Title: Centennial volume of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, PA., 1784-1884.
“No. 1753 Rhode Island Avenue
Washington, D. C., April 10th, 1884.
Rev. S. F. Scovel,
Dear Brother: On the 5th instant, at my request, my son DAVID R. McKEE acknowledged the receipt of your letter of the 28th ultimo, conveying the kind invitation of the Session of the dear old First Church of Pittsburgh, to participate in its centennial anniversary on the 13th, 14th, and 15th instant...I am still suffering somewhat from the effects of a fall on an icy payment; but chiefly from the fact that a cataract has almost wholly darkened the windows of my earthly tenement...I am now in my eighty-fourth year and my life has been a busy and eventful one; but its courses and chief activities undoubtedly have been laid, shaped and directed greatly by the influence exerted upon me as a young man by the pastor and members of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.I was born at McKeesport, December 7th, 1800.My father died in February, 1807, and in the fall of that year my mother removed her family to Fort Pitt.My recollection is the First Church had then for minister the Rev. Mr. Steel, and that the congregation worshipped in a log building on Wood street, which was not taken down until the walls of the new brick church were erected around it; and that DR. HERRON soon afterwards arrived from Cumberland county and assumed the pastorate.Passing over the intervening nine of ten years, which I partly spent on the farm of my uncle McCOY, in Washington county, and in service of MESSRS. HUGH & JAMES JELLY, merchants, in Pittsburgh, I come to the most important epoch of my life, when in the winter of 1817-’18 I was arrested in a career of worldliness and frivolity-born again, as I believe, and under the ministry of my dear old pastor, DR. HERRON, was admitted to the communion of the church.Thenceforth I seemed to live in a new world, and became desirous to serve a loving and compassionate Master. (pg. 242) At this time I was the book-keeper of J. L. THOMPSON, a merchant on Market street.Soon after this, DR. HERRON and his Session selected three young men to be educated by the church for the gospel ministry; of which number I was one. The other two were WILLIAM McCOMB and WELLS BUSHNELL...By the advice of my brother and other friends, I accepted the appointment, and in July of that year removed to Wheeling, where I resided for upwards of thirty years...In the fall of that year, 1818, I established the first Wheeling Sabbath School (the first, I think, in Western Virginia), and was superintendent of it for twenty-five years following...(pg. 243) From this time forth the church grew with the prosperity of the city, with regular pastors.By the grace of the Great Head of the Church, the “little one had become a thousand.”Elected an elder in 1823, I was called frequently to attend meetings of Presbytery and Synod, and in 1823 served my first term in the General Assembly.
In 1827 I was elected by the General Assembly a member of the first Board of Trustees for the location and organization of the Western Theological Seminary.After careful and prayerful consideration of the various sites proposed, this honored school of the prophets was finally given to Allegheny City.It was my privilege to attend the semi-centenary of that school, in 1877, at that place.DR. C. C. BEATTY and myself were then the only survivors of the original Board of Trustees.He has since gone to his rest, and I alone remain.
In 1850 I was appointed by President Fillmore to be one of three United States Commissioners to California, to settle the Indian difficulties then existing...At the end of my term of service I concluded to remove my family to California, which I did, in 1852...(pg. 244) My prayer is that their successors of the present day may be equally instrumental in advancing the cause and kingdom of the Savior in the time to come.
Very sincerely your,