Second Generation
Son of James O'Kelley and Nancy (Anna) Dean


Webmaster Rick O'Kelley2. James O'Kelly1,2 (Kelley or O'Kelley) was born between 1738 and 1740 likely in Co Meath Ireland and was of the O'Kelly of Bregia.  He wrote that he was born to a mother and father of common Irish descent.1,3  I am not sure how much stock we can put in his claim, after all most modern wealthy politicians and ministers make that same claim today even when their parents were very well off and Rev James O'Kelly wasn't poor by any standards of his time.  W. E. MacClenny concludes that Rev James was born in Ireland and may have been educated there and I think MacClenny was correct because in Co Meath there was an effort to educate native Irish to be Iterant ministers to other native Irish to spread the protestant faith and I believed Rev James O'Kelly may have been educated and could have ordained in Ireland and sent to America to preach to other Irish but I think that his father also Rev James O'Kelley was educated and ordained in Co Meath Ireland and the more famous son learned from his father his craft.  He was a Lay Minister in the Church of England or Anglican Church and not just anyone could do that, I doubt he could have done it if he had been born in America or once he was in America so I think MacClenny got it right that Rev James O'Kelly was born, educated in his early childhood in Ireland but in the middle of his life he became an Iterant Methodist minister in Wesley movement of the Church of England in Virginia due to the popularity and influence of his father. 

The North Carolina History Project website described Rev James as "lower gentry" and it is claimed he became a minister 1775 when he was near 40 years of age but I suspect he substitued for her father and was a part time when he married and he just became more famous and well know when he was near 40 and embraced the Methodist movement as an Iterant minister or a traveling minister.  If he started at 40 which was late in life, how did he go from a nobody sinner to a lay minister in the state church in such a short period of time?  If he were educated in Ireland why did he wait so late in his life to take advantage of his education?  I think much of the story may have been manufactured to make Rev James more acceptable as a minister but I also think the father and son were merged into one in the retelling of the stories and there are at least two publish sources who cause me to believe this is true. 

It is difficult to know if this is the father or the son but I think is likely Rev James O'Kelly came to Mecklenburg VA from the Prince George Co Surry Co border area as found in the Vestry records for Bristol Parish of Prince George Co are found Thomas Jefferson's grandfather also named Thomas Jefferson as well as Henry Randolph the maternal side of Thomas Jefferson's family but there does appear to be some connection to the Jeffersons as Captain John Farrar the first cousin of Thomas Jefferson appears a s substitute on the Mecklenburg Militia Roster for 19 year old Charles O'Kelley in 1779.  George Crowder the father-in-law of Charles and Francis O'Kelley was born in Prince George and he was said to have married Mary Branch also a cousin of Thomas Jeffereson.  W. E. MacClenny in his book makes the claim that Rev James O'Kelly's father was named William but it is unclear how this was determined, I think his grandfather was William Kelly a Merchant and Gentleman who died in Kells in 1748.

Jan 3 1785 having been broke way by our Revolution from the State Church of England the Itinerant ministers ordained themselves Elders in the newly formed Methodism Society of America, it was only at that time that Rev James gained the powers to marry, baptize, and perform communion, those rights had been denied him by the state church.  From that time till 1792 he rode a circuit over several different counties in southern Virginia and Northern Carolina mostly in supervision of other ministers.  Contrary to what some think, between 1775 and 1792 I find no evidence that he pastored a church in the modern understanding that he moved to and lived in an area and tended to a gathering of people on a regular basis, he road the circuit preaching in the open air, in homes, sometimes churches that was the domain of other ministers and in meeting houses.  I believe he always lived in the area where he died, in Chatham Co NC as that is where all known records place him and I also believe he might not be the James Kelley that appeared on the tax rolls in Mecklenburg Co Virginia.  If anyone has any evidence that proves otherwise I would love to see it.

Revd James is mentioned in the Journals of Revd Francis Asbury.  They are published in three volumes and Rev James and Revd Asbury appear to have their first meeting at Cypress Chapel July 8 1780 which I believe must be the historic Cypress Chapel located in Suffolk Virginia.  I believe this must have been their first face to face meeting of the two ministers because Rev Francis Asbury gives the following account something he likely would not have given if they had met before this time, "Here James O'Kelly met me; he spoke, and appeared to be a good warm-hearted man".  Revd Franics Asbury had reportedly been keeping a low profile for the three years leading up to this meeting as he took a neutral position regarding the revolution after all he may have been a Methodist but he was an English born minister of the Church of England which was the King's church.

Peter Jefferson Kernolde's claim in his Book titled "Lives of Christian ministers: over two hundred memoirs" that Rev John P O'Kelly, Rev James O'Kelly, and Rev "Franky" Francis Dean O'Kelley descendants of Thomas O'Kelley and Elizabeth Wyers were also descendents of Rev James O'Kelly and I think he was right but had the wrong Rev O'Kelley.  They are grandsons and great grandsons of Rev James O'Kelley the father of this Rev James O'Kelly. A good method to prove this would be for a traceable male descendent of Rev James O'Kelly to join the Kelley Kelly DNA project and submit a DNA sample to learn where Rev James O'Kelly's family originated and if he is from our O'Kelley line. 

Having done considerable research of James O'Kelly I believe his importance to the founding of our nation has not been properly recognized.  To understand his greatness one has to understand the time in which he lived.  For modern Christians it is difficult to accept the truth about how they arrived to the beliefs that are commonly accepted today, many lies have been accepted as truth about the origins of modern Christianity because for almost 1400 years before the birth of Rev James O'Kelley man's only path to God was through the state church, through the divine rule of the Kings and while Thomas Paine, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and Franklin may have gotten us into the revolution in their desire to rid us of that unholy yoke, it is clear to me that it was men like Rev James O'Kelly who won the Revolutionary War as they had the power to sway the common man to loyalty to the King or not.  At the time the war broke out and far back to the year 325 AD, all churches were state churches a concept that is difficult for modern man to grasp and fully understand and it is not something his modern church will admit because to do so is admitting how radical their religious beliefs were to our ancestors.  Many of those state church leaders packed up their church record and returned to the safety of England and never returned when war broke out, not that it was that great of loss, as the state church had always been corrupt with its chief goals solely to enrich the clergy at the expense of the flock, there is not other way to say it, the church was corrupt when King James of the King James bible ruled, he was part of the reason it was corrupte, the pilgrims came to America without his bible because he was the one persecuting them and by the time Rev James lived the clergy was mostly drunks and evil doers and while Rev James O'Kelly was a lay minister in the state church, he preached reform yet he had no power to perform marriages, baptize, or conduct communion, those were all duties reserved for the bishops of the state church, the lay preachers duties were to pay, pray, and obey so during the term of the war a great many people became common law wed, went unbaptized, did not participate in their once weekly communion services, these lay preachers like Rev James were the only moral authority that existed in revolutionary America and they were having to make it up as they went along for there had never been a Christian example for them to follow except for that provided to them by Jesus Christ and the Christian church hadn't followed his example in more than 1500 years.  Contrary to what your minister might tell you, the protestant faiths of today did not exists in that time, they can not truthfully trace their history back to John the Baptist or Jesus Christ, they are all came into existence over time beginning around the year 1500 so if not for this new way of thinking about God, our founding fathers could not have won that war if not for men like Rev James O'Kelly who convinced the common man that the King was not the divine ruler appointed by God, and they did not have to go through the state church to be received by God, they could do it one to one and directly to God by way of Jesus Christ.  What men like Rev James did, was far more important to the success of that war than picking up a gun and becoming a private, these men were shaping a new way of thinking about religion and they were lending moral godly authority to actions and goals of our founding fathers.  This was a very big deal and Rev James and his associates were in the middle of it all.  Rev James was a great man not because he may have descended from great people, he was a great man because against all odds he had the courage and vision to take the great personal risk and seek to create freedom and liberty in one of the most enslaving institutions of all times, the Christian Church.

If Rev James were allowed to return today, I suspect he would be greatly disappointed at the ignorance that is taught as main stream.  In his time, Christmas was not celebrated as the birthday of Christ.  The bible makes no mention of it, so at the founding of our nation it was not observed and in some cases it may have still been illegal as it was in Massachusetts in its early days.  There was no taking Christ out of Christmas because he was never in it, it was a celebration that the Roman Catholic church established three hundred years after the death of Christ and for the most part it was an excuse to get drunk and do all kinds of sinful acts so the puritans prohibited it and while Rev James as a minister in the Established State Church would have used the King James Bible because that was the law of the land, the pilgrims did not bring that bible with them to America, it was King James and his cursed bible they left England to come to the new world so ignorance abounds in modern churches today about their true founding.

For his origins most researcher look to author W. E MacClenny and his 1910 book "The Life and Times of Rev James O'Kelly" and MacClenny tells his readers on page 12 paragraph 2 "facts that can not be doubted" that Rev James was born in Wake County NC and then MacClenny oddly concludes that Rev James O'Kelly was born and lived the early part of his life in Ireland.  This is very confusing but Wake Co did not exist at the time of Rev James birth, it was Bertie County and when I look at where Rev James was living at the time of his conversion, where his children were born, where he built his church, and where he died and is buried, it seems Rev James may never have lived in a permanent residence outside of the Wake - Chatham Co area.  MacClenny also claims that James maternal descent was as a grandson of Rev John Chetwode who was of English Royal blood but tells his reader that Rev James had a hate for the English and while I find it unreasonable to claim Rev James descends from one of the most powerful English families and he have a dislike for the English.  I find no connection between Rev James O'Kelly and the Chetwodes.

On Pages 14, and 15 MacClenny says the following about Rev James O'Kelly's family but McClenny got it all wrong:

"William O'Kelly of Athlone, was chief of Hy Many and after King Edward's accession to the Crown, his Majesty, by letter to L. D. St Ledger, dated at Greenwich, 7th April, 1547, directed that "in respect of his faithful and diligent service, done to his father and himself, he would be one of the Privy Council...  From the above it is evident that the subject of our sketch was a man of high birth on his paternal side, the family having been identified with the vicinity of Gallagh for ages."

"On his maternal side it was equally as good, and several members of the family took Holy Orders.  In Betham's Baronetage of England With General Tables, Vol. 3 page 124, mention is made of William O'Kelly of the Chetewode family, and on page 126 under twenty-one of the family line we find 'James, who went to Virginia.' "

You may read Betham's book on line at the above link allowing you to go to the exact pages that MacClenny references and what you will learn is the William O'Kelly of the Chetewode family that MacClenny references wasn't and Irishman named O'Kelly but an English man who lived hundreds of years before Rev James O'Kelly was born, he was William de Oakley or William of OKeley. OakLey being a place in England and not a surname this William was not an Irish O'Kelly and the "James who went to Virginia" was James Chetwode the son of Englishman Henry Chetwode and he left for Virginia almost 90 years before Rev James was born.  James Chetwode was related to the Rev John Chetwode that MacClenny references but he was not Rev James O'Kelly.  MacClenny provides his readers no evidence to link Rev James O'Kelly and William O'Kelly of Athlone, Chief of Hy-Many, there were tens of thousands of O'Kellys living in different locations in Ireland and they did not all descend from a single O'Kelly, there has been identified at least 10 different unrelated septs.  So ask yourself, if MacClenny, a learned man, got this so wrong how can we believe he got any of Rev James origins correct? I feel certain Rev James was born, lived, and died in what is modern Chatham Co NC.  Every known record places him first appearing near there, living there, and dying there.   Frankly W. E. MacClenny disappoints me, he was an educated man, a Christian man, he understood the discipline required of research and his errors in my judgment was not only great but I believe he intentional sought to mislead his readers about Rev James O'Kelly's origins and it was not critical in the telling of his story, so why did he do it?  To sell books?  To try to elevate his own stature by writing a book about an otherwise great man?  MacClenny's description of Rev James O'Kelly's origins smacks of the very thing that Rev James tried to abolish, the notion that any single man is greater than the next, and to promote the belief that we are all in equal standing before God. 

MacClenny tells his readers that Rev James was serving as a soldier during the year of 1781 but if there are records that anyone has ever found that confirms he served or was drafted I have not been able to find them and because he was a follower of John Wesley and he was a Methodist I doubt he did serve, I think his service may have been manufactured but I state plainly that what Rev James O'Kelly contributed to the founding of our nation can not be measured against the normal measurements of patriotism.  In my opinion he need not serve in battle to be recognized for his contribution was great, he influenced the common people of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina to question the commonly held belief that the King of England was God's representative over them, that the King was their lord and master and this was a very big deal in the time that Rev James O'Kelly lived.  This was where he was in disagreement with John Wesley as Rev James O'Kelly believed in an independent church where the members decided for themselves which was a very radical method of church government, one that had never existed before his time.

Rev James lived in a time when the ministers of the state church were as a group the wealthiest occupation in the English world, they received a portion of the mandatory tithes. Rev James was a layman or lay minister of the English State Church from the time he began his ministry until Dec 24 1884 when a new society was formed free of the state church yoke.  Every church had a minister who held services on Sunday but the Lay ministers often traveled and held their church during the week many times under a grove of trees, in a barn, or in a home.  Ministers were the rock stars of their generation, or than horse races, fights, dancing, drinking and sex, ministers like Rev James were the only family form of entertainment and as such those ministers who were most entertaining were the most popular and likely had the greatest offerings.  From the descriptions of Rev James sermons it is likely that many were drawn to him, so it is also likely a great many O'Kelleys were named in his honor.  We see this continued today with Mega Church services more like a Rock Concert than the traditional church service so while it may have been the promise of wealth that drew Rev James to preach, I think his methods tell us that wealth had no influence upon his beliefs he was seeking meaningful reform of a corrupt church but I have also read that during his ministry Rev James O'Kelly became a man of means, he did after all own two slaves and while some of his wealth came from other sources, we know from the church records and that Rev James and his wife received normal compensation for his labor on the behalf of the English State Church.  My reader should not deceive themselves to the belief that everything Rev James O'Kelly did was a labor of love, he was after all a man with expenses.

Interesting Rev James O'Kelley Facts:

  1. Contrary to the claims made by J F Burnett in his 1921 book titled "Rev James O'Kelly, A Champion of Religious Liberty" I find no evidence that Rev James O'Kelly was high born, could read and write in Greek and Latin, or knew anything about Christianity in the first forty years of his life but for him to have been a lay minister in the Church of England he likely did come from an Irish Landed Gentry family because the sons of nobodies were not welcomed as lay ministers in the Church of England.  Most scholars seem to agree that he was near forty when he and his family were converted and this might be true but he might also have been educated in Ireland as a young man to enter the priesthood.  Rev James O'Kelly was an important person in the founding of our nation, one does not have to fabricate stories to try to make him appear greater, all they have to do is tell his true story about what he did to help separate our new founded nation from a state church and establish for the first time in man's history a free Christian faith.  I don't think this can be stressed enough, prior to Rev James O'Kelly and the founding of our nation there was no religious freedom in the Christian church and for more than 250 years the Protestants and the Catholics had been murdering, hanging, disemboweling, driving stakes up peoples asses, boiling them in oil and burning them, their wives, and their children solely because they embraced one or the other belief and for the most part they had no choice, their religious beliefs were forced upon them by the point of a sword in a Kings hand or the Catholic Pope and all these two groups really cared about was who received the forced tithes.  Rev James O'Kelly and men like him ended religious tyranny and established the religious freedoms we enjoy today that some desire to take from us.  I am of the opinion that we dishonor our ancestors by pretending that they did not endure this and far worse at the hands of those who claimed to be the ministers of Christ.  This was the state of the world that Rev James O'Kelly was born into but thanks to him and others like him he left our world in a much better place when his time was finished on this earth and that is why he was great, he needs no high birth or education to validate his greatness because his works stand upon their own merits and it is a freedom that we must continue to fight to preserve today.  I think it ironic that the priest and ministers that J F Burnett makes claim that Rev James descends were the priest and ministers Rev James O'Kelly was so opposed.  Rev James O'Kelly was the George Washington, the Thomas Jefferson, the Benjamin Franklin of the free church government of the Christian faith and I believe if he were alive today he would rebuke those who seek to make him something different.  He didn't appear to challenge the doctrine of the Church of England, only the government of the Christian church, he believed that the church body should decide using democratic principals while the established church of England believed the King was the head of the church and body of the church had no authority.
  2. The wills indicate Rev James O'Kelly could read and write but Elizabeth was not able to read and write and she made her mark.  Reportedly Dr James M O'Kelly a great grandson wrote, IT IS SAID THAT JAMES O’KELLEY HAD A GREAT MANY MANUSCRIPTS IN HIS HOME AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH, AND NO DOUBT THEY WERE VALUABLE DOCUMENTS, BUT HIS WIFE HAD LIVED IN THE CONTENTION ABOUT CHURCH GOVERNMENT SO LONG, AND HAD HEARD SO MUCH ABOUT IT, THAT AFTER HIS DEATH SHE SAID SHE WANTED PEACE FROM THE QUESTION, AND SO SHE COLLECTED THESE MANUSCRIPTS AND PUT FIRE TO THEM IN ORDER THAT FURTHER CONTENTION MIGHT BE AVOIDED.”  Source 
  3. Rev James was reportedly anti-slavery but the 1820 Census indicate that both he and his son William owned four slaved each.  He may have owned them to keep the families together.  Having a good master in 1820 was often better than being free solely because a free black could be enslaved over the flimsiest excuse.  In the Mecklenburg Co Virginia Deed book 6 on page 471 Feb 8 1783 James OKelly sets free his 35 year old slave named Dianna.
  4. Rev James may have outlived three of his sons.  William died in 1820 and no further mention is made in the records of James and Thomas but a Thomas Killey does appear in the 1780 NC Census in the area of Chatham Co NC.
  5. John was likely not first born and may have lived away from his family as records for a John O'Kelly who is given as a teacher is found in Charlestown, may have married late, and died without any children.
  6. The 1820 Censes show Rev James and William living near or next to each other as William appears on the line above James.
  7. The male line of the Rev James P O'Kelly appear to be few in number, there were very few male heirs that survived their birth and to date I have found only a couple living. 
  8. Rev James was near forty years of age when he began his ministry.  Nothing is known of him before his ministry, no one truely knows when or where he was born or who his parents were.
  9. He reportedly was a friend of Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, the Jefferson name appears often in the name of descendants but I have found nothing that proves he knew either man.  It was very common in those days for families to name their children after famous people, it was believed some of their good fortune may rub off on a child so named.  The names George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Francis Marion all appear in my family and that is not proof that my family knew any of these men so a great deal may have been read into the naming of William Jefferson, a great many myths have been created about Rev James O'Kelly.  I have found many children named William Jefferson in that time so if I were to guess I would suspect William was named for an ancestor, maybe a maternal ancestor named William Jefferson or Rev James father may have been William Jefferson O'Kelly.  Given that at the time of William Jefferson's birth Thomas Jefferson was a young student at William and Mary College and had not yet come into any famous reputation I think it is unlikely Thomas Jefferson could have been the source for William Jefferson O'Kelly's name and the name William does not seem to appear in the family of Thomas Jefferson so I think a story has been created around the naming of William Jefferson that has no truth.
  10. Most all written works spell his last name with a single "e" but his gravestone which was put up about 20 years after his burial displays his name with two "e"s.  I doubt he every signed his name with two "e" but the same can be said about every O'Kelley living in that time, they all appeared to have added the O' back to Kelly at about the same time in American history.
  11. Maybe the most startling revelation is none of Rev James O'Kelly's children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren appear to have become ministers in the church he created.  If book author Peter Kernolde was correct in his claim then three of his Rev James great nephews embraced his beliefs two to three decades after his death. 
  12. Harold O'Kelley quotes MacClenny describing Rev James as "had the temper and temperament of the Scots Irish" which I take as meaning he wasn't always an easy person to be around.
  13. Rev James O'Kelly's DAR Ancestor #:A085955
  14. but I find no documents that prove any of the stories attributed to is service in that war.  Even MacClenny states that he could find no documents, so if he did serve, where are his records?  Having said that, I think he provided a greater contribution to our founding fathers in that he persuaded the common man to break with the state church and I think few people alive today truly understand or appreciate how uniquely rare such beliefs were.
  15. W E MacClenny makes the claim on page 17 that in his early life James was a "Champion fighter" and a fiddler.  Irish were very fond of fiddle music and their Knights were called Champions and they loved to fight.  MacClenny also tells us that upon his conversion at about the age of 39 James laid his fiddle on the fire and burned it.  This is in contrast to the description author and minister J F Burnett claims of MacClenny.

The Life of James O'Kelly  by W E MacClenny - Select pages relating to his ancestry and genealogy.
Elon University James O'Kelly Collection
1977 Booklet by Descendents of Rev James O'Kelly provides additional documentation for four sons.

Rev James O'Kelly, in 1775 was a Lay Minister with the established Church of England. He embraced the teachings of John Wesley and in 1785 joined the newly formed Methodist Society in the wake of the vacuum created by the defeat of the Britiish during our revolution.   The early Methodist continued to seek the church government that the Kings of England imposed upon the Christian church and Rev James favored a local democratic form of church government and in familie to seek the reform of the Methodist he broke and formed the Christian Church in 1792 in Chatham CO, NC. A James Kelley appears in 1769 NC Census, I suspect this was James and he never moved from the Chatham Co area.  James appeared in the census in 1820 in Chatham CO, NC.4 showing he owned 4 slaves (see below).


He died Oct 16, 1826 and was buried in Chatham CO, NC.6  Rev James gravestone bears O'Kelley as his last name but it is reported the monument was erected in 1854 in a time when the O'Kelley spelling of our name was well established.  MacClenny wrote in 1910 that there were no dates on his marker Peter Jefferson Kernolde displays a photo of this marker on the front of his book and one can clearly see the dates were not there so they were added sometime later.  Kernolde on page 33 of his book displays the inscription except he misspells the last name as O'Kelly and it is clearly engraved O'Kelley.


Rev James O'Kelly Family Pedigree
Family Pedigree of Rev James O'Kelly
1820 United States Federal Census
Name: James Okelly
County: Chatham
State: North Carolina
Enumeration Date: August 7, 1820
Free White Males - 45 and over: 1
Free White Females - 45 and over: 1
Number of Persons - Engaged in Agriculture: 1
Slaves - Males - 14 thru 25: 1
Slaves - Males - 45 and over: 1
Slaves - Females - 14 thru 25: 1
Slaves - Females - 45 and over: 1
Free White Persons - Over 25: 2
Total Free White Persons: 2
Total Slaves: 4
Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other: 6

 

Will of James O'Kelly; pg. 125 (384), of Vol. B, (1818-1833)
Chatham Co., NC Wills
Microfilm # C.022.8001, NC State Archives


In the name of God Amen, I James O'Kelly of Chatham, State of North
Carolina being in soundness of mind, do constitute this my last will
and testament cordially and solemly according? to the true and honest
intentions of these premises.

First as to my and body and soul God being the former of my body and
the father of my spirit I surrender them at his call. My body to the
earth from whence it came and soul to God who give it in full assurance
of a resurrection and comfortable hope of acceptance. As to my temporal
property it is my will to dispose of it as follows -

Item. I give and bequeath unto my son John O'Kelly five dollars and
what he has already received to him and hi heirs forever.

Item. I give and bequeath unto the Heirs of my son William O'Kelly,
deceased ten dollars and what they have already received to them and
their heirs forever.

Item, I give and bequeath unto my dere and loving wife Elizabeth
O'Kelly after my last debts are paid every cents worth of property of
every kind horses Hoggs Cattle Sheep household and kitchen furniture
plantation utensils Monies Bonds note of hand to the Cash --- ? of
property at her own disposal forever If a free man hath a right to doe
what he will with his Own. I constitute this my last will and
testament.

Moreover I appoint John Moring Sr. Executor to this my last will and
testament in witness whereof I have set my hand and assigned my seal
this twenty sixth day of April, 1826

Jas. O'Kelly
Test.
John Moring Jr.
Willis Moring Proved November Session 1826


James O'Kelley and Elizabeth Meeks  it is claimed were married on 25 June 1759 in Surry CO.3 I suspect they were married in the Chatham Co Area and never lived in Surry Co Virginia. Elon claim they lived in Surry Co VA in 1760 but I don't think that can be proven.  It is also claimed they lived in Mecklenburg Co, VA in 1785–17973 but I have doubts that he or his family actually lived in Mecklenburg Co, I suspect he rode is circuit for a period of time then went home to Wake or Chatham then returned and while he certainly preached I suspect that much of his duties was to supervise those who did live in Mecklenburg Co VA.  James and Elizabeth3 lived in Chatham CO, NC in 1797.3  Webmasters comment:  I suspect the 1759 marriage date given by Elon University was manufactured by a researcher based upon John being older than William and William was born in 1863.  I have found no records for the marriage and I suspect they were likely married in 1762 making Elizabeth 17.  I think William was the first born son.

Elizabeth Meeks was born between 1740 and 1744 possibly in Surry Co.3 She signed a will on 4 September 1832 in Chatham CO, NC.7  She died in 1833.3

 
Will of Elizabeth O'Kelly
pg. 249,250 (445) of Vol. B, (1818-1833)
Wills of Chatham Co., NC
Microfilm # C.002.8001, NC State Archives
   

In the Name of God Amen
I Elizabeth O'Kelly of chatham county and state of North Carolina,
Being in soundness of mind do constitute this my last will and
Testament cordially and solemly, according to the true and honest
intention of these premises.

First as to my body and soul God being the former of my body and the
father of my spirit I surrender them at him will my body to the earth
from whence it came and my soul to God who gave it in full assurance of
a resurrection and a comfortable hope of acceptance. As to my my
temporal property, it is my will to dispose of as follows to wit,

Item, I give to Dinah Pilgrim two hundred dollars as (I?) rather leave  Note - (Dinah Pilgrim was one of the slaves that James OKelly set free Feb 8 1783 in Mecklenburg.)
it in the hands of my Executor to put it out on Intrust for her to live
on as, he sees she stands in need of. Also, I lend her a pare of cards
and wheal one big trot pail and pigins and tubs flat irons coffee mill
a half dozen little plaits (plates) two dishes a case of knives and
forks two basens and net trunks sugar bon? (bowl?) and coffee pot,
during her natural life and at her death, if any be left it is to come
back after paying those for the trouble they will be at for keeping her
and be divided as I shall now name.

Item, I give to my son John O'Kelly one dollar and what he has already
received to him and his heirs forever.

Item, I give and bequeath to Josiah Atkins one dollar and what he has
already received to him and his heirs forever after my just dets are
paid it is my will and desire that ll my property moneys in hand notes
and a accounts be divided equally between Mary E. O'Kelly, John
McCauley, Franklin O'Kelly, Leslie O'Kelly heirs one share, Lucinda
Anderson William J. O'Kelly, James T. Barbee Thomas J. Fowler Vilina B.
O'Kelly Mary T. Bilbo and Molsey Massey, If a free woman has a wright to do what she pleases with her own. I constitute this my last will
and Testament Moreover I appoint Franklin O'Kelly Executor to this my
last will and Testament In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand
affirmed my seal this September the 4th, 1832

Alfred Moring
Henry Moring
Elizabeth O'Kelly (X her mark)

The foregoing last will and Testament of Elizabeth O'Kelly decd, was
duly proven in open court at May Term 1833 by the Oath of Alfred Moring
a subscribing witness thereto and ordered to be recorded whereupon
Franklin O'Kelly the Executor therein named appeared in open Court and
was duly qualified.

The wills of both James and Elizabeth make it clear that John was somehow outside the family circle.  James appoints John Moring Sr as the executive of his will and Elizabeth also skips John and named her grandson Franklin as her executive.  John received from his father five dollars and from his mother one dollar with the bulk going to William's widow and her adult children. John's children are not remembered by the descendants of William so clearly there is more to the family of Rev James O'Kelly than is known.

James O'Kelley and Elizabeth Meeks had the following children and since I have no dates of birth I have used the naming custom in the time they were born to arrange their order:

+10 i. William Jefferson O'Kelly.  Contrary to what many believe, William was likely the eldest son.  I base my belief on the naming customs of the Irish where normally the first born son is named after the paternal grandfather, the second son after maternal grandfather and the third after his father.  We know much about William, he being the eldest he would have held such a place in the family.  We know very little about John, he being a secondary son of less importance that seems natural but we also know nothing about the other two sons which may also be an indicator that William was the favored first born.  According to W E MacClenny William was named after his paternal grandfather, William O'Kelley something the Irish reserved for the first born son.  I suspect the only reason William is believed to be younger than John is because of MacClenny's statement about the order of the sons in Rev James O'Kelley's will but William isn't actually listed in his father's will as a person, his name is used in place of naming each of his heirs so it seems natural the sole living son would be listed first and children of a deceased son listed second.  William died first and John married late all indications that William could be the oldest and John may have been much younger than William.  I am unaware of any evidence that supports William was second born?

+11

ii.

John Franklin O'Kelly.  Likely named after a maternal grandfather.

+12

iii.

James O'Kelly Jr 23  born probably about 1766 or 1767.   Alethea Jane Macon reported in her book that James Jr. paid a poll tax with Rev James and brother William in Virginia as late as 1786. 
+13 iv.Thomas O'Kelly23  born 1771