The Kelley/Kelly Family of Choctaw County, AL

Sometime after 1820, Jesse Kelly moved from his birth place of Raleigh, North Carolina to Perry County, Alabama. In Perry County, he met a young woman named Martha Lee. Martha was the youngest daughter of Richard Lee of Perry County.

Martha and Jesse owned land in both Perry County and Pike County. In the 1830 census of Pike County, Jesse and Martha lived next door to Martha's brother Daniel Lee. Sometime in the late 1830's, Jesse and Martha, along with Martha's brother, Daniel Lee, moved to a part of Sumter County that later became Choctaw County.

Martha and Jesse farmed land along the Tombigbee River.

On Nov. 30, 1858, John Hamburg arrived in New Orleans on the ship Washington. Born in Preetz, Germany about 1837, the twenty-year-old John had sailed from Hamburg to New Orleans to join his sister, Louisa Ratzburg. Shortly after arriving, he met and married Louisa Radford on July 1, 1860. On June 16, 1865 in Meridian, Mississippi, Lula Hamburg was born.

Sometime before 1840, Jesse Kelley and his wife Martha, along with Martha's brother, Daniel Lee, sold their farm in Pike County and moved to a part of Sumter County that is now Choctaw County, Alabama. What caused such a move? Availability of land was the main reason. In 1830 the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed and made land available to the white settlers while moving out the Indians. Jesse Kelley and Martha settled down along the Tombigbee River to farm and raise a family.

Solomon Kelley was born July 1, 1840. As a child, along with his two brothers and eight sisters, he often played with the Indian children still living in the area when he wasn't helping on the farm. Solomon was still a young man when he joined the 54th Regiment in the Alabama Infantry to fight in the Civil War for the south that he loved. Solomon was wounded and lost a finger during the battle of Atlanta when more than half the regiment was killed or wounded.

When Lula Hamburg was about 26 years old, she was working in the home of a friend of Solomon Kelley. Solomon was quite taken with the young and pretty Miss Hamburg right from the first meeting. After a short courtship, they were married on December 24, 1891 in Pushmataha, Choctaw County, Alabama by the Reverend B.D. Gayle.

Even though Mr. Kelley was twenty-five years older than Miss Hamburg, she never seemed to be interested in his past. When they arrived home, Lula was surprised when they drove the horse and buggy up to the farmhouse to see all of the neighbors come out to greet them. "Mr. Kelley did you tell the neighbors when we would be arriving?" A somewhat sheepish Solomon said, "That's not the neighbors. That's my children and I've been trying to tell you." It seems that Lula Hamburg was Solomon's third wife. His first wife, Etta Lou Daniels, died in childbirth along with their first child. Solomon and his second wife, Sarah Jane Felts, had fourteen children: Ada Rebecca, Loyd Caswell, Alla C., Martha Luella, Jesse, Leslie Littleton, Gaynes, Foster, Mary Sidney, Moody Mae, Thaddeaus, James B., Mooney Felts and George Norris. Ten of those children still lived at home. With courage beyond the call of duty and with much love and affection, Lula set about doing the tasks required of a new wife and mother. Lula had made herself many new clothes, but because the children were in need of some new clothing, she tore up her own clothes to make clothes for the family, sharing her belongings as well as her heart. Solomon and Lula had ten more children of their own: Reuben, Margaret, David, Williegray, Ruth, Ernest, Edna and Marie. Two sons died in infancy and were not named. Lula was forty-one years old when her tenth child was born and Solomon was sixty-eight.

Like his father and two brothers, Solomon was a farmer at heart. He owned land for over thirty years in Choctaw County. His life revolved around taking care of his family and serving as deacon of his church. While farm life was hard, there was much love in the Kelley household. Solomon and Lula strived to give their children a strong moral upbringing. On Wednesday, the mid-week church service was held in the Kelley home. Neighbors and family would gather around to listen to Mr. Kelley read from the bible. Maggie Kelley, the organist, would play for the singing and the smaller children took turns pumping the organ by hand. About once a month, the Kelley's would put the kitchen chairs on top of the wagon, load the family up and ride to the Baptist Church for services. This early Christian training left a deep impression on the children. Many of the Kelley descendants are in the ministry today.

Solomon died on February 1, 1916 and was buried in Mississippi. After Solomon's death, Lula and her children moved to Centralia, Illinois in 1918. Lula married four more times in her lifetime. She was married for the last time to Tom Bowser in 1944. She was a member of the First Baptist Church in Centralia. Lula Hamburg Kelley, Lions, Dean, Freeman, Bowser died October 22, 1954 at the age of 89 in Centralia, Illinois leaving 79 descendants. She died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Ruth Skort, surrounded by her family that she loved.