Search billions of records on


 Biographies Index  



California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


James William Kelly

If one were to make a list of the citizens of Sonoma county who had meant most to her growth and upbuilding, the name of James W. Kelly would be foremost of the number enumerated. One mile east of Sebastopol, on the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol road, may be seen the thriving ranch of three hundred and fifteen acres, of which he is the owner. His chief interest, perhaps, centers in his vineyard, which contains forty-five acres, thirty acres of which are in Zinfandel grapes, and the remainder in a variety of table grapes. In his orchard of twenty-seven acres may be found almost every variety of fruit, including twelve acres of apples, peaches, French prunes, pears, plums and smaller fruits. One hundred acres are in hay and grain, the remainder of the land being devoted to stock-raising, besides which he raises such horses as he requires upon the ranch. Some idea of the resources of the ranch may be obtained from the statement that during the year 1909 he gathered one hundred and twenty tons of grapes from his fines, and his crop of oats from seventy acres amounted to one thousand sacks.

A native of Ireland, James W. Kelly was born in County Cork, in January, 1841, the only son of William and Ellen (Kinfick) Kelly, they, too, being natives of that county. Before he was old enough to realize his loss he was deprived of his best friend in the death of his mother. Thereafter the father did a noble part in supplying this loss to his only child, in addition to eking out a scanty livelihood on a small farm heavily mortgaged. With the idea of furnishing a better outlook for his young son, Mr. Kelly made arrangements to come to the new world, the year 1852 witnessing their immigration to the United States and settlement in Massachusetts. In that state the son received such education as he was destined to enjoy, going to school for about two years, when he undertook his own maintenance by working in a lumber mill. He continued at this for about two years, and in 1856 went to Keokuk, Iowa, from there going to Monroe county, Mo., a year later and remaining until 1861. In the meantime, in 1854, the elder Mr. Kelly had come to California, and was located in San Francisco, and there his son joined him in 1861. James W. Kelly was fortunate in finding employment readily, work awaiting him in the furniture factory of McDonald Brothers, where under the superintendence of John Miller he remained for about two years. An entire change of occupation and a new location was his next plan, which was to take up mining in Nevada, but the project which he had planned was not carried out owing to ill-health. From Nevada he went to Portland, Ore., and engaged in the manufacture of furniture, continuing this but a short time, however, for the year 1865 found him in San Francisco again in the furniture factory with his old friend, Mr. Miller, with whom he continued for about six years.

In the meantime, in 1867, Mr. Kelly was married to Miss Mary Pierce, the daughter of Patrick and Mary (Donlon) Pierce, natives of County Roscommon, Ireland. Coming to Sonoma county in 1871, Mr. Kelly located on a rented ranch near Cloverdale, remaining there for about a year, when he settled on another rented ranch in Santa Rosa township. His next removal, two years later, found him on the old Joaquin Carrillo property ear Sebastopol, upon which he continued until 1876, when he took a lease of the property which has since become his by purchase. To the original tract he added by purchase of adjoining property from time to time, until at one time he owned altogether five hundred and forty acres, but of late he has reduced his acreage by the sale of land, and now has three hundred and fifteen acres in his ranch, which is admirably located six miles west of Santa Rosa and one mile east of Sebastopol. Mr. Kelly has not allowed his personal interests to consume all of his thought and energy, but has taken time to do his duty as a good citizen. Politically he is a Democrat, and on the ticket of this party has been elected to a number of offices, among them that of school trustee. His fraternal affiliations are with Evergreen Lodge No. 161, I. O. O. F., of Sebastopol; Santa Rosa Encampment No. 53, I. O. O. F.; the lodge of Woodmen of Santa Rosa, and the Sebastopol lodge of Chosen Friends. Seven children were born to Mr. Kelly and his wife, as follows: William H.; James P., deputy assessor of Sonoma county, and of whom a sketch will be found elsewhere in this volume; Edward T.; Frank; George Robert; Thomas E. and John Joseph, the last-mentioned deceased, having died at the age of eight years.

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