The Kelley (Kelly) family

Sangamon County centennial marker dedication, 1921

Sangamon County centennial marker dedication, 1921

The Kelleys – Elisha, John, Henry and their relatives – are usually considered the first Europeans to live in the boundaries of what is now Springfield. (An 1817 settler, Levi Ellis, may actually deserve that designation, but the Kelley family’s cabins clearly were the nucleus of early Springfield. The last name sometimes is spelled Kelly.)

Elisha Kelley (1787-1871) was the first of the family to settle in Sangamon County, probably in the spring of 1818. His cabin on the banks of Spring Creek has been placed near what is now Fourth and Miller streets in Springfield by researcher Dick Hart.

Elisha’s father, Henry, and brothers William, John and Elijah arrived a few years later. Sisters Eleanor (Reavis) and Sally (Greenwalt) also came briefly to the county, but they owned three slaves each (given them by Henry) and could not keep them if they stayed in Illinois more than 30 days. The sisters and their families quickly moved on to Missouri.

John Kelley (1783-c.1823), who arrived in Sangamon County in the spring of 1819, built a cabin near what is now Second and Jefferson streets that was used as the first Sangamon County courthouse. (The  Springfield Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution erected a marker on the corner in 1921, but it since has been moved a few blocks west to the entrance of the Willard Ice Revenue Building.)

“Within a short time,” Hart reports, “six other families joined what became known as the ‘Kelley Settlement’ and within a year, nine cabins stood along Spring Creek.”bridge

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

This entry was posted in African Americans, Early residents, Historic Sites, Prominent figures, Sangamon County, Springfield and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Kelley (Kelly) family

  1. Jeanne Kelley Neumann says:

    I am a decendent of the Kelley family. In 1974. The DAR gave my daughter a
    Scholarship, based on our being a decendent of Henry Kelley . My grandfather
    Was the son of. James Kelley a civil war soldier. Jeanne Kelley Neumann

  2. Michael McMann says:

    John Kelley was my fifth great grandfather. Ella Kelley was my great-great grandmother and married Charles McMann.

    • Joyce Stanley says:

      I am a descent of the Kelly family who camel to America ca 1840 . My Henry Kelly married Ann Gaffigan they loved, in Springfield Ill. ,owning shoe,and .bootmaker business in 1870 to ? Not sure if they ,are kin to your family as my family came to USA (1840 or so ) blater from Ireland. Son George Edward Kelly married Mary Frances Woolley he is my grt grandfather died and buried in Lamesa Tx. 1920s. Buried in Pride Cemetery.

  3. William Travis Kelley, Jr. says:

    I’m looking for more family free info. as we trace our family back to Henry and his sons. I have in my possession 2 bills of Continental Currency that one of the brothers brought with him from North Carolina when they then settled and founded what is now Springfield, IL. Among our ancestors were William Christopher Kelley who was an officer in the Union Army (Missouri Militia) and George Washington Kelley before that. My grandfather, George Leander Kelley was a son of William Christopher Kelley. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Patrick Rock says:

      As a descendant of William Kelley (settled in Jasper Co., MO), I’d like to say “Hello, cousins!”

      Bill, are you the William T. Kelley from Oklahoma, whose father I once met at a Kelley Family Reunion in Carthage MO over 25 years ago and then lost touch with? You and I have never met, but I have good memories of your father. At that reunion, we had descendants mostly of William Kelley, but your dad came representing George’s line, and we had a distant cousin from Illinois who was of John’s line.

      Drop me a line sometime at “Patrick(at)Stasia(dot)org”.

  4. Bobbie Amburgey says:

    Does anyone have info on a james and Elizabeth kelly from mclean county Illinois? Looking for some history of them due to them living at my brother in laws house in the later 1800s. Feel free to email me any info ! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *