My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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HON. OLIVER SMITH KELLY. The advantages of a Republican Government are nowhere more finely illustrated than in the career of those who, dwelling under its protection, have been enabled to rise from an humble position in life to one of prominence and affluence, solely by their own efforts; and the career of such a one should furnish to all those who are struggling up through many difficulties the strongest incentive to diligence and perseverance. A position thus gained is of far more value than all the honors and emoluments which can be thrust upon a man without any effort of his own to obtain them, for he possesses the foundation stone of a character that is not likely to be undermined by the vicissitudes of fortune which will sweep from a sandy foundation the whole structure of a life, leaving nothing whereon to rebuild.

The subject of this notice, who is well known as the President of the Springfield Engine and Thresher Company, and Vice-President of the Second National Bank of Springfield, is a native of Clark County, and was born on his father’s farm four miles south of the city, December 23, 1824. Of substantial Scotch and Irish ancestry commingled, he inherited from his forefathers their sterling worth, honest integrity, and the industry which has enabled him to make for himself a worthy and honorable position among his fellow-men. His immediate progenitors were John and Margaret (McBeth) Kelly. John Kelly served as a soldier in the War of 1812, and died in the prime of life, when his son Oliver S. was but an infant of ten months. The paternal grandfather of our subject was a native of Ireland, but came to America while quite young, and settled in Pennsylvania, and upon the outbreak of the Revolutionary War shouldered his musket and did valiant service in the cause of the Colonists.

Mrs. Margaret Kelly remained a widow about five years, and was then married a second time. Oliver S. lived with his mother and stepfather until past his fourteenth year, and then, on account of cruel treatment by the latter, was forced to leave the place which he had called home, and thus driven out without money or friends, he was compelled to seek the means of a livelihood. In due time he found employment with a Mr. McIntyre, who lived on a farm a few miles distant, and with whom he remained probably three and a half years. He finally decided to learn carpentering, and accordingly engaged, April 13, 1842, with Joseph and John McIntyre, brothers of his former employer, and served an apprenticeship of three years, the first two years at the munificent salary of $4 per month and board, and the third year at $6 per month, giving thus the labor of three years for $168, out of which he clothed himself.

At the expiration of this time, starting out as a journeyman, Mr. Kelly entered the employ of James Leffel, the inventor of the wonderful Turbine Water Wheel, his wages being $1 per day, and he boarding himself and furnishing his own tools. Later he engaged with Daniel Wessenger at $16 per month and board, and with him he remained nine months. In the meantime such was his economy that with the exception of $8, he saved all his earnings, and in the spring of 1846, having the necessary money, with a thorough knowledge of his trade, he was taken into partnership with J. A. Anderson, who carried on a general carpenter and building business, and with him he continued for six years.

The next most important and interesting event in the life of Mr. Kelly was his marriage, which occurred December 23, 1847, the bride being Miss Ruth Ann. daughter of Baker W. Peck. Mr. Peck was another soldier of the War of 1812, who settled in Springfield in 1817, and was a brick mason. To Mr. and Mrs. Kelly there was born in due time a family of five children, four sons and one daughter. Of these there are now only two sons living: Edwin S., who was born April 17, 1857, in Springfield; and Oliver W., born December 11, 1851, in the same place. These sons are now able and enterprising business men, and with their father comprise the O. S. Kelly Company, owning a controlling interest in the stock, and also manufacturing engines, threshers, horse powers, feed mills, stackers, etc.

During the California gold excitement Mr. Kelly decided to seek his fortunes on the Pacific Slope, and accordingly leaving his young wife and infant son in Springfield, started, March 29, 1852, for the new Eldorado. He spent his first three months at mining, and then, there being a demand for skilled carpenters, he repaired to the city of Marysville, and for nine months thereafter was in the employ of Daniel Sifford, with whom he finally went into partnership, and a few months later purchased the entire business. He remained in California nearly four years, employing himself as above stated until January 21, 1856. On the 21st of February, following, after a month’s journey, he was re-united with his family at his old home in Springfield, and shortly afterward embarked in the wholesale grocery trade.

The above-mentioned enterprise proved distasteful to Mr. Kelly, and as soon as the opportunity offered he sold out. In the fall of 1857 he became a member of the firm of Whitely, Fassler & Kelly, and with them engaged in the manufacture of the Champion Reaper and Mower. That first year they turned out one hundred and twenty-one machines, and the business increased so rapidly that in 1868 the product of their manufacture aggregated twenty-seven hundred machines. The business had now become so extended that it was thought best to divide the United States into three territories, which necessitated the formation of three companies, namely: Warder, Mitchell & Co.; the Champion Machine Company; and Whitely, Fassler & Kelly, the first two mentioned paying to the latter a royalty from that date. The Champion Reapers and Mowers grew in favor and universal demand, until in 1881 the combined firms had turned out machines to the number of no less than fifty-three thousand. On the 12th of November, that year, Mr. Kelly sold his third interest in the business to Mr. Whitely, receiving as part pay the factory, buildings and grounds, these being necessarily abandoned for more extensive works, farther from the center of the city. Mr. Kelly then tore down and removed the old factory buildings, and upon the site erected, at a cost of $300,000, the famous Arcade. This is one of the most noticeable features of the city of Springfield, comprising the railroad depot, the celebrated Arcade Hotel, innumerable offices, studios and stores, the post-office and the beautiful Arcade proper. All these buildings are models of architecture, utility, convenience and comfort, and illustrate in a marked manner the enterprise and perseverance of one man whose progressive mind is always reaching out for something great to conquer.

In October, 1882, Mr. Kelly purchased the Rineheart, Ballard & Co.’s threshing machine works at Springfield, and formed a stock company, under the title of the Springfield Engine and Threshing Company, of which he was unanimously elected President. It soon became necessary to double the size and capacity of the building, and to the industries prosecuted therein was added the manufacture of portable and traction engines of various kinds. Within three years the business increased about 100 per cent. Through New York agents they began shipping to all parts of the world, and the value of their machines was indicated by the constantly increasing sales and a corresponding demand.

In the meantime, although having such extensive business interests, Mr. Kelly kept in view the material welfare of his adopted city, and became prominent in local affairs. He served as a member of the City Council for a period of six years, and during the construction of the new waterworks was a member of the Board of Trustees. Originally a Whig, he identified himself with the Republican party later, and is an ardent advocate of protection for American industries. In his career has been largely illustrated the intelligence of the brain as well as the labor of the hand, and he generously acknowledges that during his years of struggle and toil he found a true and noble helpmate in his honored wife, whose wise management of her household, and whose industry and frugality, as well as her cheerful counsel and sympathy, proved of inestimable value to him, and he maintains that without this aid he would scarcely have arrived at the point of his present prosperity.

Personally, Mr. Kelly is of modest and unassuming demeanor, and while surrounded by all the appliances of wealth and culture, becomes the personal friend of his employes, neither cringing to the wealthy or looking down on the poor. He is regarded as one of the fathers of his adopted city, and has contributed largely to her wealth and prosperity. He enjoys the confidence and esteem of hosts of friends, and is one whose name will be held in honored remembrance long after he has departed hence.

Mr. Kelly among his other beneficences erected, in 1889, a large fountain, in the centre of what is now called Fountain Square, at a cost of $6,000, donating it to the city of Springfield. It is a beautiful structure, adorned with numerous pieces of statuary, and proves one of the attractions of the city. Mr. Kelly served as Mayor one term, filling the position acceptably and with the good judgment which has characterized all his transactions whether of a public or private nature. Elsewhere in this volume appears a lithographic portrait* of the Hon. Mr. Kelly.

*A portrait was included in the original printed volume.

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This family biography is one of the many biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890. 

View additional Greene County, Ohio family biographies here: Greene County, Ohio Biographies

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