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Walter Kelly


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/14/2021 at 12:00:50

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895


WHEN one visits the City of Davenport to -day, and stands a unit in the midst of 'thronging hundreds, and beholds its wealth and influence, it is difficult for him to realize that all before and around him , including two cities in the vicinity, is the growth of three-score years. Intimately associated with the early history and struggles of this enterprising city was the man whose name heads this sketch . Walter Kelly was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, June 29, 1814. He came to America in September, 1835, the same year that Antoine Le Claire, Colonel George Davenport and six others met and decided to lay out a town site for Davenport.

Mr. Kelly had two brothers living in Detroit, Michigan, where he first settled and remained for four years with his brothers, one of whom was a Catholic priest, Rev. Patrick Kelly, and Michael, who was a merchant. While in that city he learned the trade of a moulder. After this he went to Chicago, where he worked at his trade two years. In 1841 he came to Davenport, where he had been preceded a couple of years by two other brothers, James and Thomas, whose presence in this city determined his coming here. Mr. Kelly then for a dozen years engaged in such occupations as Davenport afforded in those early days, part of the time engaged as foreman in the packing- house of Burrows & Prettyman. In 1852 he entered into partnership with a namesake (though no relation), Bartholomew Kelly, under the firm name of B. & W. Kelly. The firm conducted a general business, handling various lines of goods, and their store was one of the most extensive and handsomely equipped in the State. It occupied what to old settlers was known as the Bazaar block, corner of Front and Brady Streets, directly south of the present wholesale house of J. F. Kelly & Co. In 1857 the firm of B. & W. Kelly was dissolved and Walter Kelly and James Roche entered into a partnership, which lasted for only a short time, Mr. Kelly withdrawing from the firm and establishing himself at a new location at the corner of Second and Iowa Streets, where he had bought a lot and erected a building, and continued in the same business. In 1881 he entered into partnership with his son , William F .; the firm was then known as W. Kelly & Son, grocers at 123 Brady Street. In 1884 the senior member of the firm retired from business, selling his interest to his son, J. F., the firm name now being J. F. Kelly & Co., who do an exclusive wholesale business at Nos. 102 Front, 103 and 107 Brady Streets.

Walter Kelly had accumulated by his industry and energy an honorable competence, and the last decade of his life was thus one of well-deserved leisure and contentment.

February 5, 1845, Walter Kelly was united in marriage to Miss Mary McNamara, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. Father John A. Pelamourges, at St. Anthony's Church . Mrs. Kelly, the companion of his wedded life for nearly half a century, still survives. The children who also survive are John F., William F. , Thomas E. and Mrs. E. T. Rohm, of Davenport, and Mrs. J. S. Stiles and Mrs. E. W. Gale of Chicago.

Walter Kelly was a quiet and unassuming man , and though his long and useful career as a citizen of the community entitled him to political honors, he did not seek them . He consented only once to accept an office, being elected alderman from the Fifth Ward in 1862, serving two years during the mayoralty of Hon. George W. French. Mr. Kelly's ventures proved uniformly lucrative, so that from a financial standpoint his business career was crowned with success . Further more, in his sons and daughters he leaves behind him , as honored and influential members of society, a legacy to the community which he prized more highly than wealth .

Mr. Kelly departed this life on November 23, 1893. The funeral services were held at St. Anthony's Church, and interment was in St. Marguerite's cemetery.


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