Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nancy Missouri (Owens) Kelley

© Kathy Duncan, 2016

Nancy Missouri (Owens) Kelly, wife of John Kelly Jr., was the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth (Hood) Owens. Nancy was born 22 November 1819 in South Carolina, probably in Kershaw County. She died on 14 March 1912 in DeKalb, Kershaw County, South Carolina at the home of her son-in-law Capt. Lewis L. Clyburn.

Rebecca Gaskin Esteridge wrote at article entitled "Impressions of My Father," in which she recorded stories told to her by her father, James Ezekiel Gaskin. James's mother Elizabeth (Owen) Gaskin was the sister of Nancy Missouri (Owens) Kelly. The article includes two references to Nancy.

"I do know that Dicky [Nancy's father Richard Owens] was by no means delighted at his daughter Elizabeth's choice of husband. The old man was an eccentric cripple, as I have said, who loved his family passionately, but ruled them with an iron hand. An older sister Nancy had already been encouraged to marry a man much older than herself, uncle John Kelly, rich in Negroes, but rather poor in character. It was something of a come down, then, when Elizabeth chose a young fellow of thirty-one who had so little business sense that he had worked for his father ten years after becoming of age, with only a vague promise of reimbursement from his paternal employer, just as eccentric in his own way as his neighbor Richard Owens."

The exact date of Nancy Missouri Owens marriage to John Kelly is unknown, but her obituary states that she was 18 years old when they married. That would place their marriage in about 1838.  John Kelly was 33 years older than she. More notably, he was eight years older than her father, Richard Owen, and at least 14 years older than her mother, Elizabeth (Hood) Owens.

By the time the Civil War began, Nancy (Owens) Kelly was a widow, with at least one older son, M.P. Kelley, away fighting with Hampton's Legion. She appears on the 1860 census as head of household:

1860 First Division, Kershaw County, South Carolina:

Kelley, NM M 40 b. SC
-----, M.P. M 17 b. SC
-----, M.J. F 15 b. SC
-----, H.H. M 12 b. SC
-----, S F M 10 b. SC
-----, E.E. F 5 b. b. SC

Additionally, she appears as the head of household, on the 1860 slave schedule with 39 slaves.

Esteridge recounted this episode that occurred around the time of the war:

"Grandpa's submissive attitude toward the patrollers was in marked contrast to that of his wife's sister, Aunt Nancy Kelly. When a band appeared once at her house, announcing that they had come to whip one of her regulations for her, she spiritedly answered, "unless you want to get killed, you'll let my regulations alone." Her words, her determined manner, and an ugly looking musket, expertly held, convinced the unwelcome intruders."

By the time Nancy Missouri (Owens) Kelly died in 1912, less than one month before the sinking of the Titanic, she had witnessed nearly a century of major changes in this country. Lewis and Clark finished their expedition just thirteen years before her birth. The entire western expansion happened during her lifetime. Pioneers headed west on the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails. The Gold Rush happened. The railroads crossed the continent. The pony express gave way to the telegraph wires. The Mexican War was fought. The Civil War was fought. The Spanish American War was fought. The telephone was invented. And the automobile. The Wright Brothers had flown at Kitty Hawk.

In the photograph below, taken shortly before her death, I am struck by her hands and those incredibly long fingers.

At least three obituaries were published for Nancy Missouri (Owens) Kelly. The first appeared in The State and is the shortest:

The next obituary was published in the Camden Chronicle on 19 March 1912, and it is the one I've had the longest:

Aged Lady Dead
Probably the Oldest Woman In County 
Died Thursday Night

     Mrs. Nancy Missouri Kelly, relict of the late Mr. John Kelly, died at the residence of Capt. L.L. Clyburn, near DeKalb, last Thursday night, the 14th inst., about 11 o'clock. Mrs. Kelly was possibly the oldest white person in Kershaw County. She was born on the 22nd of November, 1819, and was therefore 92 years and nearly 4 mons. old. She was the oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Owens and was married when she was 18 years of age. She leaves surviving her 3 children--Messrs. M.P. and S.F. and Miss Edna E. Kelly.
     The burial took place at Bethany Baptist Church, of which she had long been a member, on Saturday aft. about 3 o'clock in the presence of a large concourse of surrounding relatives and friends, to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.
     The death of a Christian is only a happy change to a better life. So it is with our aged sister. Weary and worn she has lain down to gentle slumbers to awake in a better and brighter world where the broken links of life will be re-united.

This final obituary contains more interesting information: cause of death (broken hip), her place of residence with the Clyburns for 50 years, the locations of her three surviving children, and the names of her two surviving brothers. This is a loose newspaper clipping kept by the family, so the date and newspaper are unknown.

click image  to enlarge

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