|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
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.