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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:

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[This information is from Vol. IV, pp. 1448-1450 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The founder of the McKinney family was Calinas Fitzgerald, of Ireland, who assisted Alexander III, of Scotland, to repel the invasion of Haco, of Norway, 1261, and was rewarded by a grant of the lands of Kintail, county of Ross, in the north of Scotland, and which was erected into a barony. The third baron assumed in name (in Gaelic), Kenneth McKenneth, hence the names McKennie, McKinney, and McKenzie. Members of the family bearing the last two names have been able, in this century, to trace their ancestry to an identical source.

Alexander McKenzie, of Inverness, Scotland, in his genealogies, traces the family back to the beginning of the ninth century. He finally states: "It scarcely needs to be pointed out that, through intermarriages the McKs. are also descended from the ancient Celtic McAlpine line of Scottish kings, from the original Anglo-Saxon kings, of England, and from the oldest Scandinavian, Charlemagne and Capetian lines, as far back as the beginning of the ninth century, forming a network of cousinship which ultimately included all the leading families in the Highlands, every one of which, through these alliances, have the royal blood of all the English, Scottish and Scandinavian kings, and many of the earlier foreign monarchs, coursing through their veins."

Passing along the centuries, we come to that remarkable man, the Rev. James McKinney, grandfather of James McKinney. He was born in Cookstown, Tyrone county, Ireland, in 1759. This county was included in that portion of Ulster made "Sword-land" by the Scots. He entered Glasgow College, where he took the regular course, and remained there several years after, engaged in the study of theology and of medicine. In due time he was ordained and installed pastor of Kirkhills, or Dervock congregations, in the county of Antrim, a county exposed to the inroads of the Danes, and also of the northern Scots, who ultimately effected permanent settlements. Antrim has always been one of the most decidedly Protestant counties in Ireland, and of the Protestants a very great proportion are Presbyterians.

(I) The last decade of the eighteenth century was pre-eminently distinguished for its revolutionary character in several European nations. Rev. James McKinney lived in revolutionary times. He came to America in 1793. As a friend of liberty, civil and religious, he saw and felt with disapprobation the oppression of his native land, and, though he did not belong to the Society of United Irishmen, yet he was charged with influencing and encouraging them to throw off the British yoke. The true cause of his leaving his native land was his sermon on the "Rights of God." This was denounced as treasonable by the secret spies of the British government. An indictment was found against him, and being feared by the government and an object of jealousy, they determined to seize and imprison him. He was providentially away from home when the soldiers came to arrest him, and as bail on a charge of treason would not be accepted, he escaped to America in the summer of 1793.

Though not sent immediately by the church in Ireland to aid in promoting the Covenanting cause in this country, it is evident that he was sent by the Head of the Church himself. In an article on "The Life and Times of Rev. James McKinney," by Rev. S. Carlisle, he says: "We do not state too much when we assert he was the founder, under God, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States, after the secession and backsliding in 1783." Dr. [William Melancthon] Glasgow, in his "History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America," and [William Buell] Sprague's "Annals of the American Pulpit," state that "for scholarship and eloquence combined, he was not only the greatest man in the Covenanter Church in his day, but he was a great man among men of that age. His sermons were a continuous stream of thought, and for grandeur of conception and impressiveness of delivery such displays of eloquence were seldom heard." They also quote an eminent divine as saying, "I have met with many considerable and some great men, but not one equal to James McKinney." Another said, "He is like Leviathan — made without fear." Such are the testimonies of men on both sides of the Atlantic to the character of Rev. James McKinney.

Prior to 1812 four brothers of Rev. James McKinney had emigrated to America: Rev. Samuel McKinney, D.D., of Texas; Dr. Archibald McKinney, who was for some time partner of Dr. Rush, of Philadelphia, and died at Cincinnati, Ohio; Robert McKinney, who located, and died near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; and Hon. John A. McKinney, one of the framers of the constitution of Tennessee, and who died at Rogersville, East Tennessee.

Rev. James McKinney was called to the congregation of Rocky Creek, Chester District, South Carolina, whither he removed, died in a few months, away from his family, and was buried in the old graveyard on Rocky Creek. It may be said of this family that they inherited and illustrated all the noble qualities of their heroic ancestors, and verified the promise, "I will be a God to thee and thy children after thee." Freedom, civil and religious, was dearer to them than titles and wealth.

(II) Four years later, in 1797, Mary (Mitchell) McKinney, wife of Rev. James McKinney, followed, with their five children, one of whom was James (2) McKinney, father of James (3) McKinney of this review. He was born in 1792. He was educated for the ministry, but was not ordained. He lived a quiet, uneventful life, was sedentary in his habits, and devoted to his books.

James McKinney's maternal grandfather was John I. Netterville, who forfeited his succession to the peerage by coming to America. The family of Netterville is of Norman descent, and of considerable antiquity; it took from an early period an important and historic position in Ireland, and made high connections and alliances. It was settled at Douth, county Meath, in the reign of Henry II. During the persecution of the Protestants this family left France for the North of Ireland, and sailed up the coast. His maternal grandmother was Lady Ann Whitely, daughter of Lord Edward Whitely, North of Ireland. Jane Frances (Netterville) McKinney, mother of James McKinney, came to America in 1802, when nine years of age. Such were the forebears of James McKinney, indicating that the blood flowing in his veins was of that sturdy, self-reliant quality which knew no discouragement and feared nothing so much as untrustworthiness.

(III) James (3), son of James (2) and Jane Frances (Netterville) McKinney, was born August 29, 1825, in Duanesburg, Schenectady county, New York. In 1838 he went to Canajoharie, Montgomery county, where for some years he attended Canajoharie Academy, making his home with his maternal grandfather, John T. Netterville, of the same place. In 1844 he accepted a position in the iron works conducted by Colonel George G. Johnson, of Palatine Bridge, New York, remaining three years. In 1847 Mr. McKinney went to New York and sought employment with several concerns in different lines of the iron business in order to perfect himself in the industry, for, like many other young men, his aim was to ultimately engage in business for himself, and he desired to obtain all the information and experience possible, with that end in view. In 1850 he came to Albany, and in 1857 began business for himself, forming a co-partnership, with Abram Mann, under the firm name of McKinney & Mann, in a small foundry located on Lower Livingston avenue (then Lumber street). This foundry was demolished when the first bridge was constructed across the Hudson river at Albany, and the business was removed to buildings especially constructed for the firm at 18-20 De Witt street. In 1867 the partnership was dissolved, and Mr. McKinney continued the business alone. About this time he observed the growing demand for structural and architectural iron work for building purposes, and he decided to devote practically his whole attention to this branch of the iron industry. The business grew so rapidly that larger quarters were soon a necessity, and in 1872 he erected the works on upper Broadway, where the business has since been conducted. In 1884 he admitted his son, Edward N. McKinney, into partnership, and this firm has ever since continued under the name of James McKinney & Son. When Mr. McKinney first engaged in business, he resolved to manufacture only first-class work, for he realized that whatever was worth doing at all was worth doing well, and the result was that the reputation established at the beginning, for first-class work, was continued during all the years of his business career. He was a man of the highest ideals in honesty and integrity, and as to what was due his fellowmen, and these qualities, combined with a genial disposition and a heart warm with generous impulses, attracted not only customers and friends, who remained with him during his entire business life, but also the loyalty and friendship of the men in his employ. In 1872 Mr. McKinney was elected a member of the board of aldermen and served two years. In 1856 he joined the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Albany, and in 1874 was elected to the eldership, which office he retained until the close of his life. He was devotedly attached to this church, and every branch of its work received his earnest support. He was particularly interested in young men who wished to devote their lives to the Christian ministry, and was always a liberal contributor in aiding such to secure an education with this end in view, when their private means were inadequate for the purpose. He was elected a trustee of the Albany Exchange Savings Bank in 1886, and became its second vice-president in 1893.

Mr. McKinney married, in 1850, Julia A. Poole, of Albany. Children:

  1. Ella F.;
  2. Ida A., married David B. Hunt, of Montclair, New Jersey;
  3. Edward N.

Mr. McKinney died February 10, 1907. The worth of his character and the loss to the community in his death were attested by the local press in the following:

Albany Evening Journal, February 11, 1907: "James McKinney's long career of usefulness came to an end about three weeks ago, and yesterday death ensued. From the time he laid down the cares of business life, which had extended over half a century, his vigorous constitution gave way gradually, and in a comparatively short time the vital spark went out. It was like passing to a peaceful sleep, and was in keeping with his gentle nature. His presence was like a healing balm, his counsel always on the right side, and his charity unostentatious. Mr. McKinney's record in the business circles of Albany, in the city's welfare and in church work, stands out a bright page. His genial disposition, his wise judgment in all matters in which he was enlisted, and his business acumen, will be missed by those who were thrown into his companionship."

Ibid., same date: "The death of James McKinney, which occurred yesterday, makes another vacant place in the ranks of the old guard of Albany's business men — the men to whose activity and energy is due in great measure the city's very solidly founded prosperity. Fifty years of successful business activity, always characterized by strict integrity, made a record most honorable, a source of pride to those who mourn. Mr. McKinney's life is an example for emulation to those who are just beginning their business careers."

Albany Times-Union, February 11, 1907: "In the death of James McKinney, Albany loses one of its most progressive citizens. His splendid efforts to promote the welfare of the large institution over which he presided were crowned with success, and the iron works which bear his name are known throughout the length and breadth of the land. He was a generous employer, a good citizen and a faithful friend, and a splendid type of virile manhood."

Knickerbocker Express, February 11, 1907: "The close of Sabbath witnessed the death of one of those sweet, lovable gentlemen of the old school, of whom the world to-day has too few. A gentleman whose integrity was unimpeachable; in whom the milk of human kindness abounded in rich supply; whose optimism was ever most pronounced; whose life of four-score years and two speaks eloquently his own epitaph; whose love for humanity was as sweet as the perfume of incense — such was James McKinney, one of Albany's best-known business men."

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