The headline in the Nov. 23, 1975, Leavenworth Times read “Kelly Agency Sold,” and it told of how Norman Dawson, president of Manufacturers State Bank, said the Agency would open a new office at 112 S. Fourth St., after leaving its former location at 209 S. Fifth since 1905.
The sale of the firm ended a long history of the Kelly family, which had operated their business for 113 years through three generations.
It all began when Washington DeWeese Kelly arrived in Leavenworth in 1856 to find fame and fortune. He married Helen Freelove Lattin on July 22, 1857, in Leavenworth.
He was known as a dealer in real estate and this was a perfect time in the history of Leavenworth because it was booming.
The Kellys had four children, with John V. the youngest of the three sons, Eugene next and Henry the oldest.
John was born on a farm near 21st and Choctaw on Oct. 23, 1876, the youngest of four children. His oldest brother, Henry, left Leavenworth at an early age to find his fame and fortune in Las Vegas, N.M. Brother Eugene would work as a partner with his brother in the family business.
At 3 years old, John V. Kelly would sit before the camera of E.E. Henry in his studio in downtown Leavenworth.
John attended grade school at Third Avenue and Oak Street Schools. After his graduation from Leavenworth High School, he had planned to enter college, but his father's failing health caused him to enter the real estate business in July 1895, according to the Leavenworth Times on June 28, 1961. His father would pass away the following year in March.
J.V. Kelly, as he was known, immediately became involved in all of the organizations his father had been a part of. He was a charter member of the Elks Lodge, and for more than 30 years, he and William P. Feth would place flowers in the Elks Plot at Mount Muncie Cemetery every year on Memorial Day, according to the Times.
He was on the board of directors for First National Bank and was an avid golfer in his day.
Lillian McKibben would become a June bride during a wedding ceremony June 27, 1900, at First Presbyterian Church.
On April 7, 1901, their first and only living child would be born to them, Eugene D., who had been named after his Uncle Eugene.
That same year, they would buy their first home. The house at 213 N. Esplanade was sold by Ebenezer E. Henry to Lillian R. Kelly on June 8, 1901, according to the Leavenworth County Register of Deeds office.
The boy of 3 who had sat before the camera now owned the photographer's home.
Although it was a beautiful home on North Esplanade, it was not big enough for what the Kellys had in mind, and in 1901, they spent $1,600 on an expansion of the original structure.
The Leavenworth Times has dozens of accounts of the social gatherings that were hosted in the house on North Esplanade. The Philomathean Club, which would later become one of the oldest cultural clubs, had open meetings there on a regular basis.
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party to include close friends and family, according to the the Times. It was on the celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary that Lillian would lose her husband to death at the age of 84.
More on this later …