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TEXAS HERITAGES: The Kelly/Kelley Family
Stories of Kelly Ancestors

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The first three stories in the following sections are about the only children of Green B. and Sarah S. Kelly. There will be other stories about people, places and things related to the Kelly history and they will be added as soon as they are edited and ready to publish.
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The author's Great Grandfather
Pearson Otto "Tobe" Kelly
1854 - 1936


   According to my father, he was known most of his life as Tobe and he will be referred to in this history as Tobe.


We havent been able to determine where Tobe or his brother or sister were born, but we do know they were born in Texas from their death records and the fact that their parents were married in Montgomery County, Texas in 1851.


We believe that Tobes father was killed, probably in Karnes County, Texas in 1858.  In 1859 Tobes mother was remarried to Reuben Thomas CARTER in Atascosa County, Texas.  My father told me that Tobe had often told him of Carters ill treatment of Tobe and his brother, John Green.  Probably because of that, Tobe left home when he was about 14 and shortly there after, his brother followed him.  We believe they were working as ranch hands in Live Oak County south of where their mother lived.  Also, we have reason to believe they worked with or for a man named Manny CLEMENTS.


Sometime in his teen years, Tobe began trailing cattle up to Kansas around the time when the first of the herds went up the trail.  He stayed on the drives for many years.  My father said he was a horse wrangler on the drives. We dont know the outfits he rode for.  My father said he remembered Tobe telling him about them, but he couldnt recall them.  There were many drives originating from different points in South Texas in those days, but a major origination point was George West in Live Oak County, Texas where Tobe had lived as a child.


We assume Tobes brother, John Green was with him on many trail drives and they were joined by two brothers:  Richard Marion FRYER and John Thomas Fryer.  The Fryers were to become closely linked to our Kellys over the next years.  They all worked as cowboys, trail drivers and Indian fighters in their younger days during the 1880s.  Both families inter married and followed each other over South and Central Texas.


My father spent a great deal of time with his Grandpa Tobe when he was growing up and he related many of the tales, to my husband and myself, which Tobe had told him.


One such story involves the notorious Sam BASS.  As it goes, Tobe was returning from a cattle drive by himself when he encountered Sam Bass and they were riding together when they came upon three Mexican men having supper around a campfire.  The Mexicans invited Tobe and Bass to join them and they did so.  Tobe was fluent in Spanish, being from deep South Texas, but Bass apparently was not.  Tobe overheard the Mexicans plotting to rob him and Bass.  He related this to Bass and Bass instructed him to watch the Mexican on the far left and he would take the two on the right, so the story goes.  After the dust settled, Tobe and Bass rode away with their belongings intact.  The end of the story is not exactly what my father related, but for the sake of propriety, the end has been left open to imagination.   


 There was another incident in which Tobe may have been involved with Sam Bass, but we have no original account of this.  It seems there was a dispute over some land records being held in a courthouse (Travis County? Dewitt County?).  According to the story Tobe was with Sam Bass on a courthouse raid to recover the documents.  There are no other details to this story, except that supposedly there was an old photo of the Bass Gang and a Kelly hanging in a café in Round Rock, Texas.  A fellow researcher has told me that the café has been torn down and the photo was removed.  We have not been able to track the photo.


We have no evidence that Tobe was, at any other time, involved with Sam Bass.  However, times in Texas were rough in those days.  You lived by your wits and survived the best you could.  Texas wasnt kind.  It wasnt even merciful.  If you did survive, it was because you didnt make mistakes.  You kept your gun handy, you never rode far from water, you treated your horse like family and you didnt trust strangers.


And, to quote a famous black western actor:  when you stepped out on the trail, God and luck deserted you.


Tobe survived.  He returned home to his mother in about 1878 for the first time in about 12 years and after his stepfather had died.  No one recognized him that day, but he was invited to supper.  When they sat down to eat, his sister or stepsister did recognize him.


Tobe stayed with his mother and his step siblings apparently helping support them and sometime after 1880, the family moved to Dewitt County, Texas. We believe he gave up the cattle drives and was working as a ranch hand.  The census says farming, but that term was used for everything that didnt fit into the few categories the census takers used at that time.


He was married in 1882 to Georgia Ann CROSSON Colorado County, Texas which adjoins Dewitt and Lavaca Counties.    They had one child, Laura Mack Kelly.  Laura was married only once as far as we can tell, to Crasseo Labeth Crass MORGAN. 


Shortly after Laura was born, Tobe and Georgia Ann were probably divorced.  We located a second marriage record for Tobe to Alice Frances Jose WHITTEN 1886 in Hamilton County, Texas.  Jose was the editor's Great Grandmother.  We also know that Georgia Ann Crosson died in 1944 which leads us to believe the couple was divorced although we have not located a divorce record.


Tobe and Jose lived out the remainder of their lives in Central Texas in Caradan near Goldthwaite in Mills County.  They are both buried at Bethel Cemetery in Mills County.  They had seven children together and, curiously, they named their first child Georgia. All the children remained in the area of Goldthwaite until their last days.



1856 - 1937

We do not have much history for Margaret.  We know she was born in Texas, the second child of John Greenberry Kelly and Sarah Sylvesta (Knowles) Kelly.  She was the sister of Tobe and John Green Kelly.


She was listed on the 1860 Van Zandt County census with her mother, step father, and her two brothers, Tobe and John Green Kelly.  She was five years old at that time.


We know that the stepfather did not treat his step sons kindly and they left home at an early age.  Margaret must have stayed with her mother since we found a marriage record for her to George THOMAS in 1876 in Frio County which was part of Atascosa County, Texas.


We found Margaret and George on the 1880 Kinney County, Texas census.


We also found military records for George in Texas State Archives in Austin, Texas which state that he served in the Frontier Battalion which was stationed at Fort Clark Springs near Bracketville in Kinney County.  This branch of the early Texas Rangers was in place to protect the Texas Frontier from Indian attacks in the area.  Actually, the fact that the fort was established contributed to the development of Bracketville.


George was born in Canada.  His parents were from Nova Scotia.  Why he was in South Texas where he met Margaret, we do not know.  He was either killed or died early in his life between 1880 and 1900.    He may have been killed in Kinney County, Texas.  Whatever happened, Margaret returned to her family.  Her mother died in 1895 in Dewitt County, Texas.  We know she went straight to her brother, John Green Kelly in Mills County, where she lived the remainder of her life.   She is buried in Bethel Cemetery in Mills County, Texas. 


We have not located children for Margaret or George.  My father was very close to his Aunt Mag and he tells us he doesnt think she ever had a child.


1858 - 1941
(To follow)


Goliad "Hanging Tree"

The history of the Cart War is an interesting and intriguing part of Texas history, especially if one happens to have and ancestor who may have played some part in this conflict.


The fine details of this conflict are hard to prove and document for many reasons, one of the reasons being that the courthouse in Goliad mysteriously burned on July 27, 1870, destroying any records there may have been.  Goliad saw its share of this conflict and is important to this story,  but we are also very interested in events that happened in Karnes County, specifically around Helena.


To understand the importance of the courthouse at Goliad and its hanging tree, we must know something about the Cart War.  By the mid 1850s Mexicans and Tejanos had established a successful business of hauling valuable freight from Indianola, on the Texas coast,  through Karnes County to San Antonio.


The Mexicans pulled a great deal of business away from the Anglo-Texan freighters by working for much less money.  Also, at this time, the Mexicans were accused of sympathizing and helping black slaves escape from Texas plantations (which is another story, altogether).  Add to this the fact that Texas had recently fought for and won its independence from Mexico and Mexico was threatening another invasion and the fact that more and more white settlers were moving into this part of Texas, simmering animosity toward the Mexicans grew and a potentially explosive situation developed into all out war.


Several of the Cart War incidents occurred near Helena in Karnes County.  Karnes County is southeast of San Antonio on the Rio Grande plain.  It is bound on the north by Wilson County, on the east by Gonzales and Dewitt Counties, on the south by Goliad and Bee Counties, on the west by Atascosa and Live Oak Counties.  

Note:  our Kellys were in all these areas at one time or another.   At times, it seems they covered South Texas like a blanket.


In 1854 Helena was designated as the county seat of Karnes County.  Helena was the halfway point on the road from Indianola to San Antonio and the Cibolo Creek provided water and grass for stock.  So, naturally many of the Cart War incidents occurred in this area while drivers were camped at rest.  Also, it might be noted that the Mexicans killed the beeves of nearby ranchers in order to feed themselves, thereby involving more Anglo-Texans in the conflict.


It might also be noted that Karnes County, especially Helena, had gained a reputation as a hide out for rustlers and outlaws and was the origination point for the Helena Duel, a gruesome way of settling differences.  The way it is described:   each of two participants tied their left arms together and then used their right arms in a fight with knives.  Looking back, it must have been hazardous, at the very least,  to be in this area at this time.


Back to our story:  as events of the Cart War wore on, Governor Pease

ordered the Texas Rangers to intercede, but lynching and other forms of frontier justice were still a common occurrence in South Texas.


It happens that during this time, many of the instigators and participants of raids on Mexican freighters were taken to Goliad to be hanged.  In the 1800s, death by hanging usually meant within the same hour the verdict was read.  There is, in Goliad, an enormous old oak tree on the courthouse lawn.  The  tree was referred to as the hanging tree, and it stood a number of unauthorized lynchings before the Cart War was brought to an end in December 1857.  Goliad, in those days, according to one old timer, was a wild, recky, Indiany looking place full of lawless men.


We are still researching the Cart War hoping to uncover some compelling evidence about our ancestor, but we realize this is, quite possibly, an unreachable goal.  All is not in vain however, because we have learned a great deal about the times and events of this area in which we have placed one of our illusive old patriarchs.



A History of Karnes County and Old Helena, Hedwig Krell Didear

Pioneer Days in Karnes County, Frontier Times August 1928

They Called Them Greasers, Austin: University of Texas Press

History of Goliad, Goliad Historical Commission

History and Heritage of Goliad, Pruett and Cole

All names, dates and places are supported by documentation which is not posted on this web
site.  Please contact us if you need the source
for any information contained herein.