McKee’s entire life was shadowed in poverty. He enlisted in 1777 and became a member of Samuel Patton’s Ranging Third Company, 6th Cumberland County Battalion, attached to the 7th Pennsylvania Line. Private McKee saw his first military action in September at the Battle of Brandywine followed by Germantown.
A seasoned soldier by 1778, Hugh McKee distinguished himself in the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, New Jersey. On November 14, 1778, at the Valley Forge encampment, he received his Second Lieutenant commission.
Assigned in 1779 to the Intelligence Department on General George Washington’s staff, McKee worked among the Western Indian Tribes. Following the Wyoming Massacre, he met Washington at the Morristown Camp and became a confidential messenger to the Six Nations in an effort to get the Iroquois neutrality. Witnessing the destruction of the Iroquois Federation, he accompanied the Sullivan Expedition as a guide and interpreter, participating in the Battle of Newton.
Continuing services among the Ohio Indians, McKee returned to Shawneetown, his birthplace, and made it his new headquarters. His tireless work prevented a union of the British led Northwest tribes, which would have devastated the settlements of Western Pennsylvania and defeated the war of freedom. In 1782, he rejoined Captain Love’s company serving until its disbandment.
Hugh McKee resigned from the military in 1783, retiring to his father’s home in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. He married Elizabeth Watson Thompson on December 30, 1793. Together they raised seven children. In 1815 with his War of 1812 military duties completed, Captain McKee moved his family to Perry Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. He saw Punxsutawney established in 1816, and became one of the town’s earliest settlers.
On March 21, 1821, Hugh McKee met his accidental death repairing his cabin. A log rolled from the roof and fell on top of him. At the foot of a woodland covered hillside, now named the Old North Findley Street Cemetery, his burial plot was cleared to welcome the first person and veteran buried in the Punxsutawney Cemetery.