Friday, September 20, 2013

The Last Burial

Exploring what could be found about the Kelly family plot in Fort Wayne, as we’ve seen, included some surprises—such as the baby Willie I’ve yet to otherwise document, and the mystery burial of Timothy’s second wife Mary elsewhere. All told, the family plot held nine burials, mostly of family who had died between 1874 and 1925.

With the burial of the eighth family member in 1925, it would be easy to presume that the lot was completely filled. Perhaps, on account of one burial being that of an infant, the Catholic Cemetery saw fit to include yet another family member in 1940: Andrew J. Kelly, son of Timothy and Ellen.

There is not much I’ve been able to find on Andrew, other than through the usual census documentation at A tour through the decades easily locates him as a toddler in the home of Timothy and Ellen in 1870, as a student at home with his father and siblings in 1880, and as a single working man in 1900.

Shortly after the 1900 census was recorded, though, things began to change for Andrew. By July 23, 1902, the thirty four year old saloon keeper had married Anna C. Russell, a woman seventeen years his junior.

Eight years into the marriage, by the time of the 1910 census, the couple was living in the very house where Andrew had grown up on Brandriff Street in Fort Wayne. Andrew was listed as proprietor of the saloon where he had worked for the last ten years. At home, well, it was hard to tell. There’s not much that can be extrapolated from the records, other than the fact that Anna was listed as a woman without any children.

About the only visible difference in the 1920 census was the fact that the census taker chose to spell their name as Kelley. Still on Brandriff Street, Andrew now worked as a janitor at a manufacturing business.

Not long after that, things began to change—or perhaps I should say things began to become discoverable through documentation. A small notice on page six of the August 21, 1920, edition of The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette under the column, “Court News,” revealed
A divorce was granted to Anna C. Kelly from Andrew Kelly in the superior court yesterday.
A closer look revealed a report in the June 18, 1920, Fort Wayne News and Sentinel when Andrew’s wife filed divorce papers for “failure to provide properly.”

It is hard to tell, in gleaning notes from historic newspaper collections, whether any given reports might be of the right Andrew Kelly. Perhaps it was this Andrew of whom a “Police Court” column on page 25 of the June 19, 1915, Fort Wayne News referred:
Andrew Kelly was one of the two drunks who drew fines this morning, and he begged hard to get off so that he could drive a four-horse float in the parade this afternoon. He is a teamster for the Porter Construction company and started for a drive with a team belonging to the company Sunday afternoon, but got as far as Calhoun and Grand streets, when he fell asleep in the rig as a result of too much cider.
The episode made it into the Fort Wayne Sentinel a few days later, with the further explanation that
Andrew Kelly took his employer’s pony team out to give himself and a companion a Sunday joy ride. They got a gallon of Hoffman’s well-known cider and when the police caught up with Kelly he was fast asleep in his buggy at Calhoun and Grand streets. He drew $1 and costs.
There were other mentions of Andrew Kelly’s name in various editions of Fort Wayne newspapers, mostly concerning his saloon license and business difficulties. These probably provide enough indication for reasons why he ended up selling his business and finding a job as a janitor. Perhaps that was his last-ditch effort to satisfy a wife who was threatening to divorce him for “failure to provide properly.”

Though shortly after that point, the historic newspaper collections I subscribe to go dark for editions of the Fort Wayne news, I tend to think Andrew’s life may have reverted to that quiet desperation felt by those who are left alone. I can only presume—well, it’s a good guess, given the Brandriff Street address—that it is our Andrew who showed up, apparently at his own old address, listed as a "lodger" in the 1930 census.

By the time of the 1940 census, at Saint Joseph's Home for the Aged, Andrew’s life was finished winding down. He bid his final farewells and called it quits on December 2, 1940. The Catholic Cemetery records gave his age as seventy three years, one month and one day. It seems almost anticlimactic, in the face of this sad recounting, to check that tally in a birth date calculator to see if it matches the November 1867 date given in the 1900 census as his birth, but I did. For what it’s worth, the results confirm his birth as November 1, 1867.

His vital statistics seemed to reduce him down to numbers on documents, duly recorded business licenses and court fines, and yet another file—his divorce settlement—telling him he was a failure yet again. What of the litany of life-shaping events that brought Andrew Kelly to that end? Those are articles no newspaper is likely to print. There is probably no source left now to tell that sort of story.

After that, all we are left with is a forlorn notation the Catholic Cemetery insisted on registering in his burial record: “divorced.”


  1. Such a sad story. His life did not go the way he dreamed it would, no one will no what that dream was...

    1. The signs of painful elements in his life remind me of other stories in this extended family's history. It's hard to understand what went into his taking the life path that he did. It may not be a choice at all, but a convergence of elements. Hard to say, when I can only find the slightest tip of this life's iceberg.


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