Friday, September 6, 2013

The Owners of Lot 232

Initially, it was a search for the grave site of John Kelly Stevens’ wife that led me to Lot 232. Though he had been born in Lafayette, Indiana, John Kelly Stevens had spent his entire adult life in Fort Wayne, so naturally, I expected him to be buried in Fort Wayne.

And he was. Along with his third wife.

I knew, also, that—contrary to what Fort Wayne Church records seem to indicate—John Kelly Stevens’ first wife was buried back in his hometown, along with the tiny body of his second, infant daughter.

But what of the second wife, Catherine Kelly Stevens? Where was she buried?

When I finally found the answer to that question—and believe me, it will take an entire separate post to explain that—I asked my customary three questions. I wanted to know if it was a family plot. I wanted to know who else was buried there. And I asked who owned the plot.

Keep in mind I first undertook that exercise before widespread use of the Internet for genealogical research. This was the kind of grunt work one carried out over the phone or in person.

When it came to exploring who, exactly, owned the Kelly family plot, Lot number 232, I expected it to be Catherine’s father, John T. Kelly. However, once I discovered the list of nine Kelly family names included in that roster—many of whom I couldn’t identify—I began to wonder if I had uncovered a research bonanza.

Now, I’m not so sure. And that is after many years of puzzling over the pieces, trying in vain to make them fit.

You see, the owner of the family plot wasn’t exactly John Kelly.

It was John Kelly and someone else.

That someone else was named Timothy Kelly.

Now, don’t go figuring out ways that a sixteen year old could go prescient on us and foretell his own murder. It was not like that at all. The owner of the plot was a different Timothy Kelly.

Those pieces I’ve been puzzling over for years? They are the family members of this Timothy Kelly. I’ve learned a lot about that family—even emailed a descendant of that family who has worked on that family for years, too—but I still can’t figure out what, if any, relationship that Timothy had to our Timothy.

Maybe there isn’t any.

Maybe it was just a case of one Irish immigrant helping out another. And they both happened to have the same last name.

Yeah. Maybe.

Of those nine Kellys buried in Lot 232, there were two that predeceased our Timothy. One—a child, one year of age, who died in 1874—I still know nothing about.

The other was a woman named Ellen Kelly.

When I first found her, I thought perhaps she was the reason the family plot was purchased at the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne. Now that I see the entry for baby Willie Kelley (as it was listed in the death index), I realize that he was undoubtedly the reason the plot was first purchased. But at first glance, I had pursued the mystery of Ellen.

Over the years, I was able to find out quite a bit about this Ellen. She died less than four month before our Timothy was shot. I discovered that Ellen was born in County Cork in Ireland, and that she lived barely thirty seven years.

And I realized that Ellen was the wife, not of John Kelly, but of Timothy Kelly—the co-owner of the family plot.

That was enough to set me on a desperate search to find the connection between the two Kelly families, hoping the end of the trail would lead me to the information I needed on their origins in their homeland. Though still lacking the answers I crave, with the details I’ve accumulated, I may as well review what I know about this other Kelly family—a process we’ll begin tomorrow.

Once again, with faith in the searchability of the Internet, I’ll cast my data to the winds of the digital ether and hope something—or someone—will eventually return to me, offering just the right missing link to make sense of this family history.


  1. You will need to ask "when the plot was purchased?" too!

    John Kelly Stevens and wife arent buried in "this" plot (they arent actually buried at all).

    I wonder if the man that offered to paid, mother or wife was a Kelly, seems like plots were often owned by the widows.

    1. Good points, Iggy! All of them are important to keep in mind when researching these old family plots.

      I'm not sure what became of the promise to cover all funeral expenses in the specific instance of our young Timothy Kelly. Perhaps that promise was to be taken literally: funeral only, not burial.

      Or--more likely--the Kelly families already owned the family plot where they buried young Timothy, thus there was no need for Mr. Gorsline to cover that charge.

  2. Sylvester L Gorsline (1832 - 1920) born to Marvin Gorsline and Julia Daley. One of his wives was Anna M Bobo who he married on 21 Aug 1856. He must have been married several times however. The 1900 US Census shows him married to a Maggie, who is much younger than him.

    1. Hmmm...what a story line his life must have created!

      Though I'm fairly certain he never intermarried with either of the Kelly families, I have, however, seen his name in my family history research regarding Fort Wayne. Something in the back of my mind says that is a surname from the police department there, but I haven't been able to find it in my records. Who knows...

  3. I was up late last night to "cast my data to the winds of the digital ether." I was looking up the name of somebody who did a business transaction with my ancestor, Stephen Sherwood, in 1866 and became very well acquainted with a complete stranger, Doctor Orville H Conger. Now I would like to contact one of his descendants to let them know I have a document with their ancestor's name on it. I don't know when or if I will make time for that but it is sure tempting.

    Regards, Grant

    1. Grant, I hope it becomes more than tempting for you--I hope you do make contact with descendants.

      Of course, with your recent blog entries, now you have me wondering which side of the court case Dr. Conger was on, if any...

    2. Hi Grant-

      If you are still looking, Orville Conger was a prominent member of early Pasadena society. I'm sure the Pasadena Museum of History would take in the document or a copy.


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