Monthly Archives: November 2012

1908 I beg thee to obtain for me the grace to live a holy life and die a happy death.

St. Mary’s Convent 310 Edwards St. Shreveport, Louisiana February 29, 1908 to Monroe, Louisiana

Sister St. Ignatius to Jane Calderwood O’Kelly


My dear Jennie,

I feel really sorry for you to have so muck sickness; I can truly sympathize with as I have had a large share of that cross September. But I have been more fortunate than you. I had only to nurse others and worry my mind about them. I have been enjoying the best of health. Sister Mary Edward went to St. Vincent’s two weeks ago. Perhaps the pure air of the country will benefit her; but I fear her teaching days are over.

It is time for you or Bootsie to come help me. I enclose a little picture with the prayer of the Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier scribbled on the back of it. Thousands of Catholics all over the world will make that Novena from March 4th to March 12th. Won’t you and Bootsie  join in that Novena and have an [?] for me?

Is Abe at home? He can say that beautiful prayer too. It will do him a great deal of good. I have not failed to make that Novena for years – and always find great consolation in repeating, “I beg thee to obtain for me the grace to live a holy life and die a happy death.” This is the only necessary thing, is it not?

What is Abe doing? I hope he is always the same good boy I knew some years ago.

Give the enclosed badge to your dear Grandma with my love. Remember me affectionately to Bootsie and Abe. With best regards to “Papa” and bushels of love to your dear self.

I am Yours ever devotedly

Sister St. Ignatius Daughters of the Cross


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Filed under Jane Calderwood O'Kelly, Malinda Teresa Dull Van Emburgh, Mary Catherine O'Kelly, William Abram O'Kelly Jr., William Abram O'Kelly Sr.

1855 Yes indeed I do want to see the colony that greatest of places

New Orleans, October 29th 1855 to Ouachita Colony, Louisiana

Martha Dull Morrison to her sister Malinda Dull Van Emburgh

My Dear Sister,

It was with great joy that I received your kind letter the other day for it had been a long time since I had heard and them had heard sad news, but now you are getting well and how much that news from your own heart has relived me. I thank you my sister that your sufferings are relieved and hope you will soon be restored to perfect health. We are well with the exception of a cold which we all have and which makes me feel quite bad this morning my head aches and my chest feels very much filled up, but I hope that will not last long.

We have had some very cold weather lately, unusually cold for the season. The city is now quite healthy as far as I can learn and we are all very glad that the dreadful season is over, but the early spring brings the cholera epidemic which is very bad but does not last so long as the yellow fever.

I was the other night honored with a serenade. It was very pretty indeed. The performance was on the violin, that sweetest of instruments. The serenade was a young gentleman unknown. I have never seen but he lives sufficiently near for me to have him playing and I one day told one of my friends, Mrs. Harriet Knight that I always listened to him with so much pleasure. She happened to be acquainted with an acquaintance of his so what I have said was told him and he rewarded my praise with a serenade. He does play charmingly.

And Resiah has named her daughter Martha. Did she name her for me? Tell her to let me know whether she did or not and in the meantime I will flatter myself thatI have a namesake. Give Risy my love. Tell her to give the children a dozen kisses for cousin Martha. Don’t let Pheba [Malinda Pheobe Howard] forget us and make little Jimmy know me right well. He has pretty little his [?].

There are plenty of diseases that are catching that I might, but I don’t think there is much danger up here. I don’t go out much or see many people.

Next Thursday is is all souls day. On that day the people all go to the graveyards and decorate the tombs of their friends with flowers and ribbons and artifacts. Caroline is going to take me to all the cemeteries it must be a beautiful sight to see all people paying those marks of affectionate remembrance to their departed friends and relatives.

George is perched up on my lap asking me what I am writing and telling me to write about Jenny but I can hardly anything while he is here for he will not sit still. He says that I must put toys in my letter to send to Jenny and a pretty purse which he thinks are the prettiest things in existence. He is finding fault with my letter, he says Jenny will say that it is not written right and will throw it away. He says that is not the way he writes to his gramma. Was delighted to see it. He asked how you sent it to me it is that that makes him think that I can send toys in my letter. He thinks of one thing can come in a letter another can.

Tell Ma that I hope something very like my coming home will happen before this time next year. It is in that hope that I derive all my comfort. Yes indeed I do want to see the colony [Ouachita] that greatest of places and I hope too see it again, please God.

Give my love to [your husband] Jacob [Demarest Van Emburgh], [our brother-in-law] Mr. Howard [John M. Howard] and all my friends and most especially to our dear mother to our brother [James Dull Jr.] and sisters. May God bless and protect you is the prayer of your affectionate sister,


Tell [our sister] Kate [Catherine Dull] that I am getting impatient for that letter

Editor’s Notes: When this letter was written, Martha was married to her first husband with the last name Morrison.

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Filed under Jacob Demarest Van Emburgh, James George Van Emburgh, Julia Pernet Dull, Malinda Teresa Dull Van Emburgh

1887 Henry O’Kelly & Co. Stationary

Monroe, Louisiana October 17th 1887

Received of Henry O’Kelly & Co. the sum of two thousand five hundred and fifty dollars in full payment of contract for building two one story brick stores Corner of Sixth and Desiard Streets in this city. $2550.00

Signed H.C Voss [Hermouth C. Voss, contractor and builder b.1849 Germany d. 1902 Monroe, La.]

Witness J.F. Wetzell [Jacob Frederick Wetzel, carpenter and furniture dealer b.1850 Wurttemberg, Germany d.1941 Monroe, La.]

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Filed under Henry O'Kelly, Letterheads, Ouachita Parish, Monroe, Louisiana

1971 Newspaper Item: Monroe Landmark Moving to a New Location

Monroe News-Star Friday June 18, 1971

Monroe Landmark Moving to a New Location

By Ed Lewis

Staff writer

For around 175 years the O’Kelly house has rested quietly under the large shade trees of North Sixth Street. Now Monroe’s oldest home is on the move.

Once the homesite of Colonel Henry O’Kelly’s tabacco and cotton plantation, the dwelling in recent years had become surrounded by buildings and a new super higway complex.

Several months ago Mr. and Mrs. Travis Oliver III of Houston purchased the old home from the O’Kelly family. The ancient relic is now being moved – piece by piece- to an 80 acre tract on Horseshoe Lake Road.

It’s a long haul for any house, especially one that’s pushing the two century mark. The move covers about six miles and could only be accomplished by splitting the plantation home into three sections.

Transporting the building has proved quite a lengthy task which has already encompassed several weeks. After initial stripping and bracing, the bare structure was split into sections. Each part was then separately transported to the Horseshoe Lake Road site – a tedious step filled with many little hang-ups. Since the different segments composed rather large pieces of city traffic, work crews often had to uproot (then replace) assorted road signs just to allow passage along the six mile stretch.

Original Appearance

Once the dwelling is eventually reassembled on Oliver’s newly acquired land, the Houston architect plans to “restore the early house as close to it’s original appearance as possible.”

Travis and wife, Sally, hope to move into the rejuvenated  structure around Christmas. “I really enjoy this particular type of architecture and think it will be a lot of fun to restore,” the Monroe native admitted.

Oliver’s aunt, Mrs. H.W. McSherry, resides in the Upper Pargoud Plantation here. The Houston architect explained that he has always admired her place and had hoped someday to acquire an early Monroe home.

Before recent moving operations, the O’Kelly house was a one and a half story frame structure wityh wide galleries and square white columns across the front. It was constructed of hand hewn cypress lumber in typical “Louisiana plantation” style.

“Most of the original cypress is still in surprisingly good shape,” Oliver related. The old plank floors, which were installed in the 1790’s, will be retained in the remodeled facility. However, some lumber must be replaced, including several front porch pieces.

Hand Carved

The new home will also contain five hand carved cypress mantles, the original cypress doors and an intricate ceiling medallion, all of which were recently removed in preparation for the six mile trip.

Oliver said that even some of the original glass window panes would be reinstalled. In addition, all railings, columns, bricked piers and steps will be restored to their former places. Of course, the structure will most surely receive a fresh coat of the traditional white paint.

When movers were disassemblying the O’Kelly home, they ran into a unique frontier building technique. Many of the old boards were held together by wooden pegs and even the most recently conducted portion of the dwelling was built with “square nails.”

One thing that the Olivers will just have to leave on North Sixth Street is the home’s early cistern system. It’s composed of two water wells, one for drinking water and the other for fires. Movers at the scene stated that one of the wells was around 30 feet deep.

Besides restoring the house, the Olivers will try to duplicate the original English Gardens that once surrounded the old place. This will take quite a while, Oliver explained, for the O’Kelly dwelling was encircled by old oaks, magnolia, grandiflore, Oriental magnolias, mimosas, and vari-coloredcrepe-myrtless. The gardens also contained roses, some rare camelias and many other flowering plants.

The house dates back to the 18th century French colonial era in Louisiana. Chevalier D’Anemours, the first judge of Ouachita territory and a friend of Thomas Jefferson, was the original owner and builder of the oldest portion of the home. The Frenchman even named the street by his home ( where the Illinois Central track runs today) for the president.

C.C. Roberts described the early old structure in his 1807 book entitled, Voyages into the Interior of Louisiana.” He stated it was “Une Habitation assez jolie” (a very pretty house). The author admitted the gardens were lovely, but thought it absurd to “waste such an effort in the wilderness.”


The property was later sold by the Filhiol estates and was acquired from them by Colonel O’Kelly about 1840. It stayed in the hands of the latter’s descendants until the recent Oliver acquisition.

Originally, the dwelling was constructed on cypress logs, high above the ground with space for livestock and storage underneath. It was later lowered to brick pillars.

After purchasing the house, Col. O’Kelly made a number of changes and additions in the style of the mid-Victorian era.

This year’s surgery marked the first major change since the O’Kelly alternation project.

In the early days, the kitchen, dining room and slave quarters were separate from the main house. A breezeway connected the kitchen with the main structure. Opening into the breezeway was a witch’s door with a Christian cross to protect the inhabitants from sorcery.

When the dwelling was first constructed, early settlers had to maintain a close watch for hostile Indians. Occupants of the old house accomplished the task by looking through a tiny “lookout” window in the dining room wall.

Of course the ancient structure has its traditional legends. One pertains to a lively ghost and another concerns buried treasure.

Oliver says he will attempt to refurnish the home in it’s original French and English flavor. The O’Kelly’s, owners of the house for over 100 years, assembled a rare collection of china, silver and art objects during their century of residence. The items include bohemian glass bottles, Biscuit figurines, elegant hurricane lamps, Paul Revere silver pieces and a Napoleon clock with a timepiece surmounted with a figure of the Little Corporal on his charger. The c[l]ock and silver service spent some time in the cistern to escape Yankee detection during the Civil War.

This family also possesses an old painting which bears a long gash received from a Yankee bayonet.

Oliver says it will take almost a lifetime to really restore the place like he wants it. Although “authenticity” will be stressed in reconstruction, the Olivers admitted that certain modern conveniences will defnitely be added – namely, central heat and air conditioning.

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Filed under Henry O'Kelly, The O'Kelly Home

November 1871 Death and Obituary of William O`Kelly

Following the loss of the Confederacy, William was left bankrupt and forced to take a job as a store- clerk in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Working for another man was a great trial for hot-tempered William and took a grave toll on his nerves. While in the store, a forgotten outrage occurred causing William to stomp his foot straight through the floor and tightened his heart so that he suffered an attack that would end his life a few hours later. My Mother and I always thought of Rumpelstiltskin, driving his foot so far into the ground that he created a chasm and fell into it, never to be seen again.

The Port Gibson Enterprise of the 29th of November 1871

Sudden Death of an Old Citizen It is with regret that we recall, and many will read that Mr. William O`Kelly so long and well known in this community departed this life. He suffered an attack while apparently in his usual health, on last Wednesday evening about one o`clock, he called for someone to call for him quick and about three hours later passed quietly away. Mr. O`Kelly was one of Port Gibson`s oldest citizens and at one time was the owner of a great deal of property and was one of the most popular merchant – planters of this place before the Civil War. He has in his later years been the victim of many financial disasters which resulted in his fortunes being completely broken. He had not recovered from the recent disaster at Grand Gulf where the Mississippi River wiped out  his  remaining fortune which left him much depressed at times. He leaves two sons Thomas Swan, William Abram, one daughter Jennie and a brother Henry to mourn his death.

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Filed under Claiborne County, Mississippi, Henry O'Kelly, Jane O'Kelly Calderwood, Thomas Swan O'Kelly, William Abram O'Kelly Sr., William O'Kelly

1953 Newspaper Item: O’Kelly Home Dates to Earlier Century

January 6, 1953

O’Kelly Home Dates to Earlier Century

by Mrs. Charles M. Mitchell

The O’Kelly house, listed in the Louisiana State guide is one of the points of interest to see in Monroe, is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles M. Mitchell and Miss Mary O’Kelly. It is at 123 North Sixth Street.

The home, said to be the oldest one standing in Monroe at this time, was erected at different intervals; the oldest part in the 1790’s and the newest part some 90 years ago.  After it had been acquired by Col. Henry O’Kelly, from Belfast, Ireland, who came to this country in 1830 and became a merchant and planter in Mississippi and Louisiana and purchased the Damemours house located on the De la Baume grant.

The building is a one and half story frame structure with wide galleries and square white columns across the front. It is built of hand hewn cypress lumber,mortised together, no nails being used in it’s construction. Massive cypress doors and green shutters adorn the house which is typical Louisiana plantation it’s design and was once the home site of a large plantation but time and progress have now reduced the grounds to only one city block front.

The house is surrounded by fine old oaks and other trees, among which is one of the largest specimens of native southern holly in this area, and an immense old catalpa tree, said to be the largest in circumference in the state. Other trees such as magnolia grandiflora, oriental magnolias, mimosas and various colored crepe myrtles are pleasing sights when in bloom. The gardens that surround the house contain many rare camellias, roses and flowering plants.

As they grow older, old houses gather legends and stories of the people who have lived in them. Since the Civil War and reconstruction periods in Louisiana, many stories have come into existence. The most notable being a lively ghost story about the house and one of the buried treasures of the grounds.

Five large fireplaces adorn the interior, recalling days when immense stacks of cordwood where stored in the yard to furnish wood to keep the house warm in the winter.

The library is the favorite room with students of Louisiana history, It houses a collection of Americana . Many of the books are especially relative to Louisiana and in original editions. Among them are “Histoire de la Louisane” and the Voyages to the interior of Louisiana by C.C. Robin published in Paris 1807. The last named is of interest to students of the early history of Monroe, then known as the Post of Ouachita. Robin called himself a merchant and a peddler but today we would cal a merchant. He financed his his travels by peddling trinkets and wares to the local inhabitants and the Indians. When he returned to France he published his travels and ridiculed the people residing in the wilderness of Ouachita, making light of their manners, customs, morals, and politics. But despite all this we are grateful to him for his description of the Chevallier Danemours, ancient consul general of France to the U.S. from Baltimore who settled at Ouachita and was said to have been the original owner and builder of the oldest portion of the O ‘Kelly house, which in French he described as a “very pretty house.” Robin expressed surprise at being able to stroll through the lovely formal English gardens of the Chevallier but though it absurd that one should waste such effort in the wilderness when ground could have been put to better use in corn, cotton, pumpkins, and beans for profit.

The house still contains much of its “Ante Bellum” furnishings of hand carved rosewood, walnut, and mahogany furniture. Handsome gold leaf cornices over the windows match the frames of the mirrors. Many art objects are scattered about the house . The Napoleon clock on the mantle in the dining room, under a glass dome , is surmounted by the figire of the “Little Corporal” commemorative of “Crossing the Alps.” This clock was buried along with silverware, and other valuables to save from the Yankees in the Civil War.The only damage  resulted in a tiny crack of the glass dome.

Also treasured by the O’Kelly family are two religious medallions, hand carved on ivory and framed in burnished copper; brought by their Grandfather from the old country more than a century ago.

Old silver, old china, and glassware and other antiques add their charm to this old house making it a treasure-trove for those interested in old houses and their heirloom furnishings.

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Filed under Henry O'Kelly, Jane Calderwood O'Kelly, Mary Catherine O'Kelly, The O'Kelly Home

O’Kelly Home 1947

The O’kelly home and grounds had begun to decline as the O’Kelly sisters became little old ladies. They were the last residents on this spot where the home once stood at 123 N. Sixth Street in Monroe, Louisiana.

The O’Kelly home was purchased by Henry O’Kelly in about the year 1871 and the family continued to live in the home four generations until it was sold and moved in 1971. In the O’Kelly’s century of residence little was changed inside or out and my Grandmother described it variously as a museum, a time capsule and library for students interested in the study of Louisiana history. She claimed that she lost herself for entire days browsing amongst the bookshelves and curiosities that filled the home. Each item was a treasure, had it’s own story and although I have never stepped foot in our family home, I know it’s tales well. The O’Kelly Family Collection came from this home, stored by descendants in trunks, hat and shoe boxes, kept in garages, attics, and closets. There were fires and floods and what was once a vast collection that filled an entire house has dwindled to a bookshelf of our history. My Grandmother inspired me to collect, preserve and share our history. It is to her loving memory that The O’Kelly Family Collection is dedicated.

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