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The Kelly Family




17 December 1890

Sketch of Samuel Kelly

This article appears in the newspaper-clipping collection of George T. O'Neall.  It was purportedly read at Samuel Kelly's 92nd birthday, which occured on 17 December 1890, and appeared -- certainly soon after -- in a Warren County newspaper.  We suspect it was written by George T. O'Neall himself.  It is particularly interesting, as it describes not only the subject, Samuel Kelly, but his ancestors who came from Ireland to America, and all the Kellys in between. It also clearly tells of the important links between the families Kelly and O'Neall.  -- John O'Neall

The progenitors of the American branch of the Kelly family were John and Samuel Kelly, natives of Ireland, born in Kings county, of good family and handsome possessions.  The brothers were young men of energy and force of character, and the unhappy condition in which Ireland was, near the middle of the past century, seemed to preclude the hope of a prosperous or happy residence in the home-land, so their eyes naturally turned toward this country as affording an open field for all who sought political or religious freedom.

About the year 1750 they and their only sister, Abigail, emigrated from Ireland and made a home in South Carolina.

They located on the Wateree river, near what is at present the city of Camden, and about 1755 the elder brother John married Mary Evans, daughter of Robert Evans. The Evans family were of English descent, and the daughter Mary was said to have been a woman of brilliant mind and superior attainments.

Samuel married Hannah Belton, a native of Queens Co., Ireland. They were the parents of three children. The youngest daughter, Anna, married Hugh O'Neall, and became the mother of Judge John Belton O'Neall, of South Carolina. The daughter, Abigail, married ------ Millhouse. 

In 1762, the Kelly family removed from the neighborhood of Camden and settled on Bush River, in what was known as Ninetysix, but has since become the District of Newberry.  Here the family found a permanent home, and assisted in forming a nucleus around which the large and very prosperous settlement known as Bush River Friends’ Meeting, gathered.

John made his home on the south side of Bush River, near the junction of Beaver Dam with the Sa1uda. Samuel settled on the north of the river, and near what is now Newberry.  The old place has continued to be the residence of the descendants of Samuel, up to the death of Judge O'Neall in 1863, and has always been called Springfield.

It is with the family and descendants of John and Mary (Evans) Kelly that we are particularly interested today.  A contemporaneous writer of the day says that during the first years of the Revolution, the back districts of South Carolina scarcely knew that a war was in actual progress, but that during the latter years of the contest -- from 1780 to 1784 -- the neighborhood of peaceful Quakers on Bush River was continually harassed by the foraging parties of both Whig and Tory forces.  Stock was seized, crops destroyed, and private property became the prey of contending factions.

Charleston was at that time in possession of the English forces, and the market and base of supplies were both in the hands of the enemy.  One commodity from the want of which people suffered much, was salt.  Mr. Kelly's family attempted to secure a meager supply of this by digging up the earthen floor of their smoke-house, where formerly they had salted their meat, and, leaching it like leaching ashes, and then boiling down and evaporating the water, they secured a few pounds of the precious article. The daughter, Anna, was so pleased to again be able to season her dishes properly, that she prepared some young fowls and nicely seasoned them with the precious condiment, and asked some favored friends to take dinner with them; but just as the meal was served, a company of notorious Tory partizan rangers rode up, and not only ate the dinner, but confiscated the precious salt also.  

In January of 1781, as Gen. Tarleton's army was marching to attack Morgan at the Cow-Pens, and while Colonel Ferguson's regiment was encamped on Bush River, Samuel Kelly and his sister Anna were one day on their way to meeting, beset by a band of marauding Tories, who determined to carry Samuel before Col. Ferguson in hopes of extricating information from him which might be of value to the British officers.

In vain the sister begged and pleaded for the release of her brother: his Captors were inexorable, "Then," said Anna, "if you take my brother you will take me also."  When the officer found the sister was determined to accompany them, and, considering the awkward situation of taking a young lady prisoner before his superior officer, he discharged them both, and a few days later,   when the officers of His Majesty's 71st Regiment assaulted Abijah O'Neall and lacerated his head with their swords until his scalp hung in tatters over his skull, it was Anna Kelly who, in her angel-hood, took him. to her father's house, and nursed him back to life.

Judge O'Neall, in his Annals of Newberry, describes John Kelly, Sr., as “tall and erect in form, florid complexion, clear blue eye, ample forehead and grey hair." He and his wife were parents  of nine children:  Isaac, who died at the age of 16 years; Anna, who married Abijah O'Neall; Samuel, who married Hannah Pearson ; John, who died in childhood; Timothy died in early manhood; second John marred Morris Gaunt; Robert married Sarah Patey; and Moses, who married Mary Tague. They were. the parents of the Hon. Robert Kelly, of Bloomingdale, Indiana.

In those days it was not contrary to the discipline of the Friends' Church to own slaves, and of these human chattels Mr. Kelly was a large holder.

Amongst his slaves was one young man of unusual promise, and Mr. Kelly told him that if he would be true and faithful, he would cause him to be manumitted at his death. The slave was so much pleased with the idea of gaining his freedom, that he mingled poison with the waters of a favorite spring at which he knew his master was fond of drinking, thereby causing the death of his indulgent owner.

Under the laws of primogeniture, the estate descended to the eldest son Isaac, and his death following very soon after, the inheritance passed to the younger brother Samuel.

Samuel Kelly and his sister Anna (Mrs. O'Neall) were both conscientiously opposed to the institution of slavery, and determined to rid themselves and their families of its stain.

In 1798. Samuel and his brother-in-law, Abijah O'Neall, purchased of Dr. Jacob Roberts Brown, the option on his military claim of 3,000 acres of land, said to be located on the Little Miami River, near the town of Waynesville, in the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River. In September of that year, 1798, Messrs. Kelly and O'Neall set out from home to locate their contemplated purchase. They traveled on horseback, each riding a horse and leading one or more pack-animals on which were carried camp equipage, provision for them-selves and food for their horses.  There are but few  incidents of this journey of 900 miles through the wilderness left on record, and only two of  which we at present recall:  While in camp at Waynesville, they had one of their horses stolen, and as a dissolute French-man who had been hanging around the settlement for several days, disappeared at the same time, the natural conclusion was that the two went off together; but time was of more value to the brothers-in-law than horseflesh, so the thief was allowed to escape with his ill-gotten gains.

And one night, when they had made their campfire in the wilderness, after eating their frugal supper they carefully returned the surplus to their saddle-bags, and hobbling their horses to keep  them from straying, they replenished their camp-fire, and lay down to sleep.  At a late hour in the night, one of them was startled by something pulling at the saddlebag on which his head was pillowed, and as he sprang hastily to his feet, in surprise he saw s large gray wolf disappear in the darkness. It was not the presence of the wolf, but the boldness of the act, that caused the surprise.

During their hasty visit they were unable to locate all the land named in the warrant, but were so pleased with what they did find, that they determined to return home and at once make preparations to complete the purchase and take possession. Mr. O'Neall was able to close up his business in South Carolina, and remove his family the next year, 1799. Mr. Kelly required more time, and it was not until November of 1800 that he was able to carry out his cherished plans.

Both brothers being members of the Bush River Friends' Meeting, they asked for certificates of membership, which the meeting refused to give, saying that it was the act of insane men to take their families into the wilderness.  The reply was that they merely went to prepare the way for the rest of the Meeting!

Judge O'Neall says:  "The exodus begun by Abijah O'Neall in 1799 and Samuel Kelly in 1800 was followed so rapidly that Bush River Meeting melted away like frost on a May morning, and at the lapse of the next six years the meeting which he had frequently seen attended by five hundred Friends, had practically passed out of existence, and in a few years more its doors were closed forever."

In mid October of 1800, Samuel Kelly with his family started to the North West. He was accompanied by several of his neighbors, and their wagons and equipage made quite a train. The route pursued was across East Tennessee via Cumberland Gap, across central Kentucky, crossing the Ohio river at Cincinnati. The wagon in which the wife and children, together with some of the most valuable household goods, were, went in the lead of the train, and was driven by Wilk Furnas, a grand-uncle (I think) of our esteemed neighbor and friend, Davis Furnas. Mr. Kelly always went on horseback, selecting the road, picking out the best crossings of the streams, and locating the camping places.

Some reminiscences of the journey have been left by one who was old enough to recollect vividly its incidents -- Mrs. Mary Whitacre -- and she describes one of their most difficult day's travel, the passage of Clinch Mountain:

"The train started at daylight; and by putting two and even three teams to a single wagon, they were pulled up the mountain-side, where it seemed almost impossible for a led horse to climb, and when the top was reached, the wagons were let down the opposite side by tying stout cables to them, and then taking a turn around a convenient sapling or tree, and holding taut or allowing the rope to slip, as the case might require. Where the descent was not so precipitous, trees were cut down and tied on behind, to act as a drag -- happi1y, an antiquated style of rub-lock."

Mrs. W. was at that time 11 years old, and her brother Samuel was only 2 years of age; yet she rode most of the way on horseback and carried her baby brother on her lap. The family arrived at Waynesville on the last day of November, after forty days of continuous travel.

Mr. Kelly's family spent their first winter at the home of their relative, Mr. O'Neall, and early in the following spring they moved into a house which had in the meantime been built on this farm, and only a short distance from where we are now assembled. Here Mr. Kelly made his home, and made it a typical home; a home which was a synonym for love, peace, kindness, benevolence, hospitality and every christian virtue.

Here was the hearthstone around which the Friends' Church of Waynesville gathered before it had a definite organization or a home of its own.  Here met for silent worship, or earnest exhortation, such families as the Steddom, Furnas, Hollingsworth, O'Neall, Mills, Cleaver, Spray, Evans, Brown and Pugh.  Here he and his wife lived long, and went down to the grave honored and loved by all who knew them. His excellent wife was called away July 26, 1839, aged 74 years, and he on February 4th, 1851, aged 91 years.

Many of us remember Samuel Kelly, senior, well. The description given of his father, John Kelly might almost, without change, be used in describing him. In the prime of life he stood six feet high, a stature which his great age but little decreased. Broad shouldered, and with a well-proportioned form, he had the same clear Irish skin, the same open, frank eye, the same straight nose, a broad, full forehead, and a head of silvery white hair. He retained his faculties unimpaired, with the exception of his hearing, up to the close of his life. His active habits he a1ways retained. He was much given to exercise on horseback, and he and his favorite saddle-horse, Charlie, were alike known by everyone.

To Samuel Kelly and his wife were born eight children:  Mary, who married Andrew Whitacre; Isaac, who died unmarried; John married Mary O'Neall; Timothy married Avis Sleeper; Samuel -----------; Moses died in infancy; and Moses who first married Abigail Satterthwaite, and secondly Ann, daughter of Edward and Rachel Hatton, and Anna, who died in maidenhood.

We are now ca11ed upon to speak of our venerable kinsman and friend, whose 92d birthday we have assembled here to commemorate. In him we see an exemplification of the language of the Psalmist:

'"The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children."

In him we see the fruits of the good life of that christian man, John Kelly; and in him ,we see reflected the christian benevolence, the kindness and love of that noble old man, Samuel Kelly, Sr. In him we see an illustration of christian virtue, sobriety, faith, and temperance in all things.

Samuel Kelly, son of Samuel and Hannah Pearson Kelly, was born in Newberry District, S.C. Dec. 17th, 1798. In November of 1800 he was brought by his parents to Waynesville, and in 1801 he was given a home on the farm he now occupies, and on which he has spent 73 years of his long life.

On January 8th, 1829, he was united in marriage with Achsah, daughter of Isaac and Margaret (Carter) Stubbs. To them four children were born, three of whom now survive. Mrs. Kelly deceased October 23d, 1840.  On May 3d, 1843, he was married to Ruth Ann Gause. They were the parents of two children, both of whom died in infancy, and were followed by the death of their mother, September 13th, l863. On April 30th, 1868, Mr. Kelly was married to Sarah Pine, who departed this life April 27th, 1877.

When Samuel Kelly was first married he located on a farm three miles south of Morrow. Here he remained until 1850, when he returned to the old home place, the home of his childhood, the place around which so many fond recollections cluster, and which was so full of associations of parents, sisters and brothers.

This love of home, this continuity, is perhaps a family characteristic, and of it one of his cousins writes:  At Springfield now lives the grandson of Samuel Kelly who settled there in 1762. The old house, though removed, still stands on the ground in good repair, and the family of the grandson still use the noble fountain of water from which Samuel Kelly drank more than a century and a quarter ago; and the very oaks and elms feel to me like friends, and their leaves, as they are moved by the breeze, whisper of the loved ones who are gone before."

Our relative has seen many changes in the land of his adoption. When he first came to Waynesville, Abijah O'Neall lived on the hill east of Corwin, and the McKinsey farm was occupied by Abraham Studebaker, and a family whose name was Miller lived on the river near what in time past was known as Dutch Ford. Then, north, east and south was all a wilderness. William Smalley lived near Clarksville, and Wm. Mounts near Morrow. There was not a located
road, nor a bridge. There was not a church-building nor a school-house in what is now Warren County.

Now we drive from one side of the county to the other, over nine hundred miles of free turnpike road, and never wet the tires of our buggies; and from where the Kelly cabin stood, we see the church-spires of half a dozen different villages pointing to heaven, and our ears are saluted by the sound of a score of different school-bells.

Let us honour the old man whom we have with us today. He it was who helped make this change. Peace has its heroes as well as war.  While one devastates and destroys, the other creates and builds up. How much more fitting, then, that we should entwine the laurel around the brow of one who assists in making a nation, than that of him who pulls one down.

He whom we honor today is a hero of peace. His generation is a grand one. But few remain. He is the last link which binds us to those of the past century. A ruder blast than usual may soon shake the withered bough to which clings the sere and yellow leaf. Old age with its infirmities presses on him, yet his day is not dark, for he has carried love and cheerfulness with him, even to the threshold of his second century.

--  14 March 2004, John O'Neall

You can also consult the descendants of Timothy Kelly, as well as an index and a bibliography (list of sources).

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