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Oconto County, Wisconsin

Information provided by Pat Conley


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Pat Kelly Family and Cemetery History

Kelly Genealogy and Obituaries

Kelly Cemetery Gravestone Information


Pat Kelly Family and Cemetery History

The Pat Kelly Family cemetery is located on the original Kelly Farm at Hickory, WI. Pat Kelly was thought to have been one of the first white settlers in the Hickory Corners area arriving in the area about 1850.

The cemetery is now located the on Clarence and Betty Ankerson farm. The fence was removed many years ago, and the graves are plowed and farmed. Attempts to have Leslie Eisenberg of the State Historical Society Burial Sites Preservation Program intervene, inspect, and stop the plowing of the cemetery have proven fruitless. The head stones were removed and deposited into a ditch near the Kelly Brook Cemetery. One of the family members retrieved them, cleaned and stored them in the garage for many years and have since put them in the Kelly Brook Cemetery. But the actual family remains are still in the plowed Cemetery on the original farmland.
Wisconsin State Statute 157.70 addresses Burial Sites Preservation and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin enforces the statute. Leslie Eisenberg is the Director of the Burial Sites Preservation Program. 
Name: Eisenberg, Leslie E. 
Division: Director - Rm: 210 
Phone: 608-264-6401
Address: 816 State St. 
Madison, WI 53706-1482
Email: (click here)


Hickory is rich in the legend of Pat Kelly, who came from Ireland in 1855 to become the first white settler before the land was surveyed.  His closest neighbor lived in Stiles, some miles distant, in a day when it was necessary to go to Oconto for provisions by foot or by ox team.  It is told that Mr. Kelly hitched up the oxen to go to Oconto for a doctor when his baby was ill with croup, and when he returned the child was dead and buried. The story is told that as a Justice of the Peace Mr. Kelly was not perturbed by the lack of two witnesses to a marriage ceremony.  Joining hands of the bride and groom, he took them to a large elm tree which was a witness tree on a section corner and intoned, "Under this witness tree what Pat Kelly and God Almighty has joined together, let no man put asunder." Kelly Lake and Kelly Brook are named after this colorful pioneer.

The sixteen page booklet goes on to talk about other towns people, the churches, ministers, the school, the rural one room school, woodman hall, and teachers from 1870 to 1961.  I would be happy to share if someone has an inquiry. (e-mail Pat Conley) The Oconto Falls Herald dated Friday, November 20, 1903 had the following account:

Patrick Kelly On Saturday last Patrick Kelly, of Kelly Lake, one of the pioneer settlers, crossed the great divide to "that bourne from which no weary traveler e'er returns."  Mr. Kelly was something of a charactor and was perhaps one of the most widely know residents in Oconto County.  In his earlier days to the honorable occupations of farming and lumberman he added the dignified role of justice of the peace, and possessed the rare faculty of interpreting law with a rapidity and daring that made him famous.  With the exception of one daughter, Mrs. John Gilligan of Amanda, Mr. Kelly was alone in the world in the matter of relatives, his wife, sons, and daughters all having preceded him on the great journey.  The deceased was upwards of eighty years of age, and for several years past he lived in a cabin on the farm of George Beyer, at Kelly Lake.

Oconto County Reporter - Saturday, April 23, 1881

 A certain son of the Emerald Isle, whom we will call Pat, for short, and a certain legal light have not been on loving terms for sometime, and the great delight of Pat, is to get him into all the trouble he can.  A short time ago Pat, secured a young bear and thought it would be just about the proper thing to send it as a present to him.  So he had it properly labeled and shipped it by stage.  The stage driver led the bear into the lawyer's office, but he was over attending a lawsiuit he was interested in and the stage driver tied it to the leg of the table.  Sometime after this the lawyer went up to his office and sat down to the table to write, unconscious that there was a bear in the room.  In moving his feet around he came in contract with the bear's ear.  The bear didn't like this and began to hug the lawyer's leg.  The lawyer kicked but the bear only hugged the more.  Things had now grown desparate, both fighting with wicked determination.  The bear had the best of it, however, and all that was left of the lawyer's pants was a rear button hanging at the end of his suspender.  About this time three ladies happend in, but they immediately rushed out and told those on the sidewalk that there were two bears fighting in the lawyer's office.  The men rushed up to see what was the matter.  They found the lawyer sitting up in the transom over the door, and the bear trying to climp up after him.  They at once secured the bear and helped the lawyer down from his perch.  After a free use of court plaster, and getting into a new pair of pants, he was able to appear in public once more.  The last seen of him he was going up Main street with a double-bareled shot-gun looking for the stage driver who left the bear. Pat (Kelly) had his revenge. ______________

This piece appears to be copied from a book and has "from Bruce Paulson 21 March 1983" written on the side. 

       Close Proximity

 Among the early settler in the County were some strong characters.  One of them  was Pat Kelly, who had a farm on the (Kelly) lake which was named for him.  One day he came into Holt & Balcom's office and said to Mr. Balcom, "Colonel, do you own such and such a forty?"  (giving the description.)  Mr. Balcom said, "Yes, why do you ask?"  "Well," Pat replied, "no reason, except that I notice a party cutting the timber in very close proximity to the forty and thought you would like to look into it."  Mr. Balcom sent a crusier to look it over as soon as possible, and when he got there he found that all of the timber on the forty had been cut and the logs landed  in Pestigo Brook and had been sold to one of the mill companies.  Assuming that the party who was cutting there had cut the timber, Holt & Balcom  sued him for the value of the trespass and in the course of the trail it appread that Pat Kelly himself had cut the timber, and consequenlty Holt & Balcom  lost the suit.  Mr. Balcom asked Pat why he told him that this man was cutting his timber, and Pat replied that he did not say that he cut the timber but only that he was cutting in very close proximity, and that was true as the man was cutting an adjoining forty.

Pat Kelly Conley (great great grandson of pioneer Pat Kelly)

Newspaper name or date is not given.  However, handwritten in a corner is date 6-3-76. 

 Pat Kelly Pioneer In Settling Hickory Area

(Editor's Note:  This is the third in a series of articles written and illustrated by Bette Rae Turner of Kelly Lake concerning the history of the "tri-lake territory".)

 KELLY LAKE -  The settlers are here to stay.  Boundaries have narrowed considerably around the "tri-lake Territory."  It's 130 years ago and Wisconsin has become the 30th state taking it's name from the Indian name for the Wisconsin River with it's final spelling. The Indians have relinquished all territorial rights, and many have been moved to distant reservations.  English and French have been forced to change their attitudes toward settlers.  Many have moved on, but all three have left their influence upon this infant state. Enough settlers have come to Wisconsin to be able to contribute 91,000 Union soldiers to fight in the Civil War. An even smaller boundary around the tri-lakes has been laid out and taken it's name, Oconto County, from the Indian name for the river, which may have meant "place of the pickerel" or the Menominee word meaning "black bass'".  The small settlement of Hickory Corners has sprung up near our shores. One of the settlers to the Hickory area, who may have been most important to Kelly Lake citizens, was Pat Kelly, whose grave site is pictured. (Note: Copied illustration of picture is very poor). 


The following is an article written by Nell Shellman fo rthe Hickory Centennial, a newspaper published August 23-24, 1975, in honor of the 100th birthday of the Hickory United Methodist Church.

       "The Site - Hickory  Hill"

 "One could not compose the church history without envisioning the territory as it was in the mid-nineteenth century.  It was a wilderness of heavy timber, lakes, streams, and rivers, trackless to any traveler but the native Indian. "Pat Kelly, a colorful Irishman, who had left the Emerald Isle as a lad of fifteen, arrived in Canada, almost penniless.  He is thought to be the first to see Hickory in that time, settling here in 1859.  In Canada his first work was in a hotel.  He met and married a young woman by the name of Margaret Moore.  It must have been soon afterward they moved to Oconto. This was just a small settlement of rude log cabins and a few stores at the mouth of the Oconto River on the Bay Shore.  They worked hard here for a few years and then decided that this place just was not their "cup of tea". "Packing their belongings in a cart drawn by a team of oxen, they began a trek toward the west.  apparently veering north.  Often Pat had to chop down trees to make a path for the cart.  Two weeks later on a bright spring morning they arrived at Hickory and decided that this was their place. " "It was not long and they had a samll log house built.  It is reported that there were hickory trees and the land was the "rolling" type which provides good drainage for farmlands. . . "The Kelly's nearest neighbors were at Stiles and Oconto.  A shopping trip took a week.  (Talk about isolation) . . . "Kelly Lake honors this historical pioneer figure and is told that resorters tried at times to change the name to Crystal Lake.  Such moves were defeated." A Pat Kelly was known to have owned land on the west side of the lake, then known as Crystal Lake, but became know as Kelly's Lake because Kelly tried to sell lots to people. A very old plat book pictures the lake rather poorly, and spells the name Kelley.  Some people remember a Kelly who rented boats down on the south end to the lake many, many years ago. Whether all of these recollections are of the same Pat Kelly from Canada, or descendents of his, we do not know, but in any case, one of the tri-lakes now has  it's present name.


Kelly Family Genealogy and Obituaries

Patrick Kelly was born March 21, 1815 in Ireland to John Kelly and Ann McKenna. He died November 15, 1903 in Maple Valley, Oconto Co., WI and was buried in the Kelly Family Cemetery, Maple Valley, Oconto Co., WI. Margaret (Peggy) Moore was born in 1822 and died September 3, 1896 in Hickory, Oconto Co., WI. It is believed Pat Kelly worked for a Moore lumberman in Canada, met his daughter, Margaret Moore, entered the United States at Niagara Falls and were married as written by William Sloan March 3, 1988 per conversation with Adelia Sloan Wilkinson. Children: John was born April 10, 1849 in New York. Married Levena Piggott August 8, 1895. Died February 20, 1895. Mary Jane was born August 12, 1852 in Milwaukee Co., WI. Married John Carabagh Gilligan September 29, 1874. Died December 19, 1918. James was born August 21, 1853 in Oconto Co., WI. Died July 15 185? about the age of 4. Rose Anna was born April 6, 1856 in Oconto Co., Wi. Married Gustave Yance August 15, 1872. Died November 30, 1892. Margaret (Little Maggie) was born September 4, 1858 in Oconto Co., WI and died as a baby. Isabelle was born August 17, 1860 in Oconto Co., WI. Married William James Sloan October 12, 1892. Died September 5, 1927. Emily was born July 1863 in Oconto Co., WI. Married John Kammer July 6, 1888. Died May 31, 1894. Margaret Elizabeth was born May 13, 1867 in Oconto Co., WI. Married Charles Chamberlain August 26, 1891. Died November 14, 1891. Information supplied by Maria Gilligan. _____________________________ KELLY OBITUARIES John Kelly Killed Tree Fell Upon Him Yesterday Afternoon Died Twenty Minutes After the Accident Well Know in Oconto and a Member of the Local Order of Odd Fellows - Particulars Meagre. _______________ A telephone messge from H.M. Lord of Hickory, yesterday afternoon, conveyed the sad news that John Kelly, a pioneer of Oconto county, was almost instantly killed by a tree, which he had been chopping, falling upon him. Mr. Kelly was well know in the city, highly respected, and a member of the local order of Odd Fellows. Today, Charles Lynes and A.J. Caldwell, representling the order, are at the home of the unfortunate man, making arrangements for the funeral, which possibly may be held on Sunday. Mr. Kelly was about 45 years of age, and married. ___________________ My records show John was the oldest son of Pat Kelly. John was born April 10, 1849 in New York to Patrick Kelly and Margaret (Peggy) Moore. Had been first married to Levena Piggot and most recently to Maggie Reynolds (b1846-d1886). _ _____________________ The Inquirer - City of Oconto, Wis., Friday, Sept. 11, 1896 Obituary: Mrs. Marguerite Kelly died at her home near Kelly Lake on Thursday of last week of general debility, aged seventy-four years. She was the wife of Patrick Kelly who is very well known in this city. The funeral was held from the residence Saturday. ____________________ Certificate of Death for Margaret states she was born in Ireland in 1822. Died September 3, 1896 of general debility in Hickory, Wis. Undertaker conducting burial was W.B. Mitchell, Oconto, Wis. Certificate states burial was in Hickory Cemetery although family accounts state she was buried in the Kelly Family Cemetery. Note: the Certificte of Death on file at the Oconto County Court house does not look official and is hand typed on a piece of paper. ---- ___________________ _____________________ Pat


Gravestone Information

Following is a diagram of the Kelly Family Cemetery as described to
William Sloan in 1978 by Ellen Gilligan Ludeman,  Leola "Dolly" Gilligan
Baccus, Elizabeth "Betty" Gilligan Conley, Evelyn Gilligan Kessler, and
Bernard "Bun" Gilligan who were gg grandchildren of Pat Kelly, grew up
on the Tom Gilligan farm, visiting the cemetery not far from their home
many times.

For historical accuracy for generations to come,  the cemetery plots should
have Margaret Sloan, Mary Isabelle Sloan, Patrick Kelly, and Margaret
Moore Kelly on the left and the others on the right column.

--------------------->  Walk to the house

Charlie Chamberlain

Margaret Kelly Chamberlain

Margaret Sloan                                                  James Kelly
(Isabelle Kelly's Baby)                                 (Son of Pat Kelly)

Mary Isabelle Sloan                                             Margaret Kelly

(Baby who died in Infancy)

Patrick Kelly                                                   Emily Kelly 

(Elizas mother)

Margaret Moore Kelly                                    George Kammer
(Pat Kelly's wife)                                              (Infant some 
of Emily Kelly)

Rolyn "Lee" Gilligan and Lyle Gilligan, son's of Bernard Gilligan, still
live in Hickory Corners.  Lee states that Tommy Gilligan and Howard
Gilligan, infant son's of his grandfather Thomas Gilligan,  are also
located in the cemetery.  Lee and Lyle also visited the cemetery as
children and have knowledge of where the cemetery was located.

Stones mentioned above with initials E.K. (Emily Kammer), M.K. (Margaret
Kelly?), and M.C. (Maggie Kelly Chamberlain), are now located in Kelly
Brook Cemetery.