Bio-Pen Pictures

            James H. Kelly, one of the leading horticulturists of  Hamilton District, residing on Fruit Vale Avenue, a little west of the railroad crossing, is the owner of a fine property of fifty-three acres.  He was born in the State of New Hampshire, September 28, 1827.  His father, John Kelly, moved with his family in 1836 to Monroe County, Michigan, where James H. grew to manhood on a farm, and where his parents died.  He received his education at Oberlin, Ohio, from 1846 to 1850.

            Adventurous and enterprising, he joined, in 1850, a party about to make the overland journey to this State.  Like so many others, he was tempted by visions of gold, which awaited to enrich the digger.  Leaving the Missouri River on the first of April, he reached Hangtown (now called Georgetown [Placerville]) in Placer County, early in October, so different was the laborious travel by team in those days from the rapid transit accomplished by the “iron horse” of to-day.  Mr. Kelly worked in the mines until February of he following year, when he went to Sacramento.  Here he became engaged in freighting from Sacramento to Marysville, using a five-ton whale-boat for that purpose.  In May of the same year, Mr. Kelly came to San Jose, where he remained until 1854.  Having accumulated quite a little capital by industry, he returned East as far as Iowa, intending to purchase stock for his Western market.  But he found prices too high and abandoned the project.  He became interested in real-estate speculation, and engaged in the business for about four years.  In 1858 he again returned to Michigan, and remained there until 1862.  When the war cry sounded throughout the land, he followed, with thousands of brave men, to the defense of his country, enlisting August 8, 1862, in Company K, Eighteenth Michigan Volunteer Infantry.  The first few months were spent in guarding lines of communication in Kentucky.  January 1, 1863, he was made chief of Military Police at Nashville, Tennessee, acting in that capacity for seven months.  On the twenty-fourth of September, 1864, Mr. Kelly was captured by the rebels at Athens, Alabama, held for a few weeks, and then exchanged.  In November, 1864, he helped to defend Decatur against a three days’ attack of General Hood’s rebel army.  Mr. Kelly participated in engagements at Danville, Kentucky, and at the following places in Alabama, Pond Springs, Curtis Wells, Courtland, Athens, and was in two engagements at Decatur, that State.  Entering the service as a Sergeant, he was made Second Lieutenant November 24, 1862, First Lieutenant November 6, 1863, and for two and a half years had command of his company.  He performed a soldier’s duty nobly in all positions and at all times, and may well look back with pride to his record as a defender of his country.  He received his discharge June 26, 1865, and returned to Michigan.

            During the five years following, he conducted a milling business at Monroe, Michigan.  In 1870 he again came to California, with the intention of remaining.  He immediately purchased sixty acres of land, fifty-three acres of which he still owns and occupies.  After preparing the land, which was then a barren field, he set out an orchard, being the first man to plant a general variety of fruit-trees on the dry land west of the Willows.

            This work was looked upon as an experiment, and was entirely successful as far s the fruit crop was concerned. But no market for the product, in any quantity, could be found, and to save his peaches and apricots from rotting, Mr. Kelly bought hogs to eat them, and thus saves his first fruit crop.  Forty-five acres of his land is devoted to horticulture, prunes, and apricots being the principal product.  The pleasant residence, in which he lives, was erected in 1883.

            In Michigan, on the twenty-first of March, 1861, he wedded Miss Priscilla Eveline Beisel, of Monroe, that State, where her mother still lives.  Two sons and two daughters have been born to them.  James B., the eldest, lives in San Jose; Jonathan C. makes his home with his parents; Jennie D. is the wife of Lewis Myers, a resident of San Jose; and Jessie E., who is still under the parental roof.

            Mr. Kelly is a very strong Republican, and, as might be expected from his long service in the army, is interested in Grand Army doings, being a member of Phil. Sheridan Post, No. 7, G. A. R., at San Jose.

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888.

Pg. 410-411

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler
Proofread by Betty Vickroy



SANTA CLARA COUNTY The Valley of Heart's Delight