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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James P. Kelly

The history of the Kelly family dates back to Ireland, where, in County Cork, the name was well and favorably known through the long and honorable citizenship of the grandparents of the subject of this sketch, William and Ellen (Kinfick) Kelly. A happy and peaceful home life was shattered through the untimely death of the mother, when her only child, James W., was very young. The latter was born in January, 18411, and was about eleven years old when with his father he came to the United States, an ocean voyage of over thirty days finally landing them on these shores. For a time they made their home in Massachusetts, where the son attended school until 1854, after which he accepted a position in a lumber mill, this being his first attempt at self-support. Subsequently he made a number of removals toward the west, in 1856 going to Keokuk, Iowa, and later to Monroe county, Mo., where he carried on a farm until 1861. In the meantime the grandfather had gone to the Pacific coast, and in 1865 he was joined by his son, who was fortunate in finding agreeable and remunerative employment in the furniture factory of McDonald Brothers, under the direction of John Miller. The employment was agreeable but less exciting than the mining prospects which were then attracting so many young men to Nevada. Giving up his position with Mr. Miller he made plans to follow the life of the miner, but ill-health prevented their consummation, and he went to Portland, Ore., instead, and for a time was engaged in a furniture manufactory there. Subsequently he returned to San Francisco and resumed work with his old friend, Mr. Miller, remaining with him in the furniture factory until 1871. It was in that year that he came to Sonoma county and located on a ranch near Cloverdale, following this after one year by a residence of two years on the old Carrillo ranch near Sebastopol. His residence on his present ranch dates from the year 1876, at which time he settled upon it as a renter, but subsequently purchased the property and brought it up to its present high state of development. It consists of three hundred and fourteen acres of fine land on the Santa Cruz and Sebastopol road, in the Lano school district. Here he has a vineyard of forty-seven acres and seven acres of fruit, besides which he conducts a thriving, up-to-date dairy business.

The marriage of James W. and Mary (Pierce) Kelly was celebrated in San Francisco in 1867, the latter being a daughter of Patrick and Mary (Donlon) Pierce, a native of County Roscommon, Ireland. Seven children were born of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, as follows: William H., James P., Edward, John (now deceased), Frank, George and Thomas.

The second child in the parental family, James P. Kelly, was born in San Francisco March 5, 1870. As he was a small child when his parents removed to Sonoma county the greater part of his life has been passed within its confines, first in the vicinity of Cloverdale and later in Sebastopol. As soon as he was old enough he gave his assistance to his father in the management of the home farm, in fact he remained at home until he was twenty-six years old, at this age starting as an agriculturist on his own account. In this vicinity he rented what was known as the Solomon ranch, consisting of two hundred and twenty acres of rich land. He had carried on the ranch successfully for three years when, in 1899, County Assessor Frank E. Dowd appointed him deputy county assessor, a position which he has since filled through successive appointments. Added honors came to him in April, 1910, when he was appointed to the highest office within the gift of his fellow-townsmen, being made mayor of the town of Sebastopol. In addition to the public duties mentioned he is also president of the Chamber of Commerce, and on his own account represents five well-known and reliable fire insurance companies, and is a representative of Rosenberg Bros. & Coo., of San Francisco, one of the largest dried fruit firms on the Pacific coast.

Mr. Kelly’s marriage, December 20, 1896, united him with Miss Myrtle M. Matthews, a native of California, and two children, Lillian M. and James Russell, have been born to them. Public duties and business associations do not consume all of Mr. Kelly’s time and interest, and at least two social organizations benefit by his membership, the Elks and the Native Sons, the latter of which he served as district deputy for one year.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011