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The Kelly Family of Pensacola

By Russell D. James


(Photo courtesy of Escambia Lodge No. 15, F&AM)

During the 1830s a flood of immigrants came from Wilmington, North Carolina to Florida. Among these was the future state governor, William Dunn Moseley. Migrating to Pensacola were Hanson and Hannah Clark Kelly.

Shortly after arriving in Pensacola, Hanson became the Pensacola port master. He was a man of modest means and shortly became a leading citizen of the city, serving as mayor in 1837. In the 1840 census, Hanson and Hannah had four sons, three daughters, and eight slaves. The Kelly included William, Frederick (who was insane), and Blakely. The names of the daughters are not known.

The Kelly’s oldest son, William, would go on to fame and fortune as a lawyer, judge, soldier, and statesman. William was admitted to the Bar in Escambia County in 832. In 1841 he was nominated as justice of the peace, serving much of his term across the bay in Santa Rosa County. He would serve as a territorial senator (1844), state representative (1845), Pensacola alderman (1846), state senator (1846), Florida’s first lieutenant governor (1865-68), circuit court judge for the first circuit of Florida (1872-73), and again a state representative from Escambia County (1873-74).

Kelly’s military career began when he was appointed captain of a Mexican War volunteer company by Governor Moseley. The company spent five months at Pensacola and then seven months in Mexico. After the war, William entered the Navy’s purser corps as a Major, serving time aboard many ships during his thirteen years of service. In 1861, Kelly became a Confederate paymaster, serving in Savannah and Mobile.

William had six children: Pauline (with 1st wife Pauline Mitchell) and Mary, Annie, William Jr., Aaron, and Eliza with his 2nd wife Mary Smith . William W. J. Kelly died in Pensacola on 3 September 1878.


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