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Our chapter, the Nancy McKay Harsh Chapter is named after Nancy McKay Harsh, born on June 14, 1810 in Mercer County, PA.  Her father was William McKay, a Revolutionary Soldier.  Nancy’s maternal lineage is traced back to northern Ireland. And her father’s ancestors were among the James River settlement.

In 1833, Nancy married Daniel Harsh, a Pennsylvania Dutchman.  Shortly after the marriage they became pioneers and almost frontiersmen as they moved to Clinton County, Ohio.  They settled in the thickest of forests and commenced the long hard task of clearing the land for cultivation.  Nancy took an active part in this, doing the work of a man – something new for her, as she had grown up in a life of luxury.

After years of hard toil, they had cleared 100 acres.  Daniel decided to sell the land and possessions and move further west to Illinois.  As the arrangements to move were almost completed, Daniel unexpectedly died, leaving Nancy with 6 young children and another on the way.  The oldest child was 13 years old.  Nancy gathered up their belongings and with the children drove a covered wagon to the fertile land of Illinois. She purchased 80 acres which eventually grew to 360.

After several years she again moved westward. With two of her sons and the daughter born after Daniel’s death, in 1861 she settled in Union County, Iowa.

When she married, she followed her mother, by wearing a white bonnet at all times.  When Daniel died she changed to a black one.  She had 2 bonnets – one for everyday and one for Sunday or special occasions. Her cap was one of her distinctive trademarks – to some of her family and friends, it seemed to be simply a part of herself.

A birthday party was held on her 100th birthday at the home of her son, Senator, J.B. Harsh.  It was attended by many friends as well as the four of her seven children who were still alive. There were 4 generations of her family present. 


Nancy McKay Harsh died in the home of her daughter, Mary Donlin, on August 7, 1912.  Nancy is buried at Graceland Cemetery, Creston, Iowa.  Her grave was marked in 1928 by the Nancy McKay Harsh DAR Chapter.  Mrs. Florence Babbitt donated the marker.  Mrs. Babbitt's daughter married Nancy McKay Harsh's grandson.



Nancy McKay Harsh
1810 - 1912



  Photo on 100th birthday  




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