Category Archives: Henry O’Kelly

Born about 1813 Antrim, Ireland
Died about 1891 Monroe, Louisiana

Son of unknown O’Kelly and Mary McAuley.

Henry came to Claiborne County, Mississippi with his brother William where the men went into business together as planters, cotton brokers, traders and merchants. He served briefly in the Confederacy but spent most of the war years bootlegging rum.

When William died in 1871, Henry relocated to Monroe, Louisiana with his brothers children and loved them as his own. He was the original O’Kelly owner of the O’Kelly family home and a respected citizen and well-liked merchant of DeSiard street who was notoriously stubborn in all things- particularly business. He became a dedicated member of St. Matthews Catholic Church and donated liberally to Catholic charities dedicated to the parish’s poor and relief organizations for those suffering in Ireland. Passionately involved in politics, he boomed a commanding Irish brogue emphasizing his Democratic beliefs in the reconstruction-era South. From 1876 to May of 1878, he served as a conservative councilman under Monroe’s first official mayor, Frederick Endom. Around this time, folks started calling him Colonel, a nickname name that he earned as a leader of a local white supremacist group known as the Third Ward White Club.

Henry was a lifelong bachelor with a love of fried chicken and riverboat gambling who grew so fat from his decadent ways that as he aged, he relied upon a cane with a heavy brass knob and a personal servant to assist him. His tall tales have been passed down generations with the warning that nothing he said was to be believed. Henry of questionable morals, prone to drink and bouts of rage, remains the most interesting character in the O’Kelly family oral tradition.

At the age of 75, Henry passed peacefully in sleep and his body was laid to rest in St. Matthew’s cemetery. Henry’s spirit remained with the O’Kelly home in search of the treasures he had buried and lost during the Civil War. His grand nieces Jennie and Mary heard him stomping around the grounds late at night looking for his gold. The sisters were certain it was Henry because he had a heavy gait followed by the clunk of a cane that could not be mistaken for any other.

1889 You need not fear that you are forgotten.

Monroe, Louisiana to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana January 5, 1889

William Abram O’Kelly to his wife Georgiana Van Emburgh O’Kelly

We have not received a letter from you since the one of the 2nd. I hope and pray that you are still improving. I hope you have received your package in good time and in good order. Ma did not now which pin to send you. I thought you wanted the jet one as it might be risky to send the gold one, but if you want that one I can send it. I sent the money to yesterday.

Darling we all want to see you very much, you need not fear that you are forgotten. We think of you a great deal, it is an old saying, “out of sight out of mind,” but it is not the case us who love you so much and we count the days when we can go down and bring you home well again.

If two or three days pass by without getting a letter from you Uncle wants me to go right down there to see what is the matter, but I tell him not to be uneasy, for sometimes I see by the date of your letters that they are several days old. I did not write to you this morning because I thought they did not deliver letters on Sunday.

Tom writes very cheerful in his letter but he did say, his wife has been sick . He said that was a fine turkey. We have not sent Jennie to school we thought we would wait until you came home. She is very anxious to go she says that she is tired of staying at home that she has had rest enough. I think I wrote to you the weights of all the children.

The Parkers[1] have moved to the house where the Lake’s used to own that is Col. Hall’s  [2] old house on this street near Boatner’s [3].

The children seem to be enjoying good health except the baby, he has a bad cold in the head and was quite restless last night but was better today. We had to get our old cow up again, as it was almost impossible to get milk that was fit for the baby to drink. He is the worst of all the children he fights like a little wild cat.

Mrs. Surghnor [3] has returned with Cora [4].

I hope you have takes advantage of any good weather you have had to go about a little. I would like you to see something of the city you would find a great deal interest you. You must get all the strength you can so that you will be able to go about with us to see the sights when we come down, for I will want to take you everywhere that there is anything to be seen.

All send love to you,

Your affectionate husband

W. A. O’Kelly

[1 ]Daniel Peyton Parker and his wife Francis Elizabeth ‘Fannie’ Beasely who was Georgiana’s cousin.

[2] F. A.  Hall b. abt. 1819 New York. Address – 141 North Sixth Street, Monroe, Louisiana.

[3] Charles Jahleal Boatner b. 1849 d. 1903 and his wife Fannie Rowena Mayo b. 1851 d. 1923.

[4] Martha Francis “Mattie”  Joiner, born Feb 13, 1833 d. March 29, 1920 Monroe, Louisiana. Wife of Lloyd Walter Surghnor. Author of Uncle Tom of the old South: A story of the South in Reconstruction Days, published 1897

[4] Corrine Surghnor b. 1870 d. 1905, daughter of Lloyd Walter Surghnor and Martha Francis “Mattie”  Joiner. Wife of Conrad Fountlerloy.

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Filed under Georgiana Dull Van Emburgh O'Kelly, Henry O'Kelly, Jane Calderwood O'Kelly, Letters to Hotel Dieu, Malinda Teresa Dull Van Emburgh, Ouachita Parish, Monroe, Louisiana, Thomas Swan O'Kelly, William Abram O'Kelly Jr., William Abram O'Kelly Sr.

1889 A little steamboat burned at Trenton on Sunday

Monroe, Louisiana January 2, 1889 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana

William Abram O’Kelly to his wife Georgiana Van Emburgh O’Kelly

My Darling,

I did not write to you yesterday. I let Miller go to Bastrop on Monday and it has been raining ever since. A little steamboat burned at Trenton on Sunday but no one was hurt. She had just landed. *

Sonny has been helping me to clerk since Miller went off he eats his meals here.

We have had a great deal to pay this week but I will do my best to get the money there for you in time if the Sister says anything tell Tom to give you $25 and you can pay that much and keep it out when the money comes but I do not think she will be worried. I am sorry I could not send it to day. I will send it to Tom.

I was elected the delegate to the convention of the Catholic Knights of America to meet on the second Thursday in February which will be the 14th day of the month.

The children seem to be getting on tolerable well. They all moved Saturday to Uncle’s room. Boots got tired and went back early but I found the other two coiled up in Uncle’s bed fast asleep when I went home about 11 o’clock. I threatened to whip them for it but have not done so yet. I believe I will let them off this time. They have great times cooking on the little stove, last Sunday they cooked me several dinners.

The Datton’s have moved out of the old Hilton home and some one else moved in there Monday. I do not know who they are.

All send love

Your affectionate husband

W.A. O’Kelly

* The steamboat Sallie burned at the water’s edge opposite Trenton the Sunday morning of December 30th. She had on board at the time of the 250 bales of cotton, nearly all of which was destroyed.

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1888 We are all doing tolerable well.

photo-4

Monroe, Louisiana to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana December 31, 1888

William Abram O’Kelly to his wife Georgiana Van Emburgh O’Kelly

My Darling,

Your letter of the 29th to hand. You did not say anything about your feet whether they had stopped swelling or not.

I hope you enjoyed that bottle of fine wine. We are all doing tolerable well. I went hunting yesterday evening but did not kill anything. I hope you have received the box by this time. Miller is going to Bastrop to day to spend New Year he will be back the day after tomorrow. A happy New Year to you Darling. Ma  writes to you by to days mail.

Your affectionate husband

W. A. O’Kelly

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1888 I know you could not help from feeling sad on Christmas day

William Abram O’Kelly to his wife Georgiana Van Emburgh O’Kelly

Monroe, Louisiana December 28th 1888 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana

My Darling

Your letter of Christmas day was received last night. I am sorry to hear that you are troubled with the swelling of your feet. You have been still so long that when you go about it causes them to swell after you walk about a while. I think that will all go away.

Those were nice cards of yours we put them away for you. We got the box yesterday. Jennie [Jane Calderwood O’Kelly] was delighted with her stool and she and Boots [Mary Catherine O’Kelly] thought the shawls were too nice for anything. Uncle [Henry O’Kelly] said he was much obliged for the tie it was just what he wanted, he could not have suited himself better. I saw Father [Ludovic] Enaut yesterday he wanted to know how you were getting on and I told him. He wanted me to tell you about our Christmas doings but I told him I had already written you about it.

You say in your last letter that you are sad now darling I do not want you to be sad or to feel lonely, but I want you to feel cheerful and happy. I write to you nearly every day so that you can hear from home and know how well thing is getting along with us. I know you could not help from feeling sad on Christmas day though because you were away from those who love you so much who are so dear to you, but darling you must think light of it and when you come home well wont we make much of you to make up for lost time. We will show our darling that she is our greatest treasure and by our love and affection we will make up for all the time that you have been from us precious and you will look back on that time with pleasure more than with regret.

We have loved each other well darling since we were married, we have not known the quarreling and bickering of many married couples. That is one reason you are sad at times. I have always tried to be kind and loving to you darling and if I have failed at times it was not of the heart but a mere caprice in our seven years of married life. I do not think I have made you cry but once and I have always regretted that time darling I will try to better and well I wont say love you more for that would be impossible for you to know that I do love you with my whole heart and soul above every thing on this earth and a woman knows when she is loved. I can not kiss you now but your letters have been touched by your hand my love and I can kiss them.

Now I do not want you to be sad or low spirited again but be happy and light hearted and think of what a happy time we will all have when you come home there we will put the big pot in the little one and have a feast to make up for the one we lost at Christmas and in our joy or sorrow we will not forget to thank God for all that he has done for us. Every day since Father Enaut bound us together I have prayed to God that we might live long and happily together seven years is a long time but it has seemed so short to me my darling wife that unless I count back it does not seem so long.

God bless you darling and make you well is one morning and evening prayer. We want to hear from you as often as possible for your letters give us a great deal of pleasure.

Your affectionate husband

W.A. O’Kelly

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1888 Have you heard of the burning of the John Hanna

Advertisement for the the Hohn H. Hanna Ouachita Telegraph February 12, 1887

Advertisement for the the John H. Hanna
Ouachita Telegraph February 12, 1887

William Abram O’Kelly to his wife Georgiana Van Emburgh O’Kelly

Monroe, Louisiana December 27th 1888 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana

My Darling My Love

Your letter of Sunday received last night. We were all glad to hear from you and that you had been out for a ride. The package has not come yet but look for it to day. We sent you a little box yesterday by express and paid all the charges. Aunt Bet [Elizabeth Dull] and Fannie [Francis Beasley Parker] sent some fruit cake almond cake and white cake and some sausage. They were in one end of the box. We sent the things in the other end.

I wrote you yesterday, but there was no mail agent and I gave the letter to a man to mail in Vicksburg and he may never think of it again. We had a very good day of it Christmas and a splendid dinner. As we sat down to dine Uncle [Henry O’Kelly] remarked now if Georgie was here how happy we would all be and that was the thought of us all.

We had a grand midnight mass and the little church [St. Matthew’s] was pretty well crowded a good many went to communion. I went to and you know darling that you were the one I thought of and prayed to the Infant Jesus to have mercy on and that you might soon be restored to your family for his greater glory. There was nothing to mar the ceremony and I think Father [Ludovic] Enaut was very well pleased with every thing. The children were delighted with their little presents and in the evening we took a long walk. I hope you will take as much out door exercise as possible.

Uncle wants to know if you are gaining any flesh and how you are looking. He is terrible impatient if the mail fails and we do not get your letters in time.

I think the baby [William Abram O’Kelly Jr.] is going to cut another tooth. Charley Bell [Charles R. Bell] returned Saturday and is going to work on the [rail] road again. When you get well enough to go about you might go down to see Father Conway. I think he is at St. Joseph’s convent on St. Philip Street. The Sisters may be able to tell you.

We have had splendid weather with the exception of a very hard rain on Christmas night about 8 o’clock. This morning is cold and bright.

I weighed Sonny [James George O’Kelly] this morning he weighed 40 pounds don’t you think that is doing well. Jennie [Jane Calderwood O’Kelly] is a terrible eater and looks as round as a ball. Boots [Mary Catherine O’Kelly] is doing well she cut her finger at breakfast this morning and then began to cry because the box with the shawls had not come. The baby is as saucy as he can be. Ma [Malinda Dull Van Emburgh] is enjoying our good health and Uncle [Henry O’Kelly] is about as well as usual.

I suppose you have heard of the burning of the John Hanna and the loss of Capt [James S.] Holmes and the clerk [Samuel Powell]. I thank God we made the trip safe. I was very watchful on the way down but the boat was not loaded very heavy at that time like she was when she burned.

Now darling I want you to take good care of your self take all the exercise possible and we will all pray God to help us. Darling I do not want you to have anymore of those crying spells. I want you to save all your strength. I think of you a great deal my love, of all the happy times we have had . Seven years is a long time but it seems so short when I look back over our married life. How happy we have been how God has blessed us how thankful we ought to be. Darling I would like to see you for a little while to kiss those pretty eyes. But it will not be long my precious praise God before we see each other again. What is a month or two, why some people have been years apart.

Now darling take good care of yourself. You are not forgotten by your little family for we pray for you morning and night. A  happy New Year for you is the wish of your loving and affectionate husband

William A. O’ Kelly

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1888 Uncle thinks we ought to get a letter from you every night

William Abram O’Kelly to his wife Georgiana Van Emburgh O’Kelly

Monroe, La December 21, 1888 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, La

My Darling

I did not write to you yesterday because Ma [Malinda Dull Van Emburgh] wrote. I thought one letter would be as much as you would care to read. Did you remember that yesterday was the baby’s [William Abram O’Kelly Jr.] birthday. Uncle [Henry O’Kelly] gave him a quarter for a present. I think that was all the little fellow got. We are having a little taste of winter, yesterday morning the thermometer was down to 25 and everything was froze up tight and last night was not much better. I went hunting yesterday and killed four ducks. The baby is getting to be a terrible little fellow. Do you remember how Bootsy [Mary Catherine O’Kelly] used to rare back. Well the little fellow does the same only a good deal worse and he fights and kicks and screams like any thing. I had him for a while yesterday. I gave him back to Aunt Mary and he fought and kicked so I had to take him again. I tell you what he makes every body stand around. The other children seem to be in good health and all are lively. Bootsy had one of her crying spells yesterday but today, she is all right. I hope you have tried that gas* by this time and that it has benefited you. The Morrison’s** and Parkers*** are all well. I got a letter from Tom [Thomas Swan O’Kelly] last night saying he had got the turkey. Ma bought a turkey Thursday that she is going to kill for Sunday. She says the children want it. Sonny [James George O’Kelly] set the mouse traps and caught three mice. We were to have a big circus here last Saturday but the charges were too high and they would not show. I was glad of it. Uncle thinks we ought to get a letter from you every night and is very impatient till the mail comes in. We all want to hear from you often but do not worry yourself too much about writing. I hope you are able by this time to go about in town a little. There does not seem to be any news at least I have not heard any. Uncle, Ma and all the children join me in sending love and good wishes to you.

Your affectionate husband

William A O’Kelly

*artificial pneumothorax treatments.

** Malinda’s nephew George W. Morrison, his wife Florence Bell and their three oldest children James, Mary and John.

*** Malinda’s niece Francis ‘Fannie’ Beasley Parker, her husband Daniel Peyton Parker and their four oldest children Florence, Floyd, Dorothy and Orelle.

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1863 Excerpts from a Civil War Diary

The following excerpts mentioning Henry O’Kelly were taken from the Civil War Diary (1862-1865) of Bishop William Henry Elder, Bishop of Natchez from 1857-1880.

 1863 May 12th. A colored boy, Merriman Howard brought me a message from Mr. Jno. Taylor Moore. After the battle of Port Gibson on last Friday, Genl. Bowen retreated. The Yankees occupied the town & all the country. Our Church silver was secreted successfully. They hunted Mr. Moore, to hang him- as he was charged with burning the suspension bridge at Port Gibson – He had escaped after five days concealment; & was now out at his Sister-in-law’s, Mrs. Robert Moore, 18 miles from town. – I resolved to go out to see him. – Mr. Grant kindly agreed to go with me. – We started about 12M. our two horses in his buggy. – Reached Mrs. Moore’s about 4 PM & learned that Mr. M. was at Mr. Wade Harrison’s. Were very kindly received- & had a long talk with Mr. Moore & old Mr. Black about their adventures & their escape. – MR. HENRY O’KELLY came in from Port Gibson. He said there were many of our wounded dying there – & he had no doubt there were Catholics among them. – I proposed to Mr. Grant to go up & he consented. Wrote a telegram to Fr. Grignon & a letter to the Archbp. of N. Orleans.

1863 May 16th Saturday. Saw Mrs. Hinds & all the family. Started about 9 AM. Called at Mr. Wade Harrison’s. Saw Mr. Moore & Mr. Black again, MR. HENRY O’KELLY, Mr. & Mrs. Harrison & Miss January who lives with them.

1864 April 21st. Reached Mr. Wade Harrison’s at 8 1/2 PM. Found MR. HENRY O’KELLY there.

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