O'Kelley Migration

It is sometimes helpful to look at visuals to obtain a better understanding of the movements of our ancestors.  The first documented location for Charles and Francis and Rev James O'Kelly is in southern Mecklenburg County Virginia where it joins with North Carolina.  On the North Carolina side of the border joined Granville and Warren County places that Thomas and Benjamin are found but today these counties are separated Vance County which was formed from the portions of Granville and Warren Co where they came together alone the Virginia border.  It was possible that Charles and Francis could live in Mecklenburg Co Virginia, Thomas live in Granville Co North Carolina and Benjamin live in Warren Co North Carolina and they could have live within eyesight of each other.  That area is represented in the center of the below map, the labeled Virginia and North Carolina may be the exact location where Thomas, Charles, Benjamin and Francis lived with their families for almost two decades before they moved southward mostly all to Georgia.  All that area is at the bottom of a lake today but in their time iit was the Roanoke River and its southern contributory. 

So where did Charles and Francis O'Kelley come before they are found in Mecklenburg Co VA?  I think they originated in the place as George Crowder and this two daughters, Mary and Delilah, the women these two men married.  I suspect Charles married Mary Crowder while they were still living in Bristol Parish Prince George Co and they moved with her father George Crowder soon after to Mecklenburg Co Virginia.  I think it likely that Francis probably followed Charles to Mecklenburg, he may have worked for George Crowder for a time then he married Delilah in Mecklenburg. 

My theory seems supported by a Bristol Parish Prince George birth record for Mary Kelly born to William and Sarah Kelly Sept 22 1925.  I suspect William and Sarah are the grandparents of Charles and Francis O'Kelley and likely the parents of Rev James O'Kelly as Prince George Co borders Surry Co Virginia a place that it has been said that Rev James O'Kelly and his wife Elizabeth Meeks were married.  Also found in Surry Co are the land records for a Thomas Dean who I suspect is the father of Elizabeth Dean and the maternal grandfather of Charles and Francis O'Kelley.

Our ancestors migration south began in the Mecklenburg Co Virginia North Carolina area which is represented as A in the below map and ending at Oglethorpe Co Georgia represented as D on the below map is by our modern roads of today 413 miles and expected to take a little less than 8 hours on our modern highways but such a trip for our ancestors would take six weeks and maybe longer.  Around 1800 when they made their migration there were not many roads and only a few bridges.  Benjamin migrated from Warren County North Caroline which was just across the Virginia North Carolina to Buncombe, North Carolina which appears just above the B on the below map as Asheville.  Some of Benjamin's children and grandchildren moved from Buncombe, North Carolina to Pickens which is represented as B on the below map and from there some went on to Seneca South Carolina which is represented as C on the below map.  The visual shows how the O'Kelleys moved mostly along the same line and once they were in Georgia we find then spreading out, some going north to Habersham Co George, some to Hall Co and many to Athens Georgia.  The times they appear in these other counties correspond with the Georgia Land Lotteries so it seems clear these moves were accomplished so they would meet the resident requirements allowing them to take part in the land lotteries that were held in those Georgia Counties.  As one can see our ancestors were so much more than just names on a page, just as we do today, they were taking advantage of the opportunities in their goal to provide a better life for their families.  My 3rd great grandfather was Charles Dean O'Kelley the son of Charles O'Kelley and no long after he and Mary Stamps married in 1820 they moved to Walton County likely to meet the resident requires for the coming Walton County Lottery.  So it was the promise of free land that kept our ancestors on the move, it was likely that same promise that caused our Irish ancestor to leave his native Ireland and migrate to Virginia giving all his descendants alive today their foothold in the great nation to have ever existed.


My 2nd great grandfather James Stamps O'Kelley as an adult left his father's Walton County home represented as A on the below map and he moved to the Gordon Co Georgia area about the time of the last Georgia lottery and he like his ancestors likely did so to qualify for that land lottery.  H was like most in his time a farmer but during the Civil War he did the smart thing and worked in a wagon factory building wagons for the Confederacy. At some point the factory was closed by the invading Union Army and my grandfather was permitted to return home where he shoed horses. Those traits appeared in my father and uncles as most my uncles were carpenters and my father was an auto body repair or body and fender as most people referred to them. At one time my father worked at Armbrusters in Ft Smith building stretch Limos so in a way he too followed the path of his great grandfather. Unlike his father and grandfather, James Stamps O'Kelley never owned slaves but life was so difficult in Georgia after the war that in December 1870 my grandfather hitched two oxen named Logan and Darb to a covered wagon and brought his family to Crawford County Arkansas arriving Feb 3, 1871.  Why Arkansas?  J Fred tells us that Lucy's kin had moved to Crawford Co and they helped them secure a farm but James Stamps O'Kelley's adult son, Charles William O'Kelley my 1st great grandfather also came and he homesteaded property just north of the 81 Community near Rudy Arkansas.  By modern roads the trip is 804 miles and is estimated to take 13 hours and 45 minutes.  It took my grandfather and family almost 3 months.  On my 58 birthday in 2010 my oldest son Shawn and I drove almost the exact same trip when we visited Stone Mountain Georgia.  It is likely we cross some of the same ground and at the same places as our ancestors did more than 140 years before us.