MARTIN D. KELL
residing on the Almaden road, two and
one-half miles from the Court‑house at San Jose, was born near Toronto,
Canada, April 5, 1840. He is the son of Thomas and Margaret (Murphy)
Kell. His father was born in Durhamshire, England, in 1804, leaving
there with his parents, in 1816, they becoming pioneer settlersof
Canada East, at Franton, thirty-six miles from Quebec. There the
father, Thomas Kell, Sr., died about 1820. At the same place Thomas
Kell, Jr., father of the subject of this sketch, married, in 1828, Miss
Margaret Murphy. She was born in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1811,
being the daughter of Martin Murphy, Sr.,
whose history appears elsewhere in this volume. She left Ireland, with her
parents, when nine years of age, remaining in Canada East until 1839. Thomas
Kell, Jr., and his wife settled near Toronto, living there until the autumn of
1841, when they became pioneers of Atchison County, Missouri, where Mrs. Kell's
parents had preceded them about two years.
In 1844 Martin Murphy, Sr., with his
family and a few friends, made the hazardous journey across the plains, with
wagons, andbecame the advance guards of the hosts which brought civilization to this sunny
land, with its bountiful soil. Mr. Kell, who had made a good start on the new,
productive soil of Atchison County, was reluctant to leave. But the glowing
reports from his father-in-law, as to the healthfulness and productiveness of
California, foreshadowing its future acquisition by the United States, with
prophetic vision of its coming grandeur, decided him to undertake the trip.
Accordingly, with his household, he commenced the long, weary journey May 11,
1846. This journey, attended by all the dangers incident to travel, across the
western wilds and pathless mountains, inhabited only by Indians and the wild
beasts of the forest, was very different from travel of this day. Perhaps some
idea of the hardships of such a journey can be gained, when one reflects that
Mr. Kell slept for the first time under a California roof, October 11, just five
months from the day he left Missouri. Now that journey can be made by rail, in
as many days. Their train was the largest one that had ever crossed the
mountains, at one time consisting of fifty-three wagons, most of which were
bound for Oregon, all under the command of one Major Cooper. The first night
(spoken of above) was spent with Martin Murphy, Jr., brother of Mrs. Kell, near
where Sacramento now stands, below Sutter's Fort.
Martin Murphy had learned, by an advance of the party, that the Kells were suffering from sickness, and making slow progress. Mounting his horse, he followed the trail eastward, about thirty-six hours, without rest. Meeting the family, he piloted them to his home, a journey which, with their worn-out animals, it required eight days to perform. Here the family rested for three weeks. The Bear Flag had been raised, and the conquest of California practically accomplished. Upon leaving Mr. Murphy, Mr. Kell was furnished with that which was then more desirable than gold—that is, wheat for seed. In January, 1847, he planted about fifteen acres on the ranch belonging to Martin Murphy, Sr., situated eighteen miles south of San Jose. In the autumn of that year, they established their home near San Jose, on property still owned by the family. On Christmas-day of the same year they occupied a frame house, built of redwood, hewed and sawed by hand, out of the forest near Gilroy. Years afterward a more pretentious residence was built, and occupied by the father and mother until their death.
Mr. Kell died on March 8, 1878. His wife did not survive him long, her death occurring December 30, 1881. She was the mother of a large family. The three eldest were born in Canada. The eldest, Thomas J., was born in 1829. He, with his uncle, Bernard Murphy, perished with the ill-starred steamer, Jenny Lind, which was wrecked by the explosion of one of its boilers, in the bay of San Francisco, April 11, 1853. The next child, Ann, was born in 1834. She is now the widow of Clementa Columbet, and resides in San Jose. The third, Martin D., is the subject of this sketch. John, the fourth child, was born in Missouri, and died en route to this State, aged four years. The fifth child, William D., was born in Missouri, in 1844. He now lives at Mountain View. The three youngest were born in this county. John J., born in 1847, is a resident of San Jose. Mary Ellen, born in 1852, is now the wife of T. A. Carroll, a resident of San Jose. Thomas B., born in April, 1855, is now the owner of part of the old homestead, but now (1888) is residing upon the Weber Ranch. Thomas Kell, Sr., was an invalid from 1840, suffering from chronic rheumatism. He also incurred a severe injury, while en route to California, from the effects of which he never fully recovered. He was a man of kindly impulses, and helped many a poor man to get a start in California.
Martin D. Kell, whose name heads this sketch, is prominent in public affairs in Santa Clara County, and a Democrat in politics. He has held several official trusts in his district and county. From November, 1875, until March, 1878, he served as Deputy Roadmaster. At the election of 1877 he was chosen Supervisor of District No. 1, entering upon the duties of the office in March, 1878, and being re-elected the following year to the same office. He also served as Under-Sheriff for four years, with Mr. B. F. Branham as Sheriff. On September 11, 1865, he married Miss Mary A. Ward, daughter of Patrick and Margaret Ward, of Lewis County, New York, where Mrs. Kell was born April 24, 1842. Her mother died in this county, in 1874, at the home of her son, Bernard Ward, now deceased. Mrs. Kell's father died in Lewis County, New York, in 1876.
Mr. and Mrs. Kell have seven children, five sons and two daughters, all yet
making their home under the parental roof. Thomas P. was born July 19, 1866;
Martin B., January 27, 1868; Mary A., September 5, 1869; William W., October 12,
1871; Maggie, January 1, 1874; Bernard, May 3, 1876; Peter C., August I, 1878.
Mr. Kell is the owner of a fine property of eighty-nine acres, which, excepting
five acres devoted to orchard for family use, is devoted to general farming.
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.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIOGRAPHY PROJECT