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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



Left fatherless at the age of four years and forced to become self-supporting at an age when the majority of boys are enjoying educational advantages and athletic sports, Mr. O’Kelly developed qualities of self-reliance and industrious application that have been of the greatest value to him throughout all of his life. With no one to advise him, he early developed the quality of independent reason- ing and thus has always studied out in his own way personal problems, public questions and national issues. Of recent years he has given much attention to the fact that twelve millions in cash annually goes out of California into the hands of the eastern life insurance companies, thus building up the east at the expense of the people of the west. It is now his ambition to keep at least a small portion of this immense sum in our own home state and with that object in view he acts as the Northern California agent for the Occidental Life Insurance Company, an organization having its headquarters in Los Angeles, where it has a reputation for substantial growth and excellent financial status.

Mr. O’Kelly comes of southern ancestry and was born April 17, 1867, in Vernon county, Mo., where his father, a native of Tennessee, died during middle age. The mother survived him for many years and finally settled in California, where in 1911 she died at Redlands. There are seven children in the parental family and of these all hut one are residents of California. Formerly the home of the family was in New Mexico, where at one time T. J. and his brothers had one thousand head of cattle on the range. As early as 1882 he began work in the mines of that then territory, but after eighteen mouths he relinquished that occupation and turned to other enterprises. For two years he was employed in the car-shops at Deming, N. M., after which he went on the road as a brakeman with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and eighteen months later was promoted to be conductor.

Upon coming to California and settling at Redlands in December of 1890, Mr. O’Kelly bought a tract of land and began the improvement of the ranch, which eighteen months later he sold to a brother. Thereupon he returned to the employ of the Southern Pacific Company and had his headquarters at Tucson, Ariz. At the expiration of two years he again resigned from railroad work, this time to enter the Wesleyan University at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where he studied during the year of 1893-94, meanwhile giving considerable attention also to religious work. Upon his return to Arizona he was given a position .on the Santa Fe road as a conductor and as such continued for seven years, with headquarters at Winslow. During the spring of 1902 he became identified with the life insurance business for the first time. For one year he represented the New York Life Insurance Company and it was during this period that he began to study the question of the immense financial drain upon western states through the sending of millions annually to eastern companies. Not being in sympathy with the principle, he decided to give his support to western companies and for that reason he left the New York Life in order to ' represent the Conservative Life Insurance Company of California. At the same time he engaged in religious and temperance work among the railroad men and was instrumental in getting hundreds of men to pledge abstinence from drink. When he came to Sacramento for the first time in 1905 and saw the prospects of the valley for future prosperity, he resigned from railroad missionary work and became identified solely with insurance and real estate.

The marriage of Mr. O’Kelly and Miss Ethel Farmer, of Spring- field, Mo., was solemnized May 5, 1897, and has been blessed by three daughters, namely: Ella, born in Arizona March 27, 1898; Madeline, born in Arizona June 8, 1900; and Marjorie, whose birth occurred in Sacramento October 15, 1911. The family are connected with the Christian Science Church of Sacramento, in which Mr. O’Kelly serves as an usher. In former years he was very active in the Order of Railroad Conductors and his name is still enrolled in the organization, while in addition he has been an influential factor in the blue lodge of Masonry at Sacramento. In young manhood lie gave active allegiance to the Republican party and willingly aided all movements for the advancement of that organization, but a later and closer study of national issues caused him to transfer his allegiance to the Socialist party, in whose ranks he since has been enthusiastic and interested. As a citizen he is progressive and loyal, aiding with generosity measures for the permanent benefit of Sacramento and devoted with whole-hearted sympathy to the welfare of the commonwealth. 

History of Sacramento 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: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011