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James O'Kelly Collection

 Collection
Identifier: Mss.Coll.023

Scope and Contents

This collection is not particularly large, but it is arranged into quite a few series. It is arranged alphabetically by type of material into twelve series, then chronologically within each series, where applicable. The series are: Books; Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Lists; Literary Productions; Maps; Minutes; Photographs; Printed Material; Prints and Drawings; Scrapbook. This collection would be an excellent source for anyone who is conducting research in one or more of the following areas: genealogy of the O’Kelly family, beginnings of the Christian Church in the South, biographical information about James O’Kelly and his role in the Church during the late 1700s through mid 1800s, and the role the Church played in daily life and practice for both the layman and minister.

The letters that are included in the Correspondence series pertain primarily to the care and preservation of the O’Kelly Chapel and family cemetery where James O’Kelly and many of his descendants are buried (2:8-2:12). Additionally, there are quite a few letters written by Durward T. Stokes (historian/professor) and William T. Scott (minister) to various places and organizations requesting biographical data about James O’Kelly (2:20, 2:21).

The Legal Documents series contains a variety of materials including deeds, marriage records, last will and testament’s, etc…The last will and testament of James O’Kelly and his wife, Elizabeth, are included in this series (4:11, 4:12).

One of the largest series in the collection, Literary Productions, contains mostly information relating to the biography of James O’Kelly, the O’Kelly family, and James O’Kelly’s role in the creation of the Christian Church in the South in the 1790’s. Additionally, many of the documents in this series outline O’Kelly’s faith, beliefs, theology, doctrines, and statement’s on different church related practices (6:5-6:15).

The pictures within the Photographs series include mostly black and white images of the O’Kelly Chapel, the O’Kelly family cemetery, and James O’Kelly’s grave. There are a few color photos that show the O’Kelly Chapel and the Piney Grove Church highway historical markers, and the O’Kelly Chapel historical plaque (9:1-9:7).

The Printed Material series is the largest in the collection. This series covers an expansive range of dates, and contains many types of materials. Similar to many of the other series in this collection, it contains documents that directly relate to the biography of James O’Kelly and the O’Kelly family (10:2, 10:3). Both the newspaper clippings and program sections of this series encompass a wide range of topics that include: the O’Kelly Chapel, establishment of the Christian Church, the O’Kelly monument at Elon, the O’Kelly family cemetery, theatre production at Elon about James O’Kelly, biography of James O’Kelly and the O’Kelly family, and James O’Kelly’s grave (10:12-10:32).

The Financial Documents, Lists, Maps, Minutes, and Scrapbook series are of the smallest in the collection. Additional information about each one of these series and the others in the collection can be found below in the Detailed Description of the Collection (Series Note).

Dates

  • 1770 - 2006

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The nature of the Archives and Special Collections of Belk Library means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Archives and Special Collections of Belk Library claims only physical ownership of most materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research of otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical / Historical

James O’Kelly was born in Mecklenburg County, VA sometime between 1735-1738 (2:5, 2:20, 6:5). He was of Irish descent, and little is known about his parents and/or siblings. However, he may have had a brother named John (6:13). He married Elizabeth Meeks (1744-1833) of Chatham County, NC on June 25, 1759 (4:11, 6:5, 6:5.1). The couple had two sons, John O’Kelly and William O’Kelly.

Their oldest son, John O’Kelly, married Miss Macy Praight on May 2, 1811 (4:9). William O’Kelly was born April 29, 1763, and died December 20 or 24, 1820 (2:9, 10:2). He married Miss Mary E. Merritt of Chatham County, NC in 1787 (2:20). William served in both Houses of the North Carolina Legislature—Representative of the General Assembly (represented Chatham County) in 1805, 1812, 1814-1816 and as a Senator from Chatham County in 1818 (2:20)

James O’Kelly lived in Surry County, VA until 1760 (10:14); Mecklenburg Co. from 1785-1797 (6:7); and moved to Chatham County, NC in 1797 (2:20). He was in NC during the Revolutionary War (6:7), and enlisted in the Colonial Army and served in campaigns after he was captured and then released and/or escaped from the Tories (6:7).

James O’Kelly embraced the followers of John Wesley in 1774 and became a licensed lay minister in 1775 (6:5.1). He was ordained as a Methodist Deacon and Elder in Baltimore, MD in 1784 (6:11), and served as a Presiding Elder of the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1775-1792 (2:20). O’Kelly withdrew and broke away from the Bishop Francis Asbury and the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1792 (2:9, 6:5.1). An article in a 1982 issue of the Circuit Rider reads, “O’Kelly’s conflicts were caused by the denomination’s evolving hierarchy. He objected to the rise of the episcopacy within Asbury’s domination of the Council and the new bishops’ assumption of absolute power to appoint clergy to changes.

O’Kelly followed the democratic and anti-Anglican trends of the new nation after its revolution; Methodism was moving in the opposite direction” (10:5). After O’Kelly broke away from the Methodist church, he and his followers formed the Christian Church (2:9, 6:11). J. Timothy Allen writes, “After a decade of disagreement, most of which stemmed from O’Kelly’s belief that local ministers deserved to choose their own circuits based on their knowledge of the people, O’Kelly left to form his own church in 1794” (10:8).

The followers who broke away and followed O’Kelly in 1793 called themselves the Republican Methodists (6:11). They adopted the name of “Christians” in a meeting on August 4, 1794 at the Old Lebanon Meeting house in Surry County, VA. During this time, the Christian Church was born and the O’Kelly Chapel was erected in Chatham County, NC (6:11). The Christian Church based their faith and disciplines on the New Testament (6:11). (For more information about O’Kelly and his relation to the church, see 6:8-6:13, 6:15, 10:5, 10:8, 10:14).

James O’Kelly died on October 16, 1826 at his residence in Chatham County, NC (2:20). He is buried at the O’Kelly family cemetery, where the O’Kelly Chapel is in Chatham County (2:1). The O’Kelly Chapel was built in 1794 by O’Kelly and his followers (2:9)

For information about additional resources that contain information about James O’Kelly, please refer to the following series/folder numbers within the collection: 2:1, 2:20, 6:7, 6:9, 6:11, 6:13, 6:15

Extent

1 Linear Feet (1 archival box)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

This collection is not particularly large, but it is arranged into quite a few series. It is arranged alphabetically by type of material into twelve series, then chronologically within each series, where applicable. The series are: Books; Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Lists; Literary Productions; Maps; Minutes; Photographs; Printed Material; Prints and Drawings; Scrapbook. This collection would be an excellent source for anyone who is conducting research in one or more of the following areas: genealogy of the O'Kelly family, beginnings of the Christian Church in the South, biographical information about James O'Kelly and his role in the Church during the late 1700s through mid 1800s, and the role the Church played in daily life and practice for both the layman and minister.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged alphabetically by type of material into twelve series, then chronologically within each series, where applicable. The series are: Books; Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Lists; Literary Productions; Maps; Minutes; Photographs; Printed Material; Prints and Drawings; Scrapbook.

Physical Location

The collection is located in the Carol Grotnes Belk Library Archives and Special Collections at Elon University. Please contact the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian for further details about the location.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials have been collected from various sources and individuals over the years-all materials may not be directly from James O'Kelly's personal papers/collection. Many of his original personal papers burned in the fire on Elon's campus, January 18, 1923.

Related Materials

Please consult with the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian for additional information about related materials to this collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Katie Nash, May-July, 2007
Author
Encoded by Katie Nash, March, 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Belk Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Belk Library, Room 204
Campus Box 2550
Elon U.S.A. - North Carolina 27244