Agee Surname Meaning, History & Origin

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Agee name origins are uncertain. Mathieu Agee, a French Huguenot from Nantes, was the forebear of the Agees in America.

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Fleeing Nantes, Mathieu Agee went to Holland and with other Huguenots joined the ranks of William of Orange who in 1688 was able to secure the throne of England. In recognition of the Huguenot support for his cause, William offered them passage to the New World.  A large number of these refugees, including Mathieu, took advantage of the offer.


America
. Mathieu Agee arrived in Virginia in 1690, received land grants west of Richmond, and built a plantation about seven miles from where the Huguenots had founded the town of Manakin in Goochland county. All the Agees in America have been derived from him. The 1920 US census showed that there were close to a thousand Agees in America. By 2000 the Agee numbers were more than three times higher.

Virginia.  Mathieu Agee and his wife raised four children in Virginia. The main Agee lines have come from two sons – James, born in 1725, and Anthony, born in 1727. Some of the descendants remained in Virginia, initially at Dillwyn in Buckingham county where Mathieu and his family had settled in 1755.  Others spread to Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama and elsewhere.

Tennessee. The ancestry of the writer James Agee started with his father Hugh who died in an auto accident in 1916 when James was seven (it made a profound impression on him).  Hugh came from rugged Tennessee farming stock in Campbell county. His forebear Isaac Agee had settled in this mountainous backwoods area in the early 1800’s.  He was the grandson of Mathieu Agee through his son Anthony.

Anthony and Charles Agee were in Sullivan county, Tennessee by 1787, signing a petition for the formation of a new state of Franklin.  Daniel Agee was there by 1792. In 1820 he and his son William headed south to new land in Madison county, Alabama.

Alabama. Joseph Agee acquired land in Marengo county, Alabama
in 1837 and finally completed his plantation house there in 1859.
Early Agees were buried in the Magnolia cemetery. However, the best-known Agee from this area has been the baseball player Tommie Agee who came from the black section of town.

Elsewhere.  William Agee was a prominent landowner from Virginia along the Black river in Missouri in the 1850’s. The Agee School in Poplar Bluff township has been his legacy.

There were also two William Agee Baptist ministers. The first was a physician and a native of Alabama, having been born there
in 1845. He formed the Agee Baptist church in Pleasant Valley, Texas in 1900.  Another Agee minister moved from Owenton, Kentucky to Boise,  Idaho around this time. His grandson was the corporate executive William Agee.

The two books covering the Agee lines are D. P.M. Agee’s 1937 book The Agee Family and Louis N. Agee’s 1982 book The Agee Register.  The first Mathieu Agee descendant reunion occurred in 2007 in Richmond, Virginia.

 

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Agee Origins.  Agee is a French surname of uncertain origin.  It is thought that the Huguenot family in Nantes was originally called des Ages, meaning “of the ages.”  Others have suggested that Agee was possibly a variant of Ajean, meaning “enfant à Jean.”  The first Mathieu Age’ was recorded as being born in Nantes in 1613.  According to Louis N. Agee’s 1982 book The Agee Register:

“This family was of noble birth, but because of its espousal of the Huguenot faith was forced to give up its claim to nobility when its lands were confiscated by the French Government after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Louis XIV.  Mathieu Age’, being a young man at this time, decided to flee from his former home.”

Agee Numbers

State 1840 1920 2000
Virginia    25   140   400
Kentucky    11    80   180
Tennessee    11   110   330
Missouri    14   120   180
Alabama     7   110   430
Elsewhere    12   400  2,080
Total    80   960  3,600

James Agee and A Death in the Family.  James Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1909 to Hugh James Agee and Laura Whitman Tyler.  When Agee was six, his father went out of town to see his own father who had suffered a heart attack.  During the return trip he was killed in a car accident.  The death made a huge impression on the young Agee and he eventually memorialized the incident in his autobiographical novel A Death in the Family.

A Death in the Family has the simple beauty and drama of a folk ballad.  Set in the foothills of Tennessee’s Great Smokeys, it sings of “quiet summer evenings” and a Knoxville family faced with the problems of love and human loneliness.  It’s a song about a young boy of six years or so who wants a cap like a man’s and who finds the night frightening as he lies in his bed.  It’s about his father who drives too fast and sometimes drinks too much, but who sings his son back to sleep with “Froggy would a wooin’ go;” and about his mother afraid for her loved ones.

He began writing the book in 1948, but it was not quite complete when he died in 1955.   Agee won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the novel in 1958.

Early Agees in Magnolia, Alabama.  Joseph Agee, the son of Noah Agee from Virginia, was forty when he bought 126 acres of land in Marengo county, Alabama in 1837 to start a plantation.  The main house of this plantation was not, however, completed until 1859, the year that Joseph died.  His son Zachariah took over the running of the plantation on Joseph’s death.

Early Agees in the area were buried in the Magnolia and the Shiloh Baptist church cemeteries in Marengo county.  The following were some early Agees, the sons and wives of Joseph and his wife Sarah (nee Dumas), in the Magnolia cemetery.

Magnolia Cemetery Birth Death
Zachariah Agee   1832   1905
Mary E. Agee   1837   1926
Kennon Agee   1844   1920
Annie E. Agee   1849   1924
Ishan Agee   1849   1918

Kennon Agee was just seventeen when he enlisted in the Confedarate Army in 1861 at Fort Gaines.  He served through the duration of the War until he received his discharge papers in May 1865.

However, a few months before his discharge, he was already making plans about his marriage. The object of his affections was Annie McIntosh who was at that time just fifteen years of age.  Special consent had to be obtained from the probate judge of Marengo county for the marriage to take place.  This was duly obtained and the couple did get married.  Their first son William was born four years later in 1869.

Tommie Agee from Magnolia, Alabama.  Tommie Agee was born in Magnolia, Alabama in 1942, one out eleven children (of which only two were boys) to Joseph and Carrie Agee who were both born and bred in Magnolia.  A year after Tommie’s birth the Agees moved to Mobile, Alabama where his father had got a job working for Alcoa.  Tommie grew up in the black section of this segregated town.

This area, however, had been a rich source for baseball talent, with both Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey hailing from there.  Tommie Agee followed them to the majors.  His moment of fame came with the Miracle Mets of 1969 when the New York team made it to the World Series and then won it.  In the third game of the series Tommie, who was the Mets centre fielder, made two of the most spectacular catches ever seen in World Series history.

 


Select Agee Names

Mathieu Agee, a Huguenot refugee, was the progenitor of the Agees in America.
James Agee
from Tennessee was an influential American writer and critic of the 1940’s and 1950’s, best known for his
prose lyric Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Philip Agee
from Florida was the CIA agent who wrote the revelatory 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary.
William Agee
from Idaho was a prominent American business executive from the 1970’s to 1990’s, being the CEO of the Bendix and Morrison-Knudsen companies.

Select Agee Numbers Today

  • 3,500 in America (most numerous in Alabama)

 

 

 

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