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.”\

A roadside sign in Oak Ridge Cemetery’s Block 2 identifies John Kelley’s burial site (the last name is spelled “Kelly”), as does a simple gravestone several yards north of the sign. The sign and stone, however, more accurately indicate the final resting place of a dozen members of the Kelley family. They originally were buried at the family homestead; the bodies were moved to Oak Ridge in 1865.  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, Oak Ridge signs, Prominent figures, Sangamon County, Springfield and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to The Kelley (Kelly) family

  1. Jeanne Kelley Neumann says:

    I am a descendant of the Kelley family. In 1974, the DAR gave my daughter a
    scholarship, based on our being a descendant of Henry Kelley. My grandfather
    Was the son of James Kelley, a Civil War soldier. Jeanne Kelley Neumann

    • editor says:

      Thanks for reading, Ms. Neumann.

    • Michael McMann says:

      I am also related to the Kelley family of Springfield. Please fell free to contact me at

      Mike McMann, great-great grandson of Ella Kelley.

      • Betty J McAfee says:

        Is your Ella Kelley the dauhgter of John Goodwin Kelley and Mary Ellen Smith. This Ella was a half sister to my Grandfather Eli Franklin Kelley the son of John Goodwin Kelley and Eunice Walker. After Mary Ellen died in Warren MO. John moved to Sangamon county IL and then married my Grandma Jofn and Mary had five chilfren and John and Eunice had 10 children.

    • Stacy Kelly charrette says:

      Which son? I too am a descendent of his son Fletcher.

  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.

    • Lisa says:

      Mike, I am 5th great grand-daughter of John Kelley. His son William Russell is my 4th great grand-father. I live in Springfield as well. Will send you an email tomorrow.

  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”.

    • Lisa says:

      Hello William, I started doing family research about 8 years ago. I do a lot on Ancestry. I did the AncestryDNA that helped confirm some of the family roots. We are cousins. My 5th great-grandfather, John Kelley born 1783-1823 is a brother to George Washington Kelley your I believe 5th great-grandfather. My grandma is still living she is John Kelley’s 3rd great grand-daughter she is 102 now. She has talked about her grandma Kelley to me. She had a butter dish that belonged to grandma Kelley. I would enjoy talking family with you. I will mark this so I hopefully get notice or contact notice. Happy to discover other Kelley family. Take Care Lisa

      • jimmy carroll kelley says:

        hi lisa, jim kelley here. i was just looking around on the internet and found this site. i dont know very much about my family but my great gramdpa was henry kelley he had 5 sons. my dad was from Arkansas. i believe my great grandpa moved from illinois to arkansas in the late 1800s. not sure if we are even related. mabey you can help me? thanks

    • Pattric R. Patterson says:

      Another thought. Both of my sister-in-law are members if the DAR.

  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!

  5. Taj Magruder says:

    Hoping someone might be able to help with this one:

    My great (x4) grandfather was William M. Kelley (1811-1869), who was born in Kentucky and lived in Sangamon County from at least 1835 when he married Mary Ann Sanders. They had 14 children: Eliza, Sarah, Amanda, James, Julia, Timothy, Mary, Jesse, Cordelia, Henry, Almira, Lucinda, Samuel, and Clarissa.

    William’s brother was Henry T. Kelley (1823-1876), also a Kentucky native and Sangamon County resident. Henry was married twice, first to Elizabeth Jacobs and second to Margaret Copple. He had 7 children: Rachel, Martha, Henry, Ida, Mary Lenora, Walter, and Gertrude.

    Does anyone know who William and Henry’s parents (or other siblings) were?

  6. Sally Restrepo says:

    Elisha Kelley, neighbors and relatives are buried in Kelley Cemetery west of Springfield, Illinois. The cemetery is preserved and well kept in it’s original location. Due to the growth of Springfield, it is now surrounded by a new subdivision and easily accessible. There are also 1 Revolutionary soldier and 2 Civil War soldiers buried there. His son John Kelley is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. My Girl Scout troop was responsible for ‘saving’ the cemetery from oblivion when the land was sold for development.

    • editor says:

      Thanks very much for the additional info, Sally.

    • Mary Robertson Shindell says:

      Thank you. Henry Kelley is my 4th great grandfather, John is my third great and Elizabeth Kelley John’s daughter is my 2nd great grandmother, she married Henry Robertson and their son David J. Robertson (my great grandfather} was a soldier in Company B 49th Regiment Illinois Infantry Volunteer from 1861-65. I appreciate your saving the cemetery.

  7. William Travis Kelley, Jr. says:

    I’m still looking for more family tree info. Was Elisha the father of George Washington Kelley? What about Henry’s parents? Did they come from Ireland to North Carolina? Any info would be appreciated. We know from the Illinois State Library that Henry fought in the Revolutionary War, serving as a Corporal in the North Carolina Militia. They lived on a farm near Asheville, N.C.

    • Jeanne Kelly Neumann says:

      Dear William: These are my people. I know as a DAR that
      Henry qualified me as one. I too would like to know who his parents were and where did they come from. I am still looking around. Jeanne Kelley Neumann

      • Betty J McAfee says:

        George Washinton Kelley born 1799 in North Caroline son of Henry 1742-1832 and Mary Whiteside 1750-1838 George wife Elizabeth Orendorff Buried Kelley cemetery Rondo, Polk County, MO. Info from Kelley cemetery. Hope this is right info for you.

  8. Jeanne L. Neumann. says:

    My grandfather, Raymond Thomas Kelley. And his brother John Wesley Kelley
    We’re sons of. Martha Bright. And. James Kelley. Their parents both died approx.
    1874. When John was born. They went to live with Martha’s sister. At
    That time. Jeanne Kelley Neumann.

  9. Jeanne Neumann says:

    My daughter, Catherine Bearse. Is trying to activate her DAR.

  10. Betty J McAfee says:

    There was also a Kelley cemetery at what now is known as the corner of Jefferson and Klein. That cemetery was dug up for road improvement, and 12 graves were found and were dug up and all 12 bodies were put in one grave. There are three John Kelleys buried there; one has the dates of my great grandfather, but he is buried in the military section at Jacksonville East Cemetery.

  11. Sally Restrepo says:

    Thank you for responding. On Memorial Day this week the American Legion Post 32 came out and performed a burial detail complete with Taps and gun salute. It was well attended. The cemetery is still beautiful thanks to the attentions of Gene Beenenga who has faithfully mown the grounds and was instrumental in getting fencing around it.
    Please come and visit sometime!
    Sally Restrepo

  12. Travis Wilson says:

    So many cousins here! I stumbled upon this page while looking for a picture I once saw at one of the hospitals in Springfield. I seem to recall it was a pencil sketch of John Kelley’s cabin. I was hoping to compare it to a picture I inherited from about 1897/8 that I think has several Kelley family members in it. John was my 5th great grandfather. I think the picture is a family gathering including his daughter-in-law Sarah (Cook) Kelley. Unfortunately none of the people are listed on the back.

  13. Betty J McAfee says:

    Travis, which John Kelley was your ggggGrandfather, my ggandfather was John Goodwin Kelley, his second wife Eunice was my ggrandmother. Do you live in or near Springfield, IL I have a picture of Kelley family from early 1900. I can name some of the people in it. Would like to see your picture. My Mother was Grace Kelley Zimmerman daughter of Eli Kelley and Jennie Huggins. Betty

    • Travis Wilson says:

      John Kelley (1783-1823) > Jonathon Kelley (1808-1873) > John C. Kelley (1837-1925) > Lydia Ann Kelley (1865-1899). Lydia was my 2nd great grandmother. If you happen to have an Ancestry account I have it attached to Lydia.

  14. Betty J McAfee says:

    George Washington Kelley B 1831 and D 1881 was my gguncle

  15. Linda Williams says:

    I also stumbled onto these postings trying to confirm my ties to the Kelley’s.
    The line is supposed to be as follows: Corporal Henry Kelley of Rutherford Cty, NC — son William and wife Dicie Ann — William’s daughter Zilla (Zillah, Zellah) married Jehu (John) Holt who is my great great grandfather. Note Zillah is not daughter Zilpha who married an Elliott.
    I was trying to confirm this line and the existence of a DAR plaque commemorating John’s building the 1st log cabin in Sangamon County area.
    Anyone help me out on this?

  16. Pattric R. Patterson says:

    I started working in my father-in-law’s family history. He wanted me to work back the to Revolutionary war to find more about his Kelley roots. His great grandmother was the of granddaughter, Mary Frances of John Kelly. I have a lot too back up this relationship including a trip to North Carolina on 2006.

    Interestingly, I find that I have
    a Kelley line on my tree in Illinois. Is it possible that Sarah Kelly Yocum is related to some of you?

  17. Helen J Kelly says:

    My husband is Johnny Guy Kelly, born in Springfield in 1948. His father was John Kelly and his mother was Mary Edith Willis Kelly. Grand parents were John and Rose White Kelly of Springfield. All we know of each generation was that there was a John Kelly who named his son John. We have not been able to research beyond John and Rose Kelly as there is no information available on Rose White. Does anyone know about her? Feel free to contact me at

Leave a Reply

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