“This year, in 2020, the Jacob Kelley Home celebrates its 200th anniversary. The significance of the home is not that it is still standing, but that we know its provenance, its connection with the community, and that we have allowed it to become representative of a shared time, from our historical narrative. The Jacob Kelley House stands as a reminder of 19th century living. It is iconic in that it reflects, with simple honesty, the difficulty and practical aspects of daily life. This home allows citizens a window into the past, through which they are able to gain a deeper appreciation for the contributions of a bygone generation and the modern offerings of their own generation.” (Brain Gandy, Director, Darlington County Historical Commission & Museum)
History of the Jacob Kelley House
The Jacob Kelley House is located in the Kelleytown community of Hartsville. Kelley, a settler who founded the farming community in the early nineteenth century, built this home in the late 1820s as a one-story log cabin. A second story was added between 1830 and 1840.
One interesting architectural feature of this home is that no plaster was used; the walls are all made of hand-planed board. An original mantel still graces the interior, made of heart pine. The architectural style of the Jacob Kelley House is known as an I-house, popular in the mid-nineteenth century. It earned this appellation due to its prominence in states beginning with the letter I – Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. However, the style originally came about in England during the 1600s and, here in America, can be seen in a variety of Southern and Mid-Atlantic states.
In 1865 the house was used as headquarters for Union Major General John E. Smith. Remarkably, the home survived the Civil War despite the fact that the US Army was charged with destroying everything in the area as well as taking over the nearby mills. According to legend, Kelley was authorized to guard the community’s valuables during the war. In order to do so, he took all of Kelleytown’s silver and gold and protected it on an island in what is now called Segars Mill Pond.
After being restored in 1970 and again in 1996, the Jacob Kelley House currently operates as a house museum. The rooms are adorned with period furniture, and docents wear clothing from the Civil War era.
Students and other visitors are treated to an authentic farm settlement experience and are told the story of the Union occupation within the walls where it took place.
The Jacob Kelley House is listed in the National Register:
The Jacob Kelley House is significant as a fine example of architectural evolvement, from a one-story log house typical of early South Carolina upcountry settlement into the simple, functional plantation house that later became typical of the Pee Dee farm area and of much upcountry home building in the 19th century. The original log portion of the house predates 1830. The home was enlarged, weatherboarded, and a second story added circa 1830-1840. Several years later its size was almost doubled when a two-story annex was added on its west side. The walls and ceilings are of wide, hand-planed boards. An original mantel is of hand-carved heart pine.
Home of Jacob Kelley (1780-1874), prominent early settler and founder of the small agricultural community, Kelley Town. Its military significance stems from its use as headquarters for the Union troops of Gen. John E. Smith, Commander of the 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps, in March 1865. From this location the Federal troops commandeered the nearby Kelley Mills, ransacking and laying waste to the surrounding area. Listed in the National Register May 6, 1971.
I’m black and that’s my family’s house too.
Linda Gstohl says
Looking for James Ray Kelly’s family.
Linda Gstohl says
Looking for James Ray Kelly, Sr. family.
Tom Cassidy says
As friends with a number of Kelley descendants like the Hodges and the Gardners, I hope to join them in celebrating the glorious Kelley House in its two-hundredth birthday party.
Tom McDonough says
Hi! I am the son of Irish Catholic immigrants who came to America in the ’40s – the height of Jim Crow in America both North and South. Until recently I was not aware of the Irish owning slaves, but they sure did which is shameful and heartbreaking for me. I am working on a book that deals with the Irish and Scots Irish role in slavery. After some research, I noticed this Mr. Kelley owned over 60 slaves. Interestingly there was a Democratic Governor in SC who is part of the Kelley family.
There was an ironic and poignant story on the First Lady and how she would frolic on the grounds where the slaves toiled and bled in misery during the Kelley reign. I hope the whole story gets told and not just the sanitized and happy Irish Charms and Irish Spring version. It would be great to invite the relatives of the slaves who worked on the plantation to the celebrations. Any Irish person worth their salt would get behind telling the whole truth of Kelleytown.
Brian Gandy says
Thank you for your interaction with the Jacob Kelley House link on the South Carolina Picture Project. I am not affiliated with the site in any way other than a casual participant like yourself. However, I am affiliated with the Jacob Kelley House Museum and I would like to offer you some accurate information about who we are, and what we are actually doing. In full disclosure, I am also the director of the Darlington County Historical Commission which owns and operates the Jacob Kelley House and I serve as County Historian.
I took the liberty of checking the last 3 years of visitor logs for the Jacob Kelley House as well as the Historical Commission and I was unable to see where you have visited with either location.
The horrible institution of slavery is a TRUE dark spot on our American history, and I agree with your bias that many sanitize and wash over its reality. However, this is not the approach that we take regarding the Jacob Kelley House or our local history. A prime example is our open-hearth cooking demonstrations and educational classes. They are taught from the perspective of the person that would have been working to prep for the meals, cook, and serve them. This person prior to the end of the War Between the States, would likely have been an enslaved person. It is important to us to give an accurate account that reflects the reality of the situation. Had you been to one of these events, you would have left with a very different understanding and your assumption that we are sanitizing history would have been challenged.
Currently, the JKH is celebrating its Bicentennial during a period of mandatory closures due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Commission Board is working on a plan to possibly roll the event forward by one year so that the community will be able to benefit from this once in a lifetime occurrence. Please allow me to give you some background.
There are no extant documents that reference slaves by name at the Jacob Kelley House. The reference you made to over 60 slaves is misnomer in that 40 of those were in 1840 the Jacob had already turned the farm over to his children and he was in his 60’s. Prior to that, the Federal Census records the following: 1830-17, 1820 -3, 1810 -1 and in 1800-2.
The Historical Commission contracted with a local genealogist 3 years ago to research and ferret out what we could in regards to enslaved connections to the Jacob Kelley House. This individual is local to the Kelleytown Community, through home visits, phone calls and document research has produced over 8 linear inches of family data of possible connections. Without the names of enslaved people, we have no way of making a definitive connection except where family oral narratives offer guidance. This material has also been shared with the local African American Churches in partnership to help them in their memorial celebrations.
During the planning for our Bicentennial events, we worked with a representative of the African American reenactors involved with the Massachusetts 54th and were excited that they would be serving as our uniformed occupation representing the Federal encampment. They would have been a part of the original Union forces that actually encamped at the Jacob Kelley house, so we felt it was a wonderful opportunity to present camp and military life from the African American perspective. But for me, the actual part of the Bicentennial celebration that I was most excited about, was the opportunity to invite a member of the Slave Dwelling Project to cook in our cookhouse. He and I regularly communicated about the benefits of allowing an African American reenactor to man the cookhouse as an enslaved individual. We both felt strongly that this educational opportunity that would discuss food preparation, and daily life of an enslaved cook would benefit our celebration.
I would be very interested in the source material you are quoting that references a South Carolina First Lady that’s directly connected to Jacob Kelley and “frolicked and danced.” I want to offer you a word of caution about the Kelley lines and the given name Jacob. In the annals of our Darlington County Family History & Genealogy we have 4 Jacob Kelley’s all from different areas of the county. Two of these lines have reported having DNA done, showing no connection. We have more original material on Jacob Kelley and the Kelley family than any other local archive in SC. With that said, I am unaware of a First Lady family connection other than of the modern era and that would be Rachel Hodge. The early Kelley, Kelly and O’Kelley lines are elusive with all lines recycling given names including Jacob, James, and Prudence.
I encourage you to reach out to the Darlington County Historical Commission and look at the Family Name information we have on these lines. The Kelley/Kelly/O’Kelley lines have vast amounts of unvetted and errored information on sites such as Ancestry. I was looking at a tree on there this morning that referenced Jacob having 9 children with 2 of the listed children being from another unrelated Kelley family line, a daughter-in-law listed as a daughter and a grandson as a son.
Mr. McDonough, once again, I thank you for interacting with the Kelley page on this site. However, I wish you had contacted us before you assumed and publicly indicated that we were in that group of people that do not respect history and try to cover over the past. We in Darlington County value our rich history! Even the parts like the enslavement of another group of humans. Why? Because, when we let history stand on its own, without bias or opinion, it does what it was designed to do. It challenges us to course correct our future and to avoid the pains of the past. The cycle of history repeating itself is only broken when we as a society, take a good hard look at the pains of our past and commit to never allowing that to happen again! I cannot speak for the past, but under my watch, we preserve, protect, and promote our rich history as it stands, without whitewashing it or sanitizing it.
You can reach us at the Darlington County Historical Commission, 204 Hewitt, Street, Darlington, SC 29532 (closed to the public due to the Covid Pandemic), by phone at 843-398-4710, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will make any material we have available.
Paula Carter says
I am a Davis descendant from Darlington County, SC. I am one of many who represent several of the Davises and Kelleys who, along with several Darlington County, SC families, came to Wayne County, MS about 1819. I am seeking people with interest in DNA comparisons and a willingness to delve deep into the Kelleys 🙂 I wish I could come back to SC and see this house, as when I was there before (on the Darlington and Kershaw county line looking at the Lynches, thinking about the old Ferry), I was not as experienced and only went to the courthouse. One day, I will make it back 🙂
Mark K. Dale says
This is my great great great great-grandfather. I live in Alabama and just found out about the house and plan to visit soon in 2021 if allowed. I would appreciate any info on how my family ended up here in central Alabama. Are there records of the family prior to Jacob? Very interested because this is as far back as I could make it on the web. One family member says that we are actually German and the name was changed from Kohl to Kelley when they arrived to the US. Thanks for any help.
Bill Segars says
Robin Welch, director of SCPP, just scolded me about not commenting on the ever-growing list of family members and interested folks posting on the Jacob Kelley House page. Well I’m here today to welcome any and everyone to “downtown” Kelleytown SC. We are not only proud that this 200-year-old home of Jacob Kelley still stands today for so many to enjoy, but we’re proud of the heritage that Jacob Kelley and his decedents left for this small community to build upon.
This building would not exist today had it not been for many historically-minded decedents who cared enough to save this building and see to it that it was placed in the caring hands of the Darlington County Historical Commission, an arm of Darlington County government.
Through this gesture and the many family members who show interest and donate financially to its upkeep, the house and its residents’ stories live on today.
If I, as a decedent of Jacob Kelley, or Brian Gandy, Director of the Darlington County Historical Commission & Museum, can help you in any way reconnect yourself to your Jacob Kelley heritage, please reply to this post or send us an email. Brian, email@example.com, may be the best person to help you with genealogy. I, firstname.lastname@example.org, will be glad to help you with the house and access to it.
SC Picture Project says
That’s right, Bill! This is developing into a lovely community of Kelley descendants, and we want you to be part of it. (Full disclaimer: Bill is the Chairman of the South Carolina Picture Project’s Board, so I am allowed to tease him!) Thanks to Bill and Brian, we have several other landmarks in our archive that are either in Kelleytown or related to Kelleytown, so if you are interested, you can find them at https://www.scpictureproject.org/tag/kelleytown.
Jacky Kelly says
Gracie, not sure about first cousins, but we may be third. I never met my dad’s parents, Minnie and Henry; they passed away before I was born. My dad’s siblings were Robert Harvey Kelly, Ray Kelly, Joe Marshall Kelly, Louvena Kelly Watlington, Lena Kelly Robinson, and James Edger Kelly. My Uncle Joe and Uncle Harvey went to Muldoon, TX around 1930. My Aunt Louvena lived in Palestine; the others stayed around Huntsville and Riverside. My dad moved down to the Galveston Bay Area to work in the plants. I have a picture of great-grandmother Vickers at the Homestead in Riverside; she is seated with my Grandpa and two men and a lady behind her. I wonder if that was your mother?
Jacky, thank you so very much for all the info. I remember I remember Ray and Lena. I remember my mother mentioning Jack, Joe, Harvey, Edgar, and Louvena and something about Muldoon. Was one of them Postmaster? I remember going to Country Campus where one or both husband and wife were attending Sam Houston College. They had a daughter around my age, 12 to 14 years old at the time, and a son. I would so love to talk correspond or talk to you. My email is email@example.com.
You do know the Jacob Kelley House is celebrating 200 years this year? I don’t know if I will make it to the BIG CELEBRATION, however I hope to make it sometime this year.
Do you still in Texas? We moved from Houston to Central Texas almost 18 years ago. My husband, children, and I were a rare breed. We were Native Houstonians.
I would love to have a copy of the photo of our great-grandmother I have 2 snapshots of her and one of Great-grandfather Vickers I would love to share with you. Take care. Gracie
Donnelle McKaskle says
My great-great-grandfather was also Thompson Kelly. His daughter with Ann E. Wilson (later Vickers) was Nellie Elizabeth Kelly, my great grandmother. I would LOVE to see the picture you have of Grandmother Vickers.
Could you please email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org? If it is a hassle to copy, you can take a picture of it with your phone and send it to me via text. Email me and I’ll give you my number. If you are on Facebook, you can search my name and message me as well!
It’s so fun to find cousins here! I hope we can touch base. I’m adding all your info to my family tree that you gave to Gracie. We have been talking and sharing as well.
All the best,
Elizabeth Donnelle McKaskle
Daughter: RM McKaskle and Nellie Elizabeth Scott
Nellie Elizabeth Scott daughter of James W. Scott and Nellie Elizabeth Kelly
Jacky Kelly says
Gracie Cooper, my dad was Jack Collins Kelly.
Gracie Cooper says
Thank you for your info. My grandmother was Nellie Elizabeth Kelly Scott, your grandpa’s sister. She died when my mother was four years old. She and her youngest daughter, Emma May, are buried beside your grandparents in the Dodge Cemetery. Back in mid-October, my husband and I came home from Houston by way of Dodge and Riverside. I knew they were buried at Dodge; however, I wanted to find my great-grandfather Thompson Alexander Kelly’s grave. We finally found Shockley Chapel Cemetery and I was able to locate his grave.
I had been thinking how sad he is buried all alone. Wait, there beside his marker is a tiny marker for Ezra Kelly; his baby grandson is buried beside him. Henry and Minnie Kelly’s baby. I’m not familiar with your dad. I just wish I had asked a lot of questions of my mother and her sister, Jessie Aileen.
I’m trying to figure out who lived in Palestine in the 1920s (Aunt Emma and Uncle Charlie) and how are they connected to our family. I have diaries written in Palestine; she mentions Aunt Emma and Uncle Charlie. My mother said she was from pillar to post. She lived in Houston when she was six or seven, lived in Brenham, lived with her grandmother Walterman, grandmother Vickers on several occasions (graduated from Riverside School in 1921), in Palestine, Houston again with her sister, Louisiana with her oldest brother and his family, the Gulf with her sister and her family, Arkansas with her younger brother and his family and finally again in Houston on her own where she met my dad. They married June, 1933. I’m piecing things together slowly and would appreciate any help you have on the Kellys. I’m thinking we are first cousins; am I correct?
Jacky Kelly says
I also will be planning a road trip to visit Kellytown. Jacob was my 3x great grandpa. My great grandpa was Thompson Kelly, my Grandpa was James Henry Kelly.
Gracie Cooper says
Your grandmother was Aunt Minnie. I remember visiting with her and Ray in Riverside in the 50s. To which of Aunt Minnie and Uncle Henry’s children do you belong?
Gracie DeCarlo Cooper says
This is my great-great-great-grandfather. How exciting to discover his home is of historical significance. My mother, Bonnie Grace Scott DeCarlo, was born 11 November 1903, died 5 May 2007. She would be so proud and excited. She was born after her grandfather Thompson A. Kelly died. He’s buried in Shockley Chapel Cemetery; Dodge, Texas; Walker County. His father was Rosier Kelley. His daughter (my grandmother) Nellie Elizabeth Kelly Scott is buried in Dodge Cemetery; Dodge, Texas; Walker County. My daughter and I are hoping and planning a road trip to South Carolina this summer.
Enjoyed this site. Several years ago I was given a state flag that included a certificate signed by Rep. James Lucas. It stated the flog was flown over the state capital on June 26, 2000. It was presented to the Jacob Kelley House. What do you know about this?
Steven Horton says
My family house also.
Diane Rider says
This was my 5th great-grandparent's house and my son Jacob visited there while we were in Society Hill for a family reunion held at the home place Jacob's daughter lived in. It's good to know it is still standing.
Hester Scarsella says
It’s my 4 generations back grandfather as well! We are planning on visiting soon. Lived in Hartsville my entire childhood and parents are still there but we have never been to visit.