Dandridge E. Kelsey

DANDRIDGE E. KELSEY. For thirty six years Shawnee County was the home of Dandridge E. Kelsey, not only one of her pioneer settlers but unmistakably one of her most respected and valued men. He came to Kansas three years after the close of the great Civil war, in which struggle he had borne an honorable part, and in Shawnee County sought the opportunity of providing, through toil, patience and prudence, a comfortable home for his family and a competency for old age. All this he did but those early years were hard as the tragic days of Kansas had not all been lived through. All her heroes have not been named when the early settlers of Shawnee County have been forgotten.

Dandridge E. Kelsey was born in Dearborn County, Indiana, March 27, 1818, and died in Shawnee County, Kansas, in October, 1904. He was a son of Daniel and Eunice (Cole) Kelsey, who came from Virginia to Indiana in 1814. His uncle, Thomas Kelsey, was a soldier in the Revolutionary war and both he and wife died in Indiana. In boyhood Dandridge E. Kelsey was given educational advantages which qualified him for professional life but he chose farming as his avocation and practically during life was devoted to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture. When the Civil war was precipitated, however, he was ready to enter the service of his country for the preservation of the Union, and in August, 1862, enlisted in Company B, Eighty-third Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He was made lieutenant of this company and the quality of his services, including participation in such struggles as the siege of Vicksburg and Battle of Arkansas Post, may be inferred when unsolicitated promotion came to him and he was made captain. He contracted illness which became so serious that he was forced to retire and in 1864 was discharged by reason of disability.

After recuperation at home, Mr. Kelsey resumed farming in Dearborn County and also became somewhat prominent in local political circles and was elected a justice of the peace. In 1868 he came to Kansas and located in Topeka Township, Shawnee County. During the early succeeding years the family was forced to undergo much unlooked for hardship, for unprecedented drouths dried up the land and the harvests were blasted. Then came the grasshoppers in the following season. Other distressing conditions prevailed in Shawnee County even after Nature's handicaps had been overcome. One of these was the universal lack of money to exchange for farm products. Perhaps Mr. Kelsey was in no worse condition than his neighbors, for privations were universal and so general that for a time settlement in Shawnee County was to some degree lessened. The time came, however, when cultivation of the land and scientific examination of the soils, the planting of forests and the adoption of other methods for agricultural protection brought about a great change and Mr. Kelsey lived to see his lands bountifully productive and many of his early visions come true. He was never heard to complain of the hardships he was forced to undergo, his courage and optimism being proverbial. He was a quiet, home-loving man, kind and considerate among his neighbors and commanded their respect. In his home life he was particularly kind, making wife and children his real companions and thereby binding them to him in deep affection. His memory is preserved by his children with love and reverence. Prior to the Civil war he had joined the Free Masons and the Odd Fellows and afterward became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Mr. Kelsey was married in early manhood to Mercy Laycock, who died in 1854, and they had four children: America, Ann Eliza, Scott and Taylor, the second and fourth being deceased. Mr. Kelsey was married (second) to Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson, and three children were born to them: Eliza Agnes, Benjamin F. and Charles D., Benjamin F. being the only survivor.

Scott Kelsey, the eldest son of Dandridge and Mercy (Laycock) Kelsey, was born in Dearborn County, Indiana, July 1, 1847. He was reared to manhood there and attended the district schools. In August 1864, he enlisted in the United States navy for service in the Civil war and was assigned to duty in the Mississippi Squadron. At various times previously he had sought to enlist, but owing to his youth had been refused. During his term of service he was engaged mainly in patrol work on the Mississippi, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers and participated in both the battles at Nashville and at Johnsonville. After his honorable discharge in August, 1865, he returned to Indiana and there engaged in farming until 1879, when he came to Kansas and has since made his home in Topeka Township, Shawnee County.

In 1866 Mr. Kelsey was united in marriage with Mahala Allen, who died in 1874, the mother of four children two of whom died in infancy, Grant E. and Melvin T. surviving. Mr. Kelsey was married (second) to Martha Connell, and they have two daughters: Prudence M., who is the wife of Dr. Charles B. Buck, of Mercedes, Texas; and Jessie M., who is the wife of Reese Van Sant.

In political affiliation Mr. Kelsey has always been a republican and at times has served in public office with the greatest efficiency. For a number of years he was township treasurer, and in 1895 he was elected a member of the Board of County Commissioners of Shawnee County, serving in that connection for six years and during a part of that time was chairman of the board. During his term of office the Melan Bridge at Topeka was built, which was the only structure on the river that withstood the flood. To the credit of the board of commissioners then in control, no time was lost in controversy and these public necessities were immediately rebuilt and without grievous taxation. Other wise measures were put through by Mr. Kelsey and his associates, all of which proved of the greatest utility and demonstrated the ability and honesty of the county commissioners. Mr. Kelsey belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic and for many years has been identified with the Masonic fraternity. While he is not a member of any church body he is a liberal contributor to church organizations and, in fact, to all worthy causes affecting the general welfare of the county.

In politics he is a republican. His farm is located one mile from the city limits, and there he has lived for thirty-seven years and every building on the place has been put there through his efforts.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed October, 1997.
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