Catherine (Katie) Quoqua McKee Clark
Kyuhkwe, or ‘Kitty Coque’ 1806 – 1876
By Sallie Cotter Andrews
Wyandotte Nation Culture Committee
The lives of notable women are recorded in the pages of history, and one whose legacy sparks our imagination is Katie Quoqua. From the files we find her obituary, various articles and reference books that mention her. From these, we can gather a glimpse of her personality, her family and the times in which she lived, from 1806 to 1876…a time of change and movement for the Wyandotte people.
Catherine (Katie) Quoqua was born in Ohio in 1806 on the hunting ground of her father, near Fort Recovery on the St. Mary’s River. She was the last of a Wyandotte war chief’s family named “Quoqua” who had fought on the side of the British during the War of 1812. Katie was baptized, as were many of her people, in the old Roman Catholic Church at Sandwich. She firmly believed in the Savior to the close of her life. Her native name was “To-ma-me.”
When Katie was a young woman, she was called “the belle of the bowery dances,” records an 1896 Michigan newspaper story. “Bowery dances were special evenings of dancing and merrymaking in the pioneer days in what is now Detroit, Michigan. When the torches flamed and the struggling little French village had not yet outgrown the early traditions of the trading post, people used to come from all along the river as far away as Toledo to attend one of these county fetes out under the trees. The Indians used to come over from Amherstburg and from their camps all up and down the river. When they had money to help pay the fiddler, they too joined in the dances. When they did not have money, they stood off and looked on, too proud to take part in the dance if they could not contribute something to the expenses. Katie was the prettiest woman and the neatest dancer along the river. She wore beautifully beaded leggings and a blue broadcloth blouse that was fringed and beaded,” the newspaper records.
In 1820, when Katie was 14, War Chief Quoqua and his band left their home at Brownstown and settled on the banks of the Huron River. A small tract of land was assigned to them for the term of 50 years at the insistence of General Cass, the Territorial Governor of Michigan. Katie came to the conclusion than that because Chief Quoqua had taken sides with the British, they received a limited reservation – only a 50 years’ lease of land.
Katie was widely known and noted for her skill in the healing arts with roots and herbs. She gathered these from the wilds of Michigan. Many people were cured under her treatment and testified to the effectiveness of the powerful medicinal roots she used in her preparations.
Katie became the wife of a man known as Thomas McKee (1800-1844), a descendant of noted frontiersmen Alexander McKee and his son Thomas McKee, who were born in Ireland. (Through several generations, the name “Thomas’ was given or used by the McKees. Alexander’s son Thomas had a son with a Wyandot woman – Charlotte Brown. They named their son named Thomas; he was Mary’s father.) In 1838, Katie and Thomas had a daughter – Mary McKee. Mary was born in her grandfather Quoqua’s cabin on the Huron River. Mary’s native name “Tarema” meant “Carrying-A-Pond” or “Carrying-A-Lake.” She belonged to her mother’s clan – the Bear Clan – and was given the nickname, “Turtle.”
In 1843, when Mary was five years old, the family joined the Wyandots of Ohio in their move to Kansas as stipulated by the Treaty of 1842 between the Wyandots of Ohio and the United States. This was about 27 years before the close of the 50-year’s lease in Michigan.
In 1844 in Kansas, Thomas McKee passed away. Conditions in Kansas were terrible. There was flooding and cholera, and it was claimed that there was not a single well person in the Wyandot nation by the latter part of the fall of 1844. By September 1845, the death toll of the Wyandots since arriving out West rose to over 200. In 1846, the United States government paid the people for their improvements on the land on the Huron River. Soon after receiving her improvement money, Katie and Mary moved back to their old home. There they joined the Wyandots of Anderdon and occupied 100 acres on the reserve. In 1846, Katie married James Clark, a neighbor with adjoining acres to hers on the reserve. They lived there together for 30 years.
Katie passed away on December 7, 1876. She left her land to her daughter Mary McKee and a granddaughter, Catherine McKee (born after 1855) who were living there. Katie Quoqua McKee Clark lived to be 70 years of age. Her obituary says, “She died after taking a severe cold from exposure attended with neuralgic pains. Rheumatism in its redoubled severity came back on her and settled in her limbs and finally erysipelas set in which rapidly took her off.” James Clark resided with his stepdaughter, Mary, after Katie died. Mr. Clark lived to be 91 years of age. He passed away on March 26, 1895. His brothers were Peter, Isaac and Joseph Clark. James was buried in the Indian burying ground in Anderdon on the front.