T. S. Kelly Feted Sunday

The mundane news items small-town papers used to print make me laugh sometimes, but this was a lovely find. To be surrounded by three generations of family and many, many cakes sounds like a wonderful 83rd birthday to me. He must have been very loved.

T. S. (Thomas Sherman) Kelley is the brother of my great-grandmother, Martha Kelley James, who had passed in 1937. The Mrs Carl Homan mentioned at the end of the article is my grand-aunt.

“T.S. Kelly Feted Sunday,” Council Bluffs Nonpariel (Council Bluffs, IA), 11 Oct 1949, p 10, col 5. Accessed on genealogybank.com
T.S. Kelly feted Sunday

Sunday afternoon in the T S Kelly home in Glendale acres, Mr Kelly was honored at a post birthday anniversary dinner party. He noted his 83rd birthday anniversary on Oct 5.

A basket dinner was served at 1 o clock to more than 40 guests seated at two long tables. The tables were centered with decorated birthday cakes.

Attending besides his children, were nine grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and special guests were his brother and sister in law Mr and Mrs J H O Kelly and his nieces, Mrs Carl Homan and daughter, Nancy.

Puff Piece

I wanted to come back to this article.

Biographies in county histories are treasure troves of information, but after looking at a few write-ups of 1812 veterans, I spotted a pattern. Above, Captain Kelley is described as thrusting his sword between the spokes of a wagon wheel when he heard of Hull’s surrender of Fort Detroit.

Here’s are a few more excerpts of people’s reactions to Hull’s surrender:

Pioneers of Scioto County (Ohio) by James Keyes

Duncan McArthur/Wikipedia

Reading those parallel stories made me think about the circumstances surrounding Joseph’s biography.

  • It was written in 1886, sixty-four years after the events the biography describes.
  • The stories about Joseph’s father and brother were told third hand.
  • There might have been some incentive for the subjects of the biographies to add a little zing to their life stories to the detriment of truth.
  • All of the biographies I’ve read seem to flatter their subjects.
  • The tone changes as soon as Joseph’s life is mentioned.

So while the information in these articles is a great place to start, I researched other resources to back it all up. Turns out the Col. Denny mentioned was James Denny, who led a regiment in the First Ohio, but whose regiment was based in eastern Ohio. Not in western Ohio where the Kelleys lived. That doesn’t mean Abraham wasn’t his aide. It just means it’s less likely.


Early History and Pioneers of Champaign County (Illinois), Milton W. Mathews and Lewis A. McLean, pp. 61-62, biography of Joseph Thornton Kelley, Champaign County Herald, Urbana, Illinois, 1886. Accessed 12 Apr 2021 on Google Books (https://rb.gy/jdxala)

Pioneers of Scioto County (Ohio), James Keyes, pp. 2-4, biography of Claudius Cadot, no publisher listed, Portsmouth, Ohio. Accessed on 18 Apr 2021 on Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=l98yAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false)

Duncan McArthur: The Military Phase, C. H. Cramer, pp. 128-147, Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Columbus, Ohio. Accessed 18 Apr 2021 (https://resources.ohiohistory.org/ohj/browse/displaypages.php?display%5B%5D=0046&display%5B%5D=128&display%5B%5D=147)

The Kelleys, Father and Son

Imagine arriving home after two years of fighting in a war only to have your family send you away again to complete a devastating task.

That’s the story of my relative David Kelly or Kelley*.

In 1814, David arrived home near what is now Urbana, Ohio, after serving in the War of 1812. He walked in the door all Fred Flintstone-like with the wife and kids and pet stegosaurus running out to greet him. And after they all kissed and hugged, his young brothers put his coat back on his shoulders and shoved him out the door.

A cabin built in 1806 in London, Ohio, near where David Kelly settled. Source: Ohio History Connection

At the same time David was traveling, his father Abraham was also walking home from the war. Sixty five years old, the father of fourteen children, and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, Abraham must have had some piss and vinegar for the Brits to have gone out to fight again.

There was a lot for him to be mad at. Decades after the Revolutionary War, British soldiers still occupied American territory. Britain was capturing American sailors, about 10,000 in all, and forcing them to work for the British cause. Some Native American tribes, rightfully concerned about land encroachment, allied themselves with the British to stop American land expansion. With multiple enemies, Americans found themselves fighting on several fronts: the Atlantic coast, the Canadian border, New Orleans, and the Midwestern frontier.

My people, David and Abraham Kelly, were probably walking home from the Michigan Territory, where the American colonel in charge of invading Canada from the west ran from British and Native American troops and surrendered Fort Detroit without a shot fired. How embarrassing.

An Ohio militia camp during the War of 1812. Source: Library of Congress

So that’s what David had just survived when he hit the road again, walking or riding southeast to Pickaway County, Ohio. 24 miles later, a farm owner showed David to the barn where he found the body of his father wrapped in a blanket. Not nearly as happy a homecoming as David had just received.

David Kelly, later in life

The following is an excerpt of the source article. It is a biography of Abraham’s youngest son and David’s little brother, Joseph.

*Probably. David Kelly is probably my relative. I don’t know how yet, but I’m linked genetically to three of his children and two of his brothers. It’s all a game of darts at this point.

Sources: Early History and Pioneers of Champaign County (Illinois), Milton W. Mathews and Lewis A. McLean, pp. 61-62, biography of Joseph Thornton Kelley, Champaign County Herald, Urbana, Illinois, 1886. Accessed 12 Apr 2021 on Google Books (https://rb.gy/jdxala)

War of 1812, Jeanne T. Heidler, Encyclopedia Brittanica article. Accessed on 21 Apr 2021 (https://www.britannica.com/event/War-of-1812)

“He is a coward”, National Park Service article, Department of the Interior. Accessed 21 Apr 2021 (https://www.nps.gov/articles/surrender-of-detroit.htm)

Telling Me What I Need to Hear: Charles Kelley

I’ll be honest. This summer has been rough. Nothing serious. Just several unexpected life changes happening in the course of a month that have upset my very routined life. It’s been the kind of time where I’ve had to stop and remind myself of the things that ARE going well, you know?

Yeah. You know.

Okay, so keep that in mind while I tell you about my great-grand uncle, Charles Russell Kelley.

Charley was born near Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in July 1871. He was the eighth child and fourth son of John W. and Eliza Hurd Kelley. When he was four, he moved with his family to the western edge of Iowa. His parents were farmers, and they settled in Lewis Township, just outside Council Bluffs. He went to school, of course, and, when he was 21, married Mary Cleary, the daughter of an Irish immigrant who worked for the railroad. Charley and Mary married across the river in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1892. Quite a few of the Kelley siblings married there. Perhaps it was the fashion to go to the big city to tie the knot, or maybe that’s where the Kelleys attended church. In either case, they settled in Council Bluffs proper afterward.

The couple had two children: Charles Jr., born in 1893, and Florence May, born in 1897. Charley was listed as a teamster—someone who drove a team of work animals for a living—in the 1900 census. Not the most lucrative of jobs, but they must have been doing all right because they had a servant to help take care of their children.

In 1910, Charley was a caller at the railroad. If my research is correct, he was the one that announced arrivals and departures at the train station.

In April 1912, he was appointed as a detective in the Council Bluffs police department.

He and his partner, Joe Rauterkus, saw all sides of their small city while solving crimes to be sure. According to city records, they dealt with a lot of burglary, assaults, and domestic disputes. Not a lot of murders in the small Midwestern town. Every day after work, Charley would take the bus home to his family and have dinner. He had worked hard for this life, moving up incrementally from farmer to teamster to become a cop when he was 41 years old. He found that the police force demanded an energy that is more plentiful in a younger person.

One day in the winter of 1927, Charley woke up, washed himself, had breakfast, and said goodbye to Mary and the kids. The usual. He got on the bus, probably thinking about the day ahead, and completely unaware what was in store for him.

Council Bluffs Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, IA), 9 Dec 1927, page 7, column 7-8, item 1.

Detective Kelley laid in bed for two weeks after his stroke, being cared for by family and friends who most likely knew what was coming. People prayed for him in churches and delivered food to the family. What a terrible time it must have been for them. Everything falling apart in the time it takes to ride the bus to work.

Yes, the moral here is a bit cliched.

Don’t take any of it for granted, all the Christmas stories tell us. Every second is precious, the self-help books profess. But I think the reason we hear that message so much is because WE NEED TO HEAR IT SO MUCH.

I certainly needed to hear it. Yeah, I’m unemployed and have some health issues. But that’s temporary. I can walk outside right now and take the bus anywhere I like. I can have dinner with my loved ones at the drop of a hat. I can still have that nice, quiet life because I’ve worked hard to move incrementally up the career ladder, despite my work being better suited perhaps to someone much younger than my 44 years. These are important reminders. All is not lost.

Sources for this post will be here shortly.

This was written for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors. #52Ancestors

Satisfaction: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 7

In Part 6, I found documents proving that Mary Stewart and my great-grandfather John Kelley were more than friends and neighbors. My cousin also found bible records listing John Kelley’s birth and marriage in a Stewart family bible. It was pretty safe to infer that John Kelley was Mary Stewart’s son, but we didn’t have anything that said it outright.

Later that night, my cousin was on Ancestry researching all of the new family members we’d just learned about. After leaving York County, Nebraska, Mary Stewart moved to Chehalis County (now Grays Harbor County), Washington Territory. Her son, Walter King, and her daughter, Elizabeth Stewart Tyler, were both living in the Montesano area in 1883 when she passed away. We found the following obituary in the York Republican (York County, Nebraska) on March 21, 1883:

Died, at Montesano, Washington Ter., Febr 12th 1883, Mrs Mary Warren Stewart, age 85 years.  The deceased, a cousin of Thomas Burgess, was born at Windham, Conn.  She came to York County with her son J. H. Stewart, of Stewart Precinct, in 1868, sharing with him the rigors of the wild pioneer live.  Eight years ago she went to Washington Ter.

Two facts are mentioned in the obituary that we hadn’t known before: the name Warren, and Thomas Burgess. Is Warren Mary’s middle name? Is it a married name? It certainly feels like a family name, but so far we have turned up no Warrens in her lineage.

And then there’s Thomas Burgess. Mary’s aunts on her father’s side did not marry any Burgesses. That leaves her mother’s side, the Flowerses. I don’t know much about them yet, but the name Burgess gives me a place to start. To be named so prominently in Mary’s obituary, Thomas must have been a big deal in York County. He should be pretty easy to find.

The last name Burgess is also interesting because John Kelley’s unknown father probably has Burgess relatives. Long story short: The descendants of John Kelley (me included) share DNA with descendants of several children of a Sarah Burgess and Abraham Kelly. They are most likely John’s paternal grandparents. Could it be that Mary Stewart and John’s father were related?

While all of these questions were swirling in our heads, my cousin found the will of one of the people listed in the family bible, Walter King. In it, he gives some of his estate in Washington Territory to a familiar person:

“I hereby give and bequeath to my half brother John W Kelly, one third of my property…”

There it is! It’s not Mary saying John is her son, but it is very close. Walter’s will goes on to bequeath the other two-thirds of his estate to his half brothers, J. H. Stewart and Thomas Stewart, thereby linking the four men.

I’ve personally been trying to track down John’s parents for 10 years. This blog has at least 20 entries on the dead ends I’ve encountered and the false leads I have followed. I even started this blog series by researching an entirely different family! So this find is deeply satisfying. We know who John’s mother was. We know he had several siblings, some of whom lived near him. These are the kinds of finds that keep me digging into my family tree.

What’s even better? That descendant of Mary and James Stewart who gave us the bible pages sent us another treasure.

May I present my 4th great-grandmother, Mary Hibbard King Kelley Stewart.

Sources for this entry are here. Start at the beginning of this thread here.

Goldmine!: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 6

In Part 5, I found a connection between my 2nd great-grandfather, John Kelley, and a woman named Mary Stewart while working at the Henry County Heritage Trust, which is the local Historical Society of sorts.

John and Mary had bought and sold land together in Henry County, Iowa. Together, they plopped down $750 to buy 44 acres of land in 1857. That’s a lot of money, and it suggests that John and Mary were more than just casually acquainted. They invested in their mutual livelihoods. Together, they were buying land where they and their families would live and work. Below is the contract of the land purchase.

But how do I know this is the right John Kelley? Well, there’s also a land sale record for the same acreage in 1864.

The underlined script reads “That we Mary Stewart & John Kelly and Eliza Kelly his wife…”

Then, we looked for other names in the records. We found several listings of sales and purchases for a Henry Hebard and an Ithamar Hibbard, who turned out to be Mary’s brother and cousin, respectively. (Side note: I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mary’s grandparents, who gave their sons bizarre names: Ithamar, Ahimaaz, Ozias. It’s easier to find them in records.)

I was so excited by this find I immediately wrote my cousin to tell her the news. She hopped on Ancestry to dig up more information on Mary Stewart. She made so many more connections that night while I was packing up my stuff and driving out to what had been the Stewart/Kelley farm.

First off, my cousin found a DNA match on Ancestry to a descendant of Mary’s through the Stewart line. She wrote to the match, explained the possible connection to John Kelley, and asked if they had any information they could share.

The DNA match, who turned out to be the husband of Kathy Barber Morley, a descendant of Mary’s son Thomas Stewart, sent back this page from an old Stewart family bible.

Listed above are the birthdates of John and Mary Stuart, Walter D. King, John W Kelly (!), Mary M Kelly, Thomas H Stewart, Elizabeth Ann Stuart, J. H. Stewart, Barbery Stuart, and Loranzo H Stewart.


First off, John has a sister we didn’t know about. Mary. The years of John and Mary Kelly’s births also tell me that their parents were together for at least 8 years. Oh! and… AND! Based on those years, we know that the Kelly father was living in 1830, had a 30-year-old wife, and a 6-year-old son, which means we can look for this family in the 1830 census in Ohio. Maybe with this information we can figure out who John’s father was.

Secondly, the Stuart/Stewarts on this page are definitely John and Mary’s children. I know this because of census records and histories of the family. Not only are they listed in the same handwriting, they are listed in chronological order. I can think of no other explanation for this other than they are all Mary’s children.

But how do we know this is my ancestor John Kelley?

Here’s another page the DNA match sent from the Stewart family bible:

The date here matches the date of John Kelly and Eliza Hurd’s marriage record from Champaign County, Ohio, found in Ancestry and Familysearch. This gives us more information on John’s sister: she married a Criss McCluskey in 1850. We need to track her down. And we know Walter King married Elizabeth Jones in 1850 as well.

Holy cow! We’re 98% sure now that Mary Stewart is John Kelly’s mother. We just need something in writing saying as much. Stay tuned! There’s more to tell.

Read Part 7. Sources for this post are here.

A Sense of Place: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 4

Read Part 3 here. Some things I mention below refer to that post.

I’ve been back from my trip from Iowa for a few weeks now. I have a lot to record, but life got in the way, and this is the first time I have some time to write down what I’ve discovered. And there were some HUGE finds, but all in good time.

I heard back from the State of Iowa about John Kelley’s death record: They couldn’t find it. They sent back an official piece of paper saying they looked for him in the entire year of 1895 and came up with nothing. The thing is I have his obituary and death notice from the local paper and photos of his grave stone. I know he died in 1895, well after the recording of deaths began in that state. I feel like I just gambled away $33. *Shrug*

As for my trip, my first afternoon in Mount Pleasant was spent in the library. I started by looking through microfiche of the Mt Pleasant Journal. I didn’t come up with anything that hinted to John Kelley and Mary Stewart’s relationship. That particular newspaper was not reliable for printing death, birth, and marriage announcements regularly, and it did not seem to have a Local News feature where they reported on people who visited from out of town or who attended church socials like other newspapers did. Oh well.

I did find this plat map, though:

1859 Henry County Plat Map, Jackson Township

My pen is pointing to the lot John Kelley owned. It must have been pretty prime land wedged there between the Skunk River and the Keokuk Railroad line! I know this is my 2nd great-grandfather because the 1860 census lists him, Eliza, and their children living among all of the neighbors found on this map.

So I discovered exactly where my family lived in Henry County on my first day of researching! I went out to visit the farm the next day. The road it’s on (River Road) is dirt and winds up and down hills as it follows the river. It’s fairly remote, even now, though it’s only about 15 minutes from Mt Pleasant. It reminded me a lot of the land the Kelleys left in Ohio. There was even a little cemetery on top of a hill like Mt Tabor outside Urbana.

I didn’t see a soul—no cars, no cows, not even a crow—on my visit to the Kelley land. Just me and a lot of curious bugs.

Something I’ve learned in these past two genealogy trips is I really enjoy visiting where my ancestors lived. Even all these years later it gives me a sense of what their lives were like, and humanizes the names I see on papers.

Read part 5. Sources for this entry can be found here.

All About Connections, Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 3

Part 1 Of this series of posts was about a woman named Mary Hibbard Stewart and the possibility of her being my 3rd great-grandmother. TL;DR: Mary lived near my 2nd great-grandfather John Kelley in two different states from 1850–1880.

Part 2 established that Mary was the right age, had not yet married John Stewart when John Kelley was born in 1825, and John Kelley, his wife’s father, and Mary were close neighbors in Henry County, Iowa, from 1856 to 1870 or so.

So now I want to look for any more ties I can make between Mary Hibbard Stewart and John Kelley.

I’m awaiting John Kelley’s death certificate. Usually, the names of the deceased’s parents are listed on these records. I could get really lucky and discover Mary’s name listed on it. Chances are, though, that other researchers of this family have already ordered his death certificate before me. So, probably, his parents’ names were left blank.

I’ve checked several newspaper archive sites and haven’t located Mary’s obituary. Obituaries often list the names of children and grandchildren. [Update: Mary’s obituary has been located.]

I also checked in the newspapers of York County, Nebraska, where the Stewarts lived before they moved to Washington State, with no luck. I’d like to look through the newspapers of Henry County to see if they mention a connection between the Kelleys and the Stewarts. Newspapers back then reported every little picnic and out-of-town guest, so there’s a chance I’ll find a link.

That leaves me with my dad’s and my DNA tests. I didn’t find any direct ancestors to Mary Hibbard in our matches. [update: we now have a direct match to a descendant of Mary’s!] But I did find this:

You’re looking at Ancestry.com’s latest feature. It’s called Thrulines, and it’s a compilation of family trees based from people with whom my dad and I share DNA. At the top is Mary’s father, Ozias, and the next row down are several of her siblings. The far left guy shows that my dad and I share DNA with the 11 descendants of Mary’s brother Henry who have taken DNA tests. The rest of the tree shows descendants of 4 other siblings of Mary’s with whom we share DNA. So all signs point to us being related to this Hibbard family in some way.

John’s mother isn’t necessarily Mary, though. He could have decided to move with his aunt and her family since she had just lost her husband. But it’s not far-fetched to think she’s his mother. I was also thinking John Kelley’s father could be one of Ozias’s sons and his mother could have been a Kelley. I don’t think it was common for a child born to unmarried or divorcing parents to be given the mother’s last name back then, but it’s possible.

And that’s why I’m going to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, in a week!

Read Part 4. Sources aren’t necessary for this post, but here is a link to my Sources page.

Something About Mary: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 2

I suspect a woman named Mary Stewart is my 3rd great-grandmother. Read Part 1 to find out why. This post is all about me speculating if it could be true. Fun!

Mary Stewart, was born in Windham, Connecticut, on February 9, 1799 to Ozias Hibbard or Hebard and Polly Flower. According to her father’s census records, her family moved to Union County, Ohio, by 1830. Union County borders Champaign and Logan Counties on its west. In other words, the Hibbards lived very close to the Kelleys and Hurds in west-central Ohio.

She married John Stewart in Logan County, Ohio, in 1833. She was 34 years old; he was 55. They had five children: Thomas, Ann, James, Barbara, and Lorenzo. John Stewart passed away in 1855, which probably was the reason the rest of the Stewart family moved to Iowa with the Kelleys and Hurds a year later.

By 1870, the widow Stewart and her family lived in York County, Nebraska. York County had recently been the frontier. The village they lived near was called Stewartville because Mary’s son James was a semi-famous frontiersman who had founded the town. He knew and rode with such historic figures as Kit Carson and Jim Beckwourth. Probably due to James’s wandering nature, the Stewarts didn’t stay long. Mary was buried in Montesano, Washington, on February 12, 1883.

How does her story fit into my 2nd great-grandfather, John Kelley’s?

John was born in 1825, so eight years before Mary married John Stewart. She would have been 26 at his birth, which is plenty of time to have been married to another person and have a family. Mary’s son that I mentioned in Part 1 was 3 years older than my John Kelley. He must have been a step-son from John Stewart’s first marriage.

We’ve established that John Kelley and Mary Stewart were living near Urbana, Ohio, in 1850. They were neighbors in Henry County, Iowa, from 1856 to before 1870. It seems the Kelleys stayed in Henry County longer than the Stewarts. But in 1880, the Kelleys had moved west to Council Bluffs, Iowa, three counties away from the Stewarts in York County, Nebraska. The best part about that census, though, is the fact that John’s mother’s place of birth is recorded for the first time on any document (check the far right column):

So exciting, right? I’ve never been so happy to see the abbreviation Conn for Connecticut! The same state Mary Stewart was born in. But how else can I prove my theory that Mary Hibbard is John’s mother? Who is John’s father? Did John have brothers and sisters?

It wouldn’t be fair to not mention my cousin and friend Cathy and our new friend Kate, a genealogist friend of a Kelley relative. We arrived at different parts of this theory and synthesized the information together. I’m just the one recording it. Thanks, Cathy and Kate!

Read Part 3. Also, sources are on my Sources page.

A Lead!: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Part 1

Last October, I visited Urbana, Ohio, to look into my 2nd great-grandparents, John Kelley and Eliza Hurd Kelley. More specifically, I went to figure out who John’s parents were because I was pretty sure they weren’t the couple most Ancestry researchers said they were. You can read about my trip and my ultimate conclusions starting with this post.

I’m getting ready for another research trip to the town John Kelley and his family settled in when they left the Urbana area in 1856 or so. I’m heading to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, which is in the southeastern corner of the state.

I’ve already figured out the people I need to research while I’m there. In addition to the Kelley family, Eliza Hurd Kelley’s father William and his family followed them there by 1859. But the biggest reason I’m going there is to try to find out more about this person:

What does a woman named Mary Stewart have to do with the Kelley and Hurd families?

Oooo. This is the fun puzzle-y part!

Mary Stewart and her husband James were living in the Urbana, Ohio, area in 1850 in the same township where I believe John was living. And she appears in Jackson Township, Henry County, Iowa, in the 1856 Iowa census, five households away from John Kelley. So they probably moved together.

You can’t see it in the picture above, but Mary here is part of a pattern in the census pages. Four households ahead of her is my 35-year-old great-grandfather John Kelley. Two households ahead is William Hurd, John’s father-in-law. And two households after Mary is William Hurd’s oldest son. The every-other house pattern seems to indicate that the census taker was crossing the street zigzag-style as he worked, instead of recording one side and then the other, which means John, William, Mary, and John Hurd were next-door neighbors.

Don’t you think there’s something about Mary living BETWEEN the two Hurd households that hints at a closer relationship than just neighbors?

You probably see where I’m heading here, but just because Mary moved from Ohio with my family doesn’t mean she’s also family. Right? Just looking at this census page, how could a widowed woman with the last name Stewart and a son three years OLDER than my John Kelley be his mother?

Read Part 2. Sources are on my Sources page.