Category Archives: The O’Kelly Home

Thought to be Monroe’s oldest home, a good bit has been written about the O’Kelly home and it’s inhabitants. Some of the information is true, but it is represented here without corrections or additions preserving it’s legacy only as it has appeared in printed publications.

1894 London and Liverpool and Globe Insurance Company Policy

1894 The London and Liverpool and Globe insurance policy taken out to insure the O’Kelly Home by William Abram O’Kelly Sr.        

$2,000 on the one story frame building with shingle roof, while occupied as a DWELLING, situated near the S.W. corner of 6th and Washington streets in Monroe, Louisiana. 

Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company Policy 1894

Insurance Policy Cover Page

Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company Logo 1894

Illustration Close-Up

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Circa 1920 Uncle Tom & Papa

Uncle Tom & Papa

Thomas Swan O’Kelly and his brother William Abram O’Kelly Sr.
Taken circa 1920 in front of the O’Kelly Home.

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Filed under Ouachita Parish, Monroe, Louisiana, Photographs, The O'Kelly Home, Thomas Swan O'Kelly, William Abram O'Kelly Sr.

1882 O’Kelly’s Corner Consumed by Fire

It is commonly accepted and has been repeatedly published that Henry O’Kelly purchased the D’Anemours home in 1840 and that the O’Kelly family took up residency shortly thereafter. Henry O’Kelly did not purchase the land until 1871 and the family’s first dwelling after moving to Monroe was above the store they operated on the corner of Sixth & Desiard streets. The following newspaper article confirms that it was not until after the the fire of 1882 had consumed the family store that Henry was prompted to repair the building in the rear of his property, now known as the O’Kelly Home.

Ouachita Telegraph February 18, 1882, Page 3 Column 2

The Fire at “Five Polnts. After the great fire in 1871 which destroyed more than sixty buildings in Monroe and caused the loss of six hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of property in the aggregate, a fire district, including the principal business streets of Monroe, was established. Wooden buildings were hurriedly erected near the depot, and this part of the city was christened, and has since been known as “Five Points,”quite as much from the fact that, unlike the notorious Five Points of NewYork, six points (counted by the street crossings) meet there, as by the fact that the location, like its namesake, had no very enviable reputation for its morals.

Visitors to this part of town Sunday morning found not many of the buildings erected after the great fire left standing, and were curious to know the reason. The question met with is the answer that about half an hour after midnight of Saturday, fire was discovered. In the back-room of the store, corner of DeSiard and Hart streets, occupied by Wm. Hamilton, a colored Baptist minister, as a grocery and provision store. The alarm was promptly given, but an unruly horse delayed the arrival of the fire engine several minutes. Meanwhile, the flames had reached Dobson’s livery the stable and were threatening Hamilton’s residence in the rear of his store which to was eventually saved by hard work rendered by spectators. The fire engine went to the cistern at Mr. Kuhn’s residence, and threw thence a stream of water on the brick saloon occupied by Mr. Heekin, and saved that building, as that, also, known as the Overton house, by a timely flow of water.

Dobson’s stable was nearly emptied before It was covered by the flames, but the building, a two-story house, was burned, and the fire communicating to the building adjacent went along out the street to O’Kelly’s corner, consuming O’Kelly’s store and a large part of the contents. The flames did not cross the street; but large coals were flying continually toward the north, the wind lying in the south. The shingle roofs of several houses were on fire at various times, and from this cause two cabins across the street belonging to H. G. Dobson, where burned, and other houses would have been burned, but for the fact that men with buckets of water were on the roofs. There was a large number of people attracted to the spot by the burning, and the confusion, as is usual at fires, was conspicuous. Those whose buildings were threatened, as well as those whose buildings were burning, were apparently in doubt what to do, and most of them were impatient of advice or assistance. The colored men, perhaps, and those who effected the most in were those who had not nothing at stake.

We append an estimate of the loss, damages and insurance so far as-we have been able to obtain this information: Wm. Hamilton, stock and damage to household furniture $7000, insurance $4000; H. G. Dobson, loss and damages $2250, insurance $1000; F. P. Stubbs, building $750; Estate E. Gross, building $750; Lehman, Abraham & Co., building $1200, insurance $800; W. H. H. Mullin, building $1500, insurance $1000; A. Campbell, damages in $250; John Tenne, stock $1000, insurance $500; H. O’Kelly, stock (part saved) and building $6000, insurance $3600; C. J. Herring, damages by removal $400.

AFTER THE FIRE. Col. O’Kelly will occupy the building owned by him in rear of his store, and is having it repaired for that purpose. Messrs. William and Thomas O’Kelly are superintending the change. Our young friends had several relics of value to them which they will miss.

Mr. Dobson has leased the stable adjoining the city calaboose.

William Hamilton has opened in the warehouse in rear of Campbell’s late saloon, and Mr. Campbell has re-opened in the two-story building known as Saunders’s Hall.

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April 7th 1891 Inventory of the O’Kelly Home

When Henry O’Kelly passed away in 1891, he left the O’Kelly Home and most of its contents to his nephew William Abram O’Kelly Sr. William compiled this list shortly after Henry’s death for the purpose of obtaining Insurance. Many of the pieces remain intact and are treasured by William’s descendants to this day. I grew-up surrounded by a myriad of them and am now the proud owner of the hallway hat rack, several pieces of the monogrammed silverware and the too- large-to-fit in any kitchen drawer soupspoon.

1891 partial inventory of the O'Kelly Home

List of Furniture Pictures Etc Etc of W A O’Kelly

Room No.1 Value
1 Victoria Walnut Set 11 pieces 200.00
1 Child’s Bed 20.00
1 Drop Leaf Table 15.00
1 Center Table 5.00
1 Ratan Rocker 6.00
1 Hanging Lamp 5.00
1 French Clock 35.00
2 Pictures 27.50
3 Mattresses 15.00 335.50
Hall
1 Hat Rack 25.00
1 Sewing Machine 35.00
1 Hanging Lamp 7.50
1 Baby Carriage 10.00 77.50
Room No. 2
1 Parlor Set 150.00
1 Mahogany Table 25.00
1 What Not 15.00
2 Window Shades 10.00
1 Set Cornices 20.00 220.00
Room No. 3
2 Walnut Bed Sets 12 pieces 150.00
1 Lounge and Etc 15.00
1 Walnut Table 5.00
4 Mattresses 20.00
1 Clock 4.00 194.00
Room No. 4
1 Cherry Set 9 pieces 125.00
1 Mattress 5.00
1 Feather Bed 6.00
2 Window Shades 3.50 139.50
Room No. 5
1 Bed Set 6 pieces 75.00
1 Crib Bedding 7.50
1 Truck 6.50
2 Window Shades 3.50 92.50
Room No. 6
2 Sofas 12.00
1 Exterior Table 15.00
1 4 Light Chandelier 20.00
1 Marble top Side Board 29.00
1 Lounge Sofa 20.00
6 Chairs 9.00
Glass Ware 5.00
Crockery Ware & Etc 10.00
1 Doz Silver Spoons 23.50
2 Silver Plated forks and spoons 30.00
1 Soup Ladle 5.00
4 Pictures 10.00 179.50
Bath Room
1 Large Plunge Bath 6.50
1 Walnut Armoire 10.00 16.50
Kitchen
1 Cook Stove 20.00
2 Tables 7.50
Tin Wares & Etc 5.00 32.50
Total Value 1287.50

April 7th 1891 Insurance wanted on the above for $600.00

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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.”

Descendants

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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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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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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