Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 215] John Kelleyis a representative citizen of Ellwood City, who is rounding out the closing years of his career as an efficient public officer, and making a good record for himself as justice of the peace by the legal acumen and calm sobriety displayed in his decisions, and also by the general satisfaction that he accords. He is a native of the western part of the Empire State, although his parents were of Irish birth and parentage. His grandfather, Samuel Kelley, lived in County Down, Ireland, and came to this country in 1823, taking up a two hundred acre tract in Mercer Co., Pa. He was aided by his sons, some of whom were grown up and old enough to help clear away the forest, and to bring under cultivation the farm, which was located on the old "Scrub Grass" Road, twelve miles from Mercer. His wife, Jane (Austin) Kelley, became the mother of four sons and four daughters—Samuel, John, William A., David, Nancy, Agnes, Isabelle, and Matilda. Samuel Kelley lived to enjoy the ninetieth anniversary of his birth, while his good wife lacked but three years of completing a century.

Mr. Kelley's father, William, married Agnes Adams in the Old Country, just before their departure for the West; he helped his father on the homestead, and then began contracting in canal work on the Pittsburg & Blairsville Canal, also on the extension of the Johnstown Canal, and at length made his home in Johnstown, where he finished a contract on the Juniata Canal, and was the proprietor of an hotel for a while. In 1833, he settled in Mercer County, between Mercer and Sharon, invested in a property of 250 acres, cleared a great part of the land, and built a house, since well known in that vicinity as the "Red Tavern"; later on when the original structures on the land became unsuitable for occupancy or use, he sold a portion of the farm, and with the proceeds went to work and put up a nice house, and barns to match. In 1846, he removed to Platteville, Wis., where he lived on a farm until the '49 gold fever began to excite adventurous minds; in 1850 he joined the train of eager seekers for the yellow metal, and remained in the mining country until 1860, speculating and mining, at which date he returned to Wisconsin and lived with his wife, until she was removed from his side in 1879, at the age of seventy-three. He then sought his old Pennsylvania home, and lived with his son until his own decease at the age of fourscore years. William A. and Agnes (Adams) Kelley were the parents of these children: John J. the subject of this history; Mary J.; William A., Jr.; Samuel, deceased; James; David; Joseph and a daughter, both deceased, the latter passing away when twenty years of age.

The subject of this writing learned the trade of a millwright, and worked for a number of years in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, building many mills for the manufacture of lumber and the grinding of grain throughout all that splendid, broad territory. In 1847, he espoused Alvira L. Leach, daughter of Hon. Morris Leach, a prominent citizen of Mercer County, who had represented his district in the State Legislature for two terms. The new home was made in Centerville, Butler County, and from there Mr. Kelley marched away in 1862 to join the army at the front, after his enlistment in Co. F, 134th Reg. Pa. Vol. Inf. He was commissioned first lieutenant, was soon after appointed adjutant of the 134th Regiment, and served four months in all, when an injury, caused by his being thrown from a bridge, intervened that secured his discharge for disabilities. He has since been lame, a state of affairs that dates back to his army experience. In 1879, Mr. Kelley located at Creston, Iowa, where he built a mill, and operated it for a year and a half, when he converted his property into money, and came back to Pennsylvania, where he became the owner of the Mehard mill at Wurtemberg, this county. He retained his interest in that property and continued milling in Wurtemberg for nine years, and in 1891 came to Ellwood City, where he has since resided, and where he has taken a lively and abiding interest in local affairs. He built his home on the corner of Seventh Street and Park Avenue, and again worked at his occupation of millwright until he retired from arduous labors to enjoy the peace and contentment of home life, untroubled by thought of the morrow. But it was not his lot long to remain in retirement, for his fellow-citizens and neighbors, cognizant of his sterling worth, elevated him to the position of first justice of the peace of Ellwood City, but this office he did not accept at the time. In June, 1894, he was appointed to fill a vacancy, and served until 1895, when he was re-elected for the term expiring in 1900. Besides his work as an officer of the law, he attends to the making of collections promptly and courteously, transacts a general pension business, giving especial attention to this line of work, which he is well qualified to do. He has an office in the Cunningham building, where he is always pleased to meet his friends and clients. He is a Democrat, politically, and as an active, enterprising citizen, takes a deep interest in everything tending for the public good. He is sincere in his convictions, forms his opinions with deliberation, and adheres to them with manly courage and fidelity. In his social life he is a member of Centerville Lodge, I. O. O. F., of which he was a charter member in 1852 and also past grand. In religious matters he is attached to the Presbyterian Church. His portrait we have placed on a preceding page.

Mr. and Mrs. Kelley are the parents of a large family, and the members are for the most part scattered from home in various directions, each flourishing and reflecting honor on his early training. Morris L. is a druggist at McKeesport, Pa.; William N. is a merchant in Philadelphia; Nancy Maria became the wife of F. S. Dennison of Parkersburg, W. Va.; Eva Cornelia wedded J. H. Walker, a merchant of Erie, Pa.; Leah L. married A. T. Snyder of Ottawa, Kansas; Delos Morton engaged in silver mining in Colorado; Benjamin F. is a clerk in Ellwood City; Hattie B. is the wife of Dr. C. E. Jackson of New Brighton, Pa.; and a daughter, Ella, who died at the age of twenty years.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

Previous Biography | Table of Contents | Next Biography
Explanation/Caution | Lawrence Co. Maps | Lawrence Co. Histories
Updated: 12 May 2001