Category Archives: Thomas Swan O’Kelly

Born: November 10, 1845 Port Gibson, Mississippi
Died: April 5, 1933 New Orleans, Louisiana

Son of William O’Kelly and Mary Hester Swan. Husband of Delia Dwyer.

Ten days after the start of the Civil War, William sent his sixteen year old son Thomas to the Jesuit College, Spring Hill, at Mobile Alabama where he studied compounding medicines. A father’s attempt to keep his son out of the war failed and on August 7th, 1864, Tom ran away from the school to join Tobin’s battery, later serving later in the Confederate Cavalry.

When the war was over, Thomas joined his uncle Henry O’Kelly in New Orleans where he worked for E.J. Hart & Co, which was the largest wholesale grocer & druggist in the city. When his siblings and uncle Henry relocated to Monroe, Louisiana, Thomas remained in New Orleans until 1875 when he joined them for a time and worked at the family grocery store. This part of his story was not passed down, but his obituary states that during this time, “He was a leader in Reconstruction affairs, having been an organizer of the original Ku Klux Klan in North Louisiana and Arkansas”. Newspaper accounts associate him with the Third ward White Club, one of Monroe’s white supremacist organizations that his uncle, brother and most white males of the third ward also belonged to.

Thomas preferred the city to the country and in 1887 he moved permanently to New Orleans where he secured a job as manager and foreman of I.L. Lyons & Co., which he maintained for nearly fifty years. On September 7, 1892 Tom married Delia Dwyer, the orphaned daughter of Irish immigrants who was more than twenty years his junior. Their home was located at 1801 Louisiana Avenue and his brother’s children from Monroe had fond memories of spending time at their O’Kelly relative’s home in the city. It is during these trips that their Uncle Tom would fill the children’s heads with the tall tales that he was famous for telling. More than 100 years later, his brother’s decedents will quickly accuse you of pulling an “Uncle Tom” if you are also inclined to the telling of fantastic stories with a cheeky disregard to fact or fiction. Tom was also an original member of the Krewe of Rex and because of this association, his nephew and nieces enjoyed the society gatherings and grand balls that the organization held while visiting the city.

Delia and Thomas had four girls and a boy of their own. One of the girls was named Alice for whom my Grandmother was named. Thomas and Delia would outlive two of their daughters and it is said that he was left much depressed by their deaths as young women. Of his son, Willis Depew O’Kelly, Thomas wrote that, “He has too much temper to hold any job long. He flies off the handle too quick,” as if to imply that all O’Kelly men were not guilty of hot tempers.

Thomas was in poor health and senile when he passed away at home at the old age of 87 on April 15, 1933. The religious service was held at St. Francis De Sales church. Delia died almost four months later of diabetes complicated by heart disease. They are buried together in Metairie Cemetery.

1889 that is the kind of news I like to hear about you

Monroe, Louisiana January 21st, 1889 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana

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

My Darling

I have just this minute received a dispatch from Tom saying Ma and Bootsy got there all right. I got a letter from Tom last night. He said that you had spent the day at his house and had eaten a good hearty dinner that is the kind of news I like to hear about you. I hope Ma will enjoy her trip.

This is the coldest morning we have had this winter but it is bright and clear.

The baby is getting along tolerable well. His cold is a little better than it was the night before. I hope the weather will be good while Ma is there so that you all can go about every day.

Sonny started to tear up last night. He came to me with his eyes sticking out  Pop aint you sorry Gran and Bootsy aint here. boo hoo. I laughed at him and soon got him in a good humor. I did not have a chance to go to church yesterday. Aunt Martha* did not come till too late. Tell Ma I got the keys allright.

The children are all doing tolerable well.

Our new cook does tolerable well but she gets breakfast might late.

All of us send love to you all.

Your affectionate husband W.A.O’Kelly

*Martha Dull Morrison Harrison, sister of Malinda Dull and Georgiana’s aunt.

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Filed under Georgiana Dull Van Emburgh O'Kelly, James George O'Kelly, Letters to Hotel Dieu, Malinda Teresa Dull Van Emburgh, Mary Catherine O'Kelly, Thomas Swan O'Kelly, William Abram O'Kelly Jr., William Abram O'Kelly Sr.

1889 It will be hard matter to get any good sausage

Monroe, Louisiana January 7, 1889 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana

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

My Darling WIfe,

Your letter of the 3rd was not received until last night. We were impatient to hear from you and were very glad to get your letter. You say that I won’t acknowledge, but I have done so and when I don’t directly I write about something that you have said. It will be hard matter to get any good sausage, but we will try. We always have good butter and will try and send you some of both. There is to be a big circus and show here next Friday and Saturday and the children are very impatient for the time to come and I have promised to take all of them to see it.

We are having beautiful weather up here plenty of frost and ice in the mornings but clear and sun shining.

You do not say whether you are picking up any flesh or not tell us all about yourself. What you do and what you think for the least thing concerning you interests us more than you imagine. I thought I had told you that I would try to bring Jennie and Sonny with me. Ma has already had Jennie a nice dress made but finds a good deal of trouble in getting her a hat. I will get the boy a new suit. They talk a great deal about what they are going to do when they get to the city [New Orleans].

I got up about 5 o’clock yesterday morning and went hunting but did not kill anything. Yesterday Sonny and I went out in the fields and killed nothing. I let him shoot the gun twice and he thought he was a great hunter. At the first fire of the gun our dog ran off and left us he is what you call gun shy that is the reason Phillips gave him away.

The baby has another tooth coming through and he is very jealous about it. He will not let any one look in his mouth.

I heard the other day that the Cook’s were going to move from Minden to Bastrop. I got a letter from Tom yesterday he said your bundle was considerably torn up. I hope nothing was lost out of it.

We all send you all the love imaginable and kisses with out number. We hope to hear of your steady improvement.

Your affectionate husband

William A. O’Kelly

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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 I wish I could see Mamma

Monroe, La December 29, 1888 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans

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

Darling,

We received another letter from you last night and were glad to hear that you had been so long with out a back set. Yesterday was a beautiful cold day but this morning it woke up sleeting afterwards turned to rain and now it is threatening and cold. Ma took the children up town shopping Thursday evening yesterday Jennie went back and bought her a doll. Sonny seems to be the only one of the children to miss you. A day does not go by without his saying something about you or he will come up and lay his head in my lap and say I wish I could see Mamma don’t you Pop. All send love to you. I hope Tom is not going to be sick.

Your affectionate husband

William O’Kelly

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1888 I am almost certain to be the delegate to the convention

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

Monroe, Louisiana December 24, 1888 to Hotel Dieu, New Orleans, Louisiana

My Dear wife,

I got your letter of the 21st yesterday and were glad to hear of your steady improvement. We hope that you will prove of great benefit. I want to hear of your having been on Canal Street. I know you would enjoy a short trip to that noted street. I did not think you would go to Tom’s [Thomas Swan O’Kelly] for Christmas it is just as well. I am almost certain to be the delegate to the convention*, but the election does not come off till the 1st Tuesday in January. Yesterday was a beautiful day and we all went to church. If you get tired staying there and want to come home get Tom to bring you up for I think that is the only way to get him up here. Sonny [James George O’Kelly] was delighted with his picture. He sends his love to Mrs. Palmer**. He remembered her. I wish you were here darling so that I could wish you a Merry Christmas but as it is I will wish you all that is implied by the words. You know how much I love you darling. I thought too of the seven short years that we were married. God bless you darling and make you well is my prayer all day long and when I wake at night. If a man’s constant prayer is worth anything my darling wife then that prayer is for you. Keep a good cheerful face darling and we will pray God with the assistance of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph that all will yet be made right and that you will return to us in good health. God bless you. All join me in wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and you will not be forgotten either for something substantial we will send a small package by express.

Your loving husband

W. A. O’Kelly

* Convention of the Catholic Knights of America held in New Orleans February, 1889.

** “Mrs. Palmer” was also a patient of Hotel Dieu.

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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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