members would go in order to stop a thief. In this instance, a thief got on board a train in order to escape capture. So the AHTA members chartered another train in order to catch up with the man who was running from the law. NEWSPAPERS.COM

David McKee, as illustrated by W.W. Graves, the founder of the AHTA Weekly News. It was published in the July 14, 1909 edition of the Marion County Herald at Palmyra. NEWSPAPERS.COM


A school spelling bee in Peaksville, Clark County, Mo., provided the setting for the untimely demise of a prominent cattleman of that neighborhood, 35-year-old Lloyd McKee.

A brief notice in the Feb. 8, 1891, Daily Inner Ocean newspaper, Chicago, offers details of Lloyd McKee’s tragic death.

“A fatal stabling affray occurred near this city last night. Loyd (sic) McKee, a highly respected citizen … was stabbed by William Shaffer, a man of rather unsavory reputation.”

According to this report, William Shaffer and his brothers were at Highland school, as was Mr. McKee. The Shaffers summoned McKee outside.

“As he stepped from the door some one struck him with a bag of shot, and ‘Bill’ Shaffer stabbed (McKee) in the breast. Death ensued in a few minutes.”

Anti Horse Thief Association

Lloyd McKee’s father, David McKee, is credited with the establishment of a citizen’s group in Clark County to protect private property during the years before the Civil War – beginning as early as 1853.

During the years between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I, lawlessness remained prevalent in the rural areas of the Midwest. In order to counter the free reign of men with dishonorable intent, citizens banded together in order to protect their own property, as well as the property of their neighbors.

This early organized effort of neighbors working together to thwart crime evolved into the Anti Horse Thief Association, established by David McKee and George Samson in 1863.

In 1912 the organization boasted 1,113 chapters and 41,000 members in eight states, according to Bill Caldwell, the retired librarian at the Joplin (Missouri) Globe. In a story published on July 27, 2019, he quoted information contained in a Missouri Historical Review article from 1951.

Caldwell wrote: “Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri had the largest number of active of chapters. One strategy of thieves was to cross state borders to elude capture. McKee developed a countermeasure. When pursuit led into an adjoining state, part of the pursuit party would stay behind near the state border. The rest pursued, apprehended the thief and brought him back to the state line, saying, ‘Get out of here fast.’ The thief would cross the line and be caught by the waiting AHTA members. Oklahoma AHTA published its statistics over 10 years from 1899 to 1909. It claimed to have recovered $83,000 worth of property with more than 400 thieves caught and 272 convicted.”

David McKee

David McKee was a wealthy man, fathering as many as 21 children during his lifetime, with two different wives.

He served during the war with Mexico, and fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Lloyd McKee was among the older of David McKee’s children, born in 1855. While the elder McKee spent his life protecting the property of his neighbors, he ultimately wasn’t able to protect his son from a tragic ending.

The elder McKee died March 7, 1896, at the age of 72. He is buried at Kahoka Cemetery, Clark County, Missouri. His tombstone carries an inscription regarding his participation in the establishment of the Anti Horse Thief Association.

A.H.T.A. reward

The following clipping was published in the Oct. 10, 1889 edition of the Marion County Herald Newspaper in Palmyra, Mo. It demonstrates the actions of the A.H.T.H., offering a sizable reward for the capture and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft from a fellow A.H.T.A. member.

Stolen, $25 reward

On the 3rd day of October the house of William E. Sites, three miles east of Palmyra, Mo., was entered and the following articles were stolen:

One plain gold ring marked on inside H.H.;

One child’s gold ring.

One gold chain necklace,

One plain gold-band bracelet,

One pair of gold wire bracelets

One red silk handkerchief with blue border,

3 or 4 other silk handkerchiefs and other articles.

The above reward will be paid for the arrest and conviction of the thief.

By order of the A.H.T.A.

J.N. Coons, president; T.E. Curd, secretary.

McKee legacy

By the time of the shooting, Lloyd McKee had already buried a wife and a son.

Lloyd McKee married Birtha B. Enoch May 17, 1879, and Birtha died a little more than a year later, on Sept. 28, 1880, at the age of 20. She is buried at Sisson Cemetery, Clark County, Mo.

On May 13, 1883, he was married to Mary Alice Thompson. They had one son, Calvin McKee, born March 7, 1884. Calvin died at the age of 2 on Dec. 6, 1886.

As far as can be discerned, Lloyd McKee has no descendants.

After Lloyd’s murder, Mary Alice was married to William Thomas McKee in 1894, and they had one son, Russell Thomas McKee, born in 1900.

William Thomas McKee died in1901. His son, Russell, died in 1944. Mrs. McKee died in 1950.

Lloyd Rollins McKee is buried at Peaksville Cemetery, Clark County, Mo.

Shaffer’s outcome

In a trial at Clark County, Mo., in September 1891, William Shaffer was found guilty of manslaughter in the fourth degree for killing Lloyd R. McKee. His punishment was a fine of $500 and costs, according to a story in the Sept. 29, 1891 edition of the Quincy Daily Whig, Quincy, Ill.

Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Her collective works can be found at

This illustration shows a suspected thief with his hands up, after capture by a member of the Anti Horse Thief Association. The artist was W.W. Graves, founder of the AHTA Weekly News. This was published in the Marion County Herald at Palmyra, Mo., on July 14, 1909. NEWSPAPERS.COM

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