Randolph  County,  Indiana

Dennis  Kelley

            Ceaselessly to and fro flies the deft shuttle which weaves the web of human destiny, and into the vast mosaic fabric enter the individuality, the effort, the accomplishment of each man, be his station that most lowly or one of majesty, pomp and power. Within the textile folds may be traced the line of each individuality, be it the one that lends the beautiful sheen of honest worth and honest endeavor, or one that, dark and zigzag, finds its way through warp and woof, marring the composite beauty by its blackened threads, ever in evidence of the shadowed and unprolific life, Into the great aggregate each individuality is merged, and yet the essence of each is never lost, be the angle of its influence wide-spreading and grateful, or narrow and baneful. In his efforts he who essays biographical memoirs finds much of profit and much of alluring fascination when he would follow out, in even a cursory way, the tracings of a life history, seeking to find the keynote of each respective personality. These efforts and their resulting transmission cannot fail of value in an objective way, for in each case may the lesson of life he conned, line after line, precept after precept. One could not contemplate the life record of the late Dennis Kelley, for many years one of the leading business men and public-spirited citizens of Winchester, Randolph county, without gaining therefrom many helpful hints and forming at the same time a very high opinion of the man, for his benevolent and charitable work, extending over a period of many years, resulting in much good and stamping him as a whole-souled and genuine lover of his kind, would alone excite the admiration and reverence of all, especially of the contemplative turn of mind, for his gifts and his deeds for the general betterment of his fellow-men came not from a desire to win the plaudits of the public or for any ulterior motive, but merely out of an altruistic nature and a spirit of profound human sympathy.
            Mr. Kelley was born at Cincinnati, Ohio, October 9, 1844, and with his parents he moved to Montezuma, Ohio, in 1860, being then sixteen years of age. He received a somewhat meager common school education, which was greatly supplemented in after years by much home reading and by actual contact with the business world. Although but a boy when the Civil war came on he proved his courage 
 by enlisting in August, 1862, in Company C, One Hundred and Eighteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in which he served most faithfully and gallantly until the close of the war, participating in all of the battles of the famous Atlanta campaign, a series of the most strenuous hand to-hand battles recorded in history.  He was seriously wounded at the battle of Resaca, Georgia, May 14, 1864. After being honorably discharged he returned home and engaged in the mercantile business with his father, Dennis Kelley, Sr., and soon mastered the ins and outs of the business.
            In the year 1867 Mr. Kelley was united in marriage with Margaret Houser. In February, 1872 they removed to Winchester, Indiana, where they established the permanent home of the family, and embarked in the mercantile business. On January1,1881 he disposed of his mercantile interests and accepted the cashiership of the Randolph County Bank, which position he filled with eminent satisfaction to both the stockholders and patrons for a period of five years when he again engaged in business for himself. In 1886 he built the Kelley block, one of Winchester's most substantial and attractive mercantile structures, on the northwest corner of the public square, and here he conducted a prosperous business until 1905 when he was compelled to retire on account of declining health.
            As a merchant he became one of the leading citizens of Randolph county, but his talents and energy were not all devoted to money-making he found time to improve society by mingling with his fellow men in religious and fraternal circles; his devotion thereto was noted and in a financial way none were more generous than he. As a member and official of the Methodist Episcopal church he was punctual in attendance and participated in all its efforts to better mankind. His love for his comrades was exemplified by his becoming a charter member of the Grand Army of the Republic; not only was he a paying member thereof, but by his presence at all its public appearances gave proof of his loyalty to its teachings. He was an active member of Winchester Lodge, No. 56, Free and Accepted Masons. His high regard for that organization led him to become a member of its higher branches, the Council, Chapter, Knights Templar and thirty-second degree. In these he was honored by selection to many of the exacting offices, all of which he filled with his usual fidelity.
            As a member for several years of the board of control of the Fountain Park cemetery he exhibited a devotion to civic duty that is worthy of emulation.
            However with all the praise he merits for his loyalty to his country during the great war of the states, his honorable career as a merchant, his fidelity to duty in all the positions creditably filled by him in civic, church and fraternal societies, his dominant trait and the one for which his memory should long be revered, was his devotion to his family. He was a husband and father in the most complete sense of those words. His devotion to and his pride in his family and home was a marked characteristic. His home was his castle and there the guest was always welcome, like the way worn traveler to the tent of the Arab. His happiness consisted of making others happy. He was passionately fond of music, and took pride in giving his children every opportunity to perfect themselves in that art, with a result that they are among our most accomplished musicians. Nor was this filial devotion selfish, as he was advisor and benefactor to many whom the grim Reaper and misfortune had deprived of various kindred that comprise the home. His family consisted of  Charles A. Kelley, of Searcy, Arkansas;  Dennis H., of Whitefish, Montana;  Asahel Stone,  Grace M.,  Frances E., and  Ruth M., of Winchester, Indiana. They all survive together with the mother.
            Dennis Kelley was summoned to his eternal rest on April 9, 1911, after a short illness, at the attractive family residence on South Meridian street, Winchester.
            We quote these paragraphs from a lengthy article which appeared in Winchester's leading newspaper, at the time of his death:
            "Mr. Kelley was one of the leading and most highly respected citizens of this city, and as a merchant he had more than a county-wide acquaintance, all of whom will sincerely mourn his death and sympathize with his family in their affliction.
            His life was spent in a period that tested the man, and in no detail did he shirk or prove that he was not a manly man. It was given to him to participate in the struggle that saved this country; as a business man, to transform crude methods into a system; to elevate society from uncouthness to culture. In the period in which these transformations were made, he was a leader, a leader that will be missed and mourned by the community."
Past and Present of Randolph County, Indiana, 1914.
Contributed by Gina Richardson

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