Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Campaign Turmoil, 1860s Style

Having lost the trail on my Kelly family from Lafayette, Indiana—yet remembering having seen newspaper clippings on Ann Kelly's siblings and nephews while still at the archives in Tippecanoe County—I thought, as a last effort, I could check the various historic newspaper collections I subscribe to, in hopes of locating those articles. I started off with, where I pulled up any editions including the surname Kelly or Kelley.

Apparently, their collection of Lafayette newspapers is limited to the 1860s. Fine; I'll try anything.

It wasn't long until I realized every article but one—about a drunk named John Kelly who got into a fight and didn't fare so well—had to do with the upcoming election in 1860. Apparently, a Mr. Kelly from Lafayette was active in that year's race for office.

Let's just forget, for a moment, that this Mr. Kelly was likely not connected with our Kelly family, and sit back to enjoy an overview of the election cycle in the year that was 1860.

From the Lafayette Daily Journal, September 17, page 3:
...[a series of speakers] was followed by Mr. Kelly, a young Irishman of this city, who was listened to with marked attention, especially by his countrymen, a number of whom were in the crowd.

From an editorial in the same paper on October 19, page 3:
...we must not overlook the Irish. That class has heretofore been regarded as an integral part of the Democracy. Happily for themselves and the country they are beginning to see and act correctly. They can no longer be bamboozled by the leaders of Locofocoism. ... One of our townsmen, Mr. Kelly, who is an Irishman and Catholic, has, during the whole canvass, been very active and energetic. He has spoken frequently and with great power, and is determined to use all his influence in behalf of Lincoln and Hamlin.

The Daily Journal, again, on October 22, page 3, in a report concerning a local political rally:
...Mr. Kelly was called for. Just as he was about to commence his speech another stone was thrown, evidently intended for the speaker, which struck a small boy in the crowd, inflicting a slight wound on the head. During the speech Mr. Kelly was annoyed by insulting remarks and shouts for Douglas and Breckinridge from the rabble that had congregated for the purpose of trying to drown his voice. Kelly, being gifted with a powerful voice, paid but little attention to the interruptions and made himself heard above all the noise and confusion, only occasionally replying to remarks in a manner that set the crowd in a roar of laughter. A number of Irishmen were present, and all expressed the greatest indignation at the manner in which their countryman was treated by members of a party that boast of their friendship for foreigners and love of free speech.

And from the same Lafayette newspaper at the conclusion of the election cycle, one hundred fifty six years ago to the day:
We trust that our citizens—especially our Republican friends—will not neglect the appointment of Mr. Kelly at the Court House to-night. During the entire canvass he has performed the part of a gallant soldier in the ranks of liberty. We hear of his effective assistance to the cause from all sources. Our Irish friends are particularly invited to be present at the meeting. Mr. Kelly is one of their countrymen and he is a noble specimen of that brave and chivalrous race that has given to the world so many sons of eloquence, song and daring.

Whoever the unidentified Mr. Kelly of Lafayette might have been—newspapers of that era seemingly adept at compelling their subscribers to read between the lines to fetch many of those missing details of the Five Ws—his cameo appearances in local political rallies on behalf of the soon-to-be-elected president, Abraham Lincoln, bring an interesting, if "old fashioned" counterpoint to today's election cycle. 


  1. Somethings never change. Throwing stones - riots... Sad reflection on our country.

    1. Time has a way of softening the rough edges...but in some cases, they were always there. Reading those old newspapers can be an eye opener, changing some assumptions about "the way things always were."


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